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Permanent War

Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy and Gen. Petraeus

[Stephen Crowley/The New York Times]

With General Petraeus in DC this week to testify before Congress about the war in Afghanistan, it’s been a discouraging week, as the likelihood increases that we’ll have troops there throughout a second Obama presidential term, if there is one, and beyond. On Tuesday, he

described the value of sustaining a long-term relationship with Kabul, and raised the possibility of operating joint military bases with local forces long after foreign troops are scheduled to withdraw in 2014.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of American and coalition forces, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “it’s very important to stay engaged in a region in which we have such vital interests.”


General Petraeus said that while Afghan and coalition forces had turned back the Taliban’s initiative on the battlefield, he warned that progress remained “fragile and reversible.”

After almost a decade, what is our goal exactly? How do we recognize progress?

And now we seem poised to start a third war, in Libya. Aren’t two enough? Why Libya anyway? Are we really talking about a humanitarian mission? Then why not elsewhere in Africa as well? And how do we define success? What stake do we actually have in this that justifies piling on further national debt, deferring investments in our own country, and so on? Digby captures the issue well in a post today:

This is not a war to save people. If we cared about that we would be intervening in Cote D’Ivoire, where there has been horrible violence on the same level as that in Libya. There is human misery all over the planet that we can’t even be bothered to look at, much less intervene. So let’s not kid ourselves about what this is about:

Oil reserves in Libya are the largest in Africa and the ninth largest in the world with 41.5 billion barrels (6.60×10^9 m3) as of 2007. Oil production was 1.8 million barrels per day (290×10^3 m3/d) as of 2006, giving Libya 63 years of reserves at current production rates if no new reserves were to be found. Libya is considered a highly attractive oil area due to its low cost of oil production (as low as $1 per barrel at some fields), and proximity to European markets. Libya would like to increase production from 1.8 Mbbl/d (290×10^3 m3/d) in 2006 to 3 Mbbl/d (480×10^3 m3/d) by 2010–13 but with existing oil fields undergoing a 7–8% decline rate, Libya’s challenge is maintaining production at mature fields, while finding and developing new oil fields. Most of Libya remains unexplored as a result of past sanctions and disagreements with foreign oil companies.

Seriously, we are fighting two wars in the region already. And we have hardly “stabilized” the region. There are some good signs that the people themselves have gotten tired of the “oiligarchy” economies and are finding their way out of it. And some of those rulers are going to fight back. But I find it almost impossible to believe that we are actually going to make things better for the people. The objective is to stabilize the region for the oil companies.

If people want to talk honestly about this and admit what it is we are really doing then perhaps, as a democracy, we can hash this out properly. But using the uprising as an excuse to “intervene” on behalf of Exxon and BP has nothing to do with humanitarianism and liberals need to disabuse themselves of this illusion once and for all.

What was the point of the 2008 presidential election anyway?

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