Tally on Libya Should Include Geopolitical Distraction: Egypt, China, Iran, North Korea Watching

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oval office and presidential seal.jpgJuan Cole has a reasoned “Open Letter to the Left on Libya” churning through the web in which he explains why he strongly endorses the US-led intervention in Libya. In my own case, I understand why the President made the call he did because the costs — geopolitically and morally — of standing by while tens of thousands were likely to be massacred were unbearable and considered to be more of a risk than action against Gaddafi.
I am uncomfortable about some of the issues that Juan Cole discounts — particularly the precedent of this intervention. It is this ‘discomfort’ among some in the Obama team which is keeping them on a track of insisting on a minimal US footprint in this action and a “disciplined hand-off.” A senior White House official told me that President Obama pushes the importance of this ‘hand-off’ in every key meeting on Libya.
But in the spirit of Juan Cole’s call for a reasoned and civil discussion, let me add something of great concern that is not on his list: the geopolitical distraction of Libya vs. more important foreign policy concerns.
gaddafi 3.jpgThe gravity-defying diplomatic feat that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice pulled off in getting the Arab League to step forward on Libya followed by a UN Security Council Resolution with zero no votes and five abstentions is a real score for the US and its allies. However, the diplomatic chits traded, effort spent, behind the scenes deals made to achieve this were most likely fairly significant. Thousands of lives saved. So far, no Somalia-like repeat after the bombing began. Mostly good.
However, the nation of real rather than imagined national security consequence to the U.S. in the region is Egypt. Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations and others — including myself — are worried about the ‘bandwidth’ of the White House to deal with multiple major challenges at the same time. Libya will soon be NATO protectorate and focus of significant attention — adding some ‘stretch marks’ to the stress NATO members are already feeling on Afghanistan.
But what of Egypt which is going through extraordinary changes in turbo time? Senior officials in the Department of State tell me “we are on it.” And I believe they are in the sense of working with Egyptian authorities to offer counsel on strategies to transform the Constitution and set the terms for significantly broader political stakeholding in the country — but there is no doubt that the system that President Obama has established for exhaustively internally inclusive national security decision making has less space for Egypt today than Libya.
And on top of that, the world which harbors a lot of doubts about America’s ability to really achieve the objectives it sets out for itself sees an already militarily over-extended America adding to its ‘to do’ list. This means allies naturally count on America less to help them in times of need and thus adjust to have less dependence on the US — and foes move their agendas.
kim-jong-il 2.jpgJump to North Korea.
The Aspen Institute Germany, based in Berlin, is holding over this weekend a meeting of former US government officials — including some former Cabinet level officials — and North Koreans on the subject of denuclearization and bilateral relations.
According to one of the US attendees, the North Koreans ‘wanted’ this meeting to put forward expectations they have of the United States — wanting to trade resumption of nuclear negotiations for US inputs of food, fuel, and economic support over the next year. 2012 is a very big year of transition and consolidation for North Korea. 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and has been marked by the North Korean government as the pivot year for North Korea’s “economic revival.”
At the same time, the former US official attending these talks told me that North Korea is watching the Western intervention in Libya and seeing the lesson that forfeiting nuclear weapons was a mistake made by Moammer Gaddafi. North Korea and many other nations are seeing that if one acquires nukes, keep them. They are the only ultimate security these regimes can count on in collisions with the West.
This official said that we are likely to see more unpredictable behavior and saber-rattling from North Korea as it reminds of its hard edge and it manipulates the fears of its neighbors by rationally deploying what appears to outsiders an erratic irrationality.
Obama felt he had to intervene in Libya. Juan Cole and Anne-Marie Slaughter and many of my progressive friends have been cheerleaders for this move. I accept what the administration has done — but want to move out of the action as soon as possible.
But in any tally, we need to add to the negative roster that we have sent the signal to nations that nukes are a great security blanket and don’t be fooled by the West in giving them up.
And secondly, whether it is Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, or China — there are other high stakes games afoot in the world to which America must be attentive and have White House bandwidth to cover.
As one Chinese strategist told me a few years ago when I asked him what China’s grand strategy was, “China’s grand strategy is to figure out ways to keep you Americans distracted in small Middle Eastern countries.”
Although jesting with me, this Chinese strategist spoke a truth American strategists and national security officials need to keep in mind.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

62 comments on “Tally on Libya Should Include Geopolitical Distraction: Egypt, China, Iran, North Korea Watching

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    “…always leads one, each time it is followed in an activity, to an outcome that is optimally successful…”
    Now, dear Warren, this still sounds like empty advertising and hype to me, and you’ll never manage to
    convince me on this issue. I suggest that we end the discussion about authentic principles right here, and
    discuss other matters in the future. Thanks for the dialogue!

    Reply

  2. Warren Metzler says:

    Paul, I don’t know if you will read this. But an authentic principle is a directive (a way of acting), that through repeated experience you have found always leads one, each time it is followed in an activity, to an outcome that is optimally successful: the result is excellent, and the participant thoroughly enjoyed the process. Because a principle always leads to an optimal outcome, I, and everyone I know who has discovered and followed principles, never ever compromise one. Who in their right mind would give up producing a successful outcome?
    In regard to your statement, “Now, I would be for an intervention in Rwanda in 1994, and you are for the intervention in Libya in 2011 – perhaps even for the exact same reasons.”, in English, you having not mentioned that I might have the same view regarding Rwanda as you, are implying that I oppose your view of Rwanda.
    I know a lot about Libya, having read about Kadhafi for decades. I don’t speak Arabic, and I have not yet set foot in Libya. But my extensive reading about Libya, and my capacity to tell most of the time when a person is presenting truth or made up personal preferred impressions, which is based on my extensive knowledge of how humans function, allow me to be certain of certain truths regarding that country. I knew he is a corrupt man, an egotist, an oppressor of his people. I know that it is structurally impossible that those two accused men were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, and Kadhafi’s willingness to pay over one billion to be back in the graces of the West shows him to be a liar and have no integrity.

    Reply

  3. Paul Norheim says:

    “Paul, I have to assume that you have never discovered or followed an authentic principle. Because having discovered and
    followed many, and each one many times, I never have difficulty realizing when one applies to a particular situation.”
    I’m glad to hear that. But are you flattering your own impeccable judgement here, Warren, or just what you call
    “authentic” principles? It takes two to tango.
    It certainly looks like you’re buying your own snake oil. Human judgement is fallible, and if you happen to be infallible in
    matters concerning human judgement, you’re not human. Believing in one’s own infallibility is, however, a mistake that
    happens to be very common among human beings – often a fatal one too: “Man is neither angel nor beast; and the
    misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the beast.” That was not a quote from Samantha Power, but from
    Blaise Pascal.
    That’s not to say that you’re wrong on Libya, Warren, far from it. I may be wrong, or you may be wrong; but at the
    moment we cannot prove who is wrong with absolute certainty, no matter what you say about “authentic principles”. It
    basically depends on the outcome. I personally hope to be proven wrong on this particular issue, and that you are right.
    As for Rwanda, I’m sorry to say that you misunderstood my statement above. I said: “Now, I would be for an intervention
    in Rwanda in 1994, and you are for the intervention in Libya in 2011 – perhaps even for the exact same reasons.”
    Did that sentence implicate that you were against an intervention in Rwanda. Nope. My point was simply that we may
    share the same principle, but judge differently in actual cases. I happen to think that Libya 2011 is so different from
    Rwanda 1994 that it makes no sense comparing them within the context of an intervention. Darfur, Bosnia, and Congo
    are somehow comparable to Rwanda, but not Libya, not so far. You, on the other hand, seem to think that Rwanda and
    Libya are comparable with respect to (the risk of, or actual) genocide.
    But language, Warren, and world phenomenons are ambiguous, and so are we. You misinterpreted my statement and
    intention, due to a fallible judgement confronted with ambiguous language. Isn’t this a perfect demonstration of the fact
    that you are human and fallible, just like me and the rest of us? Language is frequently ambiguous, resulting in that
    you’ll often misinterpret what you read and hear, no matter how sure you FEEL regarding your impeccable judgement and
    authentic principles.
    But here is the worst part: Given the fact that you are writing this from, I assume, America, Warren, and I am writing my
    comments from Norway – both of us being at the mercy of the filtered information we get from Libya; none of us
    probably speaking Arabic or ever been in that particular country – I have to say that your 100% confidence in your own
    ability to adapt your principles to the complex situation in a country on a different continent, demonstrates no small
    amount of hubris, naivety, or blindness – or, more likely: an unhealthy mix of all these attitudes together. And this exact
    combination, in addition to self interest, reflects the typical Western attitude for centuries to “problems” in the Middle
    East and Africa that we are called to solve.
    We may opine, or, if we are politicians, be forced to make a choice on basis of the scarce and distorted information we
    get. But having absolute confidence in our own judgement is just foolish and arrogant. What the hell do you know about
    Libya, Warren?
    If the answer is next to nothing (like the rest of us); why don’t you apply your authentic principle to Zanzibar, Lapland, or
    the Sydney Opera House instead? Less hubris, please.

    Reply

  4. Warren Metzler says:

    Paul, I have to assume that you have never discovered or followed an authentic principle. Because having discovered and followed many, and each one many times, I never have difficulty realizing when one applies to a particular situation.
    And where did you get the idea that I do not consider my principle regarding Libya to be relevant to Rwanda, because I absolutely do. Clinton’s refusal to intervene in Rwanda was one of the main pieces of evidence I used to prove to myself that man was a totally self-centered empty shell, inwardly only interested is self-promotion and self-aggrandizement; never ever genuinely interested in the plight of another.
    And I would also say that the US and the rest of the world not intervening in Southern Sudan or Darfur, or in Tibet relative to China’s totally illicit war of oppression there, or in the Congo in the past 15 years, or in Bosnia in the early 1990′s, or in Israel since the 1980′s, or having good diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, or having good diplomatic relations with Egypt prior to a few months ago, etc., etc., etc., are all places where the principle I have articulated applied and demanded application.
    I am fine if you want to consider my promotion of operating from principles to be selling snake oil. I learned a long time ago, that reliable and successful self-motivation never ever has to do with obtaining agreement or approval from the majority of society.
    I am clear that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are illicit, and were from the very beginning. I am also clear that the recent Arab Spring is arising from a desire from most of the Arabs for freedom to pursue their own courses, and that the opposition in Libya will become a democratic force, and that they need some help, and that the no fly zone coupled with military action against Kadhafi’s forces is exactly part of the assistance they need, and that makes our providing that assistance a morally good thing to do; regardless of how many of Obama’s paymasters are salivating at the economic possibilities. I’ll leave it up to the Libyan people to, after they are free, take care of those greedy totally immoral international businesses.

    Reply

  5. Kathleen says:

    Don Bacon “The U.S. did Libya not for human rights reasons, or to prevent a slaughter, nor a “limited humanitarian intervention,” it was done to repay Europe for helping out in Afghanistan, according to Gates and Clinton.”
    That makes sense along with the one comment that Obama made about the changes happenning in Tunisia and Egypt being interrupted by Gaddafi.
    My response to Obamas speech
    Obama: “Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt

    Reply

  6. Paul Norheim says:

    “By this definition of principle, it should be obvious that rarely, if ever, has a
    government or international community followed a principle in any of its actions.”
    Sorry, Warren, but your “definition of principle” is… just that, a definition of principle.
    It has absolutely nothing to do with the messy world we live in. The trouble always
    begins at the moment when abstract principles touch the real world. That’s not to say
    that we should be opposed to principles. But nowhere in the history of philosophy or
    religion has there ever been a principle that “when following [it] ALWAYS leads to a
    successful outcome.”
    Now, I would be for an intervention in Rwanda in 1994, and you are for the
    intervention in Libya in 2011 – perhaps even for the exact same reasons. Which
    proves that we are both human beings who may judge an actual situation differently,
    and principles are not human beings. Principles are a bit like holy texts, in the sense
    that you always have to ask: how do you interpret them? When should you implement
    them? And how should you implement them in the specific, always singular situation?
    How do you determine whether one messy real-world scenario should call for a
    certain principle, while another one shouldn’t? Principles may be transparent and
    “perfect”, but they are also blind; it’s us fragile human beings who have to determine
    when to apply them and not. And to do this, we have to use judgement (apart from all
    the selfish interests and bias and ignorance inevitably involved in any judgement). We
    are the ones standing between a principle and a messy world, and our judgement is
    fragile, because we’re all part of that messy world.
    So, the weak link in this case may not be your impeccable “principle”, but you
    yourself. Who are you to say that you are on the same level as your perfect principle,
    that you personally never misjudge or misread a real world situation where you would
    like to see your principle implemented? You’re also part of the real world, Warren, and
    without people like you and me – using our fragile judgement to determine whether
    our principles should be applied to Libya, Norway, Venezuela, or America – our
    perfect principles would be pretty useless.
    You’re wasting your time selling snake oil at the Washington Note, Warren, and
    should realize that no one here is buying it. If you ask me, I would advice you against
    buying it too.

    Reply

  7. Warren Metzler says:

    John H., I suggest you misunderstood my concept of a principle: a specific directive that regardless of who follows it, when following ALWAYS leads to a successful outcome: an excellent result and each participant thoroughly enjoyed having done that activity. By this definition of principle, it should be obvious that rarely, if ever, has a government or international community followed a principle in any of its actions. A person or country is not actually following a principle unless what it does is successful for all involved. When was the last time a US foreign policy action was taken that benefited anyone other than few wealthy contributors to congresspersons, and the reelection funds of a few congresspersons????!!!!
    Unlike beauty, authentic principles do not exist in the eye of the beholder; each one is objectively first recognized by its contribution to success.
    I was suggesting that which action to take in Libya could be determined by principles; suggesting one that intervention occurs each time a power creates massacres on its helpless people. Pointing out that following that principle would require a UN resolution and action against Israel; now for its behavior with the Palestinians, and in the past for its behavior with Lebanon. And probably involve future actions against North Korea and China.
    There were no principles used to defend the Iraq invasion, nor the Afghanistan invasion; when Bush full well knew the Al Queda attack theory was a lie. There were no principles involved in us declaring a war on terrorism. There are no principles involved in having a single US military base outside our borders. There are no principles involved in us favoring Saudi Arabia. There are no principles involved in us bombing sites in Yemen. There are no principles involved in almost every foreign policy decision made by the US in over 60 years.
    The US Constitution was written based on principles. And it is truly sad that rarely since its inception has its government performed based on principles. You show me a person who is successful in life (regularly achieves successful outcomes in the activity she does), and I’ll show you a person who follows a number of principles.
    Successful living involves discovers the principles that rule life, and following them. It is time we recognize this and act in accord, instead continuing our current path toward death and destruction.

    Reply

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    Reply

  9. JohnH says:

    Metzler–it would be fine with me if the “international community” operated according to the principles it articulates. However, the “international community” routinely showcases its “principles” only when it wishes to take down an enemy regime. Otherwise, freedom, democracy and human rights get sacrificed on the altar of security.
    “Principles” are simply a tool for the public relations (BS) element of any operation. The “international community” then routinely ignores its own “principles” to prosecute the action. How many civilian dead for the “humanitarian” Iraq operation? How many for Afghanistan? The US is so humane that it doesn’t even care to count dead civilians, because they never had any value, except when they could point to an enemy killing them.
    Given Bush III’s track record in Afghanistan, I discount anything he says about going to war for humanitarian reasons.

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “POA, I’m having trouble understanding how you think. I defined well-being as operating by principles. Do you deny the existence of principles? Do you deny the value of operating from principles? A principle, as defined by me, is a way of operating, in regard to a particular situation, which when followed ALWAYS leads to a result that is excellent (provides great value to everyone who then uses that result), and each participant thoroughly enjoying the process of doing that activity; regardless of which human, anywhere in the world follows that principle. Do you disagree with that definition of a principle? Do you accept that such a principle exists in regard to any situation?”
    Thats a load of BS. Engage someone else. Truth be told, you irritate the shit out of me.
    Sorry, but thats just the way it is.

    Reply

  11. Warren Metzler says:

    POA, I’m having trouble understanding how you think. I defined well-being as operating by principles. Do you deny the existence of principles? Do you deny the value of operating from principles? A principle, as defined by me, is a way of operating, in regard to a particular situation, which when followed ALWAYS leads to a result that is excellent (provides great value to everyone who then uses that result), and each participant thoroughly enjoying the process of doing that activity; regardless of which human, anywhere in the world follows that principle. Do you disagree with that definition of a principle? Do you accept that such a principle exists in regard to any situation?
    If you don’t accept the present of principles as defined above, what is the criteria or criterion that you use to determine correct action in any one situation? Or don’t you attempt to determine what is a correct action for each situation.
    You frequently comment on this blog about the unacceptability of the action of some person(s) or government(s). Before you expressed each such comment, I assumed you first determined the correct action in that situation, and so have some assuredness that what you claimed was unacceptable behavior was authentically unacceptable.
    I don’t know how you can claim that I am self-righteous when what I suggest I have determined would be good for all involved, and not at all good for just me; which to me is what is self-righteous actions theories.
    You write the following, “What are the “principals” behind cutting benefits, (damaging the “well-being”), of the elderly, the pregnant, the disabled, and the impoverished, so we can wage very expensive war on the whims of high office?”
    According to my definition of a principle, if none of those actions benefited the people involved the person(s) who took such actions was acting out of disregard for principles, which is the same as was acting immorally. And it is wrong to ever accuse me of supporting immoral actions. I abhor all immoral actions. Immoral actions guarantee one or more people will unjustly suffer. And I never support actions where someone unjustly suffers.
    You further write “Our system of waging war was intended to operate sans personal opinion of the individual, thereby PROTECTING the people from leaders that feel they can send our sons and daughters to war based on their own agendas, opinions, and whims. Who the hell are you, or Obama, to individually determine the moral righteousness of foreign policy, and unilaterally act upon that opinion of individual morality?”
    I suggest that there is no such thing as individual morality. An action is moral if the result produced adds value to people, and that is so regardless of who takes that action.
    How do you expect your representatives in Congress to make their decisions about which actions to support? By personal whim? Or by favoring what is moral to do? Do you want me to believe that if Obama asks Congress of a vote of approval for the Libya no fly zone, that you would be writing in this blog about your support for that action? Or is the truth that if that occurred, you would be writing in this blog about how horrible and terrible were the congresspeople who gave Obama permission to do such a terrible action? Thereby giving evidence that you don’t object to the Libya nfz because congress didn’t say yes, you object for some other reason?
    I fully accept majority actions, as long as those actions are not immoral, in which case I accept that what is immoral is the law of the land, and see what I can do to change that situation.

    Reply

  12. For td says:

    Yeah, China’s statecraft is worth watching – including their big spending on infrastructure and their disciplined attention to Africa and South America for several years.
    Tom Doctoroff offered this interesting observation a few months ago:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-doctoroff/standing-up-to-china-the_b_788704.html
    The American president is projecting pragmatic steeliness. The Chinese respect this. They know Obama is no fool. As one senior leader of a state-owned enterprise said to me, “I used to think he was nice. Then I realized he was intelligent. Now I know he’s shrewd, just like Hu Jintao. Your leader is a strategist.”

    Reply

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “DonS, thank you for your comment. I am not trying to slander anyone. I am Johnny Appleseed for quality and successful living; well-being for short. And in well-being, every decision is made based on operating from principles, never based on cost”
    Poppycock.
    What are the “principals” behind cutting benefits, (damaging the “well-being”), of the elderly, the pregnant, the disabled, and the impoverished, so we can wage very expensive war on the whims of high office?
    Your paragraph is at the very least supercilious, and bordering on classic self-righteousness. As a citizen, I am not interested in your lofty personal opinions about “well being” and “the right thing to do”. Our system of waging war was intended to operate sans personal opinion of the individual, thereby PROTECTING the people from leaders that feel they can send our sons and daughters to war based on their own agendas, opinions, and whims. Who the hell are you, or Obama, to individually determine the moral righteousness of foreign policy, and unilaterally act upon that opinion of individual morality? Were you President, would you simply act upon your own opinion of what constitutes the “well being” of our society, sans protocols, laws, and the promise of representation for the masses?
    And what about those of us that think your opinions amount to little more than self-righteous horseshit? Do you just put us on a shelf, tucked away in a closet, and ignore us? What if we constitute the majority? Are you still so confident that you have the grand design for our “well being” that you will send our sons and daughters to die for your own set of “moral” standards?
    Perhaps you can run a household in such a manner, and instill, (or inflict, depending on opinion), your own set of mores on a family by such self-righteous conviction. But it is quite another thing to inflict the citizens of our nation with the products, and consequences, of such personal conceit.

    Reply

  14. Warren Metzler says:

    DonS, thank you for your comment. I am not trying to slander anyone. I am Johnny Appleseed for quality and successful living; well-being for short. And in well-being, every decision is made based on operating from principles, never based on cost. As I have told many a personal provider, over the decades since I one day spontaneously discovered the following principle, “no one ever brought quality into my life by saving me money”.
    But your reaction indicates I hit the nail on the head when I reminded people of the Lincoln Brigade and progressives.
    If the US operated from viable principles across the board, we would have plenty of money for each US resident to provide quality throughout her life, and all of our foreign actions. I am assessing Libya from a principle perspective. What is the right thing to do for the people in Libya who finally want to be free? The right thing for me, and the right thing for my government. And what is right there may be different from what was done in any foreign adventure in our previous 200 plus year history.
    And what we do in Libya ought to be the precedent we follow in every other situation in the world which is similar: a occupying power that creates massacres to save its butt. Which would right now include Israel in regard to Palestinians, and might soon include Syria. And could in the future include North Korea, and possibly China (Tibet and Uyghurs).
    The people of each country need to struggle to achieve the freedoms they have a right to have. In Bahrain and Yemen, as of yet, massive massacres of people not even protesting has not yet happened, as it did in Libya. And there is no request from the opposition for military no fly zone assistance. So there only diplomatic and freezing foreign assets.
    And Don, what the hell are you doing going on line while on vacation in France???? Get out there and immerse yourself in French culture.
    For Don Bacon, I’d surprised you believe a word Hillary Clinton or Robert Gates says. Do you expect them to admit to a humanitarian orientation, thereby forcing them to provide a fundamentally unavailable differentiation between the oppressed people of Libya and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza???? I consider Hillary to be, like her husband and like Bush jr. a pathological liar, incapable of telling the truth regarding any issue. I don’t think she ever tells herself the truth of her inner experience of each moment of her life, much less reveal the truth to any other person, including her close friends.
    Robert Gates has lied so many times; regarding the USSR when in the CIA, and the numerous military adventures since he’s been Secretary of Defense; that I don’t know if he is capable of telling the truth about anything.
    But if you want to know the truth of any person’s actions, do the following: look closely at the situation, notice that person’s actions in that situation, and ask the following question, “what approach would that person have to follow, to have his actions in that situation be the best he could do in that situation (given his current capacities)?”. There in only one rational answer to each such question, and that rational answer is that person’s actual perspective regarding that situation. Regardless of what he presents for public consumption.
    And a bit regarding North Korea. I think it is stupid to pay attention to them at all. If they create a military action, treat them identically in return. The idea that North Korea would escalate if they have some area shelled each time they shell an area is ridiculous. They would promptly sue for peace. They are just pompous bullies, and all bullies fold their cards and slink home with their tails between their legs as soon as they encounter a more powerful force.
    Otherwise, totally ignore them. It is irrelevant that they have nuclear weapons. Stop acting as if other countries can tell a country what they can and can’t have.

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  15. JohnH says:

    Oh great! Now the President can start wars on behalf of other nations without consulting Congress or the American people. There is no limit to the application of Obama’s “Three Musketeers’ Doctrine” (one for all and all for one).
    Let’s see. Saudi Arabia helped the US by keeping down the price of oil, so now the US is obligated to return the favor by occupying Iran without consulting Congress or the American people.
    Colombia helped the US track down drug kingpins, so the US is obligated to invade Venezuela on Colombia’s behalf without consulting Congress or the people.
    Israel helped the US by secretly smuggling arms to US backed terrorists in (you name it). Therefore the US is obligated to take over Gaza without, of course, consulting Congress or the American people.
    Sounds to me like the gates of the US Treasury have just been opened wide for merchants of death to loot.

    Reply

  16. Don Bacon says:

    The U.S. did Libya not for human rights reasons, or to prevent a slaughter, nor a “limited humanitarian intervention,” it was done to repay Europe for helping out in Afghanistan, according to Gates and Clinton.
    Secretaries Gates and Clinton were on Meet The Press yesterday, discussing vital interests.
    When they’re asked about vital interests as it applies to this new Libya war, Gates and Clinton drop the “preventing a slaughter” meme and give us:
    * Libya is not a U.S. vital interest
    * It is in the U.S. interest that Tunisia & Egypt not destabilize because it might have an influence in Europe
    * Europe supported the U.S. in Afghanistan (for 9/11) so the U.S. should support Europe in Libya
    * Disruption and instability in Libya is bad and “seen by our European friends and our Arab partners as very vital to their interests.”
    It will be interesting to compare these Libya “vital interests” with what Obama says today about why the U.S. went to war illegally with no concept of how it might end.
    MR. GREGORY: Secretary Gates, is Libya in our vital interest as a country?
    SEC’Y GATES: No. I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the United States, but we clearly have interests there, and it’s a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States.
    MR. GREGORY: I think a lot of people would hear that and way, well, that’s quite striking. Not in our vital interest, and yet we’re committing military resources to it.
    SEC’Y CLINTON: Well, but, but, but then it wouldn’t be fair as to what Bob just said. I mean, did Libya attack us? No. They did not attack us. Do they have a very critical role in this region and do they neighbor two countries–you just mentioned one, Egypt, the other Tunisia–that are going through these extraordinary transformations and cannot afford to be destabilized by conflict on their borders? Yes. Do they have a major influence on what goes on in Europe because of everything from oil to immigration?
    And, you know, David, that raises a, a very important point. Because you showed on the map just a minute ago Afghanistan. You know, we asked our allies, our NATO allies, to go into Afghanistan with us 10 years ago. They have been there, and a lot of them have been there despite the fact they were not attacked. The attack came on us as we all tragically remember. They stuck with us.
    When it comes to Libya, we started hearing from the UK, France, Italy, other of our NATO allies. This was in their vital national interest. The UK and France were the ones who went to the Security Council and said, “We have to act because otherwise we’re seeing a really violent upheaval with a man who has a history of unpredictable violent acts right on our doorstep.” So, you know, let, let’s be fair here. They didn’t attack us, but what they were doing and Gadhafi’s history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interests, as Bob said, and seen by our European friends and our Arab partners as very vital to their interests.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42275424/ns/meet_the_press-transcripts/
    In other news, according to McClatchy Newspapers, The Libyan National Council, the Benghazi-based group that speaks for the rebel forces fighting the Gaddafi regime, has appointed a long-time CIA collaborator to head its military operations. Khalifa Hifter has spent much of the past 20 years in suburban Virginia. In his late sixties, he is a well-respected former colonel in the Libya army.
    SecDef Gates has claimed that the allies are not aiding the rebels and are not even in communications with them. Uh-huh.

    Reply

  17. DonS says:

    “Each situation stands alone. It should be assessed on its own merits. What the US didn’t do in similar situations (Darfur, Southern Sudan, Rwanda, etc.), or monstrosities based on deceit they did do (Iraq, Afghanistan, currently in western Pakistan, etc.) are irrelevant in determining how to act in Libya; which is, regardless of what people say, a massacre in the making.” (warren)
    Question: do you care how the fuck we are going to pay for it or what differentiates Libya from other atrocities in the making around the globe?
    And, with regard to your comparison to resistance against Franco, can you provide relative cost figures, say relative to GDP and who footed that bill? And, by the way, how that private effort by private citizens is in any way related to a government sponsored and fund military intervention? Or are you just intending to slander those who critique motives for US intervention, somehow tarring ‘progressives’ for not bleeding enough for Barry?

    Reply

  18. DonS says:

    Sitting at the window of my idyllic aerie in South France, eating breakfast this morning, looking out over the vast plain to the mountain range to the Northeast and what do I see? A formation of French mirage jets (8) performing tight tactical manoeuvers. Or perhaps they were practicing for a air show — on several passes they released red and blue smoke trails — but I don’t think so. Even have the pictures to prove it.
    On another note, here’s a little fluff piece from
    CNN to round out the picture, looking at the very selective outrage of the US differentiated according to ME nation:
    “In the eyes of many Arabs in the region, a deeply troubling Western double standard is emerging. Many in the region are asking a simple question: Why is the West willing to intervene in Libya, while there is total Western silence about the brutal suppression of dissidents in Bahrain?”

    “But such Western security concerns don’t change the question that millions of Arab youth are asking: Why should the U.N. principle of “responsibility to protect” apply only to countries like Libya and leave Bahrain and Yemen out in the cold?

    “The West has so far been lucky about the absence of Islamists in mass demonstrations for democracy and human rights in the region. Yet, unless Europe and the United States become more consistent in their support for democracy in the region, soon it will be radical Islamists and enemies of the West that will have the upper hand in mass demonstrations.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/03/28/libya.bahrain.double.standard/index.html?hpt=C2

    Reply

  19. Warren Metzler says:

    I suggest the following.
    One. Each situation stands alone. It should be assessed on its own merits. What the US didn’t do in similar situations (Darfur, Southern Sudan, Rwanda, etc.), or monstrosities based on deceit they did do (Iraq, Afghanistan, currently in western Pakistan, etc.) are irrelevant in determining how to act in Libya; which is, regardless of what people say, a massacre in the making. Kadhafi’s forces have already killed over 8,000. Which is far more than were killed in Tunisia or Egypt, or have already been killed in Yemen and Bahrain.
    Two. Progressives, please tell me the difference between Odyssey Dawn in Libya, and the Lincoln Brigade in the fight against Franco; participation in which, I believe, was in the 1930′s a gold standard for membership in the progressive movement?
    Three. What is occurring in the Arab world right now is ordinary people struggling for the right to live as one personally wants to life; free of political, cultural, and philosophy restrictions; which we in the west take for granted, which people in the Arab world have never had throughout their entire histories. What do you personally want to do, to facilitate them in that pursuit? What do you want your government to do, to facilitate them in that pursuit? Not what you don’t want your government to do.
    Four. Words need meaning to be of value. If the word “war” is not limited to violent conflict designed to force another country or group to become under your dominion, what word would you use for this just described action? Why is police action not reasonable to be used for violent actions intended to stop a person, group or country from misbehaving???? Which would make Odyssey Dawn a police action and not a war; thereby eviscerating the “Obama is fighting an illegal war” argument.
    Five. Steve, and others, please tell me what philosophical view of human endeavor is at the foundation of the idea that the US can have security concerns that have nothing to do with the US being attacked???? I think it is high time this “security concerns” idiocy be exposed for the fraud it is, and eliminated as a possible rational basis for actions. Each country should be allowed to exist on its own definition; AS LONG AS its obvious policies are not restricting its people from the universal rights possessed by all humans: life (able to live as one wishes), liberty (free to pursue all the worthwhile pursuits one’s inner voice tells one to do), the pursuit of happiness (moving to where one experiences quality sensations

    Reply

  20. Kathleen says:

    Corporate Media Sunday News Programs
    And the corporate media continued their charade and continued

    Reply

  21. Kathleen says:

    So Steve one should then assume based the Obama administrations and the UN coalition claims and you seem to agree. “Protecting civilians” That Obama will apoligize tonight for not responding to the Israeli “massacre” of Palestinians in the Gaza when he was in office. That they will announce a “no fly,drive zone” over Israel to stop any future “slaughters” and will stop the going illegal expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and E Jerusalem.
    I guess we will also be hearing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,Senator Kerry and all of the rest of the folks who pushed for and support this military intervention apologize for giving the Bush administration permission to illegally invade Iraq which resulted in the “slaughter…massacre” (their words for what is going on in Libya) of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people and 4500 American soldiers.
    The hypocrisy can be heard around the world
    Very interesting that on ALL of the MSM’s Sunday news programs when they show the map of the middle east they do not show Iraq (want folks to forget about it) and they show Israel as the whole state swallowing up the Palestinian territory.

    Reply

  22. Kathleen says:

    Steve”In my own case, I understand why the President made the call he did because the costs — geopolitically and morally — of standing by while tens of thousands were likely to be massacred were unbearable and considered to be more of a risk than action against Gaddafi.”
    Who do you think is actually buying this? Makes no sense. None.
    Obama, Clinton, Kerry (voted for the “slaughter” (using their words for Libya ) in Iraq (not Obama). The same group did not respond to the “slaughter…massacre”(again using their words for Gaddafi and Libya situation) in the Gaza in late 2008 early 2009. When Israel “slaughtered…massacred” 1400 Palestinians.
    UN sanctions against Iraq (Clinton) caused hundreds of thousands of deaths
    Bush administrations illegal invasion of Iraq (Secretary Clinton, Senator Kerry voted for) “slaugher…massacre” hundreds of thousands.
    Recent Israeli “slaughter…massacre” (their words) of Palestinians in Cast Lead.
    Too bad the UN did not put together a coalition to stop the Bush administrations invasion and “slaughter”
    “Why Libya” is a logical question.
    If they want to tell us that Gaddafi standing up interrupts the “wave of change” in Tunisia, Egypt etc…that makes some sense. But some of the very same folks who voted for the Iraq “slaughter” (they like to call the thousands dead “collateral damage”, some of the folks who did nothing about the Israeli “slaughter” of Palestinians

    Reply

  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Carroll……..
    I don’t see a single point, that you made, that justifies the ability of a President to so casually commit our troops to war. Moral opinions, the participation of NATO, or the “requests” of the rebels have NOTHING TO DO with the protocols, laws, and steps that should be neccessary for a President to wage war.
    Should the next military adventure be based on a rationale you disagree with, I have no doubt you will take the President to task for it.
    Waging war should NOT be based on moral opinions or executive fiat. Waging war should be based on a set of laws and protocols that need to be strictly adhered to. There ARE NO EXCEPTIONS to this basic tenet. Anything less than strict adherence to this basic component of our democracy robs the people of their voice, their representation, their treasure, and their security. It also robs us of all credibility before the global community, as our politicians present a less than unified front, bickering like schoolgirls AFTER the fact. We have our sons and daughters in harm’s way, while our supposed adversaries watch the theatre antics of an american governing body that is divided and and adversarial, wrangling for political advantage over the graves of very real, and very dead, victims of their partisanship.
    The next President, having noted what Bush and Obama have done, will certainly feel empowered above the rule of law. Now, imagine if it is someone like Palin, Huckabee, or Bolton, or Abrams, or Leiberman, that manages to slime their way into the White House. Are you comfortable with the likes of these people being so empowered? Do you think they will act within the parameters of your own moral opinion?
    The precedent that has been set by the last two Presidents is dangerous to our nation and democracy to a far greater degree than failure to act in Libya would have been. To be frank, it amazes me that you do not grasp this simple FACT.
    I won’t be listening to this lying sack of shit tonight. In every way, he has shown himself to be a misrepresented package, marketed in a manner that was wholly dishonest, with false and scripted ideologies, and purposely misleading stated agendas.

    Reply

  24. JohnH says:

    Obama’s speech tonight: pablum for the masses. It will stake out the administration’s initial, humanitarian grounds for military action (other rationales will follow as casualties mount, and the humanitarian rationale becomes untenable, exactly as it did in other recent wars.)
    Obama will NOT talk about how he plans to pay for the adventure, which will obliterate any “savings” he put into his budget. In fact, it will increase the deficit, which is now more than 10% of GDP, increasing calls to cut Social Security, which is still paying for itself.
    And Obama will NOT talk about his real motives for attacking Libya. Oil aside, was it to test out those brand new French jets? Was it to test new satellite targeting software? Was it to test NATO command and control structures? Or was it simply to insert Africom into Africa (something the African Union is complaining about.)
    Whatever Obama says, we know the man sounds good, and that whatever he says is not reflected in policy. It’s all for show and to provide window dressing for yet more pointless and futile military action and waste.

    Reply

  25. DakotabornKansan says:

    German Development Minister Dirk Niebel accuses the nations involved in the UN-backed military alliance operation in Libya of hypocrisy.

    Reply

  26. drew says:

    Yes, Cee, the NFZ protects and enables some of the very same
    people we have just spent $3.5 trillion attempting to defeat over
    the past 10 years.
    Perhaps, as this other guy Bob H says, it’s just a measly $1B
    investment in his reelection (and Sarkozy’s), but I don’t think the
    polity is so cynical as to make wag-the-dog wars acceptable
    behavior, even for Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

    Reply

  27. Cee says:

    Really?
    ‘Al-Qaeda snatched missiles’ in Libya
    * From correspondents in Paris
    * From: AFP
    * March 26, 2011 1:03PM
    AL-QAEDA’S offshoot in North Africa has snatched surface-to-air missiles from an arsenal in Libya during the civil strife there, Chad’s President says.
    Idriss Deby Itno did not say how many surface-to-air missiles were stolen, but told the African weekly Jeune Afrique that he was “100 per cent sure” of his assertion.
    “The Islamists of al-Qaeda took advantage of the pillaging of arsenals in the rebel zone to acquire arms, including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries in Tenere,” a desert region of the Sahara that stretches from northeast Niger to western Chad, Deby said in the interview.
    “This is very serious. AQIM is becoming a genuine army, the best equipped in the region,” he said.
    His claim was echoed by officials in other countries in the region who said that they were worried that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) might have acquired “heavy weapons”, thanks to the insurrection.
    Start of sidebar.
    “We have sure information. We are very worried for the sub-region,” a Malian security source who did not want to be named said.
    AQIM originated as an armed Islamist resistance movement to the secular Algerian government.
    It now operates mainly in Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger, where it has attacked military targets and taken civilian hostages, particularly Europeans, some of whom it has killed.
    “We have the same information,” about heavy weapons, including SAM 7 missiles, a military source from Niger said.
    “It is very worrying. This overarming is a real danger for the whole zone,” he added
    “AQIM gets the weapons in two ways; people go and look for the arms in Libya to deliver them to AQIM in the Sahel, or AQIM elements go there themselves.”
    Elsewhere in the interview, Chad’s president backed the assertion by his neighbour and erstwhile enemy Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that the protests in Libya have been driven in part by al-Qaeda.
    “There is a partial truth in what he says,” Deby said.
    “Up to what point? I don’t know. But I am certain that AQIM took an active part in the uprising.”
    After years of tension between the two nations, which were at war during part of the 1980s, Deby has more recently maintained good relations with Gaddafi.
    The Chadian leader described the international military intervention in Libya, launched a week ago by the United States, France and Britain, as a “hasty decision”.
    “It could have heavy consequences for the stability of the region and the spread of terrorism in Europe, the Mediterranean and the rest of Africa,” he cautioned.
    Deby denied assertions that mercenaries had been recruited in Chad to fight for Gaddafi, though some of the several thousand Chad nationals in Libya may have joined the fight “on their own”.
    Read more: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/al-qaeda-snatched-missiles-in-libya/story-e6frfku0-1226028543204#ixzz1HtCBkNPH

    Reply

  28. bob h says:

    It seems pretty clear to this armchair general that Obama is going to bring home the coonskin in Libya. The right-left kvetching will soon die away, and Obama’s credentials as Commander in Chief will be burnished for ’12.

    Reply

  29. drew says:

    DonS, in regard to the Clintons seeking to ‘reverse’ Rwanda, I
    would say that they may more likely wish to ‘reverse’ Somalia.
    The debacle in Mogadishu with the Rangers (the Black Hawk
    Down ambush; the humiliation and televised defiling of the dead
    American trooper) occurred a few weeks earlier than Rwanda. It
    was the reason, I believe, that the USG was absolutely paralyzed
    when Rwanda happened. From time to time, government
    officials seem to grasp that there it is impossible to predict
    outcomes in war, and no war is compact and constrained.
    This new R2P (responsibility to protect) ethic, if it becomes the
    foundation of an interventionist foreign policy, will be fearsome
    in its effects, in two ways. One, there is simply no way to morally
    distinguish a Libya from a Bahrain, Syria, or Ivory Coast. And
    there are far more reasons, in respect of American national
    interests, to prioritize Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other
    carbon producing states or terror-sponsoring states, over LIbya.
    When the SecDef says on a Sunday talk show, “Oh no, there’s
    nothing strategic about Libya, bombs away” we are either in a
    deeply confused, Lewis Carroll state, or we have trivialized the
    burdens of warmaking.
    The second, very dangerous effect of R2P is this. R2P, the
    product of a handful of ambitious academics, who believe that
    hard power may be deployed with the ease of, say, a financial
    asset seizure, promises to alienate the functioning military.
    Maybe not the ambitious, Washington-centric cubicle military.
    But certainly the captains and majors and commanders and NCOs
    who will be asked to make the world safe for Samantha Power’s
    next book. They understand that there is no such thing as
    compact, constrained, limited war. They understand that
    Samantha Power has no clue what she is talking about when she
    discusses hard power. These academics in their R2P doctrine are
    making decisions that contravene everything we have learned
    about reintegrating (in the USG) and respecting the military
    culture, since Vietnam. I have never heard a SecDef so directly
    and casually and confidently dismiss the justification for a
    military action. This means that this is already an issue. There
    is astonishing dissonance on display just now.
    We hear a lot about how this is some innovation in warfare –
    this modest, fractious little coalition, arguing about the war’s
    objectives — but based on listening to Gates for the past week,
    I’d suggest that the President and his war enthusiasts start by
    creating a coalition of the willing that includes the SecDef

    Reply

  30. questions says:

    This piece does a marvelous job of putting together all sorts of ideas that should be together — kinds of complexity, the financial markets, game theory, war, human behavior, inscrutability by intention.
    It’s a must read.
    “There

    Reply

  31. rc says:

    “More recently, Libyan rebel leader al-Hasidi, who fought U.S. troops in Afghanistan, offered another startling revelation. He admitted in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Islamic warriors from Libya, whom he had recruited to battle Western forces in Iraq, are now actually fighting alongside U.S. and international forces to help topple Kaddafi.” (Cee, Mar 27 2011, 8:29PM)
    “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” http://thinkexist.com/quotation/the_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend/297233.html
    They are all old ‘tango’ partners going back to fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.
    Guns for hire, all!

    Reply

  32. Don Bacon says:

    from the archives,
    Libya – Senators McCain and Lieberman Visit Colonel Gadaffi less than a week before the Lockerbie bomber was released.
    embassy cable extracts (wikileaks)
    [Muatassim Gaddafi] reiterated the refrain he conveyed to Secretary Clinton during his April visit (ref C)

    Reply

  33. Don Bacon says:

    Cee,
    Thanks for the excellent links. Blogs oriented toward finding the truth will have to be more & more dependent upon foreign and independent media because the U.S. media is so poor, so beholden to the powers that be.

    Reply

  34. DakotabornKansan says:

    Digby quotes Steve Clemons answer to Juan Cole’s support for the Libyan intervention and makes these additional comments:

    Reply

  35. Cee says:

    Paul,
    When in the FUCK (sorry folks) is Netanyahu referred to the Internaltional Criminal Court?
    Now more on Libya.
    http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/world-mainmenu-26/africa-mainmenu-27/6855-un-obama-fighting-alongside-al-qaeda-in-libya
    UN, Obama Fighting Alongside Al-Qaeda in Libya |
    Written by Alex Newman
    Saturday, 26 March 2011 20:00
    1
    LibyaThe Obama administration

    Reply

  36. JohnH says:

    Of course, Abrams will forget all that self righteousness as soon as Israel goes on its next pogrom: don’t arrange a cease fire, let Israel sate itself on killing, as it did in Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2009).
    It would appear that membership in the “international community” comes with perks–killing as many of the wogs as they want.

    Reply

  37. Paul Norheim says:

    They’re on it… Elliott Abrams:
    “Since the wave of Mideast revolts has spread to Syria, Assad is responding the only way he knows: by killing. What
    should be our response?
    First, the strongest and most frequent denunciations, preferably not only from the White House but also from people
    such as Sen. John Kerry, who has repeatedly visited Assad and spoken of improving relations with his regime. All those
    who were taken in by Assad should be loudest in denouncing his bloody repression.
    Second, we should prosecute Syria in every available multilateral forum, including the U.N. Security Council and the
    Human Rights Council. Others should refer Assad to the International Criminal Court. With blood flowing, there should
    be no delays; this is the moment to call for special sessions and action to prevent more killing. Even if these bodies do
    not act, the attention should give heart to Syrian demonstrators.
    Third, we should ask the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia to immediately call Arab League sessions to debate
    the violence in Syria. Libya was expelled; let

    Reply

  38. JohnH says:

    Maybe Lieberman could apply his new found principles to the behavior of his own country, whichever it is, the US or Israel. How many has the US killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? How many has Israel killed in Lebanon and Gaza?

    Reply

  39. Paul Norheim says:

    “Sen. Joe Lieberman suggested Sunday he would support military intervention in Syria if its president resorts to the kind of violent
    tactics used by Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi.
    Dozens reportedly have been killed in protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, raising questions about
    whether the international community would get involved.
    Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that if Assad starts slaughtering his
    own people, he will risk other countries imposing a no-fly zone “just as we’re doing in Libya.” He urged Assad to, instead,
    negotiate with the “freedom fighters” in his country.
    “There’s a precedent now that the world community has set in Libya, and it’s the right one,” Lieberman said.
    Read more:
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/03/27/lieberman-suggests-fly-zone-option-syria-violence-escalates/#ixzz1HqLBZvUa

    Reply

  40. DakotabornKansan says:

    Delusional Self-victimization
    Why is it that the strongest and most powerful are convinced that they are the oppressed and victimized as they invade, bomb, and occupy?
    Glenn Greenwald quotes Noam Chomsky on this inverted sense of victimhood in the foreign policy context:

    Reply

  41. JohnH says:

    Well said, Norheim. As I’ve said elsewhere, I fail to see a reasonable connection between today’s declared intentions, tomorrow’s declared intentions (which will be different) and the actual behavior and the eventual outcome.
    If anything is consistent in the past few wars, it is that the publicly stated US intentions are crafted according to what sells best in the media at any given time. Period. It’s all public relations BS. This is a carry-over from political campaigns, where winning is more important than integrity or even consistency.
    If anything else is consistent in the past few wars, it is that the US has virtually no ability to act in its own strategic interest. What did the US accomplish in Iraq besides running up a $Trillion of debt and draining the accumulated surpluses of the Social Security Trust Fund? What has been accomplished in Afghanistan? And what is likely to be accomplished in Libya? Fact is, no one talks about Iraq any more. And no one can or will say what a solution in Afghanistan or Libya would look like.
    Fact is, you have to look at who’s benefiting from these wars. It is not the American people whose social programs are evaporating. The American people are not even paying less at the pump. Iraqis, Afghans, and Libyans are not benefiting.
    The only beneficiaries are the brass and their merchants of death, who keep lavishly funding the “think” tanks that continuously promote war without end and have succeeded in getting increases in military spending in the midst of a budget crisis caused largely by pointless, futile wars.

    Reply

  42. Don Bacon says:

    All politics is local, said Tip O’Neill, and there are some important budget hearings coming up in Washington.
    How fortunate for the U.S. Air Force and Navy that, after some inactivity relative to ground forces fighting to Keep America Free, their bombs and explosive missiles have been found so useful for “limited humanitarian intervention.”

    Reply

  43. Carroll says:

    Posted by PissedOffAmerican, Mar 27 2011, 12:08PM – Link
    Thats really the problem, isn’t it? No matter what course of action a President pursues, there will always be a segment of our population that advocates for the President’s actions. Look at Carroll and Kervick.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    As you know I didn’t vote for Obama, I wrote in a name in the last election.
    So let’s see if I can explain my view on Libya to you.
    First—Libya isn’t Iraq or Afghan or Pakistan, the situation is Not the same.
    Second –it’s not Egypt either, Libya has an army willing to kill it’s civilians.
    Third—the revolutionaries ‘asked us’ for help.
    Fourth–we intervened in concert with other
    countries after UN deliberations.
    Fifth—the talk of the hypocrisy about Libya vr. Bahrain or Palestine is about as logical or useful AT THIS MOMENT as watching three people drowning and not saving one of them because you can’t save all of them.
    Sixth–shit happens,someone has to make a choice, Obama chose to intervene in what everyone was assured would turn into a massacre if we did not. THEREFORE, from both a moral and obvious FP policy change toward the ME, we intervened ‘against’ an dictator for a change.
    Seventh–when confronted with a dilemma, in which no outcome can be guaranteed regardless of what is or is not done, you still make a choice, because not making a choice is A CHOICE in which you ALSO have to live with the outcome.
    Eighth–all the hysterics and arguments over this Libya intervention are exactly what I said in my post above.
    No one knows what the final result will be.
    BUT… I notice NO ONE is opining on WHAT THE ME FP BLOWBACK ON THE US WOULD BE IF WE DID NOTHING IN LIBYA.
    Huummmm…?

    Reply

  44. DonS says:

    “The Clintons trying to undo Rwanda?”
    Thanks for the chuckle Paul. It’s exactly what I commented when Bill came out in favor of NFZ (not caring a fig whether he, at that time, undercut a sitting president, his predecessor. Of course, Bill got pretty down and dirty in South Carolina primaries, yes). Somehow, though I try not to be too cynical, it’s all about Bill, isn’t it?

    Reply

  45. Paul Norheim says:

    I notice that I’m becoming less and less interested in the allegedly nefarious or nobel motives of foreign actors in the Middle
    East.
    Sarkozy trying to win the coming domestic elections in France? Cameron re-establishing the glory and pride of the United
    Kingdom in the post-poodle era? Post-colonial Old Europe eager to be on the right side of history and establishing
    commercial connections with the Facebook generation of Arab rulers? Obama sending a signal to the Arab rulers and
    revolutionaries? The neocons demanding US leadership in ME invasions to secure American hegemony in the region? The
    actions of liberal interventionists like Susan Rice and Samantha Powers, intended to save innocent Libyans? The Clintons
    trying to undo Rwanda?
    Who the hell cares! When was the last time you saw a reasonable connection between Western intentions, while meddling in
    the opaque and multifaceted Middle East affairs, and the actual outcome? Eisenhower signaling to England and France that
    the colonial era is over during the Suez crisis in 1956? Well, even that move didn’t advance US interests in Nasser’s Egypt
    one inch at the time, did it?

    Reply

  46. Paul Norheim says:

    “After letting slip that the earliest Libyan protests were organized by the LIFG, Al Jazeera quickly
    changed its line to present a heavily filtered account of “peaceful protests”.”
    Cee, I didn’t notice the initial “slip”, but the “peaceful protest” narrative Al Jazeera fed us with one
    month ago just seemed too good to be true. When I, at that time, tried to find out more, and googled
    on “Islamism in Libya” etc, the only info I got was from anti-Islamistic American right wing think
    tanks. The propaganda from Al Jazeera had evidently been very effective. Today, four weeks later, the
    links to Islamism within the Libyan opposition is all over the place – even making headlines in
    Norwegian news papers.

    Reply

  47. Carroll says:

    “There is something deeply US-centric in the reading of these events among Americans,…
    Yes it is, and it’s becoming absolute bizzare comedy.
    We have the “one size fits all” anti- imperialist idealoges on the left, the ‘Obama did it so it’s wrong’ on the right and then we have FP opiners who throw everything from the kitchen sink to nukes to NK to how it’s going to affect teachers pay into the mix.
    The US was already in deep doodoo long before the Libya crisis due to the knee jerk ‘me,me,me’-isms of the US public and their childish insistance that if they elect whoever promises them the most for ‘themselves’ everything will be hunky dory.
    The US public doesn’t have the balls to do what Tunisia, Egypt or Libya has done –so let them eat cake and whine away.

    Reply

  48. Cee says:

    http://en.m4.cn/archives/5128.html
    Mideast Revolutions and 9-11 intrigues crafted in Qatar
    The links to Qatar uncovered by anti-terrorism investigators in the wake of 9-11 need to be reexamined now that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an on-and-off affiliate of Al Qaeda, has seized armories across half of the North African country. Libya’s well-stocked arsenals contain high-power explosives, rocket launchers and chemical weapons. LIFG is on the State Department’s terrorist list.
    Most worrying, according to a U.S. intelligence official cited by CNN, is the probable loss of chemical weapons. The Federation of American Scientists reports that, as of 2008, only 40 percent of Libya’s mustard gas was destroyed in the second round of decommissioning. Chemical canisters along the Egyptian border were yet to be retrieved and are now presumably in the hands of armed militants.
    After letting slip that the earliest Libyan protests were organize d by the LIFG, Al Jazeera quickly changed its line to present a heavily filtered account of “peaceful protests”. To explain away the gunshot deaths of Libya soldiers during the uprising, the Qatar-based network presented a bizarre scenario of150 dead soldiers in Sirte having been executed by their officers for “refusing to fight”. The mysterious officers then miraculously vacated their base disappearing into thin air while surrounded by angry protesters! Off the record, one American intelligence analyst called these media claims an “absurdity” and suggested instead the obvious:-that the soldiers were gunned down in an armed assault by war-hardened returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Many Libyan Army units have “defected” to the opposition if for no other purpose than to try to recover the troves of weapons seized by the militants. Al Jazeera’s role in erasing the fingerprints of the armed militants vindicates the earlier conclusion of Western anti-terrorism experts of Qatar’s sponsorship of terrorism.
    Payments for terror
    According to a Congressional Research Service report of January 2008, “Some observers have raised questions about possible support for Al Qaeda by some Qatari citizens, including members of Qatar’s large ruling family. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Qatar’s Interior Minister provided safe haven to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed during the mid-1990s, and press reports indicate other terrorists may have received financial support or safe haven in Qatar after September 11, 2001.”

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  49. Paul Norheim says:

    This is in my view the weakest argument in Cole’s “Open letter”:
    “The other Arab Spring demonstrations are not comparable to Libya, because in none of
    them has the scale loss of life been replicated, nor has the role of armored brigades been
    as central, nor have the dissidents asked for intervention, nor has the Arab League. For the
    UN, out of the blue, to order the bombing of Deraa in Syria at the moment would
    accomplish nothing and would probably outrage all concerned. Bombing the tank brigades
    heading for Benghazi made all the difference.”
    Has been replicated? Cole’s argument is all about “until now” (pretending that the Arab
    Revolution is in its final stages!), while the whole point is that there is reasonable risk that
    “the scale loss of life” could be “replicated” in some ME country in the coming weeks,
    months or years, and some faction may beg for foreign intervention and assistance. The
    Syrian revolt, for example, is only in its early stages.
    But Libya is neither Rwanda nor Darfur; and hopefully Syria and other MENA countries will
    not become like Rwanda or Darfur in the future. The main reason why I am opposed to the
    operations in Libya, is that with the UN resolution 1973 – morally legitimized with the
    recently created Responsibility to Protect argument – the bar is set so low that it further
    normalizes the use of military force as an extension of politics with other means.

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  50. Cee says:

    Why are we there? I was sickened to watch some of the same monsters who lied us into Iraq on CNN justifying our murder of Libyans now.
    http://www.voltairenet.org/article169111.html
    Libyan War And Control Of The Mediterranean
    by Rick Rozoff*
    Had Muammar Gaddafi become too pesky for the likes of Nicolas Sarkozy and his Atlanticist partners, by standing in the way of their agenda for the domination of the Mediterranean sea region? France

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  51. paul lukasiak says:

    I don’t know if intervening in Libya is wise or not…. what I do know is that Obama’s decision to militarily intervene overseas without congressional approval are a bad idea and set a horrible precendent.
    Its clear that the Obama administration had the time and energy to organize international support for the Libya intervention at the UN, the Arab League, and in NATO. Therefore, there is really no excuse for him to not have gone to Congress for their support as well.
    Its also a really bad idea to intervene overseas without paying for it. Every military intervention should be paid for with some kind of tax increase or surcharge — if something is important enough to this country to do, its something that is worth paying for through collective financial sacrifice. If we’re not willing to pay for it, then we shouldn’t do it (and live with the consequences if necessary.)

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  52. Don Bacon says:

    jonst,
    Great point. The Arab League (the story goes) ordered us to war, but couldn’t really join in. The African Union advocated a peaceful solution, so they were cut out. And here come the white guys — U.S., France and UK, with no support from other large countries.
    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    Send forth the best ye breed–
    Go bind your sons to exile
    To serve your captives’ need;
    To wait in heavy harness,
    On fluttered folk and wild–
    Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
    Half-devil and half-child.
    etc. — Kipling

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  53. Don Bacon says:

    Korea should have been unified years ago, but then the U.S. wouldn’t have an excuse to maintain forces in that country and Japan, and to expand Camp Humphreys with high-rise apartment buildings for military dependents as it is currently doing, and to maintain military control of South Korea including its considerable military.
    Korea is a part of the overall U.S. strategy to foster instability in various areas of the world as a security measure which of course makes no sense but it pays some people well while it bankrupts the country.

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  54. jonst says:

    Shorter Cole Letter:
    ‘It’s just the white man’s burden.’
    There are so many assumptions made by Cole, and many others in Washington, that simply have not been proven. And, are being put forth by individuals and institutions that have, repeatedly, creatively, and aggressively spun (at best, lied at worst)so many times in the past, in situations exactly like this. i.e. triggers for military intervention.
    It is breathtaking, and sobering, to watch the so called ‘Left’ seemingly buying this spoon fed propaganda. And turning on anyone who does not buy it wholeheartedly.

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  55. Don Bacon says:

    Professor Cole’s letter is poppycock. All this righteous indignation about leftys not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time, and justifying it with imperialistic stories about preventing mass slaughter. Reminds me of the bayoneting-babies false stories that conned the U.S. into Kuwait.
    All these crocodile tears about valiant Libyans seriously disregards other real slaughters in Rwanda, and now in Ivory Coast and other places, as well as the Fallujah which was a massive war crime committed by the sacred U.S. forces.
    Also disregarded is how this “hatred” of Gaddafi, who was a U.S. sweetheart just last year, is going to influence the actions of the idealists that have been supported militarily by the west. Will they have a propensity for slaughter? How will that play out? What about their AQ connections? Cole is wrong that they don’t have any.
    Disregarded most fragrantly by the professor is the scrapping of the U.S. Constitution regarding war, and of the UN Charter which requires measured attempts at the peaceful resolution of international conflicts, and doesn’t authorize military responses to internal conflicts at all.
    So the professor’s “UN-authorization” takes on a truer meaning unintended by him.

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  56. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Interesting that so many people here are willing to allow the President such gracious exemption from the rule of law when his actions fit their own partisan or personal opinions or beliefs.
    Thats really the problem, isn’t it? No matter what course of action a President pursues, there will always be a segment of our population that advocates for the President’s actions. Look at Carroll and Kervick. Never mind the illegality of Obama’s actions, all is forgiven, because Obama is acting on the impulses of their own moral gieger counters.
    This is the price we will continue to pay for failing to hold our elected officials accountable, equally across party lines and moral barometers, before the law. The next President may decide its time to end the “Palestinian problem” for once and for all, on Israel’s behalf. And there will be many in our society that will not care whether or not the President acts legally to accomplish that end. What then? Will the argument that we are “rescuing the Israelis” justify our actions? Will those that consider eradication of the Palestinians “moral” win the day in deciding policy?
    Or perhaps we’ll decide its a matter of “national security” to take Venezuela’s oil by force. Is there any doubt there are those amongst us that would agree with such a policy? Does that agreement exempt the President from accountability and acting within the letter of the law??
    We are on a dangerous road, where it is the OFFICE that determines policy, not the people, and not the law. We are losing all touch with what we claim to be, and what the Founding Fathers intended us to be.

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  57. Paul Norheim says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the US/NATO reduces its footprint in Afghanistan much
    quicker than is generally assumed. Practically no one buys Petraeus’ optimistic narrative
    anymore. Secondly, the unfolding drama in the ME makes the efforts in Afghanistan seem more
    and more absurd – even, and perhaps especially, among the war mongering factions of US
    politics.
    If I am right, NATO may be employed to a larger extent in some future conflict in the ME
    related to the Arab revolutions. The UN resolution and current multilateral operations in Libya
    may become a model for future responses. The Europeans may welcome this for two reasons:
    they have large interests in the Middle East; and it will legitimize and prolong the existence of
    NATO in a post cold war world. Not only US enemies may act in the power vacuum created by
    the decline of the sole superpower; this also creates opportunities for Old Europe allies of
    America.

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  58. DonS says:

    Paul, you’re quite right about the “US centric reading”. And also about Europe being more impacted, if only by proximity, with events in North Africa. Particularly with the end of the cold war, the end of vying for spheres of influence, Europe needs to reevaluate it’s relations in the region. US directed power has for so long dominated the picture, some of which has been to Europe’s benefit no doubt, that adjusting to the changing realities is baffling. It seems the US cannot think much further than some sound bite about fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here, and some self congratulatory flag waving about democracy. And of course America’s Israel fixation continues to skew the picture.

    Reply

  59. Paul Norheim says:

    “…the following statement by Steve Clemons in the post above this one.”
    Well, at the moment, there is no post above this one. I initially wrote this on the
    thread below, but decided to put it here, because it also referred to something said
    in this post. And then I forgot to edit it.

    Reply

  60. Paul Norheim says:

    DonB said in the thread below this one: “There are serious financial, political and social domestic forces in
    the U.S. which might make it difficult to respond to any scenario.”
    Which of course is true. And that’s one of the main reasons why it was not the US, but some European
    countries that originally responded to the crisis in Libya. If the work of the Brits and the French before and
    during the operations in Libya – pushing Obama, trying to achieve support from Arab nations and members
    of the Security Council, and later during the direct actions – tells us something, it is that their initiative may
    also in the future “facilitate” a US response. There is something deeply US-centric in the reading of these
    events among Americans, events and actions that so obviously have a multilateral dimension – the latest
    example being the following statement by Steve Clemons in the post above this one:
    “The gravity-defying diplomatic feat that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Ambassador to the UN
    Susan Rice pulled off in getting the Arab League to step forward on Libya followed by a UN Security Council
    Resolution with zero no votes and five abstentions is a real score for the US and its allies.”
    Now, I appreciate that Steve feels the need to flatter the Sec of State and the UN Ambassador while
    defending his position as a skeptic; but his statement ignores the significant diplomatic efforts being done
    by Cameron and Sarkozy in preparation for the resolution. It’s strange to read and compare say the NYT’s
    version of what happened behind the scenes with what British and French papers tell their readers. While US
    involvement is important, I doubt that this UN resolution would have been achieved and implemented
    without the initiatives of the French and the Brits. They have stakes in North Africa and the Middle East. And
    they may push hard for actions in other countries too in future scenarios similar to the Libyan
    confrontation.

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  61. DonS says:

    There are those, possibly even Juan Cole and Anne-Marie Slaughter, who primary focus is foreign policy, who take as a given the need to engage foreign policy issues on there own terms. I would say perhaps in a vacuum. That is, they compartmentalize foreign policy too much from the context of total US policy. Maybe they can’t help it. Maybe it’s in their DNA, their pay checks, or their academic myopia. We ought not forget, for example, that Juan was a cheerleader for the Iraq invasion, until he wasn’t. He has at times decried the need to recognize competing domestic priorities; but he seems to forget that when a juicy ME issue arises.
    Then their are others who don’t treat foreign policy as a separate fiefdom to be played in with other people’s money and domestic tradeoffs.
    And even some of us great unwashed who have only viewed this scenario of extended empire for way longer than we care to remember, and know, even if only in our gut, that it is wrong, debilitating, and stinks. While the great foreign policy experts prattle on about the need to change strategic direction, we can see with our own eyes that, whether in power or in the shadow government, their bread and butter calls for them to be deck hands in the foreign policy establishment, not serious iconoclasts seeking to engineer significant change. They can’t see what they can’t believe in; that the US needs to scale back the empire and live within it’s means (given that the banksters will always demand their take off the top).

    Reply

  62. questions says:

    I think one has to ask if anyone ever doubted that nukes are a great security blanket.
    I’m not sure if the bandwidth issue is as much of a problem as is something like chaos, or the interactions of multiple and incredibly complex systems the results of which are so complex that we simply cannot predict all the possible outcomes.
    There are analysts all over the place, for every problem there is. So basic bandwidth is less the problem than is basic inscrutability.
    What we might not have is anyone who can say what effect the intervention in Libya will have on protests elsewhere. The protesters will feel the love, but the gov’t may crack down more and more pre-emptively in order to forestall problems. Or the gov’ts might struggle to looses up the way China does — the Chinese model is a thing to look at — firm social control that brooks no protest, but slow liberalization of the economy.
    We might all be China one day. Look at what Scott Walker’s real fantasy is — stringent control on workers, most of the money up at the top, and just enough circulating below that people put up with their miserable lives.
    The goal of any autocrat is precisely this. Comfort for cronies, tolerable misery for the masses.
    The Libya “intervention” suggests that the US wants to show it has some slack military “umph”, that it watches out to prevent the slaughter of many thousands all at once, that it tolerates lower level violence, that it probably won’t cross the nuclear barrier, that NK is safe because it’s not going to have the street protests in the first place, that keeping repression off the front page is a good idea, that some economic loosening with concomitant political tightening is a workable strategy.
    And more than anything else, it suggests that the Cold War was the dumbest fucking human endeavor ever.
    Will we ever be done unwinding the greatest bubble of all time?
    We can’t even get the mortgage market straightened out. What are we going to do about the bizarre alliances we set up with thugs?
    And of course, I am merely guessing on all of these points. Who knows, really, what signals will reach the governments and protesters in all of the MENA countries.
    And if the protests spread, who knows how many of these will result in civil wars and nation break ups as opposed to moderately repressive and slowly loosening regimes.
    The analogies with Fukushima abound — release a bunch of neutrons and predict with statistical analysis just what the break down ratios will be. We won’t know for any one atom (country) what exactly will happen, but we can get a sense of the whole trajectory. System-wide comprehensibility, local chaos and indeterminacy.
    (Hope I didn’t push the analogy too far!)

    Reply

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