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Why Did the United States Intervene in Libya?

In a recent broadcast, Bill O’Reilly (a guy I respect and more often than not I agree with) told America on his evening talk show “The O’Reilly Factor” that the United States and the UN were justified in their intervention into Libyan internal affairs. His point was that anyone who would not “stand by and watch someone being murdered” should understand and support US intervention in Libya. I do not agree with his assertion, because it is short-sighted. It is short-sighted because it assumes that the United States must or at least should intervene in all instances where we see mass murder (genocide) being committed anywhere in the world. This is neither practical nor consistent with 200 + years of US foreign policy.

Consider the list of 20th Century genocides. (An excerpt from this list of the biggest genocides in the 20th Century is appended to this article, below.) Note that out of the many millions murdered and the dozens of genocides that were perpetrated on humanity, the United States has intervened in almost none of them militarily – the major exception, of course, being WWII. If the United States did not intervene when up to 78 million Chinese were murdered, or when 23 million Russians were murdered, or when 8 million Belgians were murdered, or when 1.7 million Cambodians were murdered, or when 1.6 million North Koreans were murdered….. well, I think you see my point. The United States has not historically thrown itself like a local sheriff into the internal actions of other sovereign nations, applying military force to prevent despotic leaders from doing bad things. The United States should not decide that it will do so at some times and not do so at others, with no policy-based guidelines for channeling those decisions. The entire population of Libya as of 2009 is listed at 6, 419,925 people. Even if despotic leader Muumar Gaddafi were successful in killing half of the population it would pale in comparison to most of the really massive murders committed by Mao Ze-Dong, Stalin, Hitler, Tojo, Pol Pot, and so many others. So why intervene in Libya? What’s really going on here?

While it has not often been true that US actions are dictated solely by our thirst for oil, in this case oil interests certainly seem to be involved. It has been widely reported that the chairman of the Libya’s state-run National Oil Corporation, has issued a statement to the effect that western companies that have withdrawn their staff due to the crisis should send their employees back to work, or risk seeing new oil and gas concessions awarded to rivals from China, India and Brazil. It is no coincidence that those countries have all remained neutral during the Libyan conflict, and abstained from voting on United Nations Security Council resolution 1973.

Of course France is especially interested in bringing US military might to bear on Libya, in order to protect their interests in that country. I really enjoyed a recent post by Michael Ciric, who said: “If there is one thing that I have learned in my lifetime, if France is eager to use American “military muscle,” then try and avoid it at all costs. Matter of a fact, run like hell! French Indo-China (Viet Nam) should be your first lesson learned when looking at their political motives. Besides, wasn’t it the French who opposed the United States every step of the way in prosecuting a “worldwide war on terror” from the onset of 9-11? Yet, whenever another former vestige, (or an enemy) of its North African colonialism gets into a jam, they want someone else to sacrifice for them. I say, since the French were quick on the accelerator with the Libyan Civil War, we should have said “vous le faites.” For those who have forgotten their high school French, it simply means – You Do It!.”

Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, Former US Ambassador to Morocco writing for the Huffington Post agrees: “Inquiring minds want to know what Sarkozy’s motives are for compelling Les Yankees into a full-fledged military involvement in Libya? After all is said and done, despite legitimate humanitarian concerns, major U.S. military involvement in Libya is, on balance, fundamentally at odds with America’s core strategic interests in the Middle East. Actually, a French-orchestrated Libyan coup d’etat has less to do with Gaddafi and more to do with Sarkozy’s domestic perils as well as France’s incessant jockeying with Germany for European leadership.”

It is difficult to see how the United States owes anything to France in this regard, given – as Ciric points out – France’s reticence in supporting the US war on terror. Libya does not represent a threat to the United States other than their ability to withhold oil from US companies, and for that matter I am not seeing how Libya, in the throws of a civil war, even represents a threat to France (again, with the exception of withholding oil.) The only military risk that seems possible is that the civil war could spill over outside the Libyan borders into adjacent countries, and frankly that risk seems much higher to me as a result of the ongoing Muslim rebellions against other countries’ governments – ranging from Tunisia to Egypt and other small middle eastern countries.

Summarizing then, if the real reason that the US is becoming involved in Libya is because Gaddafi is likely to injure or kill many Libyans, it makes very little sense because we do not undertake the prevention of such acts in 8 or 9 cases out of 10. It is not consistent with US national policy to be the arbiter of relationships between sovereign nations and their citizens. If the reason is that the US is protecting its interest in Libyan oil, it also makes no sense. The US obtains less than 1% of it’s oil from Libya. Even that oil is channeled through private oil companies, which again places the matter solidly outside the purview of the United States Government. If the reason is simply to support the interests of France, an ally who would not support the United States even in the aftermath of 9-11, it makes no sense at all.

So when the United States entered the Libya fray militarily, our country began to tread on dangerous ground. We departed from our nation’s traditional policies and began to act as a policeman in the internal governance of sovereign nations. What happens the next time there is a Russian invasion of Georgia, or another Tiananmen Square massacre; will we launch cruise missiles at Moscow or Beijing? Or will the United States only defend the helpless population of countries when those countries are too small to defend against our intervention?

What do you think?


20th Century Genocide Number Killed Did the US Intervene?
Mao Ze-Dong (China, 1958-61 and 1966-69, Tibet 1949-50) 49-78,000,000 No
Jozef Stalin (USSR, 1932-39) 23,000,000 (the purges plus Ukraine’s famine) No
Adolf Hitler (Germany, 1939-1945) 12,000,000 (concentration camps and civilians WWII) Yes – Eventually
Leopold II of Belgium (Congo, 1886-1908) 8,000,000 No
Hideki Tojo (Japan, 1941-44) 5,000,000 (civilians in WWII) N0
Ismail Enver (Turkey, 1915-20) 1,200,000 Armenians (1915) + 350,000 Greek Pontians and 480,000 Anatolian Greeks (1916-22) + 500,000 Assyrians (1915-20) No
Pol Pot (Cambodia, 1975-79) 1,700,000 No
Kim Il Sung (North Korea, 1948-94) 1.6 million (purges and concentration camps) No
Menghistu (Ethiopia, 1975-78) 1,500,000 No
Yakubu Gowon (Biafra, 1967-1970) 1,000,000 No
Leonid Brezhnev (Afghanistan, 1979-1982) 900,000 No
Jean Kambanda (Rwanda, 1994) 800,000 No
Suharto (East Timor, West Papua, Communists, 1966-98) 800,000 No
Saddam Hussein (Iran 1980-1990 and Kurdistan 1987-88) 600,000 No
Tito (Yugoslavia, 1945-1987) 570,000 No
Fumimaro Konoe (Japan, 1937-39) 500,000? (Chinese civilians) No
Jonas Savimbi (Angola, 1975-2002) 400,000 No
Mullah Omar – Taliban (Afghanistan, 1986-2001) 400,000 No
Idi Amin (Uganda, 1969-1979) 300,000 No
Yahya Khan (Pakistan, 1970-71) 300,000 (Bangladesh) No
Benito Mussolini (Ethiopia, 1936; Libya, 1934-45; Yugoslavia, WWII) 300,000 Yes – Eventually
Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965-97) ? No
Charles Taylor (Liberia, 1989-1996) 220,000 No
Foday Sankoh (Sierra Leone, 1991-2000) 200,000 No
Michel Micombero (Burundi, 1972) 150,000 No
Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia, 1992-99) 100,000 No
Hassan Turabi (Sudan, 1989-1999) 100,000 No
Jean-Bedel Bokassa (Centrafrica, 1966-79) ? No

As American Manufacturing Goes, So Goes America’s Economy

If you a manufacturing guy who was born and raised in the Midwest, the last 30 years have been pretty darned depressing. Watching and participating in the exodus of the broadest group of middle-class jobs from American soil has been heartbreaking. It has left many thousands unemployed and for those fortunate enough to find new work, it has left families with a lasting reduction in their standard of living. Recently I saw an exchange on Facebook that went like this:

Sally: Good news for Illinois. The state is giving Mitsubishi $29 million in tax incentives to keep their plant open in Normal. Mitsubishi will produce a new Outlander Sport crossover SUV for US consumption as well as Brazil and India.

Cindy: Wow. I am happy for the employees, of course, but $29 million! If I lived anywhere other than Normal, Illinois this would NOT make me very happy. I wonder how much Mitsubishi will be able to extort from Illinois taxpayers the NEXT time they threaten to take their jobs someplace else? Am I missing something?

Cindy: We’re probably all missing something – lol- I guess it’s just the price of doing business these days? Forgot to mention that the union made some concessions at this plant in December … Illinois definitely is not bargaining from strength, but approx. 1,100 employees are still working.

George: I see. So if the 1,100 employees agree to cuts in wages and benefits, they can stay employed. And if Illinois agrees to a $29 million bribe, they can stay employed without moving to a different state. Yes, indeed. A great deal – for Mitsubishi!

The message is clear (actually several messages are clear here): If you want to work as direct labor in the manufacturing business, you had better expect your annual income to be dramatically decreased, and for a long time.

This made me harken back to an article published in the Washington Post by staff writer Peter Whoriskey published on July 25, 2010 entitled: “After Bailouts, New Automakers Make Half as Much as Veterans in the Same Plant.”

The veteran UAW members building Jeep Grand Cherokees in this story make about $28 and hour. The recently hired make $14 an hour. Whoriskey’s story goes on to say: “What factory workers should earn became a central part of Washington’s prolonged debate over the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, pitting the advocates of the free market against those for a “fair wage.” Although cutting labor costs was viewed by many as essential to the companies’ recovery, the issue was never fully resolved.”

As I have pointed out in other books, articles, and blogs, the cost of goods sold (COGS) at US manufacturing companies typically looks like this: Materials & Components: 65%, Overhead:25%, and Direct Labor (10%). Cutting direct labor costs is NOT the answer. Yes, direct labor also requires benefits costs (health insurance, etc.). But even so, it is not the pivotal factor. It’s just easier to squeeze the direct labor element than it is to work better efficiencies out of the material and procurement side of the house. The problem, in broad strokes, is that management has become lazy and has fallen into the “group think” mentality that it is always less expensive to send direct labor jobs overseas. When that’s prohibitive because of shipping costs, then carving another pound of flesh from the direct labor force is the next easiest thing to do.

Whoriskey goes on to point out that with unemployment still over 13% in Detroit, a lot of folks are taking these jobs because they are better than no job at all, quoting one employee who said: I’ve got a wife, three kids and a mortgage. I really needed a job.”

A new day is dawning for America, and left unabated, Ronald Reagan’s vision that America’s best days still lay on front of us seems less and less likely to be true.

What do you think?

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