Well, sort of. Not many Americans have died, and those that have appear to be risk-taking photojournalists and guys named Mustafa visiting their inlaws. But, Obama did sell this whole Libyan War on two premises, both of which seem now to be proven false (or to have been disregarded).
First, he claimed there would be a huge humanitarian catastrophe if Kadaffi wiped out the rebels in Bengazi, a city we were supposed to care about because it was “the size of Charlotte.” Well, Kadaffi has now taken over a few once-rebel-held cities, and there has been no catastrophe. The rebels left, some people were arrested and killed, and the loyalists took back over. No genocide. No indiscriminate shelling comparable to Srebenica (or Dresden). No death camps. Just normal Third World crushing of rebellion. Nothing to see here.
He also said we’d not send in ground troops, we’d only tangentially be concerned with deposing Kadaffi, and that this was all good. Well, now NATO (or rather the constituent members of NATO) are sending in military advisors to advise these hapless, incapable, and teeny-tiny rebel forces. This is logical on one level. If you’re saying combatant X is about to perpetrate a disaster under its leader, it probably makes sense to back the opposition Y and remove the X forces from power.
That is, t’s tough to be an imperial overlord and a neutral at the same time. It requires war of all against all, or rather us, the west that is, against all. It’s a losing formula. The Romans and the Americans involved in the Indian Wars, having not read Samantha Power, knew better and exercised the common sense principle of “divide and conquer.” But we’re beyond that, see, at least on the American side. More important, we were told this humanitarian business is why we were there and needed to move so quickly. After a few weeks of ups and downs for the rebels, we now see our allies taking sides in a war that they and we as well would have best been advised to stay out of. But, all the same, this is major mission creep, or, rather, mission redefinition. Bush did this too, substituting for the initial WMD-elimination reasons for being in Iraq the lofty goal of creating a liberal democratic Potemkin Village, which goal still has about 50,000 US troops in theater today.
So, my big question, is where is Moveon.org and all those hippy dirt-walker pacifists that freaked out on Bush from 2003-2008? Are they at home because this war coincides with 4/20? Are they lacking all integrity? Were the vast majority just empty vessels willing to buy into whatever cause the anti-Bush media fed them? Bush’s war in Iraq became idiotic and impossible after a spell. This was obvious and ordinary and sensible Americans rejected his successor, John McCain, on account of that. But, unlike Libya, Iraq at least had a plausible relationship to American security–because of oil and Saddam’s instability–compared to anything going on today in Libya. After all, while Saddam may have been a US friend from 1980-1988, Kadaffi became one recently, in the wake of his settlements with the victims of Lockerbie and the TWA hijackings. Even the bellicose John McCain was praising him, just a few years ago.
So the stench of lies, half-though-out impulsiveness, and the open-ended “duty to protect” principle are all on display, and yet Obama, the one time peacenik of just five years ago, is getting a pass from a great number of his core supporters. For them, as for those Republicans that supported Bush on amnesty and the prescription drug benefit, it’s just a question of “my team vs. your team.” There are no enduring principles among such people, and I don’t care for them other than as necessary tactical allies in order to advance conservative policies. But this war should give doubt to anyone thought Obama would reject the militaristic principles of US hegemony and globalization that have ensnared America in a great number of totally unnecessary and avoidable wars since 1991, just as his love of corporate welfare for GM and Goldman Sachs should discredit any notion that he’d clean up America from the crony capitalism that also thrived under Bush.
Presidents, especially not-terribly-bright nor very accomplished figureheads such as Bush and Obama, should not be expected to shake up anything in DC, a land of savvy power-hungry elites with deep consensus on economic and social issues, as well as foreign policy. It’s the land of David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, and Ben Bernanke, and people who think exactly like them. Guys like Bush and Obama are passing through and are elected, in large part, because the real rulers of America know they can get them to do their bidding or deflect their more ambitious projects.