Unintended consequences of an ill-conceived war: Missiles go missing in Libya

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Back in June of this year, President Barack Obama said of the war in Libya that “there’s no risks of additional escalation.” I responded in this space:

The words by themselves are an indictment. They reveal a way of looking at warfare that is both arrogant and naive. There can be no such thing as a war that entails no risk of escalation. It is a reckless perspective for a commander-in-chief, and history has shown how costly it can be. There’s no joy in recognizing that this is the current president’s perspective … [I]t needs to be remembered that Mr. Qaddafi/Gadhafi/Khadafy has a history of using terrorism to avenge himself on the West. In a war that, after all, is aimed at making him extinct, why should Qaddafi follow some limits set by outside parties, let alone the very parties who are trying to kill him? The more he realizes that nothing will satisfy his enemies but his death, the less he has to lose.

Today comes a report from ABC News that tens of thousands of portable surface-to-air missiles have apparently gone missing in Libya: “Nightmare in Libya: Thousands of Surface-to-Air Missiles Unaccounted For.” These are exactly the kinds of missiles that could be used to knock down commercial airliners with ease, kill thousands, and cause crippling economic damage in the West (as if the politicians aren’t doing enough of that on their own). There are also concerns about Qaddafi’s stockpiles of mustard gas. War is not a game, nor an exercise to be conducted via a committee of players (France, England, the United States) who are mostly concerned with not getting their hands too dirty in the process. Large numbers of troops on the ground could have secured such weapon stockpiles, but for these players it wasn’t worth putting such troops on the ground. It wasn’t worth the risk. The conclusion they therefore should have come to was that the war itself was not worth the risk.

Instead, we get to live (or die) with the consequences of their reckless adventure.

And Bush was a cowboy.