Blake Hounshell’s (remember praktike? he’s a genuine Big Deal now…they grow up so damn fast…) Twitter stream, I’m sent (approvingly) to Dan Nexon’s ‘The Duck of Minerva’ blog, where he writes (approvingly) about the lack of a doctrinal cover for Obama’s intervention in Libya.
Now I have mixed feelings about this intervention; on one hand the lid is coming off the Arab kleptocracies as I discussed back in ’03 – which is a Good Thing. But we have no plans or capabilities in place to compete for the allegiance and affection of the lately-oppressed people whose dictators we supported for a generation – which is a Really Bad Thing.
But here’s Nexon:
That kind of thing makes liberal hawks get all starry eyed. But what makes Libya different than most of the other places where tyrannical governments do nasty things to their citizens isn’t terribly Wilsonsian:
* Qaddafi’s rule over Libya is, on balance, a net negative for US interests;
* The US doesn’t care much for most of his friends either;
* He’s sitting on not insignificant fossil fuel deposits;
* He has no real support among the great powers; and
* The UK, US, and France really, really, really don’t like the guy.
Well, gosh, that’s not very useful. because if that’s good policy, then invading Iraq made perfect sense – and as we all know, the smart kids have all determined that it made no sense (I’m remaining on the fence myself, but I’m neither smart nor a kid).
Here’s the issue; in my work I’m talking to people all the time about the difference between a strategy and a platitude. Platitudes sound a lot like strategies, but there’s a key difference – they don’t help shape action in a meaningful way. So just as science requires that a theory be falsifiable in order to be scientific, strategy has to cover certain actions and not others, and group actions into necessary, good, unnecessary and bad.
And unless the modern foreign-policy commentariat can a) make up a strategy that distinguishes Libya from Iraq (except by saying that for the fact that one is the product of a good president, and one the product of a bad one), or b) determine that Iraq was just as good a strategic idea as Libya – we’re flat out of strategies.
And that’s a Bad Thing. It’s a bad thing first because being able to articulate a strategy is the way that we – the American polity – buy in, and buy in is needed if we’re going to spend $600M/week in these parlous times. It’s also the way that we have a chance to attract all those struggling for liberation – for ideals. What ideals are we trying to project, and how? What are we asking of them to defend those ideals, and what are we prepared to spend in turn?
Like it or not, those are strategic questions. And simply saying that good interventions, like p0rn, are something we know when we see, is nowhere near enough.
Do-over, Nexon? prak?