Friday, March 18, 2011

Who Lost Libya?

As I finally get down to writing this the United Nations Security Council has voted 10-0 with two abstentions to The UN’s principal policy-making panel yesterday voted 10-0, with five abstentions, to adopt a resolution that establishes a no-fly zone over Libya, demands a cease-fire and allows “all necessary measures” to protect civilians “excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” Brazil, China, Germany, India and Russia abstained.

At this time, so late in the day, I'm inclined towards ambivalence between classifying this decision D.O.A. (dead on arrival) or O.B.E. (overtaken by events). The odious Muammar Qaddafi is about to close exterminate his eastern opponents in Benghazi. One thing about Qaddafi: he's not a dithering intellectual, is he? But, as it always or often said, America often gets around to doing the right thing but not at the right time: always too little, too late.

So, for the last month, I've been burning to ask my readers, who lost Libya? And my regulars know I never ask a question unless I have a plausible answer. Who lost the chance to oust Qaddafi when he was hanging by a little more than threads?

My answer is George Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair and Barack Obama have surged and splurged the Anglo-American military, economic, and diplomatic capital so deeply into the red in Iraq and Afghanistan that the unipolar prerogatives promised us in the 21st Century elude our grasp.

I am of two minds. I have always believed that American armed forces existed for defense of the realm. As John Quincy Adams said,

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy ... she is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
However, in the past quarter century I have enthusiastically supported the full use of American military might 
  • when international aggression had to be repulsed (Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait) and,
  • when ethnic cleansing forced thousands of civilians to flee across international borders (the wars of Yugoslavian dissolution). Both of these circumstances threatened regional international stability. 
In both instances, our military objective stopped short of regime change; both military campaigns sought a change in our enemy's policies. Saddam Hussein was forced to withdraw from his occupation of Kuwait and Slobodan Milosevic was forced out of Bosnia and Kosovo. Both campaigns involved extremely few American Casualties. Both campaigns contained obtainable exit strategies. Neither of these violated the agent dictum of General Douglas MacArthur, not to get involved in a land war in Asia; a dictum which has been violated every day we stay in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This air war over Libya may become Obama's only non-inherited and elective war. Perhaps by whacking on a little guy like Qaddafi so accessible as he is right on the shoulders of the Mediterranean maritime freeway between Southern Europe and North Africa, Obama can have his Grenada.

As I said, I am of two minds. 

My second thought is founded on the need to shrink the pentagon budget to the extent that we drown our misguided Iraq and Afghan expeditionary occupations in a bath tub. When I hear advocates of intervention in Libya express opinions to the contrary, I'm convinced that we can't even afford taking cheap shots at Qaddafi. Just think what it will lead to. Take John McCain, who's never seen a war he doesn't like, before the Atlantic Council in Washington on Tuesday, for example:
Of course we have to have a no-fly zone. We are spending over $500 billion dollars, not counting Iraq and Afghanistan, on our nation’s defense. Don’t tell me we can’t do a no-fly zone over Tripoli.

I love the military, I love it, it’s been my life, but they always seem to find reasons why you can’t do something rather than why you can.
Add McCain's name to my list of Bush, Cheney, Blair, and Obama: this clique of myopic and spendthrift crusaders, together with their corporate sponsors, represent a far bigger threat to American national interest than does little Mo' Qaddafi from Libya.


  1. Obama has dithered too long on this one. Libya looks to becoming a serious nail in the coffin containing his 2nd term.

  2. When the entire population is ready for a regime change this can be accomplished as was done in Egypt and some years ago in Iran. Libya was not ready for the change to democracy.

  3. Your support of our attack on Iraq under Papa Bush surprises me.
    Have you ever googled April Glaspie?

    Will you support American boots on the ground in Libya?

  4. The way I recall 1990-1, and I was on top of that, was that April Glaspie dithered before Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, and her boss, Geo Bush Sr. dithered after Iraqi occupation. It wasn't until Margaret Hatcher flew all the way to meet Bush in Aspen Colorado and pushed a steel rod up POTUS #41's ass that USA got going to reverse this calamity. Looks like that's the way it happened this time too. Only it was Sarkozy leading the charge.

    And no, I don't support boots on the ground in Libya. The U.N. Resolution excludes it, and we can't frickin' afford it. Without foreign troops against him, the mad Col. Q. will be able to hold out. We waited too long. That's why I think Obama-Wan-Kenobie, (who always can only talk the talk), has lost Libya.

  5. He doesn't get all of the credit. One of the big reasons for the present dithering, of course, is the American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. We know who's responsible for those unprecedented clusterfucks. (Talk about meltdown!) Because of being spread eagle over the land mass of Asia, we can't stop blatant international aggression by punk North Korea. For crying out loud.

  6. Vigil, do you realize this - today - is the 11th anniversary of Shrub's invasion of Iraq?????

  7. Yeah! Yeah! That's why I turned off CNN: I had a sickening case of deja vu as I watched Wolf Blitzer cheer-leading yet another night time assault on a command and control system.

  8. It's a tough one. Qaddafi has been responsible for much more terror than people remember... he was the Daddy Warbucks of terrorism through the late 70's into the 80's. He is a madman and I think the only way to stop him, is of course, to STOP him. Yet; I am ultimately for no more war. It's all so tiring... apocalypse has come to Japan, we teeter on the edges of the same and we don't act in any awareness of it... all so tiring. We don't belong in any war right now... with no money for our own. It's outrageous. It's hard, too, not to want to step in and help the right side. And in the end, right now, it's about whether you are not on a fence. It's no time for fence sitting.

  9. Obama uses the same false rubric of "conforming to UN resolutions" to justify his intervention as Bush did.

    Why don't you "no fly zone" Israel,Mr president? Why not sanction them?

    Qadafi is a bad leader, so was Saddam. So is whoever the hell runs Saudi Arabia, so is Netanyahu in Israel, so was Mubarak.Notice a pattern here?

    We intervene with those we can't control - and it's NEVER for the good of the people.It's ultimately WORSE for them when we begin the cruise missile and drone attacks, when our sanctified troops begin dragging people from their homes and murdering them at checkpoints.

    Whether or not intervention is needed is immaterial, we do what's best for multinational interests and geopolitics.

    US exceptionalism leads to a degree of genocide whenever it's applied. Libya is no different.

  10. Here is what Obama said:

    “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” — Obama the Senator

  11. In walking and talking let's remember, Col.Qaddafi: he announced that his forces, having reestablished control over most of the country, were closing in on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, and issued his now infamous warning to those who refused to give up.

    “We are coming tonight. We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy and no pity.”

    Who here among these comments doubts the Col would have walked on this bloody path?

  12. Ross Douthat, A Very Liberal Intervention (NYT)

    In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.

    This is an intervention straight from Bill Clinton’s 1990s playbook, in other words, and a stark departure from the Bush administration’s more unilateralist methods. There are no "coalitions of the willing" here, no dismissive references to "Old Europe," no "you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Instead, the Obama White House has shown exquisite deference to the very international institutions and foreign governments that the Bush administration either steamrolled or ignored.

    Obama: better than Bush. Somewhat.

  13. Better than Bush? Damning with faint praise. Clinton didn't have us splayed all over a moonscape when he intervened in Bosnia & Kosovo. But, as I've indicated, I am of two minds here.

  14. Everyone above makes good points. I'd buy any one of you a drink. Any one of you!

  15. Long as it's non-alcoholic you're on Vig!

  16. Libya intervention threatens the Arab spring. Despite its official UN-granted legality, the credibility of Western military action in Libya is rapidly dwindling. English Aljazeera

  17. That must be why I am awakening to the the smell of napalm in the morning. Not to mention the stench of stalemate.

  18. Agree with you Vig.

    I was (and still am) absolutely convinced that Cameron and Sarkozy pushed for the UN no-fly zone resolution not so much for so-called 'humanitarian reasons' (which in reality is a cosmetic reason) for the Libyans in situ but to contain the Libyans within their borders given that Gaddafi's ethnic cleansing would ultimately force civilians to cross to Europe. The second reason is a matter of showing teeth: The "coalition of the willing" need to show Iran ayatollahs and other extremists that if things came to the crunch, i.e., revolution in Iran, we could and would do it.

    Post Gaddafi scenario (if we do decide to take him out)? Libya might just break up into another post-Yugoslavia.

  19. Does your agreement with me cover my words about Margaret Thatcher, Hills?

  20. What were these words about Maggie, Vig?

    Was one-track minded when I posted comment Vig, but just to be clear, here's what I agree with you on, basically hillbloggers have held much the same principle:

    "...enthusiastically supported the full use of American military might
    when international aggression had to be repulsed (Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait) and,
    when ethnic cleansing forced thousands of civilians to flee across international borders (the wars of Yugoslavian dissolution)[and if I may interject, that potentially Libya's --HB]. Both of these circumstances threatened regional international stability."

  21. I'm saying Maggie told George Sr. that Kuwait was important.