So the UN Security Council has approved a no-fly zone over Libya, and France and the UK are going ahead with airstrikes against ground targets in an effort to bring down however-you-write-him. It’s clear that there is not really a well-defined goal or end-game to these actions (this essay by Michael Walzer in TNR is a relevant thing to read). It has not actually been thought through as to whether the intervention will increase bloodshed or help prevent it. Instead, it looks like it’s motivated by moral outrage at the tactics of however-you-write-him in fighting a civil war to destroy his opposition. And that is fair enough. In thinking about the moral righteousness of starting a war for seemingly moral reasons, though, it’s good to remember what Mr. T always says: if you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail. There is no clear goal for this war, and there is no clear plan. Without a goal and without a plan, do you know whether you are helping prevent bloodshed, or creating more? No, you don’t. Failure to have a clear goal and plan is tantamount to not caring about what side effects your war has. This, I suppose, is better than deliberately causing bloodshed. But barely.
My central point is this: a poorly planned war is not just ineffective. It also loses any moral legitimacy. No matter what moral righteousness sparked the cause for war. From what it looks like right now, this war that the international community is starting in Libya is an immoral travesty.