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Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

I have periodically done a collection of what I consider my better material, such as here and here.  I haven’t done one in a while so, for newcomers in particular, I have compiled what I consider some of my more interesting and enduring entries over the last five years. I hope you enjoy.  I truly appreciate everyone who takes the time to read, comment, and support this blog.  For conservatives, it is becoming a real time in the wilderness, so one small contribution I have tried to make here is to let conservatives know that they are not alone and to give them intellectual ammunition with which to defend common sense and basic decency.

Military and Foreign Policy

Politics

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Libyan Misadventure

America is undertaking an undeclared war in Libya against someone that has not done anything to harm the US in 20 years or more.  It would be like attacking Cambodia today for the Mayaguez Incident.  It’s all trumped up, and the ostensible purpose in advancing human rights issues, cut both ways.

Andy McCarthy delivers a real tour de force analysis of this whole stupid campaign, from its false pretenses, to the contributions of congressional cowardice, to its shifting and dishonest rationale.  I particularly like his point that Obama has this notion of “staying on course with history” but that, in the process, he risks arming the same kind of people we once armed in Afghanistan, only to find them turn against us.  Indeed, there is substantial evidence the Libyan opposition is Islamist and aligned with al Qaeda.

He writes:

Obama convinced himself that Qaddafi was about to fall. This misimpression was compounded by European pressure (driven by the continent’s dependency on Libyan oil reserves) and by what Victor Davis Hanson sagely diagnosedas a desire to avoid being seen as once again trailing rather than leading events, as in the case of Egypt. All this together induced a lethal flip-turn, and the president announced that it was time for Qaddafi to go.

Yet, Obama’s unprovoked military offensive, in conjunction with NATO, is ostensibly divorced from this stated American goal. We began attacking Qaddafi’s forces and his compound while disavowing any intention to oust him. We are there only to protect civilians, administration officials maintain. Meanwhile, attacks against Qaddafi intensify, “rebel” atrocities against black Africans are ignored, and intervention hawks like Sen. John McCain (until recently a supporter of the U.S. embrace of Qaddafi) advocate that the rebels be armed and trained, notwithstanding their known terrorism ties.

McCain’s response only reminds me that if he were president we’d have a dozen similar campaigns on our hands, including perhaps one in the Caucuses that could lead to WWIII with Russia.  I’m glad for this reason alone that he is not president, but the great danger he posted to world peace does not take away from the various errors and evils of the Obama administration.

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Like night follows day, liberals oppose wars started by Republicans and shrug their shoulders at those started by Democrats.  Indeed, even when those wars–both Iraq and Afghanistan–were supported by congressional resolutions and UN mandates, there was much talk over the last decade of “illegal wars” and the evils of unilateralism.  All that talk evaporated when President Hope and Change assumed the helm.

The Libyan campaign manifests a certain amount of multilateralism (indeed, France is there, which is apparently the sine qua non of all multilateralism) but there is no authorization at all from a congressional resolution.  Under the War Powers Act, which was instituted post-Vietnam and post-Nixon, American military action of more than 60 days requires consultation with Congress and formal congressional support.  Indeed, this statute itself quite a bow to executive power, as the Constitution does not seem to contemplate any unilateral, executive military action other than in the case of repelling national invasions.  Congress must declare wars.  And, a fortiori must authorize warlike military action in general. Here it has partially delegated that power, but retained its essential role in the process.

Obama is thwarting that role and usurping the powers of war and peace solely to himself.  This is, quite frankly, the traditional mark of a tyrant.  It should have all Americans from every background and political persuasion concerned.

Here we have an action far overseas, that has been subject to minimal explanation to the American people and is based on a very dubious rationale of stopping so-far-nonexistent-masacres, and not a single American legislator has voted in favor it.  The deadline for such authorization has come and gone, and Obama has announced quite lawlessly in my view that he does not have to and does not intend to seek any congressional support for the Libyan campaign. 

Ideological and cowardly as our political leaders are, we’ve seen little institutional concern over Congress’s rights here. Their one trump card now would be to defund the campaign.  But there seems little support for that. If this war is indeed popular, shouldn’t the Congress at least vote to authorize it, if only to preserve its own institutional power? One would think the Congress would ant to shore up its ability to prevent a future unilateral war.  And this war, unlike Iraq, is truly unilateral insofar as it emanates from and is sustained by the will of one man alone, the President, without any checks and balances to speak of!  That he has teamed up with other regimes, some democratic and others less so, is immaterial.

We are witnessing one of the chief evils of a Republican-Party dominated national legislature:  they rarely see a war or military action they’re willing to oppose, which passivity they imagine to be the height of patriotism.  In spite of this imagined seriousness, some completely idiotic wars have come and gone this way (such as Kosovo), and, from a purely self-interested standpoint, it should be noted that Democrats do not return the favor even after they’ve voted in favor of military action, e.g., the ridiculousness that is John Kerry.  While the President deserves some deference on foreign policy, particularly in the age of al Qaeda, that deference can be taken too far.  When the President has no congressional authorization whatsoever and violates a statute to commit a war, that is the time for nonideological action based on the institutional concerns of the legislative branch itself.

The President, like all presidents, quite naturally and predictably changed his tune and supported Bush-era institutions such as the GITMO detainment and related executive rights over foreign policy.  This is what powerful men do; they are jealous over their power and their prerogatives.  But Congress, contrary perhaps to the expectations of the Founders, has proven to be a bit of a pushover, particularly on matters of war and peace.  Why is this? Well, the less they do, the less responsibility they have, and thus the less blame they must endure for failure.  This seems to be part of the problem.  In addition, the rise of ideological politics, where ideologically motivated political parties seek certain ends without regard to which branch may implement them seems to have been an unexpected development of the last 100 years or so.  The Founders imagine a politician to be a proud man, naturally avaricious of power, and therefore unlikely for ideological or other goals to give up that power.  The founders, nearly all lawyers, imagined the genius of the advocacy system writ large, whereby faction would balance faction and each branch of government would be on guard against the others. What they did not contemplate is that ideology and the politics of party would castrate men, rendering them obedient and humble before the President elected by a national plebiscite.  The disaster of Vietnam shook Congress from its stupor.  Let us hope nothing quite so bad is required to get the Congress to check the ambitions of Obama.

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The Birth of an “Idealist”

A good long article from the New Yorker on how Obama went from being a skeptic and critic of the humanitarian rationale for US intervention in Iraq to becoming the warrior chieftan that would “lead from behind” in Libya.  The most striking thing is his incoherence.  He has no “doctrine” in spite of attempts of critics and supporters to find one for him ex post. 

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Civil War and the “Other”

I enjoyed this long piece on why civil wars are so incredibly violent.  The author suggests this undermines the liberal obsession with the “other” and how misrepresentations of the “other” leads to violence:

Somalia is perhaps the signal example of this ubiquitous fratricidal strife. As a Somalian-American professor observed, Somalia can claim a “homogeneity rarely known elsewhere in Africa.” The Somalian people “share a common language (Somali), a religion (Islam), physical characteristics, and pastoral and agropastoral customs and traditions.” This has not tempered violence. On the contrary.

The proposition that violence derives from kith and kin overturns a core liberal belief that we assault and are assaulted by those who are strangers to us. If that were so, the solution would be at hand: Get to know the stranger. Talk with the stranger. Reach out. The cure for violence is better communication, perhaps better education. Study foreign cultures and peoples. Unfortunately, however, our brother, our neighbor, enrages us precisely because we understand him. Cain knew his brother—he “talked with Abel his brother”—and slew him afterward.

We don’t like this truth. We prefer to fear strangers. We like to believe that fundamental differences pit people against one another, that world hostilities are driven by antagonistic principles about how society should be constituted. To think that scale—economic deprivation, for instance—rather than substance divides the world seems to trivialize the stakes.

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In addition to the fact that our “allies” look like something from Mad Max–and some consist of al Qaeda--I am struck that we’ve not heard an Oval Office address.  I cannot recall a military action in my lifetime without some run up, a domestic debate, some sign off through resolution or otherwise by the Congress, and a solemn case made to the American people by the President.

Obama, instead, allowed himself to be persuaded this was a good idea–scared perhaps the Clintons would undermine him for inaction–and then he was off to Brazil.  Obama seems to think he could get into war as an afterthought, much like his appointment of strange leftist weirdos such as Van Jones.  He forgot forces on the right and left have an opinion about this.  And he really forgot that he was not elected to start “wars of choice” but rather to end them.

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Andrew Sullivan is nothing if not prone to revisiting his earlier enthusiasms.  I suppose there is a kind of authenticity in that . . . “often wrong, but never uncertain!”  He loved Bush for a while, but grew disenchanted on account of Iraq and the gay marriage issue. Then he liked Ron Paul for a spell until Paul’s old school conservative views from the early 90s were revealed.

Now he is down on Obama due to the Libyan campaign (and in particular the lack of any public relations campaign). I checked Sully’s website not sure if he’d be against the campaign or say that anyone opposed to it was the second coming of Neville Chamberlain. His strong enthusiasms are not matched by equal philosophical clarity.

But Sullivan does make a good point that every patriotic American should agree with:

My anger is not simply at what I regard as the folly of starting a long war with someone as insane as Qaddafi, but at the way this war was foisted on the public with absolutely no warning.

It shows contempt for the American people, and their views, and contempt for the Congress and its role in deliberating before going to war. As [James] Fallows notes, this entire debate was entirely about changing one man’s mind, not the country or the Congress or the people. Only the emperor counts, and if he happens to be wrong, tough luck. Who would have thought we’d elect Barack Obama to replicate the worst aspects of an unaccountable executive?

Sully is confusing his idealized image of Obama with Obama the reality.  Obama is not replicating anything.  He is taking the natural tendency of the American executive–to obtain and protect power in its operational sphere–and wedding that to un-American big government ideas.  He believes in government, his foreign policy views derive from his concern that his domestic big government programs may be harmed by foreign wars, and, more than the average politician, he really really believes in himself.  Obama doesn’t have much faith in America, however, so when he’s alienating the majority of Americans (as in healthcare) or thumbing his nose at historical American practice (as in the Libyan operation) he feels like he’s being faitful to his core mission.

Obama’s incoherent embrace in 2008 of the war in Afghanistan while poo-pooing Iraq should have been a clue.  By then, both were the same types of campaigns fought for the same reasons using the same strategy.  True, Afghanistan harbored the 9/11 attackers and began as a revenge operation, but by 2008 both wars were nation-building efforts to spread Muslim democracy and root out homegrown anti-government insurgents.  By 2008, neither campaign had much of anything to do with revenge or international terrorists, other than a prop in the propaganda that supported the campaigns.  That Obama could embrace this kind of incoherent nonsense bode ill of him, and I wrote as much at the time.

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The UN, having obtained US Support, has now moved to create a “no fly” zone over Libya.  Oh, what can we say.

Obama is now getting on the train he couldn’t get off after saying–unwisely in my opinion–Kaddafi must go.  That’s the problem with threats . . . they cascade upon themselves. This appears chiefly an emotional reaction to disturbing and violent news from the region, coupled with a self-fulfilling prophecy of presidential rhetoric.  There is no real moral reason to intervene here and not, say, Iran a few months ago or Bahrain or Egypt or many other places. And the reasons here are many times less compelling than Iran, which has, unlike Libya, been hostile to the US in very recent times.

We should all be concerned that Obama is moving without any congressional authorization.  Indeed, there’s been almost no debate.  It’s weird.  Wake up one day, and we’re at war. This is a terrible precedent, not so different from what the first President Bush tried to pull in the First Gulf War, though he ultimately did get a congressional resolution. Obama spoke out against this sort of thing when he was in Congress.  But like most presidents, he has fought to preserve and expand the power of the office once he was in it, even as he has used that increased power to undermine America the nation.  But even strong presidents have generally recognized in the momentous matter of war, the people’s representatives deserve a say.

Obama is turning against the one thing he had going for him in the last campaign:  relative realism and restraint on foreign policy.  Contra my putatitively conservative brethren, I do not embrace the US-as-global-cop role.  It is expensive, it does us little good, and it allows small regional conflicts to become global ones.  Many Americans agreed in 2008, fed up as they were with the indeterminate outcomes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the antagonism these wars fueled in the Muslim world.  Now we have a President who eloquently spoke to these themes going down the road to permanent war counseled by the psychotic duo of Senators McCain and Lieberman.  And worse, he is doing so at the insistence of Britain and France, nations whom we should respect, but not nations whom we should follow into every hare-brained European-style human rights war.

Worst of all, we have no strategy here. Though legally required, a congressional debate may not do any good, because, in both parties, we see a reactive, emotion-laden, and vaguely Wilsonian approach to the world that has no end game, cannot distinguish the important from the irrelevant, and, through a misplaced concern for “human rights,” makes no distinction between a genuine threat to the global order from what used to be called “internal affairs.”  So today we go to war with Libya.  Iran, not so much.  We are this big, lumbering, powerful country, but our leaders’ thinking is worse than that of children.  It’s like that of adolescents:  impulsive, overly self-satisfied, contemptuous of risk, ignorant of potential pitfalls, forgetful of recent failures, and a product of peer pressure.

Finally, in Europe and in America we have this confused idea that “no fly zones” are something short of war.  It’s true, they’re much safer for our guys than a land war.  In Kosovo, we had zero casualties, even as we bombed Serbian bridges and cities. In that sense, air strikes are sometimes the right tool to use.  But they are still acts of war, with bombing and killing and violations of another nation’s sovereignty, as well as some risk to the life and limb of Americans.  Yes, Kaddafi is a bad man.  He killed Americans back in the day and was punished for it (or made recompense in the case of Lockerbie).  If this were a merely retaliatory raid, I might be more sympathetic.  But American no longer does retaliatory raids. Every campaign is wrapped not in the flag but in the mantle of concern for democracy. This is the Democratic Party’s version of neoconservatism, plain and simple, where the lack of national interest is held up as proof of our purity of motive.  But this type of “freedom” is no formula for peace, as it makes a potential enemy of every nation on earth that is not governed like us.

While I am no pacifist, for moral and self-interested reasons, I must prefer peace to war.  Peace is not just a state of mind.  It involves something tangible and fundamental:  not undertaking aggressive military action unless it is a last resort connected to national interest.  The concern for the national interest, if widely shared and enshrined in international law, limits the effect of war.  It certainly limits the impact of war on our own nation.

A strong principle once existed for condemning war unless it was a defensive act.  This was the European system of the last 400 years, particularly after the Congress of Vienna.  But it’s been degraded since the end of the Cold War in the name of human rights.  It faced an earlier challenged in the name of ethnic homogenization, as in the Franco-Prussian War.  But even this principle had natural limits, and it was thoroughly discredited (or rendered irrelevant by ethnic cleansing) after World War II.

Now even this limiting principle is gone.  Americans will suddenly go to war for Rwandans and Libyans and Chadians and God knows who else.  We can’t go to war for everyone everywhere, and say we’re for peace.  If we’re engaging in “humanitarian” wars without even a patina of concern for national interest, then our nation is acting like naked imperialists.  Just because a handful of nations, in the name of Europe, team up and say they’re in the right doesn’t make this conglomerate non-imperialist.  It’s just cooperative imperialism.  It doesn’t change the reality.

I genuinely felt sick during the Kosovo War.  I knew what it meant to be “ashamed” of your country.  It was a new feeling for me.  Not only was our nation getting into an unnecessary war, but it was doing so for stupid reasons, badgered by confused Europeans, swindled by propaganda, and we were on the wrong side.  Today it’s the same.  While I feel much less sympathy for Kaddafi compared to Christian Serbia, it’s otherwise a nearly identical situation.

Iraq, at its worst, still had some arguable connection to national interest, even if the war ultimately proved unnecessary or based on a mistaken premise.  Afghanistan clearly had such a connection, even if it’s dragged on too long, having metamorphisized into a democracy-building campaign.  But Kosovo?  Somalia?  And now Libya?  These are the military interventions of an idiotic national leadership, Republican and Democrat.

Obama, after waxing and waning, has made a choice.  He neglected to tell the American people why this is so important. And now, showing solemn regard for the seriousness of war, he is off . . . to Brazil!?!

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Now I know about the Chinese Curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

Japan is having a storm-after-the-storm in the form of a nuclear meltdown.  It is terrible; my brother is serving on the USS Essex dealing with this now.  The radiation and associated exclusion zones create all manner of obstacles to US assitance to this long-term ally.  That said, Japanese are behaving admirably, proof that diversity (particularly imported Third World diversity) is completely unnecessary and in many ways counterproductive to a healthy, functioning, and technologically advanced society.  Indeed, homogenous societies are often more trusting societies, particularly when they have a high level of civilization.  Of course, Iowa and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi had massive flooding in recent years and didn’t have massive crime and looting like New Orleans, but, the last time I checked, they’re not Japanese colonies in the Americas.

Dayton, Ohio police test was thrown out because it “discriminates against” blacks.  Of course, nearly every academic and performance test under the sun discriminates against blacks in the sense that their average performance is worse.   Does a test that measures something useful where the outcome happens to differ between races mean that it is unlawfully discriminatory? Why assume that?  Does whatever test that selects for NFL running backs discriminate against whites? And, indeed, can a test that found its origins in the days of genuine anti-black racism, that is a test designed to distinguish qualified from not-so-well qualified whites be called discriminatory when it is simply imported into a new, race-blind era and has differential outcomes between the races?  Indeed, such a test should be presumptively acceptable.  As a consequence of this and similar rulings, police standards will be lowered in name of diversity, as they have elsewhere, often with disastrous results.

Now the US military announces priority of diversity.  What a friggin’ shame, a harbinger of America’s accelerating decline.  The broad-based war on standards has been in process since the Tail Hook Scandal, but it’s accelerated in recent years.  As in police and fire departments, this stalwart bastion of excellence (in addition to being a realm where blacks and whites work well alongside one another because of uniformly high standards) will find to increasingly common to have the affirmative action promotions that are all-too-familiar to corporate America and municipal government. Over time, and just as bad, the integrity of the entire institution and its leadership will be degraded, because no one is allowed to speak freely about the lower abilities of minorities in a world where equality of outcome is a priority.

Indeed, it’s not as if there’s not plenty of dumb whites to go around.  More testing would eliminate many of them too, but this is not allowed (or only allowed indirectly) because of the law of disparate impact.  Liability concerns are compounded by a liberal status war among whites, where each side accuses the other of racism–as in the “Democrats are the real racists” meme so common among the GOP. Today, unlike the America of only 20 years ago, hardly anyone stands up for fairness, majority rights, excellence, and the condemnation of widespread bad behavior by minorities.  We are becoming a nation of cowards, indeed, but not quite the way Eric Holder thinks.

Finally, Libya’s Kaddafi is winning.  I can’t say I’m losing any sleep over this, other than the impact it has on gas prices.  As in the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, I’m not really sure why I’m supposed to root for one side or the other.  For all I know, Qadaffi’s opponents are bastards; there’s no evidence one way or the other. Sen. McCain, meanwhile, wants us to get involved and start bombing, and he also says his long term goal is to be “investing in Libya.”  I’m so glad I didn’t vote for that madman*, even though Obama is a disaster in his own unique way.

*For those who are curious, I voted for Chuck Baldwin.

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Neocons never seem to learn.  Even after the Somalia disaster and the dubious win against Serbia, their first recommended response to 9/11 was to attack Iraq.  Public opinion required them to delay things for a while–in spite of a vigorous debate–but after a short and ineffectual campaign in Afghanistan, they finally go their wish.  We’re still in Iraq, and we’re also plodding around Afghanistan, Iran is stronger, and this is all in the name of spreading democracy as the antidote to terrorism. None of these campaigns is a great showpiece of neoconservative strategic thinking.

So, this week, Charles Krauthammer, perhaps the most bellicose neocon, has suggested the US should be invading Libya and arming the rebels.  Similar sentiments were uttered by his fellow travelers regarding Egypt.  Worse, some Republicans mindlessly pile on Obama’s leadership deficit in this arena, even though his leadership problem is not his caution regarding a military response, but rather his rhetorical invitations for rebellions among strange and unpredictable peoples coupled with his estrangement of longterm and reliable partners.  Who are these rebels?  What do they stand for?  Can we do any good for them or ourselves?  If we intervene, how long will we be there? Do we really want democracy among people shouting Allah Akbar?  I don’t want Obama’s “leadership” here, especially if it means we’ll be putting our troops into harms way without a clear idea of what we’re trying to accomplish.

Qadaffi is a dirtbag, terrorist supporter, whom I haven’t heard much from since Reagan sorted him out in 1986.  But even a nutcase who keeps a lid on things is preferable to anarchy.  What I don’t understand, or rather what I understand and have great contempt for, is the continued call by neoconservatives for mindless, hubristic US interventions after what has gone down in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Worse still is the Pavlovian Obama-hatred among many conservatives that cannot see when, in spite of himself, he is doing something useful, in this case by not doing very much.  Conservatives have been easily manipulated into supporting wars that serve no American interest whatsoever; it is time conservatives woke up, returned to their nationalist roots, and rejected the Wilsonian “global cop” role once and for all.

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