Martin HellmanBack in March, as NATO attacks on Libya moved into full swing, I wrote three related blog posts (“Libyan Blowback?”, “More on Libya,” and “Let’s Make a Deal!”) that illuminated the nuclear proliferation aspects of our attacks. But, humanitarian concerns trumped nonproliferation considerations, and we attacked anyway. Or did we fool ourselves? Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article “Revenge Feeds Instability in Libya” on page A7 which suggests that we suffered at least some self-delusion:

Tawergha, which rebels seized last month, … serves as a cautionary tale of what awaits Libya if the sort of victors’ justice Tawergha has endured for weeks is repeated as rebels move into other pro-Gadhafi cities. It could turn whole tribes and regions into disaffected swaths of society, fueling violence and instability. … rebels have been torching homes in the abandoned city 25 miles to the south. … On the gates of many vandalized homes in the country’s only coastal city dominated by dark-skinned people, light-skinned rebels scrawled the words “slaves” and “negroes.”

“We are setting it on fire to prevent anyone from living here again,” said one rebel fighter as flames engulfed several loyalist homes. … “The revolution was supposed to give people their rights, not to oppress them,” said Hussein Muftah, a Tawergha elder who fled to Tripoli last month, referring to the Feb. 17 uprising.

UN Security Resolution 1973, which formed the basis for NATO’s attacks on pro-Gaddafi forces, authorized military action to protect civilians. Where is the public pressure to “do something” now? Or were our earlier actions driven – probably unconsciously – more by hatred of Gaddafi than concern for human suffering?

We need to probe our motivations more deeply before engaging in seemingly small wars. Otherwise, as my three earlier posts show, we increase the risk of a final, nuclear war.