Monday, March 21, 2011

Technology-Driven, Money-Rich

I don’t know why, but when I hear the phrase no-fly zone and think about its meaning, what it means to me is this:

Airplanes will be used to deny Libya (in the current case) the ability to fly its airplanes and to bomb its own rebellious population.

The last thing the phrase implies for me is boots on the ground or what is actually happening: bombs on the ground. But, of course, that’s my fault. No-fly zone has always meant bombs. It meant that in Iraq a while back. And that in turn means that the world is treated to images of smoke and fire boiling up, from the ground, as our missiles land, with great precision, mind you, on the solid earth. They are destroying anti-aircraft installations. Because the deeper logic is something like the following:

No way will I permit our Air Force or Navy to fly in the sky if somebody on the ground can shoot at our craft.

The trouble here is that world opinion will be powerfully influenced by those pictures of fire and flame on the ground—and, count on it, plentiful accounts of civilian deaths despite all precision. In this process, needless to say, the superficially benign impulse to help an oppressed people win against a over-dressed oppressor will fade into the background immediately, and what will remain is America the Super-rich raining fire from the skies on miserable peoples carrying bleeding, soot-covered children from ruin to ruin. Time to stand proud? Lord! Lord Almighty.

According to this Wikipedia site (which also posts the image that I show), Tomahawk missiles cost $869,000 when built in Fiscal Year 1999. That number in 2011 dollars, per Wikipedia, is $3.756 million per missile.

We’re technology-driven, money-rich, and mad! Based on my view of things, learned from George Kennan in my youth, the diplomat scholar—and no reason since to change my mind—we have no business whatsoever mucking around in Libya—as we had no business in Iraq either. But if we must intervene, the way to do it would have been to land an armored division on the shores of Tripoli—Okay, maybe a good ways more to the east. This formation would have done the job almost instantly, efficiently, and with a great deal less cost in lives—although some of those lives would have been ours. We’d still suffer the outrage of the world as an invader. But a hundred Tomahawks and counting? Landing just as Hillary Clinton, in a speech, made it sound as if we would not be involved at all? I’d be equally upset if I were a Frenchman and saw blood-thirsty Sarkozy messing around in North Africa again. Algerians will be delighted! It’s a mad, mad, mad world.

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