Beware Excessive Celebration Over Libya
I know the temptation is strong to talk smack about the Republicans' lack of enthusiasm for our excellent adventure in Libya. I mean, it looks like Gaddafi is the hunted rat now, doesn't it? And it really wasn't so hard to accomplish if you think about it. Most of the world is fairly pleased or no worse than neutral about our role in this. Innocent people's lives were saved. We're on the cusp on getting some justifiable revenge for the Americans who were killed by Gaddafi in the 1980's. Maybe Libya will get a decent government and actual representative democracy. And the president pulled it off without losing any airmen, or even any equipment as far as I know. So, why not ask some skeptics to eat crow?
I'll tell you why. Right now in the streets of Tripoli, armed gunmen are running everywhere firing off their weapons indiscriminately, without the slightest hint of discipline. Gaddafi's compound is being looted down to the copper. And when the Sun comes up tomorrow, it's unclear who can or will restore order. Yesterday and today, the rebels were united by their desire to oust an odious regime. Tomorrow, powerful tribal and military leaders will be divided over who gets the spoils. Those loyal to Gaddafi may be small, but a small group can create outsized trouble.
I will say this. I was concerned that the war would remain a stalemate for longer than five months and that the country would be torn apart worse than turned out to in fact be the case. So, things have gone better than I feared up to this moment. Libya has a decent starting place, and there's solid reason for hope. But the really hard part starts tomorrow.
I have one final warning. Congress let the president walk all over the War Powers Resolution, and that creates a nasty precedent for a future conflict or a future president. Sometimes, even when things go well, they set a trap for things to go worse in the future. The easy Persian Gulf War led us to let down our guard about the rise of lethal anti-American terrorism. The easy initial victory over the Taliban led us to think the job was done and gave us false confidence about how easy it would be to subdue Iraq. The War Powers Resolution has been definitively rendered useless. Perhaps, that's the most dangerous outcome of this war.
So, by all means, give a little dig to the Republicans who acted shamelessly or hypocritically, or who won't give the president due credit for anything. But don't get ahead of yourselves. This can still go badly wrong, both here and in Libya.