Separating the good arguments from the bad

SEPARATING THE GOOD ARGUMENTS FROM THE BAD…. Much of the criticism this week of U.S. military intervention in Libya has been compelling and persuasive. Many of the questions raised — about the end game, duration, and costs of the conflict — deserve sincere answers, sooner rather than later.

But regardless of one’s willingness to support or oppose the offensive, it seems worthwhile to separate the good arguments against the conflict from the bad. For example, raising questions about the mission by talking up presidential impeachment probably isn’t the best use of one’s time.

A key Senate Democrat on Tuesday tamped down the suggestion by some in his own party that President Obama could be impeached for launching military strikes on Libya.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a supporter of the U.S. mission in Libya and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that if Obama’s actions on Libya are impeachable, then so are the acts of every other president since World War II who launched military operations without authorization.

“I think we ought to focus on what the issues are here,” Levin said during an interview on the liberal “Bill Press Show.” “And that one-day kind of a story, which is all it will be, is not where we ought to be focusing.”

Similarly, Kevin Drum went through some of the more common arguments from the last few days, and finds them all wanting. Complaints about presidential “dithering,” Obama changing his mind, having the U.S. “follow” instead of lead, and prioritizing this conflict but not others are all pretty underwhelming. Kevin concluded:

Look: I’m not really happy about the intervention in Libya. Like a lot of people, I’d like to know what our actual goals are. What’s more, I’m not sure it’ll be the cakewalk that Hillary Clinton and Nicolas Sarkozy seem to think, and I believe that for a variety of reasons the United States is best served by not giving anyone an excuse for thinking that the current round of rebellions in the Middle East are backed by American power and interests. It’s better for us to keep a pretty low profile right now.

But an awful lot of the criticism is just so unremittingly juvenile that I can hardly stand listening to it anymore. Time to grow up, people.

This should be common sense, but if the goal is to persuade others to see the conflict the way opponents do, critics should narrow their arguments to the points that make sense.