Are the Unites States and its allies at war in Libya?
As discussed in a recent post, the airstrikes in Libya can be seen as constituting not merely the institution of a no-fly zone but a military intervention in a civil conflict in support of the Libyan opposition groups, especially in Benghazi. The modern practice of states engaging in “military actions.”
The modern practice of engaging in “military actions” and “policing actions” without formal declarations of war creates ambiguities, however. The Obama administration’s claim to be acting to protect Libyan civilians in a humanitarian intervention has created more confusion. Politicians and pundits across the political spectrum are now exploiting the ambiguity over conceptions of a “state of war” in order to score political points.
A piece on NPR examines modern notions of a “state of war” and the processes of instigating warfare. This piece suggests that the military operations in Libya do not (yet) constitute a war. Although I find this piece rather flawed, it does at least open a new arena of discussion on the military intervention in Libya.
Meanwhile, Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has criticized the airstrikes and no-fly zone in Libya, referring to these operations as a clear military intervention into a Libyan civil war. Listen to Haass’s interview on NPR, and find a summary of the interview here. I do not endorse all of Haass’s assessments of the situation in Libya and find his description of Libya as a “tribal” country highly problematic. However, I do agree with his argument that the airstrikes constitute military intervention in a Libyan civil conflict.
Perhaps we can now move beyond discussion of the no-fly zone, to examine exactly what the military intervention in Libya represents.