ID: Unilateral interventionist. It’s a word that’s come up a lot when people talk about Libya, and specifically interceding against Muamar Gaddafi’s air strikes. And I think you, being both a man who unilaterally intervened to fight crime in Gotham, and who helped found the multilateral Justice League, I think you’re bound to have some interesting insight into it.
B: I don’t know if that’s true, actually. I think my decisions reflect mostly my personal evolution. The first decision, to stop crime in Gotham when no one seemed to be willing or able to, was made fairly early on in my life. I didn’t think multilateralism was even possible- which was something that I learned was wrong. Jim Gordon, my Robins, Batgirls and women, Nightwing, Huntress- I could probably continue for an hour. But people who wanted to make a better world found me, and we did it together.
So I think the League formed out of that knowledge, in part. And also the knowledge that I couldn’t do everything on my own. I’m smart, resourceful, and wealthy, but any time I’ve needed to stop Darkseid I don’t hesitate to call someone who hits harder. And I think when you’re looking at what I usually call “real world” problems, most of those can’t be handled by one guy, no matter how great he may be. Or she, for that matter.
ID: So you’re definitely an interventionist. And it sounds like you’re a multilateralist at heart, but you’re willing to go it alone if need be.
ID: So what about Libya? For a while there it was looking like Gaddafi was going to roll through Benghazi and raze the place. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that you’re President. What do you do?
B: I call Hal Jordan- himself a pilot- tell him the situation, and to break any Libyan airplane that takes off in half. I’m sure he’d set the pilots down gently on the ground afterwards. But how many planes do you have to lose before you recognize that a Green Lantern trumps an aging fighter jet- an aging air force, even?
ID: Okay. That was cheating. Let’s say you’re Barrack Obama, not Bruce Wayne, still President. And the Justice League, down to Booster Gold, isn’t taking your phone calls. Maybe they’re on Apokolips, maybe they just don’t agree with your Libya policy. What do you do?
B: Day one I start talking to the UN Security Council. I push hard for sanctions, which we got pretty quickly, and keep pushing for intervention. At the same time I’d be talking to the African Union and the Arab League, trying to get a peacekeeping force and a demilitarized zone set up so that relatively local peacekeepers can be on the ground, to sidestep accusations of conquest and also because it’s cheaper and local peacekeepers are likely to be more culturally aware.
ID: And all of that fails. The Arab League tells you to go fly a kite. The AU is still busy with Sudan, or at least that’s their story and they’re sticking to it. Britain and France are sympathetic, but won’t act without a Security Council resolution, which is blocked by the Chinese and Russia, who want to keep up their lucrative trade with Libya.
B: I got to war with Libya. It starts as an air war, with a no fly zone and a DMZ beneath it. But I couple it with an ultimatum, that Gaddafi end proactive attacks on civilians. When he defies it, which I assume is more a matter of when, I cripple his military infrastructure, bases, manufacturing. And every day, I send a missile for him, wherever our best intel says he’s likely to be.
ID: You’re still embroiled in a couple of wars. You can drop those conflicts, if that makes your decision different, maybe easier.
B: Actually, I believe we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan because, despite what were poor decisions and poor tactical planning respectively, those countries need to be stabilized before we leave- because their current relative instability is something we caused. It’s the right thing to do.
As far as Libya, I can’t help but color it with my own perspective. Of course, the research of Felitti and Anda says that childhood trauma can have deep, even determinative, effects- so that’s not atypical. But to frame it in terms of my experience, if there had been someone out in Gotham, fighting back against crime, the night my parents were shot… what if they wouldn’t have died? Gaddafi wanted to turn Benghazi, maybe his whole country, into Crime Alley. And you’re telling me, before hand, that I have a chance to shut him down. I take it. In a heartbeat.
ID: Is that reckless?
B: The decision itself, given that I’m not privy to what the President is, given that I don’t know the situation beyond what’s in the papers, that’s it’s based around my own emotional history, yes. Will it resolve poorly? I don’t know. I’d like to think that if we save people, or really in this instance when, that it’s worth it. I’ve dedicated my life to interceding in dangerous events to help people. For me it’s an easy call to make- but I’ve never really been responsible for putting more than a few hundred people at risk- and they were all free to go if they wanted. So it’s not perfectly analogous.
ID: I thought about making a devil’s advocate argument, that you wouldn’t be on the frontline, but it’s moot, because you have. I’m a lounge chair general, so I admit I don’t know what it’s like to risk my life for other people in that way. But you do. Why do you think that is?
B: I think we’ve mentioned it before, so forgive me anyone if we’re rehashing, but part of it, at least initially, I think came from a faltering self-worth. I failed to save my parents, so I was worthless- I was worth less so it didn’t matter as much when I put myself at risk to save other people. And at the same time, every time I did save somebody, I felt like I was worth a little more, but my self esteem became so intertwined with the idea of self-sacrifice, that I couldn’t not keep it up. It was who I became. And if I wanted to stay worthwhile, rather than revert to the worthless boy who let his parents die, it was who I had to be.
Put another way, I’ve interceded thousands of times to help people. Sometimes I was ineffectual, and a few times I was even hurt in the process of being ineffectual. Were those specific times worthwhile? No. But on balance, taking into account my failures and what they cost, it was better for me to be out in the world than in my mansion wringing my hands.
ID: But you have a much better track record than our government has at navigating military conflicts.
B: Then that’s an argument that our government needs to be smarter and better, not that we should sit by while madmen kill innocent people. That’s the call I would make. And it’s the call our President has made. I truly hope it’s the right call to have made. None of us want another Iraq; but none of us want the knowledge that we let another Rwanda happen, either. Sometimes, all you can do in a situation is what you think is right, and hope that it turns out for the best.
ID: I do.