Thursday, October 20, 2011

Killing People Is Not Good Policy

Friends Committee For National Legislation
By Bridget Moix on 10/20/2011 @ 01:30 PM

Tags: Peaceful Prevention, Libya, , Foreign Policy, War Is Not the Answer

Many in Libya - and here in Washington - are celebrating today's news that Qaddafi was fatally wounded in battle. The demise of the dictator is being hailed as a "success" for the NATO military intervention and a demonstration of how the "responsibility to protect" doctrine should work. We at FCNL disagree.

Any time a human conflict spirals into violence and war, with state-sanctioned extra-judicial killing as its policy end, it should be considered a human tragedy and a policy failure, not a success. Libya may be free of a brutal dictator today, but the civil war and international military intervention that killed him also took many other lives - civilians as well as those who took up arms on one side or the other. As Quakers, we believe each of these lives - no matter how ill-used - is still sacred in some way. Non-military methods for protecting civilians are available but are too rarely tried.

Moreover, as despicable as the actions of Qaddafi or others of these individuals were, killing them off does little to ensure peace and stability for Libya going forward. The long hard road to peace, justice, and development for the people of Libya will be much more difficult work and will not gain the headlines - or the billions of dollars in international support - that the war has.

Yesterday, before the news of Qaddafi's death broke, I participated in a roundtable discussion on the "responsibility to protect" with Madeleine Albright, Wes Clark, Sen. John McCain, and other leading foreign policy thinkers who all hailed the Libya intervention as a success as well. When I cautioned against using the word "success" when thousands of people have perished and the future remains still very unclear, I didn't win over many around the table. But if we don't say it, who will?

The Libya intervention has in fact set progress on implementing the responsibility to protect effectively backward. Many countries already suspicious of the intentions of powerful countries like the US believe the intervention went beyond its mandate to protect civilians. They are now opposed more than ever to supporting international action to prevent or respond to mass atrocities, as evidenced by China and Russia's vetos on a UN resolution simply condemning the Syrian government for its abuse of civilians. Ultimately, R2P can only gain global support and be effectively implemented if it focuses on preventing abuses and finding less intrusive and harmful ways of intervening to protect civilians when they are in danger.

These days, I'm downright appalled at how often US policy has deteriorated to assassination. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Central Africa, Somalia, Yemen, and who knows where else, our policymakers have failed so woefully to come up with more effective - and legal - alternatives, that they can do nothing but send in the drones or the special forces or arm other assassins to kill off the bad guys. And this is celebrated as success?

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Clinton stated forthrightly that the US wanted to see Qaddafi dead. Apparently the US got its wish. But we should be ashamed of our government, not proud. And we should be insisting our policymakers find better solutions than war and invest in more tools than just military hammers to address global problems.

2:10 pm As always, I am grateful for the presence of FCNL. Although I do not agree with all that you say above (I think Russia and China are more complex than you have implied, for example), I am profoundly grateful for this oasis of sanity when so many are rejoicing after looking at and reading about the killing of Gadaffi. Thank you.

2:43 pm Siletz Tribal member
Thank you for this article. The impulse for immediate or short term results it is hoped will be relaced with more thoughtful solutions that respect the sacrdeness of life. I too am profoundly grateful for this organization and site.

5:49 pm Thanks Bridget. This is just what I started thinking after my initial much less positive reaction. I just felt how does it improve things if we become as bad as the people we don't like.

6:07 pm I'm thankful for your voice. I felt a similar sadness when Bin Laden was killed. No matter how despicable their actions, we have failed to respect and honor human life when we resort to killing these men. In WW2 Germany was despised for using V2 rockets; now we are using drones and there is very little public reaction. All very sad. I think using drones is immoral.

9:27 pm Thanks. Hearing about his killing produced sadness. Placing evil on one and virtue on the other will only continue to produce more violence and war.

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