I feel deeply for the people of Libya. I respect the hunger they feel for freedom and self-determination and I think I understand both the optimism and the despair that led to their uprising. My heart breaks for the violence perpetrated by their own leader against them. I feel disgust at mercenaries willing to enter another country and kill the people there because the leader s afraid that using his own forces will alienate the military and turn them against him. Something in my gut resonates with the old Bruce Cockburn song, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher..." and the myth of redemptive violence calls me like a siren call.
All of that said, we should not be involved. There are at least three good reasons for that. The first is that we cannot afford to be involved in yet another war. I understand that on the first day, the US launched 112 cruise missiles into Libya. Those missiles cost $1 million each. Just for comparison sake, NPR receives about $5 million a year in government funding. Imagine how many teachers, college scholarships, meals for the poor, health care for the needy we could fund with $112 million dollars, and that was one day... there is no end in sight. Today, an F16E crashed. Evidently the pilots are safe but there are reports that US service people were injured in the rescue. I tried to find prices for an F16E and the ones I could discover ranged from $31.1 to 43 million in 1998 dollars. Add in the other costs and I can't imagine it is costing us less than $500 million a day. This is at a time when many are saying we're broke and those on the right are calling to slash programs for the poor, for children, for the elderly... We cannot afford to engage in yet another military adventure.
Second, we have seen that whether our intentions are good or not, we can't seem to get things right in the Middle East. No, I do not believe the lines we were fed by the Bush administration as we went into Iraq and Afghanistan, but at least some folk did... so even if I give them the benefit of a doubt, IT DIDN'T WORK. Why in the world would we think this would turn out any better?
The third is what war does to the participants, the human costs. Taking a human life destroys a piece of your soul even if the act is justified. For some folk, it is a small bit, for others, it is a huge piece and some never are the same again. I can't help but think the number of vets living on the streets has something to do with the condition of their souls when they got back... and healing a soul is not an easy thing. And there are the horrific examples of destroyed souls that we saw in the photos from Abu Ghraib and now from the "kill squad" in Afghanistan. I would never begin to imply that all soldiers turn into monsters... but some do. Were these evil kids before they went off to war? Perhaps some were, but what about those who were so damaged by their experiences that they became less than human. Again, I am not implying this is the norm or even common, but I do not believe these young men and women would have acted that way had they not been sent off to war. Yes, I know Obama has said we will not send in ground troops and at least to some degree that may mitigate some of the human costs to our side, but as today showed, even an "air war" sometimes requires boots on the ground and there are men and women firing the missiles and flying the planes who know their actions end in death and destruction. Plus, there are the traumatic brain injuries, the missing limbs, the deaths, collateral damage to civilians and infrastructure in foreign lands, and the destroyed families there and here.
I am a pacifist and do not believe war is justified, period, but for those who believe that at times war is a necessary evil, these human costs must be weighed seriously. This is not the time or place to send our young men and women.