Libya, America & The Law Of Nations

April, 2011 Feature--Truth Based Logic

Factors relevant, from American Conservative perspective, to President Obama's attack on Libya; references to Washington, Jefferson & the Law Of Nations. Not humanitarian; a challenge to very concept of Nation.">

Preliminary Note

[The following article was complete & ready to publish, before President Obama spoke on Libya, March 28th. After reflection, we have not altered it in any way. The Obama performance coupled truths, half-truths & untruths with deliberate failure to even mention the most significant factors. It was an exercise in propaganda, not reason. For example, some of the Libyan rebels have admitted Al Qaida ties. (That hardly supports the implication that we are merely protecting freedom loving civilians.)

The rebels did not miraculously capture a large section of Libya without attacking other Libyans. There were videos, earlier in the day that Obama spoke on Libya, showing the rebels advancing against the bombed Government positions, firing mortars & artillery. (Those are not the tools of innocent civilians.)

Obama's address on Libya did demonstrate one thing very clearly--his lack of American roots. He referred to the United States, repeatedly, in the singular. "The United States is different." "The United States has done. . ." We are a Federation of sovereignties; a federation of States. While one may refer to America or to the Union as a singular concept, reference to the States is always plural. There aren't 57 of us, but we are not one private fiefdom for any demagogue.]

The Law Of Nations

Our essay for April, 1999, was an analysis of the Clinton/Blair attack on Serbia. The following month, we offered a more detailed treatment, "American Foreign Policy At The Crossroads." Those items, together with Thomas Jefferson's 1793 Memo to President Washington on Treaty Law & Foreign Policy & our 2005 article on "The Neocon Phenomenon" are linked below as relevant to issues raised by President Obama's action in thrusting America into a Libyan civil war. Yet, neither our previous efforts, nor anything we say here, can more than scratch the surface of the actual implications of recent events.

Some fundamental points:

1. To understand functional Constitutional premises for the conduct of American foreign policy, one must review well developed concepts of the Law Of Nations, both with respect to normal interaction between peoples & the rules that govern humanitarian concerns & altruistic behavior among nations. In this quest, the foremost authority, well accepted by Washington & Jefferson in formulating a foreign policy that in better days made us almost universally respected, was the great Swiss legal authority, Monsieur De Vattel. We cite him, here, specifically with respect to the claimed humanitarian justification for the attack on Libya:

A nation must not simply confine itself to the preservation of other states; it should likewise, according to its power and their want for its assistance, contribute to their perfection.

We have already shown . . . that natural society imposes on it this general obligation. . . .A state is more or less perfect, as it is more or less adapted to attain the end of civil society, which consists in procuring for its members every thing of which they stand in need, for the necessities, the conveniences, and enjoyments of life, and for their happiness in general,--in providing for the peaceable enjoyment of property, and the safe and easy administration of justice,--and, finally, in defending itself against all foreign violence.

Every nation, therefore, should occasionally, and according to its power, contribute, not only to put another nation in possession of these advantages, but likewise to render it capable of procuring them itself. Accordingly, a learned nation, if applied to for masters and teachers in the sciences, by another nation desirous of shaking off its native barbarism, ought not to refuse such a request. A nation, whose happiness it is to live under wise laws, should, on occasion, make it a point of duty to communicate them. Thus when the wise and virtuous Romans sent ambassadors to Greece to collect good laws, the Greeks were far from rejecting so reasonable and so laudable a request.

But though a nation be obliged to promote, as far as lies in its power, the perfection of others, it is not entitled forcibly to obtrude these good offices on them. Such an attempt would be a violation of their natural liberty. In order to compel any one to receive a kindness, we much have an authority over him; but nations are absolutely free and independent. . . . we have shown that men derive the right of punishment solely from their right to provide for their own safety; and consequently they cannot claim it except against those by whom they have been injured. [Vattel, Law Of Nations, Book II, Chapter I, Sections 6 & 7]

Jefferson, well steeped in Vattel & clearly understanding the fundamental principle that each nation must be judge of its own internal affairs, sent the Marines to Tripoli in his first term to punish their assault on our shipping, not to make them over--and not to pose as a humanitarian.

2. The Law Of Nations, as understood by Washington & Jefferson, as defined at great length by Vattel, was premised on Natural Law. That is not something than can be repealed by a committee at the "United Nations," or elsewhere. The essential point, for our purpose, is not the threatened people of Libya, but the future freedom of the United States.

3. While Britain, France & the Arab League have different perspectives & interests with respect to Libya, the primary rationale for America to join in their effort reflects a three generation long attack on the very concept of the Nation, as an ongoing vehicle for human identification & involvement. This ideological war has been waged by a variety of groups dedicated to the promotion of a World Government--not all of whom share the same premises. Other than this, arguably treasonable motivation, there is no way that intervention in a Civil War, where neither side has directly attacked our interests for some years, can be justified; certainly not among those of us who respect the institution of National Sovereignty as the vehicle for both legitimate ethnic expression & legal institutions to protect constructive international relationships.

4. Libya, though large on a map, is mostly desert, with a population only a bit over six million--about 1/3 of whom, under the age of 14. Either France or Britain (or Italy or Turkey), alone, could conquer Libya, with absolutely no help from us, in a matter of days. They did not need to call on our resources. What Obama did, by injecting us into this Civil War on Europe's doorstep, was to waste expensive American hardware, with no anticipated American gain in prospect, obviously to call attention to himself. In taking this action, he ignored Congress, which alone can declare war. For this, he deserves universal contempt, if not prompt impeachment & removal from office.

5. Obama did not initially propose specific action against Libya. But when it became clear that the major former African colonial powers (Britain & France) were going to act, he demanded to lead. In this, he projected personality traits & behavioral characteristics, reminding us of a pet cat, who passed away at an old age, a few years back. Grey Cloud--the cat, not an Indian Chief--developed a characteristic behavioral pattern, which Obama's behavior brought to mind. If, the cat was lazily sunning himself in the yard, when members of the family pulled into the drive, he would predictably jump up to rush ahead of those exiting the car on way to the house; then very deliberately slow down, while maneuvering to stay in front, to strut ahead of us to the door. Grey Cloud was asserting a feline view of the relationship between his species & ours. The cat's ego frolic was not in violation of a sworn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

6. There is no rational humanitarian purpose involved in Obama's behavior. From a humanitarian perspective, it makes no more sense to kill Libyans fighting for Ghadafi than to help his forces kill those fighting against him. This writer despises Socialism, but we have no illusion as to the Libyan armed forces.

Few people in this world are ideologically driven. While most of our readers may be, most of their neighbors probably are not. Most of the Libyan forces were not even conceived when the despicable Ghadafi, vowing to change Libya, much as Obama vowed to change America, overthrew the old Emirate & King Idris. We suspect that many of the parents or grandparents of Ghadafi's forces were not only not involved in Ghadafi's Socialist revolution, but were actually loyal to the monarchy. This is not blind conjecture. In most nations, those who pursue military careers tend to be patriotic adherents to established norms & however loathsome to Conservative Americans, Ghadafi has been the established norm for all Libyans under forty.

On the other hand, those rebelling against Ghadafi probably represent a mixed bag. While there may be some who have values with which we might agree, there are probably others whose principal motivation is found either in pure ambition or some ulterior design, which might be every bit as detestable as was Ghadafi's in 1969. Interference, wreaking death & destruction from the air in this civil war--shooting the dice of chance with the lives of people we know rather less than little about--where there is no predictable gain for the American people, only a sort of feline ego strut for our own despicable "Leader," is not what the Founding Fathers sought to achieve in a Conservative principled revolution; in the sacred compact that followed; in their wise counsel & aspirations for their progeny, both of blood & adoption.

7. While we do not think that this clear violation of basic principles, common sense & America's long term interest, was intended primarily for political advantage--even as a distraction from other issues;--it will acerbate deep divisions within the Republican Party, and undermine prospects for a common front against this President. Were he to intervene on the ground, and suffer a loss of American lives, would be quite another matter. But air attacks, after an initial crippling of Libyan defenses, might have seemed a safe play to reawaken antagonism between Bush's neocon followers & actual Conservatives. [The point, here, not to speculate on anyone's motives, usually a mistaken digression, but to warn of a coming problem.]

8. Although the Arab League supported the intervention, that will not be emphasized a few years hence, when terrorist recruiters use our involvement to fish for susceptible recruits at Islamic Universities--drawing graphic images of a great super power raining destruction from the skies on an Islamic Nation of six million. Obama, trained by Leftist revolutionaries as a "Community Organizer," must be assumed to understand this, if he is anything more than a mere puppet for those Leftist revolutionaries who trained him in the manipulation of those susceptible to evil purpose.

9. A hundred times more significant than Obama's pretentious strut over Libya, was a report in the financial news, that third week in March, that China had passed the United States in manufacturing. We do not know if accurate, or whether measured by capacity or current production; but the thought was sobering. We won World War II, even against impressive German breakthroughs in rocketry & aeronautical technology, by out-producing the combined plants of both Germany & Japan by a wide margin.


Gadhafi is a despicable Leftist, who Reagan punished in the 1980s, as Jefferson advised foreign policy should be carried out, by punishing the "first insult." But under International Law--we refer to Conservative principles of International Law, not the newspeak rationalizations of Socialist Quislings, trying to build a World Government;--that does not confer perpetual right for a later "Leader" to wage personal war on his, or any foreign agency's, mere whim.

Obama's adventure is an effective bow shot against the very concept of the Nation. It was in preserving the sanctity of that concept--and the ethnic realities it reflected--that the concept of a Law of Nations arose. Once again, we face an ongoing challenge from the ethically deficient, to values that the decent peoples of the earth hold sacred. In this, all peoples who would preserve Nation & heritage have a compelling interest.

William Flax

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