As a retired military professional, I signed on a long time ago to the notion that armed force can be a legitimate solution to certain world problems. But the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed - to me anyway - an inability on the part of my nation's leaders to develop clear strategy when it comes to the military option. It may be (well it probably is) that our democratically elected government has always come up short in this regard and we have just been lucky; we minus the hundreds of thousands who have laid down their lives in past conflicts. Observing the ongoing intervention in Libya, I'm reminded of this quote from H.G. Wells:
"I have never yet met in little battle [war games in miniature] any military gentleman, any captain, major, colonel, general, or eminent commander, who did not presently get into difficulties and confusions among even the elementary rules of the Battle. You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War [real war he means] must be.
Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but—the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realisation conceivable..."
Wells sets aside moral arguments for pragmatism, saying in other words that no one is good enough at it to view war as the routine option it seemingly has become.
A week or so ago, I argued against intervention in a comment on the Wall Street Journal site, responding to the Journal's pro-intervention opinion. I was incredulous at the Journal's naiveté in promoting a no-fly zone as a simple and low to no risk option. A no-fly zone is an act of war and not at all simple. Moreover, the rebels would almost certainly need more support than that resulting in U.S. presence on the ground and the ultimate threat of another nation building chore in the muslim world. NATO's evolving role seems to indicate I was right about that. I was wrong in thinking Pres. Obama would keep us out of it. Now I think is a good time to resurrect and embrace the Powell doctrine, a wise set of criteria for using military force, which got mothballed during the Bush years.
Here's hoping it all works out.