“Coalition” is a Euphemism

One of the points that I keep hearing over and over again from liberal defenders of intervention in Libya is that this is a multilateral effort conceived through official UN channels. The US, they say, will play only a minor role in a broad coalition of states, meaning there will be no undue strain on our already depleted resources.

Yesterday I said I was skeptical of that claim, because I expected this to be a prolonged struggle during which the United States would be required to accept a gradually increasing portion of the burden. But it turns out that even there I was being optimistic: I expected it to happen in a matter of weeks, not immediately. Via Justin Elliot, NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports:

Despite the White House attempts to make this look like it’s a huge coalition effort — obviously it required coalition political support — but for now the U.S. military is not only in the lead but conducting almost all military operations, with only minor participation from the French, as you mentioned, even British fighters over night. There’s a U.S. commander. And even this morning I talked to senior military officials, when I asked them how soon will the U.S. turn over the command to the coalition — and the indication is the U.S. military is in no hurry to do that.

If this continues for much longer, then the only conclusion we can draw is that the “coalition” is little more than a PR gimmick designed to provide an aura of legitimacy to America’s latest military misadventure — while also making the coalition’s more apathetic members seem tough on war criminals. I can’t decide which part is more amazing: that such a ploy seems to be working, or that “internationalism” has come to mean the same old senseless brutality, this time blessed with the gauzy halo of UN sanction.

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