Ten Reflections On Libya

More here from Jon Stewart, who is also not buying Obama’s rationales.
I had intended to write up a longer or at any rate more organized essay about Libya, but for now, here are my two cents:
1. I was open initially, at least in theory, to the U.S. arming the rebels and enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, on the theory that we could tip the balance in favor of the rebels without the need to commit ground troops. I don’t buy the theory that the U.S. has no stake in overthrowing Ghadafi* as a matter of national interest, as doing so may advance our broader strategic goal of changing the political structure of the Arab/Muslim world so as to break the status quo in which the only alternatives are (a) terror-sponsoring tyrannies and (b) tyrannies whose only credible opponents are Islamist terrorists. Probably the most glaring omission from the Administration’s arguments in favor of this action is any sense that this is part of a coherent regional or other strategy – nor could it be, given the Administration’s passivity in Egypt and its unwillingness to do anything to support opponents of the much more dangerous and hostile Iranian and Syrian regimes.
I don’t regard regime change in Libya as a sufficiently compelling interest that I’d want to commit ground troops to such a project – nobody has argued that the U.S. had cause or interest in starting a war with Khadaffy, as opposed to joining one in progress – but you don’t commit air assets unless you are willing to contemplate either ground forces to support them or just losing any pilots who get shot down.
2. I’m completely opposed to committing U.S. forces (air, ground, whatever) unless our goal is to destroy Quaddafi’s regime and we are committed to see that through to the end. Bad as Kadafy is, he’s been much more contained in recent years than Saddam ever was – among other things, surrendering his WMD programs to outside inspectors after seeing what George W. Bush did to Saddam – but if left in power after this, he will have much the same desire to make trouble for us that Saddam did after the first Gulf War. And more broadly, as I have explained before, the one indispensable prerequisite for using military force is defining who the enemy is and committing to defeat him. Doing less than that is worse than pointless. Unfortunately, Obama has been (depending how you interpret his oracular pronouncements) vague and/or contradictory on whether we are truly committed to eliminating Gaddafhi’s regime.
3. My openness to a no-fly zone in Libya decreased dramatically when we sat by and did nothing for over two critical weeks while all the rebel-held cities other than Benghazi fell back into the regime’s hands. Now, our arrival may be too little too late. Not only does toppling the regime without a major Allied military commitment look like a longer shot now, but specifically we gave the regime the time to move military assets into those cities. Air power is never more effective than against armored columns traveling in the open desert (Libya isn’t the mountains of Bosnia or the Ho Chi Minh Trail), but the regime is much more entrenched now in those urban positions. Things can change quickly in an unstable situation, but unlike in Afghanistan and Iraq there’s at least a significant chance right now that the regime we’ve bombed will still be standing a year from now, and what then?
In war, a questionable decision made swiftly is often better than a good one made too late. At least Sarah Palin, who supported a no-fly zone weeks before Obama, understood this. If anything, Obama’s reliance on the humanitarian argument (Benghazi will be flattened) suggests that he was more inclined to back the rebels as their chances of victory diminished. I am left with the creeping suspicion that Obama isn’t anti-war so much as he’s uncomfortable with American victory.
4. We also went into this with the average citizen having no clue what kind of people the rebels are, and apparently with U.S. policymakers not knowing a whole lot more. It increasingly appears they may be linked with Al Qaeda and participating in more than the usual atrocities attendant to civil wars in the Arab/Muslim world. Ghadaffy may be a bad guy, but he’s the devil we know, and the prospects for replacing him with something worse look even more problematic than they did in Egypt.
5. I’m fine with us working within NATO, but let’s not pretend that that means any less U.S. commitment. Or that Obama’s coalition is somehow superior to the multinational force in Iraq, which involved many more nations putting boots on the ground. As for going to Congress, there’s interesting Constitutional debate around what powers the President has to act militarily without Congressional approval (almost nobody disputes that he has some) and what power Congress has to restrict his existing Article II powers by statute, but if the Iraq experience convinced me of anything, it’s that Bush – and the mission – would have been in much worse shape in terms of popular support if he hadn’t gone to Congress in advance.
6. I’m not opposed to considering humanitarian concerns – or access to oil, for that matter – as a reason to go to war (they were one of numerous reasons for the Iraq War), but I’m very uncomfortable with using it as the sole justification for a war, especially when we self-evidently are not applying the same standard across the globe. Principles are important, but in the real world you can rarely afford to enforce them consistently; wars are ultimately a matter of national interest, and you can’t turn a principle into an interest just by calling it one. Nobody can possibly take seriously the idea that we are being entirely consistent here (we’ve watched many worse things unfold in sub-Saharan Africa).
7. This whole thing is going to cost a bunch of money. I generally pay little attention to financial cost in decisions about war and peace, on the grounds that if something is worth losing lives over, it’s necessarily going to be worth spending money on as well. But if the calculus here is that knocking out the regime can be done on the cheap, it becomes more relevant to consider the dollars as well.
8. Yes: given that bombing Libya is a close call and depends on a lot of pragmatic factors, it does matter that I don’t have any faith in the current Administration to carry out the fundamentals – i.e., defining the enemy and the objective – competently or in the best interests of the U.S.
9. Polls are showing at most 50% public support for this mission. That can’t be good news for Obama if this doesn’t wrap up quickly; the Iraq War and Vietnam both began with 80% public support (I’ve been reading Steven Hayward’s Age of Reagan, and he cites among other things a May 1967 Gallup poll that found only 14% support for withdrawing from Vietnam, compared to 25% support for nuking North Vietnam). If the mission goes badly, Obama will be left with nearly no support.
10. At least having a Democratic president means that we don’t have to listen to idiots arguing that the use of military force is illegitimate because neither the President, the Vice President nor the Secretary of State served in the military. That argument was never the province of remotely serious people anyway, let alone anyone who would use it consistently across partisan lines.

* – Given the absence of an agreed-upon transliteration of his name, I refuse to spell it the same way twice in a row.

32 thoughts on “Ten Reflections On Libya”

  1. There is no comparison between the evil of Saddam and the evil of Gaddaffi. Saddam Hussein was so evil, Reagan almost didn’t send Rumsfeld to shake his hand and tell him the US had his back after he gassed his own people to death.
    You can’t get much more evil than that.

  2. Also, Crank. Re: your point number 10.
    The problem wasn’t that the guys who pushed for the war weren’t military veterans. The problem was they had financial ties to those who profit from going to war.
    See The Carlyle Group, Halliburton, etc as prime examples.
    It would be like the Governor of Florida requiring drug-testing of state employees and (non-corporate, of course) welfare recipients, while he and his wife owned a significant stake in a business whose most popular service is drug-testing.
    Forget “strategic decisions” and human rights violations. Instead, just follow the money.

  3. For me the biggest problem is #3. When our support could have meant something we did nothing instead we dithered and frittered away the chance do actually do something.

  4. Good points, Crank. This one is a head-scratcher. Related to #2 (at least the point that he had been contained the last few years), what we’re doing to Muammar(…) is being watched by other countries who we’ve been trying to get to cooperate with us. Look how we are rewarding the guy who gave up his nukes and cooperated against AQ – we’re now trying to take him out (whether with a bullet or a payoff and first-class ticket, our prestige requires that he go) and maybe even helping AQ do it. What will be the incentive to other rogue regimes that we are trying to coax away from nuclear weapons (eg, Iran) or reject AQ? Have we just incentivized them further by showing that we won’t do anything to a strong/dangerous country (b/c if they disarm we’ll still attack them) or that we won’t forever stand agaisnt AQ? Then again, have we finally concluded that we are done trying to negotiate with the Irans/Norks b/c we won’t ever be able to convince them to change (and what would that portend)?

  5. Crank, you took most of the good ones, I think I’ll just use “K-Daf.”
    1. I have the same problem with entanglement in Libya as Egypt – no U.S. national interests at stake. I oppose the use of the US military for purely humanitarian military missions unless it is very closely related to some strategic interest. Our national interests in the Middle East:
    (1) Protect our access to oil.
    (2) Keep OPEC divided and weak.
    (3) Stop nuclear proliferation
    (4) Prevent terrorism
    (5) Protect the existence of Israel as an ally to help us achieve #1-4.
    K-Daf has not been a major threat to any of those interests since Reagan appropriately fired several missiles down his throat in the mid-80’s.
    We should not be helping the rebels overthrow K-Daf. We don’t know who they are or what they want. K-Daf, however repulsive, has not been a major problem for us. I see no reason to seek a more risky replacement, especially given the expense and our existing commitments.
    A purely humanitarian mission, e.g., only enforcing the no-fly zone, would be only mildly irritating to me if the British and French take the lead and use their blood and treasure. But Obama is giving mixed messages about the objective, and that is a serious problem. I do not want any part of a Libyan civil war.

  6. Well, I didn’t want us to go in the first place. And Crank, you get on me every time I bring up Jon Stewart, so you don’t get that privilege. Well, even better, now, when I do, just say thanks. No exit strategy? Sounds way too much like Iraq in that way.
    But tanstaaf, please don’t talk of a reformed Khadaffi, or whatever the spelling of the day is. The proper spelling for him is : L-O-C-K-E-R-B-I-E.
    Bush, Cheney and company decided to lump together Saddam Hussein with terrorists who attacked us. He wasn’t then, and they knew it. This clown didn’t have to be linked with Al Qaeda. He attacked us without them.

  7. Since people keep trying to rewrite history-The Clinton Admin in its criminal indictment of Osama Bin Laden linked Iraq and Al Quaeda. Iraq did give backing to numerous terrorist groups, including Al Quaeda linked groups and the group that was run by Alzwahiri that merged with Al Quaeda to form Al Quaeda 2.0. Bush before the Iraq invasion noted a number of times that there was no evidence linking Iraq to 9/11. Oh and and 13 years of failed sanctions, UN Security Council resolutions being violated, warning after warning, non cooperation with UN security inspectors and them firing at our warplanes day after day.

  8. “Bush before the Iraq invasion noted a number of times that there was no evidence linking Iraq to 9/11.”
    Link please. Or LinkS, since you mentioned a number of times. BTW, what is that number?

  9. Read it again, Daryl (this is becoming a tiresome refrain). I said he was contained, not reformed. I don’t think we should be working with al Qaeda to avenge Lockerbie – sends the wrong message to people we don’t want to work with al Qaeda.

  10. berto , I got a better idea since you and the retard left for years have repeatedly been charging that Bush claimed Iraq had something to with 9/11-why don’t you link to those utterances first???????
    BTW-have there been any indictments against Haliburton and Cheney yet? I mean we were told for years that their ” criminal ” behavior was going to be investigated by the Democrats when they retook Congress in 2007? Where are the investigations, where are the findings, where are the indictments for the “lies”? Oh right, that was just what they said to keep the lefty simpletons in a state of agitation

  11. I’d say that Berto probably also thinks we shouldn’t have opposed Stalin because we worked with him against Hitler, but then I remembered that Berto probably doesn’t think there was anything wrong with Stalin anyhow.
    And to tell me now that “The problem wasn’t that the guys who pushed for the war weren’t military veterans” is the most absurd kind of revisionist history, as even a casual perusal of the comments at this site during that period would show.
    Daryl – I think it noteworthy precisely because it’s coming from Stewart, who imbibed deeply of the anti-war Obama hopium.
    dch: Iraq was linked to Al Qaeda, but Bush Admin said there was “no evidence linking Iraq to 9/11” jim’s response: Bush Admin quotes linking Iraq to Al Qaeda. Um, straw man, much?
    There is no question Saddam had extensive ties to many Islamist and Arab terrorists and terrorist groups (I recommend Stephen Hayes’ book), and ties to Al Qaeda were certainly part of that broader picture (as well as the fact that terrorist groups are protean – even if you don’t have bin Laden in your rolodex, wait a year or two and you may find a different group using similar means and members to pursue similar ends). The impossibility of containing or deterring him from doing so again was one of the several crucial reasons to eliminate his regime.

  12. Ha ha ha ha ha.
    dch got caught telling a WHOPPER of a lie, and when called on it he changes the subject.
    Let me guess, you’re a modern conservative? Ever think of running for office?
    As for no criminal charges being filed against Cheney and Halliburton, that’s all part of the 2-tier justice system of this country. Surely, you don’t believe there would have been no charges if Cheney and Halliburton weren’t politically connected, do you?
    You probably think the 2008 economic crash wasn’t caused by an epidemic of Wall Street fraud.
    You’re gullibility can be cute, sometimes.
    Just because you had your fingers in your ears and repeated “nah nah nah, I can’t hear you”, doesn’t mean the financial ties between those who pushed for the war and those who profited off of it wasn’t a large point of criticism.
    Also, have you explored the links between the U.S. and Al-Quaeda? I understand the 9/11 terrorists were trained there.
    Finally, I love the way you took a shot at me because I dented St. Ronnie’s halo. I was alive and paying attention during the ’80s, believe me it’s not difficult.

  13. I’d like to point out (yet one more time) that the idiots have jacked this thread to talk about Iraq, etc. and not about the topic at hand which is Libya. Stop letting them do this! You can’t have an intelligent discussion with them, so stop trying!
    My key issue with the Libya “Kenetic whatever” is what is the objective? In Iraq it was the ouster of Saddam. In Afghanistan it was the capture/kill of Al Quida (no clear spelling either) and ouster of the Taliban.
    But what is the Bamster’s goal in Libya? Ouster of the K-man, stopping of K-man troops from killing his own people, or just playing CIC? I don’t have a clue. I don’t think the Bamster has one either.

  14. Bush, Cheney, et al. linked Saddam to al qaeda for the purpose of creating in the public mind a link between Saddam and 9/11 because they had already decided to invade Iraq and now had a pretext.
    They were successful in that effort; look at how many of the tea baggers still believe that to be true, along with lowering taxes raises revenue, there wmds in Iraq, we didn’t torture, etc.

  15. As far as the thread drift goes dch asked for links. I worked for about 1 second to find some. Crank rightly pointed out that these weren’t what was asked for so I worked for another 1 second and found a whole treasure trove. Just giving the peeps what they want.
    The funny thing is that you guys think that Bush and Co. didn’t link Iraq/Saddam to 9/11. It was like their freaking reason for existing. They did it constantly.

  16. Crank, it’s noteworthy that a progressive speaker (Jon Stewart) criticizes Obama? No, that is what is supposed to happen. It’s the Fox “News (ahem)” folks and you right wingnuts that refuse to criticize your leadership no matter what. Think not? Just how many times were people who wanted to LEGALLY protest against Bush were refused from public places where they were speaking. It’s measured in too many to count. That is really the big issue I have with you guys. Not your stands, well, I guess it is, because it changes, and in a frightening lockstep. But because you simply can’t, under any circumstance, admit an error. Geez, one of you guys wouldn’t admit you signed something with black ink instead of blue.
    tanstaaf, since you contradicted your own post with your second, I won’t bother cutting, pasting and refuting. It was a mistake going into Iraq. It was a mistake how we went into Afghanistan (if the enemy retreats, you either accept their surrender, or you shoot them. You DON’T let them escape and regroup, with promises from a third party to try really really hard to get your bad guys), it IS a mistake to go into Libya. It’s a bigger one to arm the rebels. We’ve gone that route before. What’s next, bombing the Ho Chi Abdul trail? The Progessive’s weakness (willing to admit our mistakes) is also our strength, because the only mistakes worth making are new ones.

  17. “I’d say that Berto probably also thinks we shouldn’t have opposed Stalin because we worked with him against Hitler, but then I remembered that Berto probably doesn’t think there was anything wrong with Stalin anyhow.”
    OK, Crank. I see in your scenario Stalin = Saddam, and Hitler = Kohemeni. I just don’t see the part where we convinced Hitler to buy weapons from us so we could use the cash to support drug-runners disguised as “freedom fighters”.

  18. Berto, I know all supporters of the Ayatollah are as upset as you that Iran was not able to gain control of Iraq’s oil.

  19. Berto, are you unaware that the weapons Israel sold to SH just did not work very well?
    Better yet the fact that you are unable to find any reference to Bush blaming Iraq for 911 proves you are internet illiterate or he never did so. How many of the 911 terrorists travelled through Iran.

  20. Of course I think there was “anything wrong with Stalin anyhow”.
    For starters, his heartlessness (represented by his embargo of medicine to Nicaragua because he didn’t like the government the people there had elected–which led to the deaths of many innocent women and children), his Club Med Wars (see Granada, a murderous PR stunt designed to make him look tough for gunning down Cubans trying to build an airport), and his making of racism respectable again (the “small town values” he preached being codewords for “white”).
    Oops, my mistake, I confused Stalin with Reagan again.
    If I were a Conservative, this would be where I dig my heels in, blame all of the above on Stalin anyway, and smugly dismiss anyone who points out the mistake as ” a loony lefty”.

  21. PaulV,
    Re: “internet illiterate” = American citizen
    see this from March, 2003:
    Here’s the money quote:
    Polling data show that right after Sept. 11, 2001, when Americans were asked open-ended questions about who was behind the attacks, only 3 percent mentioned Iraq or Hussein. But by January of this year, attitudes had been transformed. In a Knight Ridder poll, 44 percent of Americans reported that either “most” or “some” of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens. The answer is zero.
    According to Mr. Kull of PIPA (Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland) there is a strong correlation between those who see the Sept. 11-Iraq connection and those who support going to war.
    What a leader that W was, huh.
    Seems that 44% is as misinformed as dch is about the “many times Bush noted” there was no link between Iraq and 9/11.
    Educated guess: they were misinformed by cable news networks, whose “Job 1” is to misinform, confuse, and distract the American public.

  22. Just peeked in here. I am still waiting for the quotes from George W Bush saying that 9/11 was caused by Iraq. Where are they? Give me the exact quote where GWB said 9/11 was caused or aided by Iraq-lots of name calling and temper tantrums, but where is the quote or better yet the You Tube video. there must be one, right? You have been screeching for years, so show it to all of us. Come on lets see it. I want to see the video, transcript, lets see it, lets hear it. It would be about 10-15 words-post it

  23. Daryl, I did not contradict myself. I merely used smaller and fewer words so that even you might understand.

  24. “Bush before the Iraq invasion noted a number of times that there was no evidence linking Iraq to 9/11.”
    That “number”, of course, is zero.

  25. Still waiting for to hear or see Bush saying Iraq was responsible for 9/11-I have my popcorn ready. Now before I start searching for my posts, just to remind you again. the thing I have am asking for is what you guys have been screeching about for years and referncing for years.

  26. https://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:H.R.4655.ENR:
    Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 signed by Bill Clinton passed unanimously by the Senate including every lberal democratic Senator. made it offical US policy to overthrow Saddam Hussein years before GWB and or 9/11. If you want to have some real fun and educate yourself do a search for the comments made by Clinton, Kerrey and Kennedy and all the other lefty darlings what they had to say about this-amazingly its the “lies” of George Bush years before he was President.

  27. I love that dch was criticizing revisionist history while plying in the trade of revisionist history.
    Conservatives have the same sense of irony that they do of shame (and history, and…).

  28. As usual, all the posts make things go off in all sorts of tangents. I think, in the long run, the far right (and not that long now), will actually lose a lot. Because it’s a dead end. Not the Reagan Right, which used to be extreme, but is far to the left. Because for all of Reagan’s stubborness, he did share the good qualities all great leaders share: the ability to compromise, coupled with the even greater ability to convince others they are right, not by force, nor by steadfastness, but by the ability to make others think it’s their own idea to do it. Lincoln, had it, Mandela had it, Reagan, FDR. Mandela and Lincoln are great examples of that: In Lincoln’s case, he was able to actually hold together a Union during a period when bloodbath is an inferior term for doing what he knew was right; Mandela had it just as hard. He actually had to convince the heavily armed and desperate Boer (not the other whites, as they weren’t as armed, and they all had other places to go) minority that sharing power was the way to go. Think that was easy? Not even close. Botha and company in South Africa had far more to lose than the Tea Baggers or far right, yet were convinced to compromise even more. It’s not a curse to compromise, it’s not weakness. Just the opposite. Only the strong and mature are willing to compromise. Meaning you far right wingnuts (and the far left too, let’s be fair, you are fewer but also passionate) are really weak and immature.

  29. https://www.fas.org/irp/news/1998/11/98110602_nlt.html
    federal indictment of Bin Laden from 1998 listing Iraq as one of the countries Al Quaeda had conspired with. 1998–the President at that time was Clinton. please explain this in light of the Bush lied meme. BTW-I am not at home, so I haven’t started searching my drives or USBs there, but so far here are 2 documents backing up what I said above,-again still waiting to see or hear Bush blaming Iraq for 9/11

  30. Darryl and Berto admit that Bush never said there was a connection between Iraq and AQ and that was no connection mentioned in AUMF.
    They also do not allege that any of the mant democrats who voted for AUMF said that there was a connection. dch, are they stupid or merely disingenerous? Does Berto admire the Iranian Imans? There is more evidence of that than of the lies they tell about Bush. If they had any evidence of Bush blaming Iraq for 911 they would have mentioned it. Lying about Bush is all they can do.

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