Wow. Talk about March Madness. One week Prez O was dithering about Libya while making his NCAA picks and the next Hillary has a coalition of the able and willing dropping bombs like three-pointers on Mad Dog Gaddafi and associates.
OK. I’ll admit to having some reservations about this latest military adventure — consider Afghanistan and Iraq before sending nasty emails — although I agree that something had to be done to prevent the massacre of civilians.
And I’m hopeful that this won’t become another American war where we commit ground troops to go on a search for the light at the end of some tunnel that never ends. Let’s face it. In just about every military action these days, the French head home following Happy Hour. Just sayin.’
Saying all that, it seems to me that the Prez should be taking some time to explain what is going on in Libya — the Middle East in general — and how we are going to get the hell out of this mess.
Here’s Richard Cohen opining in WaPo, “Mixed Signals from Obama and the Middle East.”
The Middle East is a mess and a muddle, all of it happening at pretty close to warp speed. The search for a Unified Theory of What Is Happening is futile. Bahrain is our pal; Libya is not. Saudi Arabia has all that oil; Egypt doesn’t. Iran is our enemy and its enemies must be our friends. The scorpion that lethally stings the frog that’s transporting it across the Suez Canal is not a metaphor for the Middle East but a virtual position paper. Look: The Arab League’s Amr Moussa — its departing secretary general — called for a no-fly zone and then, appalled at the violence of this military strike, expressed second thoughts. Moussa has the countenance of a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, a rare manifestation of form following function.
Still, the Obama administration has applied incoherence to confusion. It is an odd, dangerous, mix. A day into the operation, the bedraggled chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, appeared everywhere but on Animal Planet to say that the operation he himself clearly did not favor might end with the man the president said he wanted gone — a certain Col. Gaddafi — still in power. “That’s certainly, potentially, one outcome,” Mullen said on “Meet the Press.”
And the editors of the New York Times have some tepid reservations as well. Here’s from this morning’s editorial, “At War in Libya.”
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has long been a thug and a murderer who has never paid for his many crimes, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The United Nations Security Council resolution authorized member nations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and was perhaps the only hope of stopping him from slaughtering thousands more.
The resolution was an extraordinary moment in recent history. The United Nations, the United States and the Europeans dithered for an agonizingly long time and then — with the rebels’ last redoubt, Benghazi, about to fall — acted with astonishing speed to endorse a robust mandate that goes far beyond a simple no-fly zone. More extraordinary was that the call to action was led by France and Britain and invited by the Arab League.
There is much to concern us. President Obama correctly agreed to deploy American forces only when persuaded that other nations would share the responsibility and the cost of enforcing international law. The United States is already bogged down in two wars. It can’t be seen as intervening unilaterally in another Muslim nation. But even with multinational support, it should not have to shoulder the brunt of this conflict.
Not exactly a commentary or opinion that will stir the masses to action. Looks like the NYT editors are going to drive down the middle of the road on this one — unless a truck comes barreling the other way.
So let’s see what George Will has to say on what is certainly one of the big fish in the skillet here — “Is it America’s duty to intervene wherever regime change is necessary?”
The missile strikes that inaugurated America’s latest attempt at regime change were launched 29 days before the 50th anniversary of another such — the Bay of Pigs of April 17, 1961. Then the hubris of American planners was proportional to their ignorance of everything relevant, from Cuban sentiment to Cuba’s geography. The fiasco was a singularly feckless investment of American power.
Does practice make perfect? In today’s episode, America has intervened in a civil war in a tribal society, the dynamics of which America does not understand. And America is supporting one faction, the nature of which it does not know. “We are standing with the people of Libya,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, evidently confident that “the” people are a harmonious unit. Many in the media call Moammar Gaddafi’s opponents “freedom fighters,” and perhaps they are, but no one calling them that really knows how the insurgents regard one another, or understand freedom, or if freedom, however understood, is their priority.
But, then, knowing is rarely required in the regime-change business. The Weekly Standard, a magazine for regime-change enthusiasts, serenely says: “The Libyan state is a one-man operation. Eliminate that man and the whole edifice may come tumbling down.” And then good things must sprout? The late Donald Westlake gave one of his comic novels the mordant title “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” People who do not find that darkly funny should not make foreign policy.
So we’ll see. Another foreign policy of shock and awe potentially to be replaced by hope and pray.
But I am standing behind Prez O on one thing no matter what.
We’ve both got Kansas at the top of the NCAA totem pole.