Thursday, March 31, 2011

Libya Follow-Up

Now that a bit more time has passed, let's take another look at the Libya situation. In particular, let's examine how Barack Obama has continued to bungle it.

Libya's dictator-for-life, Moammar Gadhafi (or however you want to spell it), is gaining back ground, prompting the U.S. and a coalition of international forces to intervene. Barack Obama finally gave a speech to the American public explaining his policy on Libya. This seemed to be the theme of that speech:
“We should not be afraid to act, but the burden of action should not be America’s alone,” ...

“American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone,” Obama said. “Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well.”
In other words, he's trying to do as little as possible while looking like he's doing as much as possible. Of course, this message was so critical that he shuffled his speech around Dancing With The Stars. Interesting sense of priorities, if you ask me. Anyway, there are just a few problems with the whole idea...

Using the same rationale George W. Bush used to go into Iraq, Barack Obama has now gone into Libya.

It seems that the world is upside down. Suddenly Republicans are concerned about going into a Middle Eastern country and Democrats are gung-ho neocon warmongers.

The situation, of course, is not that simple.

Whether you think he lied, was misled, or was right, George W. Bush did make a case to Congress and the American people prior to going into Iraq that Iraq was training Al Qaeda and, given its weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda, was an imminent threat to the United States.

Again, you can think he lied. You can think he was misled. You can think he was right.

But Bush went to the United Nations, got the appropriate resolutions, went before the American people to make his case, and before going into Iraq received Congressional approval. In fact, it took him a year and a half to make his case. When he went in, he had 80% public approval and a much larger international coalition than Obama is taking with him.

He also could articulate an idea for an endpoint, whether you liked it or not.

Obama has failed at each of these things. Approval for our action in Libya is less than 50%. Obama never addressed Congress for approval. There is no clearly defined endpoint or strategic exit. To top it all off, the very same rebels he is aiding are the same people who were attacking American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hm, can't imagine why so few Americans think this is a good idea...

Oh, and speaking of George W. Bush, the coalition he formed before we went into Iraq was four times bigger than the coalition Barack Obama -- the great uniter, remember -- managed to slap together.

Anyway, after Obama's big speech, in which he supposedly laid out his reasoning and mission (the 'Obama Doctrine'), there's only more confusion. The Right is having a field day with it...

Dan Nexon has pretty effectively summed up the “Obama Doctrine” as the “Humanitarian-intervention-against-militarily-weak-fossil-fuel-producing-countries-in-strategically-important-regions-that-are-also-located-near-many-large-NATO-military-bases-and-are-run-by-dictators-who-kind-of-piss-us-off-and-have-no-powerful-allies Doctrine.”

Concentrate, instead, on this one key fact: this American president, who ran on a platform of not being the Left’s caricature of George W. Bush (a fantasy character who ran headlong into wars with no planning, no Congressional authorization or oversight, no true mission, no exit strategy, no Plan B if things didn’t go swimmingly off the bat, and no real regard for outcomes or consequences), has run the US headlong into a war with no planning, no Congressional authorization or oversight, no true mission, no exit strategy, no Plan B if things don’t go swimmingly off the bat, and no real regard for outcomes.
Over three weeks ago, I asked whether anyone could identify an “Obama Doctrine” in foreign policy that covered the triggers and limits for American intervention. One intervention and a prime-time speech later, most of us are still wondering. If Barack Obama hoped to clarify why the US decided to attack Libya while ignoring similar scenes of oppression in nations like Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, he left the issue muddier than ever, and not just among conservatives. Dana Milbank, for instance, tries to argue that the lack of a doctrine is somehow a sign of brilliance, but even he admits that Obama’s losing Americans between Bush-like soundbites and opacity ...

Why Libya and not Syria, where the US actually has significant security concerns in its alliance with Iran, and a track record given Syria’s support for terrorists and insurgents in Iraq over the last several years? Syria also helps prop up Hezbollah in Lebanon, which provides a direct threat to our ally Israel, where Libya had been mostly rendered toothless.
The doctrine is there is no doctrine.

President Barack Obama answered questions about America’s mission in Libya Monday night with a 27-minute address that focused narrowly on “this particular country, Libya, at this particular moment” and shied away from making sweeping statements about America’s role in the world, the larger principles that guide his decisions on using force or about the U.S. response to the unfolding Arab Spring.

For those at home wondering, would U.S. forces be deployed in Syria or Yemen or Saudi Arabia or even Iran, the answer was … . well, probably not, but hard to say for absolutely sure.
“We must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed against one’s own citizens; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people,” Obama said.

Which you could call the Obama Doctrine, except we hold so few countries to it, including dictatorships that we not only do business with, but whom we also call friends and allies, that it doesn’t deserve that title.

But Libya is the right enemy at the right time because we think we can defeat Moammar Qadhafi on the cheap – - that is by using air power alone – - and supporting rebel forces.
Isn't it amazing that he seems to approach every foreign policy problem with an almost total lack of spine, principle, and consistency?

Jim Geraghty has a terrific roundup of some of the most salient commentary in his most recent newsletter:

I'll let the Ace of Spades lead the critique of Obama's big, almost-prime-time speech:

"We Took A Series of Swift Steps: "Oh, you mean after you dithered around with the same basic facts for three weeks.

You mean after all that delay, you finally made a decision, and then themilitary acted swiftly.

"I Refused to Let That Happen: "Ah, okay, just as long as I know who the hero is here.

By the way, he's super-proud that he waited until the last possible moment to save Benghazi (but none of the towns and cities along the decimated way to Benghazi). Apparently those other towns he let be demolished as he dithered didn't count.

Only the dramatic, last-second decision to spare Benghazi specifically should matter.

He says that he's all about getting other countries to bear the burdens. He says, to that end, that he's transferred command to NATO.

Um, so, if I'm getting this right, our pilots and seamen are still fighting this war, they're just being bossed around by a foreign general, right?

And that general isn't actually in the fight, right?

Seems to me that all Obama is doing is distancing himself from any possible failure while keeping our troops in harm's way.

Many on the Right agreed with Ace that the speech had some big tasks before it, and Obama whiffed big-time.

It's somewhat nice to know that when you watch our president step up to the plate, tap his cleats, call his shot, and then promptly go down swinging on three pitches, there are a lot of like-minded folks on Twitter who can find something to laugh about in the whole mess.

Caleb Howe
offered perhaps the most succinct summary: "Obama: I authorized this war that is not a war, which is narrowly focused but broad in scope, so we could lead. As helpers."

Jeff Emanuel
notices, "For a supposed history savant, Obama misstated the amount of time it took to effect regime change in Iraq by about 7 yrs, 11 months."

Brian Lehman
: "The Nobel Peace Prize winning President just made the case for invading almost anywhere."

Greg Pollowitz watched MSNBC so we wouldn't have to, and said that Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell sounded ready to give Obama "another Nobel for bombing Libya." To which Kevin Binversie
responds, "Ah, yes, the Nobel War Prize. Rarely given!"

Josh TreviƱo
: "The President's war metrics rely on projections of Libyans created or saved." He also noted, "This is the first time in American history that a President has simultaneously set a war aim and disavowed means to obtain it."

Jim Treacher
: "It was almost as good as the first time I heard this speech, when Bush gave it."

John Ondrasik
-- you know, the guy from Five for Fighting who's known for the Superman song and "One Hundred Years" -- offers one of the night's key observations: "Wonder how candidate Obama (07-08) would react to Pres Obama speech on today's war." Heck, the Barack Obama from 2003 probably would have heckled him.

Of course, some of the post-speech observations took a more ominous tone.
Patrick Ruffini: "The only thing more dangerous than sending our sons and daughters into harm[']s way is sending them without meaning it."

Hugh Hewitt show producer Duane Patterson
wondered, "So if you're Gaddafi and you hear Obama promise he will not force you out militarily, doesn't that encourage you to dig in?"

Ultimately, it boils down to a disturbing lack of leadership. So why the reluctance to lead? Well, it all comes back to that thing we've talked about before, where Obama truly believes that America is the source of the greatest evil in the world. The Wall Street Journal also offers the following reason:
Mr. Obama won't lead the world because he truly seems to believe that U.S. leadership is morally suspect. But if Mr. Obama thinks George W. Bush was unpopular in the Arab world, he should contemplate the standing of America—and the world reputation of Barack Obama—if Gadhafi and his sons slaughter their way back to power.
Sadly, isn't that how it always works? When liberals get their way, tyranny wins.

Rush Limbaugh had a slightly different take on it, kind of a broad-scope view:
Now, Obama is setting in place a new precedent all of a sudden, respecting our foreign policy and our military. And I don't mean he respects them. He's setting a new place, new terms, if you will: All roads first go through the UN. That's another reason to wait nine days. All roads go through the UN, NATO, what have you. Look for more of this. And then you turn the operations over to another coalition. What Obama is doing here is multitasking. He is undoing our sovereignty while at the same time setting up the table to take personal credit for the eventual overthrow of Khadafy.

Never forget -- never forget, folks -- Barack Obama has always held himself out as a global citizen, bigger than the mere boundaries of our own country. All this stuff about American exceptionalism? That's no different than all the BS that he talked about free markets in the campaign while simultaneously spreading socialism here. So while he's talking about American exceptionalism, he is empowering the United Nations. It's the United Nations and NATO and all these other organizations. Have you noticed Mrs. Clinton's language? "We're not... We're not... We're not... We're not arming the rebels. We are not getting rid of Khadafy. We're not... We're not... We're not..." meaning the United States.

"They are... They are... They are..." the UN. Not us. Notice Obama got his moral sanction from the United Nations, not the United States Congress. Obama did not go to the Congress on this operation -- on purpose. He went to the UN. He side-stepped Congress. This is Obama seeking his dream, to not be held prisoner by the boundaries of this country. He's a citizen of the world. He is undoing our sovereignty right in front of our eyes here.
Based on the facts of the last couple years and Obama's actions while in office, I can't find any fault in the logic there. Can you?

Some final commentary worth seeing:

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