March 22, 2011 12:58PM

Max Boot Is Worried about Libya

Now he tells us.

Max Boot, among the loudest proponents of military action against Muammar Qaddafi, reports in today’s NY Times that he “can’t stop worrying about everything that could go wrong.”

Recognizing that Libya is so bitterly divided that it might not be appropriate to call it a country, Boot is suddenly concerned that “a long, seething history of rivalries among 140 tribes and clans,” could erupt into full scale civil war. Even if Boot gets his wish, and Qaddafi is ousted, he frets that “the tribes could fight one another for the spoils of Libya’s oil industry; as in Iraq, some could form alliances with Al Qaeda.”

Boot concedes that Libya “has had an active Islamist movement that has sent many fighters to Iraq,” and warns that “the collapse of Colonel Qaddafi’s police state would mean greater freedom for all Libyans, including jihadists who could try to instigate an insurgency as they did in Iraq.”

So, lots of things could go wrong. But Max Boot isn’t rethinking his earlier support for military operations against Qaddafi. Instead, he wants us to widen the war.

I have commented before on Max Boot’s expansive view of the appropriate uses of U.S. military power. Justin Logan has documented his horrible track record in predicting the future. I’ve lamented why anyone with such a checkered history (excepting his support for war, any war, which is remarkably consistent) would continue to be afforded so exalted a station in America’s mainstream media.

But this latest op-ed might take the cake for its combination of faux concern and seemingly prudent policy recommendations.

We are now told that a campaign from the air and sea is not enough. Boot informs us that we must ally with his preferred Libyan opposition group, the National Transitional Council, that we must put special operations forces on the ground to train the Libyan opposition, and that we must work to install a peacekeeping force to prevent the worst-case scenario from unfolding. These steps would require the amending of the UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force, which explicitly precluded a “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” No matter. We must do all of these additional things, Boot says, or else things could go horribly wrong.

Of course, we wouldn’t be required to contemplate any of these things if Barack Obama had refused to intervene. Much as I might like to pin the blame for this mess on Max Boot and his friends at The Weekly Standard and the Foreign Policy Initiative, the President of the United States could have ignored the calls for war. He could have listened to those who advised against launching yet another military campaign, including his Secretary of Defense, National Security Adviser, and senior military officers. Instead, the president’s seemingly sensible instincts to avoid foreign military entanglements have once again given way to the urgent pleas from the liberal interventionists in his own administration, especially Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice (aka the Valkyries).

I can bemoan the fact that President Obama chose to commit U.S. prestige, spend American treasure, and risk the lives of American military personnel, on a dubious and unnecessary mission, but such hand-wringing serves no purpose.

So let me just say that I share Ben Friedman's concerns about the obvious mismatch between stated ends, and UN Security Council Resolution 1973 allowable means. I agree that restrictive rules of engagement could prolong a civil war, and expose U.S. military personnel to needless risk. I hope that this operation is concluded swiftly, and that U.S. taxpayers will not be on the hook to pay for a long-term military operation that, we were once told, would be “no problem.” Most of all I pray that our brave U.S. military personnel in harm’s way will safely return to their ships and bases…and to their families here at home.