Am I totally off? I am blind to the new reality that says in the absence of sane regimes, pre-emptive wars are okay? And if I’m wrong about that, then everyone who was or now is against the Iraq war was/is wrong about that.
Let’s not forget that with the Iraq war, there’s some legal cover. After all, that regime was in open violation of the terms of the Gulf War cease fire. I’m not saying that makes it right, but it might make it legal. What similar precedent do with have with Iran?
You want to change the regime in Tehran? So do I. Is this how we’ll do it? Good God, what have we learned?
This is the part of your hero’s journey where you’re tempted to refuse the return. Having ascended to the greatest height of political power our planet offers, you have been expected for some time to bring the boon back from the heavens and bestow it upon the world, or at least upon your ideological fellows. As you’re fond of saying, elections have consequences.
You have done some of this. But in matters of war, of geopolitics, of, say, Guantanamo Bay, you have not. (There are some 70 fewer detainees at Guantanamo under the current administration, and Obama has reserved the right to hold prisoners indefinitely without trial. The Bush Administration released some 500 detainees itself, leaving 242, compared to Mr. Obama’s remaining 172. Yes, you can read that to say that George Bush release 10x as many Guantanamo detainees as has the man who made promising to close the facility and axiomatic plank in his election platform.) Some might say, sir, that you are keeping the boon.
This brings me to Libya, where the complaint from many has been that U.S. air-strikes there, and our larger assumed role, smack of Bush Era (that is, like, so0000 three years ago) policy. On Monday night, you tried to diffuse that.
You said, if I may paraphrase:
Some nations may turn a blind eye toward looming humanitarian crisis, but the United States is different. (American exceptionalism on Line one, sir.)
We are engaging in military action in Libya to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
We are protecting innocent civilians from the brutality of their own government.
We are preemptively ensuring that the likely exodus of destabilizing refugees into Tunisia and Egypt won’t happen. (Preemption on Line 2.)
We are not fighting on the rebels’ behalf.
Our goal is not regime change.
Our military action is focused on preventing a humanitarian crisis, but our larger interests (and our role in Libya’s future) is open-ended. Because:
Our military goal is short and concise, but our long-term geopolitical, nay, geosocial goal is nation-building. (Campaign rhetoric denouncing nation-building is lighting the hell up on Line 3, Mr. President).
But remember, our military goal is not regime change.
But our larger, peaceful, goal, once regime change happens, is nation-building.
We have a duty (and an implied right) to do this.
We, the Administration, is really afraid of the phrase “regime-change.” Except freaking Hillary. Biden thinks it’s about the revolving cast of former popstars endorsing ProActiv.
Because you’re Barack Obama, I need to say something about your delivery. The speech was clear in small pieces, but lacked the uniting coherence that got you elected (probably because it lacked all of the ideology that got you elected). At times, you seemed overly defensive. Clintonian. Which makes sense, given that I can’t be alone in thinking this is Hillary’s Kosovo.
What you need to do now:
Convince us that everything going on in the Middle East and North Africa will not end with yet another summit of rich Western nations drawing lines on maps. We’ve been there before, sir, (see, if you’re Woodrow Wilson, nationalism and self-determination are all well and good for anyone north of the Mediterranean) and it, more than freedom, is why proponents of Arab nationalism and Islamism so often define themselves against a what they see as a recalcitrant, oppressive, evil West.
You’re on quite a tight rope. Of course we can’t stand idly by while people are slaughtered by their governments, but shit, Mr. President, doesn’t it feel awful opportunistic to say that we’ll go ahead and spend our troops and treasure when there’s a humanitarian crisis that just so happens to also involve American (and let’s not forget NATO) interests? Doesn’t that sound like so much bullshit? Doesn’t that sound like imperialism? What you’ve said, in effect, is that you won’t wait to see images of carnage before we act (asterisk) when there’s a clear and compelling national interest in stopping that carnage. It’s like we’ve forgotten about the oil in Sudan, and that it goes, of all places, to China. But yes, let’s secure Italy’s, France’s, and Spain’s Libyan reserves post haste, Mr. President. This is alliance at its finest.
Mr. Obama, I don’t envy your job. I don’t envy your responsibilities. But I do have to live with the consequences of how you choose to execute your duties. There’s that word again, consequences. The consequences of your administration seem to be a muddled, confused, engagement against a regime that has, by any standard, forfeited its already-tenuous right to rule. I understand that you don’t want to seem eager to orchestrate Gaddafi’s ouster (Ms. Clinton on Line 4, sir), and I respect that. You’ve also said things like “Gaddafi must go”, but you announced yesterday that you’re not ready, yet, to call for negotiations that would send him packing. That’s a little too cautious given that we’re already bombing him, don’t you think? Actually, that’s the whole problem: you have to be overly cautious about calling for regime change precisely because we’re bombing him, don’t you?
What a mess. Suspicion of chemical weapons in Libya is on Line 5. There’s a G.W. Bush on Line 6, and he’s ready to help with your next crack at this.
Remember all those things we realized too late that we should have done before engaging Iraq in 2003? John Boehner does, and he’s pretty sure the President doesn’t. From CNN:
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama Wednesday complaining that “military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America’s role is in achieving that mission.”
“In fact,” Boehner said, “the limited, sometimes contradictory, case made to the American people by members of your administration has left some fundamental questions about our engagement unanswered.”
Among other things, Boehner asked whether it is acceptable for Gadhafi to remain in power once the military campaign ends.
“If not, how will he be removed from power?” Boehner asked. “Why would the U.S. commit American resources to enforcing a U.N. resolution that is inconsistent with our stated policy goals and national interests?”
Boehner also posed other questions for the president. Since the “stated U.S. policy goal is removing” Gadhafi from power, “do you have an engagement strategy for the opposition forces? If the strife in Libya becomes a protracted conflict, what are your administration’s objectives for engaging with opposition forces, and what standards must a new regime meet to be recognized by our government?” his letter said.
Another piece on CNN.com has John P. Avlon proposing that the Left feels as though the world is experiencing a third Bush term. An interesting excerpt:
An objective assessment of the Obama record on foreign policy shows that he has not been the soft liberal ideologue that conservatives want to run against. An excellent book by my Daily Beast colleague Stephen Carter, “The Violence of Peace,” analyzes Obama’s War Doctrine at length from a legal, but readable, perspective. Carter writes, “On matters of national security, at least, the Oval Office evidently changes the outlook of its occupant far more than the occupant changes the outlook of the Oval Office.”
While Obama has changed the unilateral style of the Bush administration, he’s kept much of the substance. He has drawn down troops in Iraq, as promised. But on many other fronts, he has found that campaign rhetoric often does not square with the responsibilities of governing.
Because many on the left define themselves in opposition to authority, they are historically quick to turn on presidents of their own party for being insufficiently liberal — whether it is Truman’s and Kennedy’s Cold Warrior enthusiasm, LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter’s budget cuts or Bill Clinton’s welfare reform.
Frankly, I’m surprised that no one has brought up the fact that Clinton’s 1999 airstrikes in Kosovo were basically lifted directly from Wag the Dog.
Look, I don’t think Iraq and Libya are the same situation or have identical sets of circumstances. I do think that the only legal rationale for either action is the pretty standard assumption that once your regime starts killing civilians, your regime loses the sheen and protection of an observed sovereignty among the nations. It’s the closest thing to international common law we have.
Related: Does it feel to anyone else like as soon as President Obama took office the media stopped reporting very much about Iraq? Everyone keeps saying Afghanistan has become Obama’s war, but you just don’t hear very much about Iraq, or about protests and calls to hasten the official end of our presence there. You hear bits and pieces, you hear reports, but it’s not like it was. I don’t have anything else to say about that, really.
In my heart, I feel like striking military targets in Libya to impede government forces from killing people is a good thing, but let’s not forget that the Libyan resistance is not unarmed. They’re underarmed, to be sure (there’s no Bill of Rights in Libya), and yes, the government fired first. The sham regime lost any lingering claim to sovereignty it had that day, which was weeks ago. It’s simply just the case today that in attacking Libya now, we’re not only protecting peaceful protesters. We’re also aiding an armed resistance. The armed resistance is acting in response to its unjust treatment by the regime in the only way that makes any rational sense.
I know a lot of people who believe in total pacifism. People who believe that nations and oppressed groups can collectively turn the other cheek when their civil disobedience is met with murder as a matter of national political policy. Most of these people are Americans who will never really have to worry about choosing between ideology/Anabaptist piety and protecting their families from agents of the government. Some of these people tell me that the cross is God’s sign that violence is not overcome by violence, and most (not all) of these people live in relative safety. At any rate, we Americans, we French, we British, most of us, anyway, have the absolute privilege of being morally and spiritually vexed. People living through it need to do just that, and they need our prayers, our support, our solidarity. Figure out what that means for you. Then do it.