Well, to paraphrase Dutch Reagan: “Here we go again.” Are we going to take Mad Dog Gadhafi out? Or let him stay if he once again promises to behave himself? Hey, sounds like the start of a country song. And who’s in charge? Looks like the NATO alliance has crumbled faster than my NCAA brackets.
Here’s what got me fretting about all this early this a.m. It’s an AP story on NPR: “U.S. Likely To Keep Combat Role After Libya Shift.”
The United States welcomed a partial handover for the Libyan air campaign to NATO, but the allies apparently balked at assuming full control and the U.S. military was left in charge of the brunt of combat.
NATO agreed on Thursday to take over command of the newly established no-fly zone over Libya, protective flights meant to deter Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi from putting warplanes in the air. That leaves the U.S. with responsibility for attacks on Gadhafi’s ground forces and other targets, which are the toughest and most controversial portion of the operation.
Oh boy. That sounds like shoe leather on sand — and plenty of it.
OK. I’ll admit it. I need help sorting all this out. So let’s see what Charles Krauthammer has to say as he opines in WaPo, “Obama and Libya: The professor’s war.”
President Obama is proud of how he put together the Libyan operation. A model of international cooperation. All the necessary paperwork. Arab League backing. A Security Council resolution. (Everything but a resolution from the Congress of the United States, a minor inconvenience for a citizen of the world.) It’s war as designed by an Ivy League professor.
True, it took three weeks to put this together, during which time Moammar Gaddafi went from besieged, delusional (remember those youthful protesters on “hallucinogenic pills”) thug losing support by the hour — to resurgent tyrant who marshaled his forces, marched them to the gates of Benghazi and had the U.S. director of national intelligence predicting that “the regime will prevail.”
But what is military initiative and opportunity compared with paper?
Well, let’s see how that paper multilateralism is doing. The Arab League is already reversing itself, criticizing the use of force it had just authorized. Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, is shocked — shocked! — to find that people are being killed by allied airstrikes. This reaction was dubbed mystifying by one commentator, apparently born yesterday and thus unaware that the Arab League has forever been a collection of cynical, warring, unreliable dictatorships of ever-shifting loyalties. A British soccer mob has more unity and moral purpose. Yet Obama deemed it a great diplomatic success that the league deigned to permit others to fight and die to save fellow Arabs for whom 19 of 21 Arab states have yet to lift a finger.
And what about that brilliant U.N. resolution?
Russia’s Vladimir Putin is already calling the Libya operation a medieval crusade.
China is calling for a cease-fire in place — which would completely undermine the allied effort by leaving Gaddafi in power, his people at his mercy and the country partitioned and condemned to ongoing civil war.
Brazil joined China in that call for a cease-fire. This just hours after Obama ended his fawning two-day Brazil visit. Another triumph of presidential personal diplomacy.
And how about NATO? Let’s see. As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. Italy hinted it might deny the allies the use of its air bases if NATO can’t get its act together. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who the hell is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning.
And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Gaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.” Approach, mind you.
Well, Chuck provides some excellent perspective, as usual. But he may be giving the Prez a little too much credit for planning all this. My understanding is like any good professor Obama was on spring break, after noodling over his NCAA picks.
Let’s see if Maureen Dowd can give some behind-the-scene insights in her NYT Op-Ed, “Fight of the Valkyries.”
They are called the Amazon Warriors, the Lady Hawks, the Valkyries, the Durgas.
There is something positively mythological about a group of strong women swooping down to shake the president out of his delicate sensibilities and show him the way to war. And there is something positively predictable about guys in the White House pushing back against that story line for fear it makes the president look henpecked.
It is not yet clear if the Valkyries will get the credit or the blame on Libya. But everyone is fascinated with the gender flip: the reluctant men — the generals, the secretary of defense, top male White House national security advisers — outmuscled by the fierce women around President Obama urging him to man up against the crazy Qaddafi.
How odd to see the diplomats as hawks and the military as doves.
“The girls took on the guys,” The Times’s White House reporter, Helene Cooper, said on “Meet the Press.”
Rush Limbaugh mocked the president and his club of “male liberals,” saying: “Of course the males were opposed. It’s the new castrati. … They’re sissies!”
Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador and former Clinton administration adviser on Africa, was haunted by Rwanda. Samantha Power, a national security aide who wrote an award-winning book about genocide, was thinking of Bosnia. Gayle Smith, another senior national security aide, was an adviser to President Clinton on Africa after the Rwandan massacre. Hillary Clinton, a skeptic at first, paid attention to the other women (putting aside that tense moment during the ’08 primaries when Power called her “a monster”). She also may have had some pillow talk with Bill, whose regrets about Rwanda no doubt helped shape his recommendation for a no-fly zone over Libya.
How odd to see Rush and Samantha Power on the same side.
Oh well. Here we go again.