Sunday, March 20, 2011

Desert Rats

It appears that the Allies are fighting for Tobruk again.The interventionists - neocons and liberal "humanitarians" - have won the internal debate that has United States airpower now fighting the Gaddafi regime on the ground in Libya.

What first thing I want to emphasize is the degree that the U.S. really does not, and will not, have a dog in this fight.Libya is really strategically insignificant to the U.S. No matter who runs it, it controls no transportation choke point needed for U.S. trade or movement. Its petroleum, what there is of it, goes almost entirely to Europe. It has not presented a military threat to the United States since O'Bannion's day. It is a geopolitical nullity.

Yes, Gaddafi is a madman, but we have backed madmen and dictators before when they served our purposes. The "rebels" in eastern Libya are, many of them, strongmen who not long ago were doing the government's dirty work. There is no evidence that the rebel cabal, whatever and whoever they represent, are any long-term improvement on the Libyan government that is headed by Gaddafi.

Yes, there are harmless people at risk, but there are harmless people being beaten and killed in the Gulf States and the Ivory Coast without so much as a pilotless drone with USAF markings flying overhead.

And the second is that the real problem with sending American military power into Libya, just as there was in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Kosovo, Somali, Panama, and most of the other late 20th Century U.S. military expeditions) is the problem illustrated by a look back at our own First Civil War.

In 1781 the nascent U.S. field forces were led by Washington, a man who regardless of his other qualities was supremely aware of the realities of power.

He knew perfectly well that France was providing a massive infusion of land and sea power, and cash, without which the rebellion would have probably been driven to the brink of defeat. But he also knew that allowing the French to take over field operations was opening the door to a destructively powerful French influence over Continental politics. He never allowed Rochambeau, or de Grasse, to forget that he was the coalition commander. He insisted on equality (at least on land; he was smart enough not to pretend that the United States had any seapower at all) in tactical operations between the Continental and French troops.I have no idea what the hell the Libyan rebels are fielding on the ground. They appear to have been unable to produce any significant success against the ragged mess of thug-"soldiers" and mercenaries the Gaddafi regime has fielded up to this point. They do not appear to really have any sort of central command and control at all, instead consisting of a tattered congeries of warlord-militias fighting every which way. The air attacks do not seem to have been coordinated with whoever is "commanding" the rebel forces on the ground, instead concentrating on Gaddafi troops in bivouac and on SEAD. We will see whether this changes in the coming days. But given the recent trends of "coalition" warfare in which U.S. forces have taken a part I would be shocked as hell to see a Libyan commander in the role of Washington, directing the U.S. and European warplanes where and when to attack.

The outcome of the Franco-American alliance of 1781 was successful for the U.S. because the U.S. had a powerful influence on, and in parts and at times actually controlled, the military actions of their allies. The modern Libyans do not appear to have any such control, or even influence, and they do not seem likely to.When you invite someone to help you defend your home and determine what he does and how much force he employs, you are still the master of your house.

If a stranger breaks in your door and starts attacking your enemies you aren't the master of anything. You are at the mercy, literally, of that stranger. If he chooses to outstay his welcome, if he chooses to push you around, you are in no position to demand anything. You are not Washington, leading your country's defense; you are just another sad-sack Italian count whose condottiere have the power to unseat you any time they choose.

They hold the whip hand. You are their bitch, regardless of what you think, or how much you pretend otherwise.

Because you can make your throne on others' bayonets.

But in the long run you will probably not like the way your ass feels about it.

And as for the U.S., I see no point in our becoming the leather queen of the Gulf of Sidra. As with most of these sorts of unequal relationships, the pleasure is transient, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.

The commander of the coalition of 1781 had the word for us; nations that expend treasure for things not in their interests risk gaining nothing but trouble for their expense. Why we seem to persist in believing otherwise I have no idea. But it seems to me to say something very scathing about the state of political discourse and geopolitical thinking in my country.

Update 3/23: The single biggest question I have about this adventure is the degree to which it is the result of actual strategic and geopolitical thought, rather than just a sort of huggy-wuffy desire to stop Gaddafi making Libyan babies sad.

Let me first emphasize that I like babies, and I don't like it when they're sad. But the point behind military force isn't keeping people from making a specific baby or ten sad; it's to cut them off at the neck so they can't make babies sad over the long term.

The final Sri Lankan offensive that crushed the LTTE killed lots of babies. And women, kids, innocent civilians, monkeys, roebucks, and everything else. Sherman's actions in Georgia killed, directly or indirectly, hundreds or thousands of innocents. But those operations successfully concluded civil wars so that in the long run less babies were sad.

The first rule in any war is, or should be, what my old medical sergeants drummed into me with fist and boot at Ft. Sam back in the day; primum non nocere. First, Do No Harm. The bloodletting should end up with a political situation that is MORE stable, less conducive to continued bloodletting, than before the first grenadier stepped off.

Here's one analysis that concludes that this operation, to include what seems like comedic levels of political hot-potato-tossing about who gets to run this thing, are really part of a Cunning Plan, and that the eventualities such as a Gaddafi-supporter insurgency are being thought out. If so, this is likely to produce a Gaddafi-free Libya where the babies can grow up happy and free. Or at least that's the theory.

Mmmm...I'm not so sure. The Libyan rebels seem to be a shambolic mess. The reasons that Kosovo and the Kurdish NFZ worked out as well as they did was because both the KLA and the Kurdish peshmerga were tough, capable bastards well versed in cutting a throat. We don't seem to have anyone like that on the ground in Libya, and I think that will become increasingly problematic in the future. I think that a hell of a lot of this "planning" has been premised not on what is likely to happen but what we hope will happen if every bomb falls on target AND the locals suddenly develop into the 2nd SS Panzer. And my reservation is that I feel very sure that neither of those will happen.

But...alia jacta est. At this point all I can hope for is that hope IS a strategy, that things work out well, and that the babies are happy in the end.

106 comments:

  1. FDChief-

    So, you're arguing that we should have sat back and allowed MQ to sack Benghazi and continue on and do the same thing to Tobruk? Left the French hanging, since they had been pushing for this for weeks. Vetoed the UNSC resolution last Thursday?

    All in the name of what? "Realism"? "Geopolitical thinking"?

    This intervention is the opposite of Iraq, which I never supported. This one I do support. There is no need for any occupation and we can most likely do it mostly with air power and let the French, Italians or preferably allied Arabs send in a limited number of ground troops to mop up whatever the locals can't. Once MQ's gone, we drop it in the Libyans' lap and it's "see ya'll around" . . .

    What is required is speed and right now MQ's on the run. Within a week he might be gone and we'll already be in the stand down phase . . . at which point your view may be quite different.

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  2. Oil is fungible. The price of oil has already gone way up. If another oil exporting country goes the way of Libya, or Tunisia, kiss the recovery (and Obama's re-election) goodbye.

    You need to get Libya back in business. There is no way that Ghadaffi could have gotten his country back exporting quickly (for all sorts of reasons).

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  3. seydlitz: Like I said, first, we don't have a dog in this fight; we have no legitimate national interests whatsoever. OK, so Gaddafi is a Bad Guy. So what? So was Marcos. So was Pinochet. So was Saddam. We used them all when we needed them. So what's the point of doing this and not doing Cote' de Ivoire or Bahrain?

    Second, we had nations that were militarily capable of launching an air war, and a reason to do so. The EU gets most of Libya's everything. Why not let them flew their military muscle? What's the benefit to the U.S. of jumping in to this? If the Europeans couldn't make this little pissant air war work, maybe they'll wake up and figure out that they've been letting the U.S. carry their load and suffering for it?

    Third, I'd have no problem (other than the first two issues) if we had been officially asked in by whatever the fuck passes for a "government" on the rebel side, fine. I'm all for great powers finding regional proxies to work with. But so far as I can tell, we haven't been. This is as if Rochambeau and de Grasse turned up off the Virginia Capes and pitched into the Brits without so much as a wink or a nod to the Continental Congress. First, it would have instantly made Washington and his troops a sockpuppet of French imperial warfare, and put the French in the position of expending blood and treasure and having little or no say in the result.

    This doesn't really do anything positive for the U.S. (it doesn't do much negative, either, tho, other than spend money we don't really have) and while it "saves" the rebels it doesn't help them in the long run. It's just 1) strategically pointless, and 2) keeps pounding on the nail that the U.S. needs to jump into every friggin' regional bunfight because...just because.

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  4. Ael: Whoever runs Libya will be in the oil exporting business. And there's no guarantee that ANYone will get the country back in that business quickly; it's likely that without serious Western control on the ground some sort of combination of ratissage and guerrilla war will keep production tenuous for some time.

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  5. So in answer to your questions, Seydlitz, yes. I would have let Muhammar the Madman run riot in Libya. The U.S. did not encourage his subjects to rebel. We do not have a brief with the rebel forces. This is a Libyan internal matter. And as we have learned to our cost, breaking into internal wars usually gets the Good Samaritan a punch in the snoot.

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  6. If I read correctly, we launched 114 Tomahawk missiles the other day. Each one, with kit upgrades etc I believe came in 3mil a pop. How many bridges could have been rebuilt for that if the money was given back to the States to concentrate on infrastructure? Can someone explain to me WHY this is a good expenditure of our resources? Also, did I miss where Obama went to Congress to get authorization for Operation Odyssey Dawn?

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  7. The missiles were already purchased and perhaps nearing their "shelflife", so they were put to good use. The $$$ had been already spent. Just wondering BRL, did you support the invasion of Iraq?

    The Great Arab uprising of 2011 was in danger of going reactionary and by intervening in Libya we forestall that, actually send a very mixed message to the Saudis, Nayahoo and everyone else . . . (essentially "we're not your bitch") . . . which is well worth it.

    We are supporting our oldest ally, France. Viva la France! btw.

    Also, contrary to Iraq, it was the right thing to do, as in defending the defenseless. It's a classic use of military power as an instrument of policy, and that policy is limited, clear, and has wide-spread support, unlike Bush's fandango in Iraq.

    If we had done the same in the former Yugoslavia in 1991 . . .

    "MQ for the ICC!", along with our contribution in the name of justice: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld . . . call it "the grand slam"!

    One intervention and the whole country's back on track. Will it happen like this? Unlikely, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

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  8. I think the assumption here among the anti-interventionists is the MQ enjoys popular support at least in the west of the country . . . consider the actual history of the revolt against his rule. He was only holding on to the capital not too long ago, and seemed to be on the edge of collapse, only to rally his forces and buy enough support to carry his counter-revolt to the city of Benghazi itself, only to be driven back very quickly. Consider the North African campaign of 1940-43, what allowed both the Axis and Allies to survive was their ability to come back and regroup their forces after being driven to the edge of defeat, at least until Spring 1943.

    Will MQ be able to do this again, or is he on the ropes? The essence here is speed . . . and not allowing MQ time to regroup, effective use of propaganda against MQ supporters could allow them to desert in mass . . . this could fold up rather quickly . . .

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  9. Just wondering BRL, did you support the invasion of Iraq?

    At the time, yes. I have long since re-evaluated my belief in that regard because I DID vote for the Bush in 2000 who preached a humble foreign policy. Ya know, the Bush everyone forgot who could actually speak properly and wasn't the caricature of a stoned frat boy given the keys to the nuclear arsenal.

    Also, contrary to Iraq, it was the right thing to do, as in defending the defenseless. It's a classic use of military power as an instrument of policy, and that policy is limited, clear, and has wide-spread support, unlike Bush's fandango in Iraq.

    The same idiotic reasoning was given for liberating Iraq. Saddam was evil, butchering his people etc (remember, those Kurds he gassed back in the 90s?) and we needed to go in and save the defenseless. Please explain to me how a cruise missile is a weapon to defend the defenseless? Its got a g@ddamn 450kg explosive warhead. Do you think high velocity shrapnel cares about whether it shreds a tank or some poor-assed goat herder?

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  10. BRL-

    Have you seen MQ's "palaces", more like great prisons, and yes such ordinance would be so employed . . . so you're a pacifist now. You shallowed the Bush plan so what have you to tell me . . . not much. I think you as wrong now as you were then.

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  11. Who are you and what have you done with Seydlitz?

    I admit, I really don't get why you and Lang are so supportive of this adventure. I never thought in a million years I'd say this, but you guys sound like Paul Wolfowitz. Does it give you any pause at all to know that the neocon movement is solidly on your side in this?

    Here's where I see major problems:

    1. What happens when MQ is gone? The fact is that once we (meaning this coalition) break Libya, no one knows what's going to happen. You and Lang suggest that we (meaning the US) can simply drop this in the Libyan's lap and walk away. Where have I heard that before? Much easier said than done. On what basis do you really think that we will, in actuality, simply walk away when MQ is gone?

    2. "Defending the defenseless?" No, let's dispense with the euphemisms and the UNSC resolution bullshit and call this what it is - regime change. The goal isn't merely defending people to prevent MQ from killing the rebels and purging Benghazi, it's also - and primarily - to take MQ and his cronies out. Despite what the UNSC resolution actually says, regime change is what is openly stated.

    We're supporting one group of people (a nebulous group, as Chief notes) against another. If the rebels win and the retributions and purges begin, as will certainly happen, will we still "defend the defenseless" then? Oh wait, that's when we drop the hot potato and it's no longer our concern....

    3. There's no surety that our current plan will actually succeed given the operational limits imposed by the politics. You might be right - MQ may be as weak as you state and may be gone in after a week of air strikes. Then again, maybe not. Maybe once MQ's supporters see how kick-ass our air power is, they'll turn tail or instigate a coup. Again, I've heard that kind of wishful thinking before: The NATO big-wigs thought the air war against Serbia would only last a few days - it lasted 3 1/2 months and KFOR is still deployed today. The planning for OIF assumed most troops would be gone within six months - our plan there was to depose Saddam and drop it all in the Iraqi's laps. Pres. Clinton thought US troops would only be in Bosnia for a year (instead it was nine) and that whole peacekeeping mission looks like it's never going end despite the early promises. Experience has taught me to be very skeptical of confident pronouncements about the future when it comes to "limited" war. IMO you and Lang should know better than to make similar rosy assumptions.

    What is the plan if MQ is still around a couple of months from now, or a year? The President specifically said there will be no ground troops. Lang seems to think there will be some covert SF guys on the ground to coordinate and deconflict airstrikes. As a guy who's spent a lot of time doing actual air operations, I know that you really need that air-ground integration for air power to be most effective. If the rebels are going to actually make progress toward the capital there will have to be people embeded who can direct coalition air forces. Is that going to happen or isn't it? I don't know, but I'm not going to sit back and assume it is, particularly given the President's clear declarations. Also, ADM Mullen's comments today don't give me much confidence.


    4. France is a big boy. They were smart enough not to follow us into our big strategic mistake, we should not feel obligated to follow them into theirs. They should be happy we're not making secret side deals with MQ for favorable oil deals in exchange for a UNSC vote.


    I'm sorry if I come across as harsh with this critique, but I have little patience for what I see as overconfident claims and wishful thinking about this war we are now suddenly in.

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  12. Andy-

    I'm fine, really.

    Hey, it's a hell of a chance, war as the mother of change and all that . . . Of course the first action after launch would have to be to knee-cap (or better) the neo-cons, not that that would be easy. I think what we are seeing is perhaps something of a coup, a chance to regain some control over the military instrument, and this war is the one we've got. Not a bad one really, and I think MQ on the brink, unless we blow it.

    It all rests on speed. And we'll all know if my/our idea worked and MQ is history within a week.

    As to 1: That's up to the Libyans without us.

    As to 2: There's a whole lot of good reasons why we don't want this particular bunch to win this and expand their influence.

    It's potentially from a strategic theory perspective a quick win which counts as a political victory for the West, something Europe and the US could use right now. It also keeps the Great Arab revolt from going south for a little while longer, whatever that may mean in the long scope of things.

    This would provide America with a possible new direction in terms of foreign policy.

    As to 3: MQ ain't the Serbs.

    - more to follow -

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  13. Upon further reflection, guys, I think my single biggest objection to this is - beyond the piss-poor geopolitical thinking or lack of same that jumps the U.S. into this pointless fight (if you think we're going to bomb Gaddafi into submission and then "drop it in the Libyans lap", well, you have more confidence in the Washington Rules than I do, seydlitz) - the way this was done.

    We make a big deal about how the U.S. is supposed to be this "government of laws" and not a "government of men". Well, a government of laws has laws on the books about how it is supposed to get involved in the wars of other people. Those laws are based on treaties, formal agreements between polities detailing what each one will and won't do. The things are supposed to be hammered out between the two sides and then ratified by the Senate.

    So let's assume that you're right, seydlitz; let's say this really IS just about "defending the defenseless" (and I hear howling from Bahrain and the Ivory Coast as I say this, but nevermind...).

    We've had three days now; why hasn't our State Department produced a Treaty of Alliance with whatthefuckever the Libyan rebellion is calling itself for debate and ratification? Are you kidding yourself thinking that there ever WILL be such a treaty? And if not, how the hell can we be sure WHAT this adventure entails?

    Outside the pure geostrategic onanism involved here, we're looking an ANOTHER fucking cabinet war, another in the long line of geopolitical fiddlefuckery entered into without any resort to this supposed "government of laws" we're supposedly so fond of. The more I think about it, the more that's what REALLY pains me in the giggy.

    Here was a perfect opportunity for putting on one of our political Little Theatre productions we're enjoined by our Constitution to put on before launching ourselves into the fray. The Administration could have called a special session of Congress Friday to lay out the case for war. Those of us who thought the case was stone cold bullshit could have made the arguments I made above. And then we could have voted on it.

    Honestly, why not? It's not like the outcome of this mattered to the U.S.; we could have taken a day or so whilst the French and British got to play tag-the-tank over Benghazi. The exercise of actual democracy would have been worth the Libyans it cost, especially since 'm not a Libyan and don't really give a rat's ass how many kill each other over their form of government.

    But, no. Instead we are off and playing whack-a-muslim in yet another nation whilst urinating on Article II, Section 2 and Article I, Section 8 of what we continue to pretend is the supreme law of the land.

    Pathetic.

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  14. "Of course the first action after launch would have to be to knee-cap (or better) the neo-cons, not that that would be easy."

    And instead, by this Splendid Little War we have just rehabilitated the bastards by doing just what they insisted was the Right Thing.

    Brilliant. Makes you wonder who that Machiavelli loser was and why anyone remembers him.

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  15. And - one last observation - to go back to the original comparison I used in the post itself, let's recall that the intervention in the American Revolution ended up turning out about as badly as it could have for France. The expense helped bring down the Bourbon monarchy and within a decade American and French vessels were fighting the Quasi-War.

    So even assuming that we'renot stupid enough to get tied down to whoever the hell we're NOT bombing in Libya, why should we think that they will turn out to be any better friends to the U.S. than Washington & Co. turned out to be for the Bourbons?

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  16. I don't know what internal US law says about the intervention. Lately, I know a number of Presidents have embarked on military adventures without declaring war.

    However, given the UNSC resolution, International law now permits this action.

    Also, I believe that this is the fastest way to get Libya producing again. If MG hangs on there is likely to be a low level insurgency going on, given that 4 of the 5 main tribes of Libya opposed MG. He won't forget or forgive, so the leadership of those tribes will have to go into hiding.

    Given the sanctions, it is hard to see foreign workings coming in any time soon (especially if there are a few "purges" of the rebel civilian population. So, if MG wins, he will sit on a bunch of broken machinery waiting for the West to drop the sanctions. This will take a while.

    On the other hand, if the rebels can put together a stable-ish government, they will be desperate for money and the foreign workers will be back in a flash.

    I don't see MG and kin being able to organize any kind of "insurgency". I don't think their support goes that deep.

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  17. I Think a lot of you are surmising too much of a USA, USA domination of this.

    The French are using Rafales for Air Cap and Mirage 2000-5's for ground attack (tanks, etc.).
    Brits, also bombing. Canadians, Danes probably will contribute aircraft. Arab countries will contribute Arms/Supplies.

    Sarkozy said that NATO participation (In Nato's Name), is bad juju, (western countries vis-a-vis Arabs-wise). If you want to participate, come on down.

    Ground Fac's/comms/coordination folks from West is a given...already there....USA?????

    Gates, who reportedly was against us participation said that it was a capital idea for the French/Brits, to Honcho this. USA so far admitting only to Tommahawk strikes. Hillary is Hawkish, Gates is Peacenicky.

    Obama takes middle road for perceived political
    viability. Take it to Congresscritterdom?????
    Puh-Leeeeze. Not so magical negro cannot get the votes...Repug/anti-war dem coalition will stop passage.

    I hope there is exciting footage (Lam Son 719 like). Young people and dispossessed middle age and oldster Arabs are all for revolutionary upheavals....Government subsidized assholes, not so much. One side must die. Musical chairs is at hand....10 participants, 5 chairs. Neither USA, Israel, other players can predict future, or alter it except at the edges....US advisers are Know Nothing Cretinous sycophants. Strap in Motherfuckers, may all y'all have an exciting ride and eventful future!

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  18. Ael: It doesn't have to be deep. Look at MEND in Nigeria. You don't have to be Francis Freaking Marion to disrupt petroleum production. The stuff burns like...petroleum.

    Whoever wins will have to produce petroleum; it's Libya's only cash export. We don't buy enough of the stuff to care, really. We will probably lose less money waiting for the eventual victor to reopen the tap than we will spend in JP-4 for the A/C we use to bomb these mooks.

    I will qualify my objections if the specifics of this article (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/20/us-libya-usa-idUSTRE72A6EC20110320?pageNumber=1) are correct. If the U.S. in fact intends to limit its military operations to SEAD and then transition "...to support operations including intelligence, signal jamming, aerial refueling and humanitarian efforts." and "...Britain or France could take charge of the air operation, or NATO could lead..." then I'll buy this as a purely ancillary series of operations designed merely to provide assistance that the primary operational elements lack.

    It will be interesting to see if the DoD is really willing to move at the direction of a NATO commander; it has been unwilling to do so in the past.

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  19. But my primary objections still come back to:

    1. This is a Libyan civil war. Why did, or should, we care enough to risk a single PFC's paper cut opening a set of mission orders? And don't tell me "defending the defenseless" unless you can explain why...

    2. ...these guys and not the Ouattara side in Ivory Coast (http://thenationonlineng.net/web3/editorial/opinion/31283.html)?

    3. And, assuming the Reuters piece is wrong and we ARE all-in, why not just bring this forward as a treaty with the Libyan rebels and do this the right way? It satisfies the law, AND it gives us some degree of input on the post-Gaddafi Libya, assuming we want that enough to expend blood and treasure on it.

    So this makes no sense one way, and it makes no sense the other, UNLESS the Obamites are planning to limit the U.S. involvement to the supporting role the Reuters article suggests.

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  20. "Also, contrary to Iraq, it was the right thing to do, as in defending the defenseless."

    Gimme a break. Like we give a shit about the defenseless.

    "But, no. Instead we are off and playing whack-a-muslim in yet another nation whilst urinating on Article II, Section 2 and Article I, Section 8 of what we continue to pretend is the supreme law of the land."

    I kinda like me that Constitution. I kinda like the idea of having the peoples' representatives actually having a voice in this war business.

    Put the lipstick on the pig all you want, Seydlitz, but, yes, we've done it again. Here we are in another war, courtesy of executive branch hand wringing or whatever, and without any input from the American people or their elected representatives.

    Seydlitz, I guess you and Mr. Obama have that same copy of the Constitution that Mr. Bush had. The same one that Messrs Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon had. Interestingly, the copy I have is mute about "defending the defenseless," but it does mention how the Congress is the branch that declares war.

    I guess this isn't war. It's uh, whatever. Gotta love this 21st century thinking.

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  21. Josh Marshall asks some good questions: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2011/03/at_the_end_of_last.php

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  22. "The Great Arab uprising of 2011 was in danger of going reactionary and by intervening in Libya we forestall that, actually send a very mixed message to the Saudis, Nayahoo and everyone else . . . (essentially "we're not your bitch") . . . which is well worth it."

    I was thinking so much about the other issues I missed this until now. So:

    1. So this is about forestalling a threat to the Great Arab Uprising of 2011, yes? In that case

    2. The greenlight we obviously gave to the Saudis and the other Gulf emirates to crush the Bahrainis was...ummm...not? And

    3. When did we get so sure that the Great Arab Uprising is such an unmitigated Good Thing? I'll admit that I loves me some democracy, but at the same time my country has depended on Middle Eastern strongmen to STOP Arab democracy which would inevitably mean (since most Arabs take a dim view of our meddling as well as our BFF, Israel) a harder task for our Middle Eastern policies.

    More democracy in places like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya means that more people whose dislike of Israeli settlements and U.S. drone strikes more than they like getting U.S. Chamber of Commerce junkets get to make the decisions for their countries. While this is good for them, I don't see how this is "good" for the U.S. in the short term, or even in the medium term if we want to continue to pursue the same foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.

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  23. The Chief, Publius, and BRL all bring up good points. I want to add one more.

    Let's look at this from a diplomacy perspective for a second. Obama basically oversteps and says Ghadaffi MUST go.

    Gates makes a pretty good public case for why we don't want to get involved in this fight. Obama publicly backs up and says we don't want to get involved. The US doesn't support the UN resolution very much and let the French and British do all the heavy lifting. The US military makes a big deal about how we can't really afford to do this. Individuals in Congress call for action but can't get it on the agenda.

    Then we lead the first attack (hell, we WERE the first attack) with the President announcing proudly (after the action had already started) that the US was once again on the march in the name of freedom.

    How does this look to our autocratic Saudi buddies? Do we have an OUNCE of credibility with them after this? Isn't it logical based on our actions in Libya to expect a joint Iranian-US attack to free the oppressed Shiite population of Bahrain? Or how about an attack on Yemen?

    One of the more ridiculous reasons the neo-cons have given for this goofy little attack is that we can't make the President look stupid by not backing him when he oversteps. Which makes one HELL of a lot less sense than say, simply admitting that the President occasionally suffers verbal malfunctions. Or are we now saying that the President never makes a mistake and is the voice of God?

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  24. Final note, Obama is so OWNED by the Washington establishment that he's totally losing the liberals and the middle.

    If he runs again in 2012 (and he's giving every indication that he will), he will have set himself up for one of the most crushing defeats in US history and, like Bush Sr, he'll be a smart guy who held the office without a clue as to why he lost.

    The Republicans will be able to win with whomever they put on the ticket. I just hope it isn't Bachman, she'd be considerably worse than the disease...

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  25. The Republicans will be able to win with whomever they put on the ticket. I just hope it isn't Bachman, she'd be considerably worse than the disease...

    I'd personally like to see Dennis Kucinich eat Obama for lunch at the nomination phase of The Democratic Convention. At least then there would be 1 Non-Interventionist at the table to vote for (assuming Dr. Ron Paul doesn't manage to choke the fucking life out of the NeoCon/Religious Right fucktards holding the Republican Party hostage).

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  26. Well, that stirred things up a bit. Nobody "likes" this war here, but me, and that's OK. Allow me re-state the case for intervention addressing as many points as you've made as possible:

    First off, this is not really our baby, as fasteddiez points out, but a Euro-led and coordinated operation in which we can supply very necessary aid. The "Right" has been saying for years that it is time they "pulled their weight" and when they do nobody wants to know about it? Does Obama need Congressional votes to support this operation, to aid France and the other allies in overthrowing MQ? There are enough precedents to argue no, but why is it when a Rep Prez does stuff like this, everyone except a couple people sing "God Bless America" and when a Demo Prez does it, it's an "Unconstitutional infringement of power"? Btw, how many "unconstitutional infringements of power" have we experienced in the last ten years (wars, FISA, Military analyst/propagandists, lost $$billions, torture, permanent detention, general lack of accountability . . .). Which tells me it all comes down to politics, and our politics sucks, so maybe we ought to do something to change it, but more on that later.

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  27. Second off, the UNSC resolution passed last week was a culmination of a long process that started in the late 1990s after Rwanda and other disasters where it had been subsequently realized that international intervention should have taken place. The Euros were the prime movers behind this once again and had this fallen through after the Thursday passage the mechanism would have been discredited before it had even been given a chance to work. There is a long story/process behind what happened in the UN and allowing MQ to trash it would have called this whole process, the whole rationale behind Chapter 7 of the UN Charter into question. Do we support the UN, or not? Does it matter that over 10 years of negotiation has gone into what we have before us now?

    Third off, and I know nobody here's going to buy this one, but it does work for me. I'm referring to what Colonel Lang calls "moral literacy", it's simply doing the right thing. And I know what you're going to say, but saving Benghazi and the rest of eastern Libya from MQ mob was the right thing to do. I've felt the fate of these people coming over the last week as I followed the news reports of MQ's advance. Then the news of France's determination to intervene. I admit that I had a "Yugoslav" moment and see intervention as moral and standing by as the opposite. Is this a rational argument? Not really, but as with our Vietnam veteran friends, I have my own experience in government service which has left a mark on me as well (Yugoslavia) and no, I will not be silent on this connection, so I apologize in advance for any harsh words in this context, sometimes passion gets the better of me.

    But then passion is something we all share . . .

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  28. I'd personally like to see Dennis Kucinich eat Obama for lunch at the nomination phase of The Democratic Convention.

    Yes, me too. I hate saying this, but if Obama is the nominee, there's no pull for me to vote. Of course, that doesn't mean a thing at all where I am.

    seydlitz, as far as the current crop of wars go, this one makes sense the most, but that isn't saying a lot. IIRC, many of the foreign fighters who came into Iraq as a consequence of our invasion came from east Libya. So we're changing bedmates faster than the poor guy desperately trying to calm his dangerous 8-hour Viagra problem with as many sessions as possible.

    Another bit of trouble caused by supporting a nasty sort in the interest of keeping the oil flowing.

    http://tinyurl.com/4ubtrsb

    Seems like only yesterday when Condi was playing footsie with Moammar in Tripoli, while Faux News covered her visit triumphantly.

    -quote-

    “The relationship has been moving in a good direction for a number of years now and I think tonight does mark a new phase,” Rice said following a traditional Muslim dinner — the evening meal that breaks the day’s fast observed during the holy month of Ramadan — at Qaddafi’s official Bab el-Azizia residence. [...]

    Qaddafi welcomed Rice in a room redolent of incense. Wearing flowing white robes, his trademark fez and a green pin of Africa, Qaddafi bowed slightly and put his right hand over his heart in a traditional Arab greeting. The two did not shake hands, but Qaddafi did shake the hands of Rice’s male aides.

    They then exchanged pleasantries, with Rice offering Qaddafi greetings from President Bush and Qaddafi asking about the hurricanes that have hit or are headed to the U.S. mainland, before dozens of reporters, photographers and television cameramen were ushered out.

    “We’re off to a good start,” Rice said later.


    (pt)

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  29. (pt 2)

    So I think your assessment is correct, the West will get someone to run the joint and there'll be peace.

    Obama's getting to the point where he can't even make his speech fit the context, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Af/Paki.

    It is true the Europeans got their first ( notwithstanding the comic interlude involving British commandoes getting arrested in the middle of a field at night ).

    But . . .

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/spin-coalition.html

    Apparently, the Libyan coalition of the willing isn't really a military coalition so much as a public relations coalition. Obama is seemingly only semi-involved, making rousing speeches from Rio and affecting a secondary role while Sarkozy and Cameron take the lead, the US is firmly in charge. That's an improvement from the defiant go-it-alone posture of the Bush years, but I doubt that anyone will be fooled for long unfortunately. Here's Jim Miklasewski of NBC:

    ( VIDEO from "Today Show" )

    This isn't really surprising. The US spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined for a reason. They want to run all military operations.

    Justin Elliot of Salon writes that Admiral Mullen suggested that the US was going to hand off responsibility as soon as possible. As he says: "It will be interesting to see if that happens."


    So, no, I don't think Libya will turn into another Iraq, we'll have a stronger presence there than before, might even be loved for it.

    For a while.

    Hell, the world's a crazier place than it ever was, US politics are too corrupt for asking Congress to do anything decent.

    I've given up on trying to make sense of it all, seemingly on my way to the basic "kill 'em all and let God sort it out" philosophy.

    I've got more pressing issues, mainly my fairly plump ass, to take care of.

    And the occasional outrage of choice.

    bb

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  30. Wow, I am jumping into this late, so if I am hitting a point that someone else hit, I apologize. But here is another perspective.

    I agree, Libya is of little interest to the US, in general. You might be able to argue that, if you follow neocon plans to "spread freedom in the Middle East", that we don't want this 2011 ME uprising to stall. But let me offer you another interest.

    Northern Africa and fears of it becoming the next terrorist safe haven.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda_Organization_in_the_Islamic_Maghreb

    Yes, yes, I said it. I personally believe it is crap. But, there are many who are concerned that the Maghreb is the next frontier. Frankly, the French have a pretty good handle on this area. But, perhaps, the US wants more influence on AQIM in this region. And perhaps, just perhaps, we are scratching the Frenchie's backs in hopes of getting more support for intel and ops in Northern and sub saharan Africa. Just perhaps.

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  31. Fourth off, FDChief says this makes no "geo-political sense". I disagree and point out that our continued military presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq makes no "geo-political sense", in that we are applying the military instrument to what are already and have been for some time strategic failures. What keeps us in both places is the political inability to call it quits and use our withdrawal to actually influence events in both places, but we can't even use the military instrument to do that. What in effect has happened is that the US military as an instrument of foreign/national strategy/policy has fallen into the hands of unaccountable domestic political forces that gain from the continuation of the wars, not from the instrument of military action in the pursuit of policy. In other words we stay in Iraq because leaving would make our strategic defeat obvious (Iranian influence dominating the new Iraq). We stay in Afghanistan because we went into Afghanistan and in the meantime powerful political interests see it in their interest that we stay. So any NATO soldier who dies in Afghanistan, any Afghan who is killed, only postpones the inevitable return of the Taliban. They are national Afghan players and will return when we leave, of that there is no doubt.

    So the current military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are strategically incoherent and self-defeating and yet supported by Congress and the president due to the lack of political will . . .

    What this operation offers is the return of the instrument of military power to the actual government bodies which are supposed to make use of that instrument in the pursuit of national gains (in this case supporting a UNSC resolution and the actions of our allies).

    This sounds all very abstract, but it is in fact very important. A successful military operation in pursuit of clear and widely shared policy goals would be a good thing for the US and allow this administration a little OJT in the use of military power. Up until now they've been only able to attempt to clean up the disaster left behind by Bush, which has not been much of a learning experience.

    Why did Obama go in? I don't think he wanted to, he was more than willing to let things slide, kick the can down the road yet again, but the rumor is that Hillary was on the edge of resigning and the French were putting pressure on him as well. I actually see the US as a "weak link" in the coalition, with Obama likely to put pressure on the Euros due to domestic US political pressure . . . hopefully he'll show some backbone and not cave.

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  32. bb-

    DK is the radical right's dream candidate for the Demos, which is why they want him. Ya go with what ya got and we have Obama for the next two years, so maybe he'll learn something from all this . . .

    And let's not make the same mistake the radical right always does and see this from only a domestic political perspective. It's about foreign relations and regaining the military instrument as an element of state policy formulation.

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  33. Fifth off, the Great Arab Revolt of 2011:

    FDChief sagely comments:

    -- More democracy in places like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya means that more people whose dislike of Israeli settlements and U.S. drone strikes more than they like getting U.S. Chamber of Commerce junkets get to make the decisions for their countries. While this is good for them, I don't see how this is "good" for the U.S. in the short term, or even in the medium term if we want to continue to pursue the same foreign policy agenda in the Middle East. --

    Prior to this we were drifting towards open acceptance of the reaction, of supporting the Saudi/Israeli view of "that's enough, now get back in the box". We didn't really have much of a stance at all, more just flowing with the events steadied by our own inertia of all the bad moves we've made over the last, what, 40 years?

    Support for this operation flies in the face of that, actually sends the Arab autocrats a very different message, such as maybe we actually believe in democracy after all. I'm not talking about the Neo-con/Bush scam of us going in and taking over, but rather actual support of popular movements and cultivating/promoting these efforts with a very light hand. Yes, something we haven't been very good at or have even attempted . . . it could be the start of a very new US foreign policy approach to the ME, and yes Obama did look originally like he might have gone in this direction (his Cairo speech in 2009), but then didn't.

    A successful operation in regards to MQ opens the door for not only a new US policy in the ME, but maybe even a motivation for political reform at home. Successful military operations provide that type of political capital . . .

    bg mentions reasons why we are supporting the French. Perhaps the best reason is that French involvement here might be a stabilizing influence - they called the Iraqi disaster didn't they? French success provides the US with cover for policy reform . . . the other considerations are extras.

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  34. Andy makes a good point as to military operations . . .

    -- "As a guy who's spent a lot of time doing actual air operations, I know that you really need that air-ground integration for air power to be most effective. If the rebels are going to actually make progress toward the capital there will have to be people embeded who can direct coalition air forces. Is that going to happen or isn't it? I don't know, but I'm not going to sit back and assume it is, particularly given the President's clear declarations. --

    I agree and have no experience doing actual air operations, but would only point out my first point above. The Euros are in the driver's seat here and since their aircraft are flying seemingly most if not all of the "CAS" missions I would assume that they do have people on the ground. Are the French/British competent to conduct these types of operations without US involvement? I think yes, so we don't actually have to have US forces on the ground.

    Which brings up the essential point - this has to happen fast or not at all. MQ can't be allowed to regain his balance, he needs to be rolled up and set aside within a relatively short period of time. I think the French - I worked with them for years in Berlin and they are very competent at what they do - able to pull this off. They have a plan and know how to achieve strategic effect. We could learn a lot from this provided it succeeds and we are open to the possibilities it offers . . .

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  35. Greenwald raises similar issues: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/03/19/libya/index.html

    "...the intervention in Libya was presidentially decreed with virtually no public debate or discussion; it's just amazing how little public opinion or the consent of the citizenry matters when it comes to involving the country in a new war. That objection can and should be obviated if Obama seeks Congressional approval before deploying the U.S. military. On some level, it would be just a formality -- it's hard to imagine the Congress ever impeding a war the President wants to fight -- but at least some pretense of democratic and Constitutional adherence should be maintained."

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  36. "Support for this operation flies in the face of that, actually sends the Arab autocrats a very different message, such as maybe we actually believe in democracy after all."

    Nonsense, seydlitz. We have just sat on our hands whilst the Saudi and Yemeni autocratcies crushed "Arab Revolts" in Yemen and Bahrain. This sends the message, if it is even coherent enough to send any message at all, that we believe in democracy when it suits our purposes. I think that Iraq and A-stan have made that point perfectly well, thanks.

    And I'm not sure I get your point re: the two Bush invasions versus how "...this operation offers is the return of the instrument of military power to the actual government bodies which are supposed to make use of that instrument in the pursuit of national gains (in this case supporting a UNSC resolution and the actions of our allies)."

    I seem to recall pantsloads of UN resolutions regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, which we wereperfectly happy to use as justification for our selfish reasons when they advanced our selfish reasons. I seem to also remember pantsloads of UN resolutions regarding Israeli settlements that we cheerfully ignored when they didn't.

    And since when did the UN become the U.S. Congress? I mean, it's nice to help out our buddies and all, but the real bottom line here is that the Euros have skin in this game (except the Germans, who very publicly told the Brits and Frogs to fuck off) and we don't. There's nothing wrong with telling our allies that they need to deal with their own problems. Especially when by our sheer military throw-weight we immediately become the point guy in any armed conflict. As bg points out, it will be interesting to see if we really DO let the Euros, or the French, take overall military command of this.

    But - and I hate to keep beating this drum, but for me it is the single important issue here;

    Why didn't Obama even pretend to consult with the People in Congress about this? Here at MilPub we've pissed and moaned for years (and at the old Intel Dump long before that) about the way the U.S. has gotten into the cursed habit of jumping into the damn cabinet wars. Well, here was the supposed commie Kenyan liberal with a chance to turn the clock back to a time (mostly fictitious) when the People really were sovereign. And he acted as arrogantly as any Bush or Polk.

    And, second, if this is SO about the poor suffering rebels of Libya, why is there no Libyan delegation in Washington signing the Annapolis Treaty of Alliance? One thing that makes these damn Middle East adventures so pernicious is that the actual Middle Easterners never seem to have skin in the game. The Saudis never actually manned up and signed a mutual assistance treaty with us in 1991, instead relying on Executive Agreements that they then tried to shuffle off when their subjects got antsy about them. The Arab League, for all that they wanted this, has made whining statements about how they wanted someone to bomb Gaddafi but not, you know, with actual BOMBS that kill people an' stuff.

    What I want to see is the U.S. being smart enough to force these fuckers to grab the nettle. They want U.S. help? Fine. Put it in writing, Omar. Sign the fucking treaty that says you want Yankee bombs on your domestic enemies' homes and factories. There's a reason these diplomatic niceties evolved, but the Powers that Be here in D.C. seem to think that somehow we're creating our own reality and don't need to worry about stuff like that. It has hurt us and stands to bugger us again here.

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  37. Um... Chief... Have you heard the news from Yemen? Crushed?

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  38. Look, the "war" here is really a silly thing to fight about, a War of Abdul's Ear, which will, and let's be honest here, not be in any sense about establishing "democracy" but about determining which gang of Libyans gets to sit on the Presidential Throne. There is no more genuine indication that the Libyan rebels are republicans in the small-r sense than that they are Zoroastrians. If anything, the very best hope this thing has is of imposing a less-bloody conclusion on a local rebellion than would have been the case otherwise.

    Fine. Then the question is, is a Happy Ending for the Libyans Who Would Have Been Killed Had Gaddafi Won worth;

    1. reestablishing the Washington Rules of executive and cabinet wars for

    2. people and places peripheral (if that) to actual U.S. interests?

    I say no; the deaths of a million Libyans are not worth the bones of a single Maryland grenadier, or the continuation of this pernicious habit of Little Wars. That makes me a callous bastard, and, just as seydlitz is OK with intervention, I'm OK with that.

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  39. Ael: Guess not! http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-03-21/yemen-s-saleh-faces-revolt-from-within-as-generals-defect.html

    Mind you, you'll note the deafening silence from D.C. on the entire issue.

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  40. FDChief-

    You commented:

    --This sends the message, if it is even coherent enough to send any message at all, that we believe in democracy when it suits our purposes. I think that Iraq and A-stan have made that point perfectly well, thanks.--

    A change in policy would have to start somewhere and this would be a good place. The Arab autocrats hope that Libya distracts from what is going on in the Arabian peninsula, but that only works if MQ is able to hold on, otherwise it sends quite a different message. What I think this operation offers is the potential for a radical policy shift. Without it we simply drift. You seem to be counseling that nothing in fact can be done . . . I disagree.

    --And I'm not sure I get your point re: the two Bush invasions versus how "...this operation offers is the return of the instrument of military power to the actual government bodies which are supposed to make use of that instrument in the pursuit of national gains (in this case supporting a UNSC resolution and the actions of our allies)."

    I seem to recall pantsloads of UN resolutions regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, which we wereperfectly happy to use as justification for our selfish reasons when they advanced our selfish reasons. I seem to also remember pantsloads of UN resolutions regarding Israeli settlements that we cheerfully ignored when they didn't.--

    The "actual government bodies" are US government bodies. In both Afghanistan and Iraq the US military instrument was used to achieve policy goals which were not suited to military action. What we in effect did was take over those countries for our own purposes, which is the opposite of democracy. Since 2002 we have been embroiled in wars that actually run counter to the interests of the US. Military policy has lost any rational element in that we remain embroiled since we lack the political will to remove ourselves from these disasters. A successful campaign in Libya could provide the template for future operations and show how the military instrument can in fact be use effectively. It might provide Obama with the political cover he needs to finally let go of Af-Pak and Iraq . . .

    The UNSC resolution passed last Thursday is a separate argument in my mind, not directly associated with regaining the military instrument as a means of US policy formulation.

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  41. Chief:

    Why didn't Obama even pretend to consult with the People in Congress about this?

    Because he does not need to. In another thread, seydlitz asked me, what I thought the guiding principles of American Foreigh Policy were, which I did answer.

    A significant sub-principle is the goal of getting the present prez re-elected. Even though polls consistently show 60 or 70% of us want out of our foreign military adventures and more government action to correct our woes at home, there is no movement to do that in DC.

    Big money rules here, DC believes ( and to a large extent, rightly so ) that that is how you win elections and grab the Ring of Power.

    IMHO, the People simply do not matter anymore. The People's Congress serves the PayMaster.

    Ever since Itel-Dump, I've stated that the Pop Americanus is one of the most propagandized nation on Earth. It's not gotten better.

    A bit ago, the board that governs the licensing of broadcast media in Canada was considering allowing their rule about media who regularly misrepresent and distort news to be de-licensed to lapse. Overwhelmingly, the public response was fuck off, no Fox News!

    I don't see that happening here. A friend of mine here wrote a letter to the editor supporting the people's response to Wisconsin's gov. Walker actions there.

    Care to read the comments from the online political intelligentsia in Hutchinson, Kansas?

    http://www.hutchnews.com/Westernfront/wf-Branscom-Kevin-3-14--1

    Take a guess which comment is mine.

    Chief, I'm not criticizing your call for going through Congress in times of military action and following Constitutional and historical guidelines.

    It's just that with the people we've got now in DC, it just ain't gonna happen.

    bb

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  42. seydlitz:

    DK is the radical right's dream candidate for the Demos, which is why they want him. Ya go with what ya got and we have Obama for the next two years, so maybe he'll learn something from all this

    The trouble with that is, that there is a good chance that 2012 will be a repeat of 2010, when there was a tremendous difference in enthusiasm for political participation between Dems and Repubs.

    The activist base on the left does not like Obama. To be sure, the chatterers online do not represent the left electorate as a whole, but still, they do supply the folks who go out to do the grunt work of getting the vote out. And to be sure, the online leadership will tell us to hold the nose and vote Obama, but that didn't work in 2010.

    If first, DK wants to run a primary campaign against Obama, and if second, such an effort doesn't at the very least put the Holy Fear of God and the people into Obama the nominee in 2012, there will be in blazing bright letters in the political sky the true nature of American Democracy.

    Government of the Plutocrat, by the Corporation and for the Money.

    There is still the found hope of the people taking their government back in the continuing effort by the people in those north central states.

    And maybe Jim and Lisa can comment on Florida.

    They have an honest to goodness crook running the state.

    bb

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  43. As to the constitutional questions, this debate is nothing new, but doesn't get to the actual problem in this case which is imo Congressional abdication of responsibility.

    http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2011/03/lack-of-congressional-authorization-for-use-of-force-is-an-abdication-of-responsibility-not-a-power-grab/

    As Kevin Drum points out, war powers is only one area where Congress has abdicated their responsibility . . .

    "Rather, there are certain specific areas where Congress has deliberately given up its authority. Warmaking is one. Monetary policy is another. Detailed federal rulemaking is a third. Each has a different justification. In the case of war, the theory is that an active executive needs to act quickly, free of congressional dithering and endless committee hearings. In the case of monetary policy, the theory is that politics will inevitably get in the way of decent policy, so Congress should voluntarily restrain itself. In the case of rulemaking, the theory is that there are simply too many rules and it's impossible in practice for Congress to consider them all."

    http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/03/lack-power-congress

    So the real problem is actually the corruption of the entire political process, the abdication of not only responsibility, but also accountability, and not just by executive "power grabbing", although there has been enough of that . . .

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  44. Couldn't agree more with your last paragraph.

    In the past I've resisted the previous comparison of the modern American way of governing with that of Republican Rome that some of us have posited.

    But here is something that I cannot avoid. The Senate of the Old Roman Republic was full of or backed by the same type of selfish private monied interests that now populate Capitol Hill. There are exceptions IMO, Sanders and some others, but they aren't anywhere in the ballpark close to any kind of majority.

    bb

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  45. An Arab perspective . . .

    --Make no mistake about it, the battle over Libya did take a turn for the worse with the international intervention to protect the Libyan people and impose no-fly zone among other measures.

    The ongoing bombardment is and will remain a controversial subject that has already been criticised by the Arab league. Further escalation could lead to a backlash.

    So who bears the responsibility for turning Libya into a war zone and an object of an international military intervention?

    Could it be those who confronted a peaceful civil uprising for freedom with lethal force, and when it escalated into a full-fledged revolt, used aerial bombardments, heavy artillery to quell it?

    Libya could have and should have gone Tunisia or Egypt's path of change. But while their militaries conceded the need for regime change, in Libya the family-led powerful militias, financed and groomed to defend the regime's "country estate", sided with their pay masters.

    While the Gaddafis continue to show images of pro-Gaddafi demonstrators in Tripoli to offset the images of widespread anti-Gaddafi/pro-change, in reality, Libya is not divided between two visions for their country.

    Rather between a majority that seeks free and prosperous Libya, and a mostly small heavily-armed minority that runs or benefits from a corrupt rule.

    Alas, even the worse regimes in history have had following among their subjects that had a stake in the system.

    Needless to say, Libyans in general deserve better than to see their country ruled like a ''family farm''. That''s why they insist on taking down the regime. But the Gaddafi dynasty would not have it, threatening to take the country down with them.

    That is why despite all the inflamed rhetoric and populist propaganda, when all is said and done, it is the Gaddafis who bear the responsibility for the ills and misfortunes of their country.--

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/03/201132017312717811.html

    Framing the narrative is very important, and not only in Libya . . .

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  46. Best (and funniest) take on this so far, from "The Bobblespeak Translations):

    Gregory: Admiral are we at war with Libya?

    Mullen: no - we engaging in a process of enforcing
    a U.N. resolution with large explosive devices

    Gregory: sounds like war to me

    Mullen: it’s a focused no-fly zone and as of
    today it’s working

    Gregory: what happened yesterday?

    Mullen: we successfully bombed the airports

    Gregory: so are we done - can the troops come home now?

    Mullen: no because Qaddafi is still violating international law

    Gregory: killing civilians?

    Mullen: Fashion crimes

    Gregory: will Qaddafi attack America with balsa wood drones filled with mustard gas?

    Mullen: General Ham is on the mustard situation

    Gregory: what comes next?

    Mullen: we will help civilians, then apply sanctions, takes sides in the civil war and finally declare ambiguous victory and go home

    Gregory: what if it doesn’t work?

    Mullen: but it is working Fluffy

    Gregory: but what if it utterly fails?

    Mullen: read the U.N. resolution - Qaddafi can stay unless he is voted out by the viewers

    Gregory: is this in our vital interests?

    Mullen: it’s vital that we provide naval support for the French efforts to prevent Libyan refugees from getting to Marseilles

    Gregory: why go after Qaddafi but support the monarchy
    in Bahrain?

    Mullen: it’s true the Bahrain leader is a brutal killer but we have a lovely naval base there

    Gregory: Didn’t Obama act too late?

    Mullen: hey we got a UN resolution through
    in record time

    Gregory: how long will all this go on?

    Mullen: I have no earthly idea

    Gregory: what if Qaddafi flees the nation?

    Mullen: the next government would be up to us and maybe the people of Libya

    Gregory: just how many damm wars in the Middle East are we going to fight?

    Mullen: Day One of this new war is going great -
    we're going to get it right this time!

    Gregory: is the U.S. going to take a back seat
    in this war?

    Mullen: yes thank god

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  47. "A successful campaign in Libya could provide the template for future operations and show how the military instrument can in fact be use effectively. It might provide Obama with the political cover he needs to finally let go of Af-Pak and Iraq."

    WHAAAAA?????

    But the whole point of "using a military instrument effectively" is...to find more uses for it. The unexpected success in the Rhineland in 1936 didn't make the German elites LESS likely to use force to settle their issues, but more so. It wasn't the success of British imperial troops that called the British Empire into question, but the costly adventures of the Boer War and the post-WW2 anticolonial rebellions. The French didn't abandon Algeria and Indochina because of the successful applications of military force there, but because they got their asses whipped in the latter and in militarily winning the former nearly got a domestic coup de etat out of it.

    If this thing "works" it will be another victory for the Washington Rules, another justification for "America, World Police". Fuck, yeah!

    I liked it better when you just wanted to do this because Gaddafi was making Libyan babies sad. I'm willing to buy into the whole notion that doing this was good because Gaddafi is a homicidal loon, because the UN asked for it, because we had to back our allies. I don't agree that those outweigh the downside, but I accept that they're valid arguments.

    But this in no fucking way makes some sort of brilliant statement about reversing course in the ME or anywhere else. If it had been accompanied by a formal treaty of alliance with the rebel whateverthefuck they have running the show, if Obama had forced the Congress to exercise its Constitutional function, if the it had been associated with SLCM strikes against the Bahraini royal palace, the Yemeni government compound, and the Gbagbo forces in Côte d'Ivoire I'd buy it.

    Without that complete volte face it's just SSDD; just another smackdown of an Arabic ruler we don't like.

    At this point I'm just hoping that the Gaddafi regime folds quickly so we can leave the rebels to their post-inaugration revenge butchery/truth commission and grab a hat. I'm not counting on it, tho.

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  48. "Rather between a majority that seeks free and prosperous Libya(wants to run Libya THEIR way), and a mostly small heavily-armed minority that runs or benefits from a corrupt rule (likes the way Libya has been run up to now)."

    Let's try and not get seduced by the attraction of a good story. There is absolutely no evidence that the Libyan rebels are Good Guys. There's none that they're Bad Guys (i.e. islamic neocons/jihadis) either. So far everybody in this pottage looks like people trying to grab what they can, other than Gaddafi, who is simply a loon.

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  49. if Obama had forced the Congress to exercise its Constitutional function

    The only thing Obama forces anybody to do is to resign for doing their job honestly and decently.

    Ross "Chunky Reese Witherspoon" Douthat:

    "Ross Douthat: Why Can’t Obama Fight Wars Like George W. Bush Did?
    By: Blue Texan Monday March 21, 2011 10:30 am

    Today, Ross Douthat hilariously laments Obama’s “stark depature” from Bush/Cheney’s method of war-making.

    'This way [liberal] of war has obvious advantages. It spreads the burden of military action, sustains rather than weakens our alliances, and takes the edge off the world’s instinctive anti-Americanism. Best of all, it encourages the European powers to shoulder their share of responsibility for maintaining global order, instead of just carping at the United States from the sidelines.

    But there are major problems with this approach to war as well. Because liberal wars depend on constant consensus-building within the (so-called) international community, they tend to be fought by committee, at a glacial pace, and with a caution that shades into tactical incompetence. And because their connection to the national interest is often tangential at best, they’re often fought with one hand behind our back and an eye on the exits, rather than with the full commitment that victory can require.'

    Now, very few functioning bipeds look at the Bush/Cheney wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and say, “more please.”

    But I must say, if you’re trying to avoid “tactical incompetence” and wars that unfold at a “glacial pace” and the failure to achieve victory — you probably shouldn’t look to George W. Bush as a role model."

    Yet another reason why Douthat is full of shit.

    bb

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  50. basilbeast - "The activist base on the left does not like Obama."

    Strange considering that they got him nominated. They steamrollered the caucuses here in WA state where the majority of registered Dems favored his foremost opposition. Same thing happened in other caucus states. Now they turn against him?? May the great pumpkin save us from zealots.

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  51. FDChief-

    Yea, I'm all for happy Libyan babies . . . and i think it cool that the rebels are on the road West.

    "WHAAAAA?????"

    The alternative is continuing as we have before, engaged in two wars which have long ago been lost strategically . . . Iraq has been ever the success story, right?

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/201132173052269144.html

    You haven't countered my description of either war and how perverted the whole policy has become, yet you don't like considering this operation an opportunity to turn things around. Will it work? Who knows, but it's the best chance we've had in some time.

    How else do you propose getting out of the mess we are in? Who's going to cut our losses and admit that the whole idea in both Af-Pak and Iraq has been all "a terrible mistake"?

    The Washington Rules approach would be to continue on as we have, not get involved here . . . actually the position you support, imo.

    Obama could make a break if he had a recent military success to fall back on . . . Will he, no idea, but that's about the best option we have, unless you realistically see another? We didn't ask for this, but the opportunity is there nonetheless . . .

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  52. Found a better funny on this one: Frank Gaffney letting his bull-goose looney fly free over at "Big Peace" (http://bigpeace.com/fgaffney/2011/03/20/the-gaddafi-precedent/)

    "There are many reasons to be worried about the bridge-leap the Obama Administration has just undertaken in its war with Muamar Gaddafi. How it will all end is just one of them. What I find particularly concerning is the prospect that what we might call the Qaddafi Precedent will be used in the not-to-distant future to justify and threaten the use of U.S. military forces against an American ally: Israel."

    WTF...

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  53. "How else do you propose getting out of the mess we are in? Who's going to cut our losses and admit that the whole idea in both Af-Pak and Iraq has been all "a terrible mistake"?

    Anyone with a functioning human brain and a nutsack, which rules out 99.9% of the people we seem to elect. But we get out the same way most wars without a decisive victory end; things run down and stop, administrations change or fall, money runs out. But they don't happen because the military strongman gets into another war, unless he gets thrashed.

    Of all your arguments, this one makes the least sense to me. Obama isn't some sort of warloard; he doesn't "need a victory"; he's supposed to be the Chief Executive of a nation that is now solidly against both of these Middle Eastern adventures. He says "the People say stop, so we're stopping." and we grab a hat.

    But in the larger sense, how the hell does this become "an opportunity to turn things around", unless things work out PREFECTLY; Gaddafi folds quickly, we bow out gracefully, the rebels turn out to be an ideal cross between Ataturk and Jefferson...

    Basically, the only person I can see who comes anywhere close to seeing this the way you do is Marc Lynch (http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/03/21/keeping_libya_in_context), and even he tiptoes in with tons of reservations.

    And I think that one thing that could spoil this for you is the rebels themselves. Despite the old saying, the enemy of my enemy isn't my friend. Many of the members of the National Transitional Council are former Gaddafi officers. The rebels themselves don't seem to show a lot of experience with anything we would recognize as "democracy".

    Remember how we were going to topple Saddam and freedom was gonna reign? Or that defenestrating the Taliban would let 1,000 flowers bloom?

    I will echo Lynch here, tho; the die is cast. What has been done cannot be undone. I might as well stop talking; Obama agrees with you, not me, so it become incumbent on me as a U.S. citizen to (perhaps shaking my head ruefully but all the same) hope that everything works out as you foresee.

    So I'm trying as hard as I can to see the sunny side of this but keep in mind that I'm an old sergeant; we're pessimists by nature.

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  54. I pretty much agree with chief on this, but here's my attempt at value-added while trying to keep it short:

    - Changing the message/narrative. First, I don't think changing perceptions/narratives/messages is a good reason to go to war. Second, I think we overestimate our ability to control how we are perceived in the Arab and Muslim world. We haven't gotten much, if any, credit for any of the good things we've done in the past, so why should we believe this time will be any different. The fundamentals haven't changed vis-a-vis the Saudi's especially.

    First off, this is not really our baby, as fasteddiez points out, but a Euro-led and coordinated operation in which we can supply very necessary aid.

    Actually, right now this IS our baby and the US is flying most of the missions and the operation is under American command. The plan is to hand it off and so far NATO can't agree on how to do that. There isn't yet agreement on who is taking over.

    There is a long story/process behind what happened in the UN and allowing MQ to trash it would have called this whole process, the whole rationale behind Chapter 7 of the UN Charter into question. Do we support the UN, or not? Does it matter that over 10 years of negotiation has gone into what we have before us now?

    So we had to intervene to save the "process?" Chapter 7 has been called into question multiple times. Everyone knows it's about big-power politics among the permanent 5.

    I'm referring to what Colonel Lang calls "moral literacy", it's simply doing the right thing. And I know what you're going to say, but saving Benghazi and the rest of eastern Libya from MQ mob was the right thing to do.

    I agree to a point, but we need an exit strategy. How does this end, especially if events don't match rosy projections? "Protecting civilians" itself is a mission without end.

    In other words we stay in Iraq because leaving would make our strategic defeat obvious (Iranian influence dominating the new Iraq). We stay in Afghanistan because we went into Afghanistan and in the meantime powerful political interests see it in their interest that we stay.

    I agree. The point I tried to make earlier is that there is a decent chance we'll end up in that same pickle here, especially if MQ doesn't fall as easily as assumed. IOW, it could be OSW/ONW all over again.

    A successful military operation in pursuit of clear and widely shared policy goals would be a good thing for the US and allow this administration a little OJT in the use of military power.

    Where is the clear and widely shared policy goal? Some people are saying the mission is clearly to get rid of MQ (ie. regime change), others are saying the mission is simply to protect civilians. Look at what's going on with Italy and the UAE. It's incoherent and you have multiple senior leaders who are not at all on the same page.

    MQ ain't the Serbs

    True, but that wasn't my point. I was simply suggesting that timelines and the ease with which we are expected to win a war are very often underestimated.

    Finally, I think this gets it right:

    From a military perspective, the coalition air campaign looks to be ahead of plan – the burning tanks near Benghazi show that. But without a quick collapse of the Qaddafi regime, coalition policymakers haven’t defined a proper end-state and don’t seem to have a theory of success. Qaddafi, on the other hand, does have a theory of success. He will switch to irregular warfare, using civilians to mask his military operations from coalition air power.

    There are a lot of problems with this mission - very fundamental problems. This whole thing could turn into a huge clusterfuck if it isn't there already.

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  55. FDChief-

    "So I'm trying as hard as I can to see the sunny side of this but keep in mind that I'm an old sergeant; we're pessimists by nature."

    And I'm just an old intel op (talk about pessimism) who's trying to sell a war. An intervention that I actually support, and using every argument I can. I honestly do think that some of the makers and shakers do see this as the opportunity I describe: bb's base is out there even at the policy level in whatever diluted form. Fasteddiez's magic negro is running out of tricks and he needs to make some course changes soon if he wants to hang on till 2016 . . . a successful military campaign provides such political capital, as you well know it's not really "Wag the Dog", but rather "Milk the War" . . .

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  56. I think I have a comment in the spam folder again.

    Seydlitz,

    Please explain how success in Libya unfucks us in Iraq and Afghanistan. To me it looks like quite the opposite - doubling down on strategic failure. Obama getting some domestic cred for a successful op in Libya isn't going to give him the cover in either place. And besides, that undercuts your own argument that the US is simply going to be support in all this - a secondary player. If that's true then how is it going to provide him political capital to get out of Afghanistan?

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  57. Andy-

    "And besides, that undercuts your own argument that the US is simply going to be support in all this - a secondary player. If that's true then how is it going to provide him political capital to get out of Afghanistan?"

    Narrative/perceptions. Who in the US is going to believe that the US was not actually controlling things? Watch Wolf or Fox . . . There's General Ham on the TV talking about what WE'RE doing . . . If MQ folds within a week as I hope then Obama has some major political capital coming his way. The more domestic opposition at this point the better to silence the critics during the victory lap . . .

    Whether he will use it to call quits on Iraq and Afghanistan is a long shot, but how else do you see these wars coming to an end? He will at some point need to secure his political base and as bb tells us (and I'm sure we all know) they are none to happy with the current prez. What better way to do it? This could save his presidency.

    What I find interesting here is that there does seem to have been something of a "coup" in that certain important players essentially said "our way of the highway" pertaining to the use/utility of the military instrument in foreign policy. We're at a dead-end now, it would be nice to get out of it.

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  58. Andy-

    Great comment. I dunno if I shoulda let that comment out of the spam ;-)>

    Let me think about . . . Getting late here and gotta work tomorrow.

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  59. A little off topic, but Yemen is next. Unbelievable. Of course, we already have some military presence there, so it will be interesting to see how this one unfolds vs. Libya, Egypt or Tunisia.

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  60. I note that nobody has raised the issue on which the basis of the UNSC was taken: Responsibility to Protect.

    Because of recent past atrocities, it is now accepted international doctrine that a government has to protect its civilians. If they fail, or are themselves killing them, it is within the rights of the international community to intervene.

    http://www.straight.com/article-382483/vancouver/gwynne-dyer-today-libya-tomorrow-syria

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  61. Ael: That's a big step, hombre. But not as big as you'd think; note the conclusion of your Georgia Straight author:

    "But Russia and China didn’t veto the action, because they have finally figured out that the new principle will never be used against them.

    Nobody will ever attack Russia to make it be nicer to the Chechens, or invade China to make it change its behaviour towards the Tibetans. Great powers are effectively exempt from all the rules if they choose to be, precisely because they are so powerful. That’s no argument for also exempting less powerful but nastier regimes from the obligation not to murder their own people.

    So what about the Syrian regime? The same crude calculation applies. If it’s not too tough and powerful to take on, then it will not be allowed to murder its own people. And if it is too big and dangerous, then all the UN members will express their strong disapproval, but they won’t actually do anything.

    Consistency is an overrated virtue"

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  62. "The more domestic opposition at this point the better to silence the critics during the victory lap."

    Have you been paying attention to the interventionist Right/Left?

    If Obama had stayed out they would flay him when Gaddafi started hanging his enemies.

    Now that Obama has gone in, they will flay him if things go poorly.

    But if things go well...they will take the credit for having forced the Kenyan Usurper's hand.

    Politically this is a losing game for a supposedly liberal Democrat to play. Our only hope is that this goes well for its own sake. I have no hopes for any wider political gains from this; it is a one-off, I think.

    And I think there hasn't been enough pessimism about the endgame even assuming the war goes well. I think the NLC people will start executing Gaddafi loyalists to keep mouths closed about their own dirty pasts.

    Oh, well. At this point, hope has become a strategy.

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  63. "What I find interesting here is that there does seem to have been something of a "coup" in that certain important players essentially said "our way of the highway" pertaining to the use/utility of the military instrument in foreign policy. We're at a dead-end now, it would be nice to get out of it."

    Sounds like Maddy Albright's wail back in '96: "What good is this terrific military you talk about if you never want to use it?"

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  64. News from the Western Desert:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12813757

    "Moving the operation under full Nato control would require the agreement of all 28 members.

    The BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels says Turkey and Germany have been reluctant for Nato to assume control, and France is not keen.

    For varying reasons they are all wary of criticism from the Arab world if Nato comes to the fore, he says.


    AdvertisementIan Pannell reports from outside Benghazi as rebels tour coalition attack sites
    French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Arab countries did not want the operation to be placed completely under Nato control, but he said he expected Nato to agree to play a supporting role within the next few days.

    Italy has said it could take back its offer of military bases if Nato does not take control."


    And here is a snapshot of our Libyan allies in action:

    "We drove towards Ajdabiya - a town to the west of Benghazi that has been heavily fought over for days. The road is littered with the charred and smoking remains of Col Gaddafi's military.

    There were reports that his forces had been repelled by the rebels but then there was the whistle of a tank round, fired past our car by government troops at the opposition fighters. It's a sound that sparked panic, as the militias turned and fled at high speed."


    From one main gun round? One?

    The Desert Rats, these guys ain't.

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  65. I can only foresee two possible outcomes from this little fiasco:

    1. Gadaffi hangs on to the area around Tripoli and serves as a focal point of anger that creates an alliance of anti-Gadaffi tribes that gel into a nation, probably a dictatorship because they don't have any idea of how any other form of government would work.

    2. Gadaffi falls and the whole country degenerates into a set of squabbling shifting tribal alliances that can't get anything done except to shoot each other in the back.

    Considering that we've undoubtedly spent at least a billion dollars on this so far, I'm not enthused about the use of my taxpayer money. The return on investment just doesn't look that good to me.

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  66. mike:

    basilbeast - "The activist base on the left does not like Obama."

    Strange considering that they got him nominated. They steamrollered the caucuses here in WA state where the majority of registered Dems favored his foremost opposition. Same thing happened in other caucus states. Now they turn against him?? May the great pumpkin save us from zealots.


    Hello, Mike, feeling kinda lost out there in the wooods of words?

    Zealots.

    Depends upon what brand you have in mind.

    The Zs, whether right or left, comprise the basic muscle to push and shove the great mushy American middle who really don't know or care that much about who runs the country into voting.

    Not only voting, but voting the correct way.

    For the great majority of the Zs, it's volunteer work, unpaid, and it can be damaging to the ego, especially when one knocks on the door it opens and start the little jargon, "hi, I'm the local Democratic rep . . . . " and is interrupted with "fuck off, we don't talk about those things, no politician has done anything for me, etc etc".

    The older folk tend to be nicer, I think because they have lived more US history than the younger folk, and know the value of some gov't programs like Social Security, Medicare etc, and how they got started.

    So why do the Zs do this shit, you may ask?

    Because we do know some history, we do care about where the country is headed, and we want to see it head somewhat in the way we want it to.

    The Great American Middle, OTOH, quite naturally wants peace and quiet and a chance at the good life, doesn't care much who's elected, but there's this guy who promises I can keep more of my money 'cause he's gonna cut taxes, not like the other guy who's all tax and spend, so if I get around to it, I might vote, but it's no big deal and it really doesn't matter after all.

    So some governor guy sez he's gonna keep his mitts off union rights and all that shit, or there's this shiny new phenom, a black guy saying he's gonna do all this shit that sounds real good, like gay rights, bad bad Bush on everything and energy independence really cool, then HOLY SHIT, the Wisconsin prez starts taking away your rights and what the fuck, and the shiny new black model prez just continues what the bad bad Bush was doing before, when he said on the campaign he wasn't gonna.

    So, what's the Z gonna do now?

    Live and learn and try again.

    Oh, and try to get the Great Mushy American Middle to figure out why their lives are shit and swirling down the toilet.

    I'll try to get back to your question in the Manning thread later, because I got to get to sleep to get to my minimum wage part time job tomorrow that I have with a couple other ones that I do to keep my tush fed and alive.

    There in a nutshell is the raisin detter of a political zealot in particular.

    bb

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  67. oh shit, did I write Wisconsin "prez". fuck, meant "gov", didn't I?

    Sorry, and for the fuckin' language.

    bb

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  68. Hey, Chief seems to be channeling Aasif Mandvi and the rest of us nearly the whole TDS show tonight!

    Cool.

    bb

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  69. bb -

    Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with starry eyes IMO. But maybe we should consider that what you call the "great mushy" had already lived and learned, so they did not make the death-defying leap of faith that the Z-wallahs did during the last prez primaries. And then force it down our throats in the caucus states. Talk of the great mushy is what perpetuates the the flawed thinking that only a few gifted ones are brilliant enough to lead. That line of reasoning sucks whether the gifted ones are lefty looseys or righty tighties.

    But please do not turn on Obamaji in 2012 no matter what his faults. If you and the other Z-wallahs do turn on him and support Dennis the Menace in the primaries then Obama will be deprived of coattails in the general. And then the Senate will fall, the House will fall deeper, and my state and county officials will be swallowed up by the beast. Then both the great mushy and the activists will really be swirling down the toilet.

    As I recall the young Turks also screwed the country over in the 2000 general election by voting Nader green instead of Gore and got Junior Bush elected. Good job!!!!!

    The antonym for a left wing zealot is NOT conservative wingnut. The true opposite for both of those terms is 'moderate'. I be proud to be one. That is my raisin :)

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  70. OK, I've pondered this one for a while, and have decided that trying to come up with a "Strategic Military" answer won't hunt. We are talking about the paradoxical notion of humanitarian aid by force, and it just won't lend itself to this august body's normal circuitry. In the final analysis, the objective is to stop MQ from using massive force of arms to quell opposition to his rule. Allegedly, the UN is trying to limit his ability to do so.

    Does it make sense? Probably not, as ultimately, the suffering will not end until there is a political solution. However, humanitarian missions are complex, especially when conducted using bombs.

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  71. So far the most entertaining part of this has been watching the political acrobatics over who exactly is doing what.

    My somewhat cynical take on this is now up as the newest post in this series.

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  72. @mike - I have only this to say in regards to Dennis Kucinich (and Ron Paul on the Republican side):

    "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice"

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  73. Al -

    I am curious about what your Greek neighbors are saying of this situation. I understood that eastern Libya, Cyrenica, was settled by the Greeks in ancient times. Does it still include any appreciable remnants of those original or later-coming Greek immigrants? I assume they were all Arabized through intermarriage and probably a reverse Morisco process.

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  74. Still waiting . . .

    Lots of interesting news . . . Did the French really put the jump on Obama and get him in to this war? Ha! Was he trying to stall?

    The command chaos is a problem, but not the question.

    The French center of gravity has shifted. Military force was used the way it was since the political situation demanded it. Smash MQ's tanks as quickly as possible before Benghazi fell. Drive them back . . . but now the use of military power is simply general air support. As long as the planes are flying . . . everyone is focusing on the overt military show, but the real battle is elsewhere.

    Notice too the reaction of the COIN crowd . . .

    The real battle now is among and within MQ's own social base. Will they be willing to wage Guerrilla warfare to keep his power alive? They were living fairly comfortably until just recently, will they give that all up for MQ? The French obviously think they have a strong hand.

    They are good at this type of thing, not that that would indicate future long-term success for us or them, it doesn't work that way. You have that on one side, and on the other the thought that maybe Sarkozy is just an idiot.

    Still, this war offers real change in regards our foreign policy. We need only provide what we are asked at this point. Exit strategy? We leave the same way we went in, on a plane.

    Obama has to win back his base. Ending both of Bush's wars would not only save needed funds, but end two strategic setbacks/disasters (however you wish to describe them). This could be possible given the prestige, political capital such a triumph would bring. This is after all how our republic is expected to function, the mass popular leader waging successful and righteous war in our name and claiming democratic support. This was afterall the message of 2003 when George W Bush went into Iraq.

    Why so different now? Could it have anything to do with that big propaganda machine?

    So you get a feel for our situation. Currently strategic paralysis, caused in part by two lost wars we're stuck in. We need to get out and to do that we need a shock, or metaphorically another throw of the international and domestic political dice. War does that.

    Anyway, I'm going to give it till Sunday or so when I'll post something . . . should be an interesting week.

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  75. "They are good at this type of thing,"

    The French? Not sure why anyone would think so. You do mean the French, right?

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  76. FDC says:

    "I say no; the deaths of a million Libyans are not worth the bones of a single Maryland grenadier, or the continuation of this pernicious habit of Little Wars. That makes me a callous bastard, and, just as seydlitz is OK with intervention, I'm OK with that."

    Amen to that.

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  77. mike-

    The basic Greek viewpoint is that we have obligations as a UN member state, as well as being civilized human beings. Thus, we will do what we can to fulfill these obligations, which so far has been providing support ships and basing rights. I haven't seen any other expression, such as ancient settlements or the like.

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  78. Al - thanks for the insight.

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  79. Quick note: I have added an update to the original post based on the events of the last couple of days. Hope this clarifies some issues.

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  80. Mike:

    As I recall the young Turks also screwed the country over in the 2000 general election by voting Nader green instead of Gore and got Junior Bush elected.

    That's the way the cookie crumbles then, isn't it?
    Sounds harsh, I know, but it's the truth. Ever since then, and before, it's my opinion the Democrats have not used a good dose of populism to combat the other side's style of waging campaigns.

    Obama is making noises on the deficit and jobs just like the Republicans. Overwhelmingly, by polling, Americans want gov't action on jobs, the economy, and out of our foreign adventuring.
    Once Obama starts acting like a classic Democrat, or shoot, like a decent politician who listens to the will of the people, he'll do OK.

    But if he continues to act like Republican Lite, and fails to inspire people to vote for him, whose fault is that.

    Right now, DK and Nader are bringing up impeachment talk.

    A little hardball never hurt anyone.

    bb

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  81. basil -

    Pls define 'populism' and 'classic Democrats'. Were you thinking of Jackson, the man of the people, who sent the Cherokees and thousands of other native Americans to their misery on the Trail of Tears? He certainly listened to the will of the people.

    There is no hardball in what Dennis the Menace and Nader are doing. They may think they are playing hardball against Obamaji, but all they can do is piss off the Zs and forck the rest of the population by getting all three branches of government in rightwing hands. Are you guys secret dittohead followers of Limbaugh? Maybe you just want to see the country fail entirely under a radical rightwing takeover, so that you can lead a glorious revolution later???

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  82. The problem with the comparison of Jacksonian populism and contemporary populism is the goals of each time.
    I'm thinking Teddy Roosevelt, bust the trusts, nat'l parks, health care for all. Truman, bust military prejudice, more keeping the corporate world in line, health care for all. FDR, public works projects to get the country up and running again, keep the corporate world in line, Social Security. LBJ ( civil rights ) & Nixon ( clean air and health care for all, although his efforts created HBOs which now are out of control ), yes even those 2 still worked "populism", and more than that, worked "what is the right thing to do".
    As for the right-wing takeover, our justice department has allowed Citizens United and 2 SC justices attend right-wing extavaganzas, our current president thinks making Republicans happy and acting like them is the way to go, the House and Senate at least have some sane members but overwhelmingly things like abortion, planned parenthood, unions, tax policy, gun laws, immigration have a solid right-wing flavor.

    We have a whole string of states right now establishing radical right-wing agendas, thankfully opposed by some citizens who are zealots enough to get out and raise some righteous hell.

    The radical right-wing takeover is already here, if you haven't noticed.

    If the red-hot poker of impeachment rammed up where the sun don't shine for our current president doesn't get him inspired to FIGHT valiantly for the interests of the American people, nothing will.

    And we're not likely to get that result, will we?

    bb

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  83. bb -

    Truman? Undeclared war in Korea I think is the same thing you want to bust Obama for. Plus you are worried about Bradley Manning being cold for two days, yet Truman sent thousands of men to Korea without winter clothing. Many of the 33,000 that died there were from frostbite.

    I admired LBJ, but he was taken down by Bobby Kennedy from his own party. BTW Carter, he was also taken down by his own party, and not by all of Reagan's double dealing with the Ayatollah.

    You admire tricky-Dicky Nixon - why did I suspect that???

    As for the right-wing takeover: Right now they only have the House and the Supreme Court. Now you and Dennis the Menace and Nader want to get Palin or Bachmann elected to the White House and make Mitch McConnell the Senate Majority Leader. That will be the real end-of-days.

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  84. I see that NATO has finally agreed to take over as bitchslapper-in-chief, while it becomes increasingly obvious that anyone waiting for the "rebels" to get their inner Rommel on will be waiting a long, long, loooong time.

    Oh, and I append this as an observation on your "victory here will strengthen Obama's hand to end the wars in central Asia" theory. From the BBC: "Asked what should be done if the air strikes fail to restrain Gaddafi, only 7 percent of Americans favored sending in U.S. and allied ground troops in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday, and only 17 percent saw Obama as a strong and decisive leader."

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  85. mike said:

    "......yet Truman sent thousands of men to Korea without winter clothing. Many of the 33,000 that died there were from frostbite."

    Since you're one of the real historians on this site, can you say if REMF's had a part in the misappropriation of foul weather clothing intended for the combat forces?

    In Korea
    In WWII, winter of 44/45
    Germans in Russia - Winter of 41, thereafter

    Thanks

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  86. fasteddiez: I don't think any reasonable analysis could hold Truman responsible for the death by exposure of the U.S. troops in Korea. Their chain was responsible for their welfare, from their first-line leaders (who froze as well, so I'm sure they were trying to get the guys their parkas and Mickey Mouse boots) annd the way up to Mac at the Dai Ichi in Tokyo. I have never heard anything that suggests that the winter clothing was there and was shortstopped in the rear. The Army was in bad shape in 1950 and probably didn't have anything on hand, didn't anticipate a winter campaign (these were GOOKS, after all...), and then when everything went to hell the usual Murphy jumped in to mess things up...

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  87. Chief,

    There's a difference between blame and responsibility. I don't think Truman was to blame, but he, along with Congress, were ultimately responsible for properly provisioning troops.

    As far as Libya goes, what's tragicomic is that no one in the administration will say this is a war. Their new euphemism is "time-limited, scope limited military action."

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  88. Fasteddie -

    Real historian no, not even close, Chief has my vote for military historian of the decade. But thanks for the pitch. For Korea my thinking was along Andy's line above. Also I read somewhere, not sure of the source, that there were boxcar loads of cold weather parkas and mickey mouse boots sitting on the tracks somewhere north of Pusan and south of Seoul during the retreat from the Yalu. But as you well know, appropriation and pilferage of gear earmarked for frontline troops by HQ types and supply NCOs does go on in all armies.

    The lack of winter gear for the German Army in the winter of 41 IMHO is directly traceable to Der Fuhrer.

    AS for the US Army in France in the winter of 44/45, there has been a lot of blame laid on the SHAEF Supply Chief LtGen J.C.H. Lee. Known behind his back as Jesus Christ Himself. They say early on he was a fantastic organizer and did great work in preparation for D-Day. But later he doled out supplies like Sergeant Bilko by forking out goodies for past favors and retaliating against perceived grievances. His biggest fiasco was to divert scarce trucks and fuel to move his humongous headquarters of 8000 officers and 21000 enlisted to Paris without Ike's permission. Ike, Patton, and Bradley were enraged as they sorely needed those assets. Ike was going to relieve him but eventually relented.

    But an even bigger problem that probably contributed to the delay of cold wx gear arriving was the hold-up of taking the Antwerp port by Montgomery and by the shipping mess still going on at Cherbourg which had been heavily damaged. There were hundreds of supply ships stalled and waiting to be unloaded in Cherbourg and over the beaches at Omaha and Utah. And once those ships were eventually unloaded (one at a time) they were a long way from the front. The supplies unloaded at Omaha and Utah sometimes sat in rainy season mudfields for weeks or months before being forwarded as they had poor road and rail connections. General Lucius Clay (of later Berlin Aircraft fame) took over those problems and had them ironed out in a short time.

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  89. FastEddie -

    In the mountains of Tunisia, we had some cold wx problems also. That was probably just the three Ps or bad meteorology. Nobody in the states apparently had a clue about snow in North Africa.

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  90. Chief, mike:

    Thanks for the heads up!

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  91. These comments, 90% of them couched in tough-guy rhetoric about battles past, strike me as sad. We all have our war stories. Maybe you guys would view the no-fly/no-drive interdiction differently if you were in Benghazi and heard tanks approaching. And maybe you might see the plight of the 23-year-old kid in a little more charitably were any of you on the receiving end of military justice.

    My point is that suffering is always new, always without precedent for the victim.

    Cheers, Seyditz89,

    Podunk Paul
    Podunk Paul

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  92. Paul -

    Welcome back. My comments on history were certainly not meant to denigrate the plight of that kid in Benghazi. I and I believe every other commenter here sympathizes with him and the other Libyan protesters. My historical comments were certainly not meant to be tough-guy rhetoric. I may have been off on a tangent from the original post but that started in response to some comments on impeachment for helping out over there.

    I myself am torn between whether we should have intervened militarily there or not. I certainly respect Seydlitz's powerful arguments. I am for helping those in danger from Gaddafi's use of bombs and tanks. However, I wonder where it will stop - - - do we now have to establish a no-fly zone and bomb reactionary forces to save the protesters in Syria, Yemen, Ivory Coast and Bahrain and anywhere else??? What is your opinion on that question?

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  93. Mike,
    Excuse me, but i don't care about any kids in Bengazi. That is a Libyan concern.
    I'm concerned how this intervention fulfills JUST WAR theory. Where's the greater good?
    jim

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  94. I think that several countries' leaders are wrestling with humanitarian concerns as they unfold on the ground in Libya. Does one allow killing by inaction or not? I am not going to say that, for the people at the helm, such is an easy question. In short, some people responsible for various country's policy do seem to care about kids in Bengazi. Right or wrong, they have acted upon those concerns. Keep in mind that many of our allies do not subscribe to the American "every man for himself" culture. If they care about their neighbor within their borders, perhaps that extends to "neighbors" outside their borders?

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  95. @Jim - Exactly. This action in Libya does not in any way, shape or form pass the muster for Just War. Our response has been so overwhelmingly lopsided, including killing of civilians, that it goes out the window. As I said before, 450kg's of high explosive are not 'weapons of liberation'. You could punch of fucking hole in an aircraft carrier with that (I think).

    This is most certainly NOT our fight. We are the ones that will suffer blowback from this, mark my words. If the Brits and French want to piss off the Libyans, that's their business. I'm sick and goddamn tired of paying for the defence of Europe. NATO is a relic of the Cold War and its time the US said 'Bye'. The goddamn Soviet Union isn't about to roll tanks through The Fulda Gap.

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  96. "Maybe you guys would view the no-fly/no-drive interdiction differently if you were in Benghazi and heard tanks approaching."

    If I were in Benghazi and heard tanks approaching I would - hopefully - be doing what I was trained to do and working my ass off to get a battery 6 on top of their turrets. If not, at least I'd hope I could scrounge up and RPG or five. I was trained by the U.S. government to fight for the U.S. If my country wants to sign a treaty with the organization that represents the Libyan rebels and send me with my howitzers to fight for them, all well and good. They seem like people with a good cause.

    If my country wants to have it both ways - fight, and yet not really "pick sides" (or even call it a fight) - then I call bullshit. Countries that don't look at foreign wars with clear eyes harm themselves. I don't think we have skin in the game here. My country seems to, and IMO if that's so we need to come out and pick an ally and help them fight, not scuttle around bombing people and denying we're in a war.


    "And maybe you might see the plight of the 23-year-old kid in a little more charitably were any of you on the receiving end of military justice."

    I was. I did. For 22 years. I was subject to the UCMJ, and had it used on me a couple of times when I fucked up. I see the "plight" perfectly well. There's an old saying; military justice is to justice as military music is to music. It's not designed to sound good - it's designed to keep the joes marching together in the direction the commander points. If you don't like that, end wars, and end armies. Until then, accept it for what it is.

    And yes, suffering always sucks for the sufferer. Vae victus, the Romans said; woe to the vanquished. That makes it worth not becoming a sufferer, no? Like, say, by intervening in other people's civil wars?

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  97. "Keep in mind that many of our allies do not subscribe to the American "every man for himself" culture. If they care about their neighbor within their borders, perhaps that extends to "neighbors" outside their borders?"

    And in the case of nations like France, have gone to the length of recognizing the TLC as the "government" of Libya.

    So what's our problem? Like I said to Paul, the Libyan rebels seem like people with a good cause? Why not go all in, sign the goddam treaty, and then we could land my artillery unit to fire off the runway in Benghazi if we wanted to in all good faith?

    The thing I'm sick of, Al, is these goddam backstairs, backdoor, weaselly cabinet wars. And I'm tired of us bankrolling these damn Arab dictatorships and kleptocracies in secret so they can bitchslap us in front of their publics.

    Like I said; I think this is the Libyan's civil war to win or lose. I think that "rescuing" the poor helpless bastards will just put them in position to be raped by the NEXT ruthless son of a bitch who takes over their country. I think they need to fight and win their own revolution, as we did and the French did and the English did (a couple of times, if I recall). And I especially think if they want our help, they need to man the fuck up and ask for it like we did with the French in 1777. That way they have to stand up to their Arab pals and say, yeah, see these Yankees? They're here because WE INVITED THEM, they're our allies, they're helping us defeat our dictatorial enemy, and fuck you very much, Saudis, jihadis, Palestinians, who sat there on their ass spouting anti-American rhetoric.

    THEN maybe this whole thing would be worth fighting for BOTH the Libyans and us. Instead, I see us getting nothing but the usual crap.

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