Right Thinking From The Left Coast
Chance favors the prepared mind - Louis Pasteur

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The United States of America is Different

So I finally got around to reading the President’s speech last night on Libya.  He made about as good a case as I think one can make for the intervention.  That case is not to be found in his actual words, which tried to make Libya sound like a unique and unparalleled event—which it isn’t.  The case for Libya is that this is one horror we can do something about.  The case is that this particular horror could encourage dictators around the Middle East to hold on against the revolutionary wave.  I was not entirely convinced by either of those arguments.  But at least it’s a case.

I was also struck by this passage:

To summarize, then:  In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners.  To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.  It took us 31 days.

If you think the LIbya thing is worth doing, they’ve done about as good a job as they could.  The attempts by such as Newt Gingrich to explain away their self-contradiction on the subject is a bit silly.  This is not the sort of thing done on the spur of the moment.  No matter what John Bolton thinks, the engines of war take some time to ramp up.

But that’s about it as far as praise goes.  Obama kinda-sorta made the case for war and sorta-kinda showed that he has, so far, managed the situation reasonably well.  But there remain some big problems with his Libya policy that were not addressed.

First, as Friedman points out, there is one important body left off the list of those that Obama got on board with this—Congress.  Lives are being put on the line and treasure is being spent.  Congress should at least be consulted.  In a Constitutional world, their approval would be required.

Second, he still, to my mind, did not identify a critical US interest beyond the humanitarian one.  The closest he got was this:

The writ of the UN Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security.

The idea that the UN Security Council deals in anything other than empty words is laughable.  It becomes doubly laughable when you realize the man citing the UN writs as a compelling interest felt that many more UN writs on the subject of Iraq were not enough to justify action.

But what really bothered me about the speech was that it had the tone of a man who thinks the war is all but won.  He frequently talked about what to do once Qaddafi is out of power.  But reports today show that the regime is making progress against the rebels. It is entirely possible that our intervention in Libya will prevent an oppressive massacre by creating a longer and bloodier drawn-out civil war.  Is that better?  Does that reflect well on the US?  Or will we decide that our credibility is at stake and start sending in ground troops?

In short—Obama failed to answer the most critical question:  what happens if this doesn’t work?

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/29/11 at 05:02 PM in War on Terror/Axis of Evil  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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