There is no moral consistency, and little rhyme or reason, to the U.S. government's decisions about which brutal dictators to challenge, which to leave alone and which to support as allies. The regimes that endorsed the war with Libya -- supposedly justified by outrage over "gross and systematic violation of human rights" -- include quite a few, such as Gabon, Syria and Saudi Arabia, that are guilty of the same crimes.
In any case, American taxpayers have a right to expect that the money they are compelled to contribute to this nation's defense will be used for that purpose. American military personnel have a right to expect that their missions will have something to do with protecting U.S. security, the function they have agreed to serve.
Obama's humanitarian justification for waging war against Gadhafi's regime harks back to George H.W. Bush's 1992 intervention in Somalia's civil war, which ended so ignominiously that his own son, running for president in 2000, repudiated "nation building," calling for a more "humble" foreign policy guided by "what's in the best interest of the United States." He ended up interpreting that interest so broadly that it justified an aggressive nation-building campaign in the Middle East.
As a presidential candidate, Obama condemned his predecessor's "war of choice" in Iraq. As president, he not only continues to wage that war, but endorses a justification for military action that promises one war of choice after another.
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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