Saturday, May 7, 2011

Academics and Practical Foreign Policy

When I was in law school about a century ago, litigation tactics were a required area of study. Although I never liked litigation, I thought some of the anecdotes on opening and closing statements to a jury were instructive for daily use in almost any setting. One such story involved a pair of joint defendants accused of theft, each with his own counsel. One goal for the attorney representing one defendant is to create a reasonable doubt that his client had nothing to do with the actions of the other. To shorten, considerably, the story, it turns out that the co-defendant who committed the theft had lied while testifying about once stealing his father’s wallet (the details of which I’ve left out - sorry). In the closing statement the other attorney addressed the jury and told a story which, again shortened, goes like this. He and his entire family always went to the same restaurant on Sunday with his grandfather who always, without exception, ordered beef stew. This time he hesitated, but ended up ordering it again. He took a piece and immediately made a face as a piece of meat seemed to be off. Now, asked the attorney to the jury, what should he have done? Should he have rummaged through the stew, eating only the good parts or should he send the whole plate back? The answer was obvious. His client was acquitted.

So, what to about this. Paul Herrichs has his facts wrong, and I suspect deliberately. Washington, was not the driver behind the intervention in Libya. It was Europe or more precisely the French government. Washington was dragged into this “mess”. Furthermore, and again likely due to his particular academic shading, Germany was not smart in its position against intervention. It was stupid as it clearly shows its inability to work with other European members, not to mention NATO; this is the same sort of German cowardice/arrogance exhibited during the monetary crises in Europe. Germany is no longer a reliable ally to anyone – except to Russia.

His assertion that no one has a vital interest in Libya except its immediate neighbors is simply stupid. The Arab uprisings have an immediate impact on European security, economy and immigration policy. Libya is a European problem and is, indeed, of vital interest.

He dismisses the R2D issue by drawing a false comparison between Libya and Sudan. Libya and Rwanda. Libya and….Wake up or grow up Paul and come out of your academic shelter. This operation – started by France and the UK – was always about regime change once the chance was given through the entirely credible threats against the civilians of Benghazi and has been true in Misrata and other rebel held cities.

You don’t like Western intervention without a threat of a vital interest being threatened? Your definition of vital for France and Italy is obviously not theirs. And while we are at it – what about Australian intervention in East Timor?

He finally claims that the Libyan intervention fails on all counts. Really? When the author sets up the criteria, does the term “straw man” come to mind? The fact is, like the closing argument to the jury, when one piece of the puzzle is tainted, why should we accept the conclusion?

Paul should stay in his ivory tower and read a little history of the region and get his facts straight. If anyone is the rookie, it is he.

No comments: