The great debate these days seems to be whether and how to aid the rebellious people of Libya in their efforts to overthrow their dictator Muamar Qaddafi. If we do nothing, we risk having to witness outrageous human rights abuses, huge outflows of refugees headed for the developed nations, and a restored dictator now more hostile to the West, and more dangerously unpredictable, than ever. But the consequences of intervention are also unpredictable, as we discovered to our regret in Iraq, Afghanistan, and before that in Somalia and Vietnam.
But the real issue is whether we have any military capability left to intervene in Libya, even if we want to do so either for humanitarian reasons or for our own self-interest. Given our on-going military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is becoming increasingly clear that we lack the capability to support and sustain military conflict in three different countries simultaneously.
Any attempt to open a third front in our military intervention in the Muslim world would leave us defenseless to additional challenges elsewhere in the world, and simultaneously invite such challenges from adversaries who see us stretched to the absolute limits of our military capacity.
So the costs of our continuing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is not limited to the thousands of American lives lost, the tens of thousands of civilian deaths, the hundreds of thousands of mutilated and crippled lives and ruined families, the millions of refugees forced from their homes, and the trillions of dollars of debt inflicted on the American people that darkens the economic future not only for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren born and yet unborn.
Our continuing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan also makes us a crippled giant, fearful of taking any additional military action for want of the necessary financial and military resources, because we are unwilling to raise our taxes to pay for our wars.