I am betting on the pony.
It looks like Europe’s need for oil, especially France & the UK,is a significant component in this war.
As for the U.S., Libya more than likely is actually a misguided ploy for Obama 2012 re-election campaign.
You can hope until the cows come home, Mr. Mead, but the odds of this mess turning out well is slim to none.
As a Jacksonian I have nothing against fighting a war, if it is necessary, and if it’s for Victory. But, I don’t think we have a dog in this fight. Let the Islamists fight it out with the Tyrants all over the Moslem world I say. Who every wins will be much reduced, weaker, and easy pickings if we should decide to support a Democracy Movement, or demand an election for recognizing the new government. Even if all we get is “One Man, One Vote, One Time” that is a Victory for us, and a step forward for those Cultures. A vote is recognition by those cultures that only Democracy can confer Legitimacy.
We sowed the SEED, and now we are reaping the harvest in the Middle East.
I said at the time, that installing a Democracy in Iraq was one of the greatest strategic maneuvers in Human history. It was an example of cultural judo of the first water, putting a naturally corruption reducing Democracy in what was once the most cosmopolitan Arab nation, and its central location, was the best response to 9/11.
Bush is going to gain huge credit for this eventually, as he should.
Everyone is worried about the Moslem Brotherhood, and Islamists taking control from the Tyrants. But, I wonder how much credit they will get in the polling booth, as I seriously doubt that they will be able to take control without a vote. And even if it’s the case of “One man, One vote, Onetime” that is still a Victory for us, as it is a Cultural recognition on their part, that only a Democratic vote can confer Legitimacy.
What is astounding to me is how quickly Obama moved against Libya while he has been so reluctant to offer even rhetorical support to Iranian and Syrian dissidents who face regimes as bad as Gaddafi’s. As Secretary of Defense Gates stated unambiguously, there are no vital American interests at stake vis a vis Libya while the fall of either or both of the Iranian and Syrian regimes would represent a dramatic strategic victory for the United States. As usual, the Obama Administration is hopelessly confused and downright incompetent.
I just learned from Steve Clemons’ blog (the Washington Note) that Professor Mead has joined an “Iran Strategy Taskforce” launched by Freedom House and the Progressive Policy Institute. In addition to Mead, other members of the taskforce include: Josh Block, Ken Pollack, Will Marshall, Ray Takeyh, Rob Satloff, Larry Diamond and David Kramer.
According to Clemons, “the focus of the task force will be to increase the spotlight on Iran’s dismal human rights record and to raise awareness about Iran’s conventional weapons capacity and over-its-border misdeeds supporting non-state terror movements.”
I think there has been an overemphasis on the danger of Iran’s nuclear program; it’s dangerous but not necessarily the most dangerous thing about Iran. Iran’s belligerence and its support of terrorism represent at least as much of a threat in the short run as its nuclear program does.
Professor Mead, I hope you will blog about your experience on the Taskforce and share with your loyal readers at “Via Meadia” the results of the taskforce’s work.
As for Obama, attacking Libya with tomahawk missiles while he refuses to offer even rhetorical support to Iranians yearning to be free can only be described as deluded. Bombing Gadaffi while your Secretary of State calls Bashir Assad a reformer is a sign of pure idiocy.
How do we decide when and where to stop facists from inducing humanitarian disasters? There are many more out there besides Libya. Trump made an excellent point. The Europeans and Chinese benefit from Libyan oil. Why aren’t they paying us? In the meantime, we fight a war with money we don’t have against a country that is no threat to us.
“I think we are out on a limb here and I wish the president had found the time to get some congressional backing up front, but we are where we are and the best we can do now is to muddle on through.”
HAIL to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert—
That from heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Somewhere in that vast mound of merde thou are sure to find thy pony.
Obama’s speech last Monday was utterly incoherent. All I could make out was that Obama didn’t want pictures on TV making him look bad. If there is an Obama doctrine, it seems to be to kick allies and coddle enemies. The only regimes who are quite safe from American pressure are our open enemies.
Obama won’t even SAY he supports Syrian demonstrators against Assad. Nor will he say a word for the disappeared leaders of the Green Movement in Iran. But he’ll bomb Qaddafi, who we were cooperating with until the week before last. Without any clear objective, without a strategy, and without any consultation with Congress. Just imagine what the left would be saying if Obama had an (R) after his name.
You left out the part about the Constitutional requirement that Obama get Congressional approval before going to war.
I have several issues with this war.
First, didn’t the Arab League, and all the other proponents of the no-fly zone understand that it starts with demolishing air defense command and control? This may not have been obvious in the wake of Desert Storm, because it was accomplished before the ground war. It’s not like we were ever going to fly planes over Libya with electronic warfare as their only defenses, and just hope they never got shot down.
Second, what’s the end-game here? We’re not going to do no-fly forever, and a stalemate is possible under the purported rules of engagement.
Most importantly, what message does this send to other tyrants who get religion, and get rid of their WMD’s? Despite being despicable and loony (plus Lockerbie, etc.), Gaddafi gave up his WMD’s. What the West supposedly granted him was welcome him back to realm of supposedly civilized countries. Unless he started interfering in other countries again, we should have lived with this bargain with the devil (like we have put up with Castro since the bargain that ended the Cuban missile crisis); otherwise why would Pyongyang or Tehran ever give up their WMD’s. To me, this is the biggest issue.
Finally, what’s our big rush to help all these autocratic regimes be overthrown, only for these countries to fall into the hands of Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda sympathizers. Of course, most of the protesters that got things going weren’t from the MB or AQ, but their followers are the best organized, and have the most intense backing. They have already hijacked the revolution in Egypt. Next thing you know, Morocco will be all that stands between the EU, and the dreams of the MB and AQ of reconstituting a modern-day caliphate, ready to re-conquer Al_Andalus. Yet, right now, some of the fighters we’re supplying in Libya are AQ.
This war will go badly, if only because John Kerry is supporting it so far.
Gosh, the lessons of history n’ stuff. Unlike that idiot Bush, I thought Obama and his people were soooo smart and knew all that already….
I suspect Jacksonian Libertarian is right about the long term corrosive effects of Iraq 2003 on stagnant Middle Eastern culture. Sometimes you have to take the long view. I read once that Kissinger dined with Cho En-Lai in Bejing prior to Nixon’s official visit. He asked Cho if he thought the French Revolution was a success or a failure. Cho responded: “It’s too soon to tell.”
@ Luke Lea, my guess is that COFKATGWOT means:
Conflict Operation Formerly Known As The Global War On Terror
Obama may be smarter than he looks. Aid the rebels enough to level the playing field but not enough to give them a decisive advantage. That keeps those animals too busy slaughtering each other to worry about slaughtering us.
I hate to be the one to take you to task for your metaphor of “a January robin in Vermont”. Such sightings are actually common, many of these birds have found a welcome and tasty winter environment here…no resaon to migrate. A more apt metaphor might be “a popular conservative Senator from VT”.
Luke Lea, thanks for that link. Sad that we have fallen into the same trap.
While I’m no fan of Wilsons’ blatantly fascist domestic policies, the dirty truth is that he was doing very well until he got levelled by the great Influenza.
Which, in a way, only supports Prof. Meade’s thesis — it IS possible to forge a Wilsonian peace. But only if you’re SO dominant that you could have done it all by yourself anyway. Pre-sickness Wilson was clearly in a position to dictate terms at Versailles, and was doing so prior to having to withdraw: is it likely that we’ll see any US leader in so strong a position in the future?
“What is astounding to me is how quickly Obama moved against Libya while he has been so reluctant to offer even rhetorical support to Iranian and Syrian dissidents who face regimes as bad as Gaddafi’s.” (Wigwag)
“Obama won’t even SAY he supports Syrian demonstrators against Assad. Nor will he say a word for the disappeared leaders of the Green Movement in Iran. But he’ll bomb Qaddafi, who we were cooperating with until the week before last.” (Nadine)
I would find this troubling except for the fact that if we encourage dissidents in Syria and Iran right now, and Qaddafi wins, we will have only added to the perception that America is a fountain of empty rhetoric and ineffective action. If we succeed in Libya and a democratic constitution goes into effect in Egypt, our moral support for dissidents in Syria and Iran might then be more effective.
The question is whether the actions we are taking in Libya are sufficient to bring Qaddafi’s departure. The Arab, NATO, and UN support that we obtained for a more limited operation seems now to be fading. But after only about two weeks I think it is still too soon to judge our actions and those of our allies a failure. We will know soon enough.
For Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the 60 day grace period allowed under the War Powers Act is a deadline for them to take responsibility, either to approve an on-going war or to end it.
(testing, had a topical comment on “Wilsonian Pease” list before as accepted from a couple hours ago; it’s not showing. if this goes on, will repost)
Here’s a proposed endgame in Libya:
– The old Colonel abdicates in favor of his son. (Pick your favorite.)
o The old goat is whisked off to house arrest in a tent in the middle of the Sahara, accompanied by a dozen of the bustiest formerly East Bloc hotties the Internet has to offer.
– His son immediately:
o Offers amnesty to most of the rebels.*
o Reaches out to the rebel leaders with whom he had previously held talks to put together a Constitution
o Offers to NeoConservative types the heads of those rebels who have fought against America in South Asia.
*At this point, all of the US’s stated war aims are met – get rid of the Colonel, and stop any genocide. Possible diplomatic coup for Gadfly fils. The other two are to gain the support of (or neutralize) other local and international groups who might otherwise be hostile to this resolution.
That’s how I imagine they would have tried to play the game back in London in the late 1840’s, anyway.
Who is happy?
– Anyone who wants this to be a short war
– Green-eyeshade types here in America
– Anyone who thought they were going to die because of this mess
Who is unhappy?
– Anyone who thinks that American power should be able to make things immediately perfect
– Anyone who wanted this to be a drain on America for the foreseeable future
– Anyone who wanted this to be a drain on Obama for the foreseeable future
– The hotties, at least until they find a way to get the old ghoul to happily keel over of a heart attack
– Anyone who figures this is too good a fate for the old ghoul
– The rebels who have fought against America in South Asia and want a chance for Sharia in Libya, who have probably heard of the Bolsheviks
– Any naïve students who wanted to fight this out (rather than submit to another Gadfly), students who may or may not have heard of the Mensheviks
… but I’m OK with all the unhappy people, because I consider myself to be part of groups 1 and 2 of the happy people, above.
– The belief of the Libyan people in hereditary leadership
– The character of Gadfly fils –
o I’ve read that he thinks of the rebels as criminals, and that he had at one point worked on a constitution with one of the rebels. But that’s it. (Might even have been different sons, there.)
– What Gibbon called “the chance of war”
o Who’s going to get ground to dust before the shooting stops?
– The disposition and/or position of the official government army and police forces
Yeah, this is all a little bit too pat, too-clever-by-half, but it’s not as flippant as the “East Bloc hotties” comment implies. Eh, it’s the best way I could fit the pieces I know about together.
Look, if France has good intelligence on the state of the rebels and of the Libyan army, it sees a compelling French national interest in going in, they’re set up for a timely intervention, and it doesn’t negatively impact American interests, then godspeed to them.
Obama was president. He attempted to set the doctrine and precedent that the US president should consult the UN instead of our own Congress, and that our interventions should be arbitrarily frequent, per a set of opaque “humanitarian” concerns.
If a Republican were president, they would have had the chance to set up a different type of precedent entirely — one where the French get the green-light from the US to go ahead and pursue a French-led humanitarian / regime change / sphere of influence sort of military effort.
Obama’s precedent: US servility, US financial responsibility, arbitrary and potentially unlimited exercise of US power (controlled by someone *other than* the US.) Overall, a strategic drain on the US.
Alternative precedent — US leadership, US authority, (you want to go to war, you clear it with *us* first); reinforced precedent for Nations acting in their own interests (if the French do it, how can you criticize us?); precedent for European nations taking on the expense and effort of military actions instead of dumping it on the US.
We could have put together a strategy that was good for the US. Obama’s strategy is downright awful for us.
There is no Constitutional requirement to get Congressional approval for a kinetic military operation.
It’s hard to argue that there weren’t some compelling reasons to go into Libya. What is impossible to ignore is that once we went in there was no end-game, and if there were, if O’bummer’s tactic was to publicly say we did not intend to pursue regime change even as we were, then the follow-through has been woefully inadequate.
It would have been quite simple, just a few days ago, to have continued pursuing the Libyan forces attacking the rebels and destroyed them enough to make them useless. We could have used the ineffective UN resolution to say that it was the only way we could ensure that civilians would continue to be protected. Now we have put ourselves in a terrible position because we were too timid and too deferential to the precise wording of the UN resolution. I’m sure Mr. O could give us a lecture on fine legal points of why that was necessary.
The other Powell Doctrine was not mentioned, that is in war to set a goal and go in with overwhelming force to achieve it. Ah, yes, but of course in Lybia it is not a war and the goal is to be able keep the coalition together and keep repeating, this is not Iraq, this will not be Iraq, this is not. . .etc.
So you’re saying that as China’s ballooning military and economic might threatens to upset the balance of power in the most important strategic theater on earth, and as America’s unsustainable fiscal situation threatens our viability as a nation, we’ve decided that bombing a group of bad guys so that another group of bad guys can take power in a country where we have no vital strategic interests is the best use of our nation’s focus and wealth?
Yay! Go America!
To heck with the United Nations. It’s only real functions are as a reasonably inept, grossly corrupt charity, and aq fig leaf fot national poloticians in various countries, including ours. I mean the idea of BS indstead of WAR makes some sense, even Churchil thought so (‘jaw jaw jaw os better than wah wah wah’). But that’s about it.
Liberal Internationalism is indeed a synonym for clueless professors flapping their lips.
Hopefully future Presidents will make it reasonably clear that UN approval is not only unnessary but actually couter-productive, except in those rare circumstances where a war can be concluded before the temporary domestic political boost that may accrue to the American administration has worn off.
Speaking of COFKATGWOT, here’s another prophecy written pre-9/11:
“I would find this troubling except for the fact that if we encourage dissidents in Syria and Iran right now, and Qaddafi wins, we will have only added to the perception that America is a fountain of empty rhetoric and ineffective action…” (David Billington)
Whose “perceptions” is it, David, that you believe we should be worried about?
I can tell you the “perceptions” that I’m worried about. I worry about the perceptions of millions of Iranian dissidents who must be wondering why the United States is so obsessed with the civil rights of the Libyan people while it ignores the human rights of the Iranian people. The Iranian Greens must be wondering why Obama is willing to respond to Gaddafi’s abuses with tomahawk missiles but he’s not even willing to respond to the abuses of the Revolutionary Guards with harsh rhetoric.
I also worry about the perceptions of Sunni Syrians and Kurdish Syrians who must be scratching their heads when they hear John Kerry and Hillary Clinton refer to Bashar Assad as a “reformer.”
Three other groups whose perceptions I worry about are the Lebanese Christians, Druze and Sunnis. What do you think they must be thinking about an American President who returns an ambassador to Damascus at the same time that everyone in the world knows that the Syrians and their Hezbollah allies ordered the assassination of Rafic Hariri? I also wonder what they think when they hear Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, John Brennan, insist that the United States should be engaging the so-called moderate elements in Hezbollah; the one faction in Lebanon that maintains its own militia.
Finally, I wonder about the perceptions of the Israelis who must be very curious about why Obama is so hell-bent on providing self-determination to the Palestinians and Eqyptians while his rhetoric makes clear that self-determination for the Syrians or Iranians is something he’s indifferent to.
There’s something not right here. It is all well and good to intervene for humanitarian purposes, but the situation just seemed too convenient, too opportunistic, too much an example of Rahm Emmanuel’s “never waste a crisis.”
So – where are the press conferences given by Obama’s military advisors and spokesmen? When do we get to hear the details? Exactly how many troops and planes have we committed? What units are involved? For how long? And for how much? I’m not a TV watcher, nor a CSPAN or cable news junkie. I read the internet and see nothing coming from Obama’s military people, but a lot of incidental stuff.
It makes me wonder, makes me suspicious, that something is going on behind closed doors, that if you and I knew, we wouldn’t like it. Most of all, the absence of information willingly shared belies Obama’s vow of transparency. And while I understand politicians break campaign promises, from someone supposedly as principled and idealistic as Obama, it is a breach of trust. It is a breach of trust that this president could not even face his own Congress and his own people, but runs to the UN for approval, so the feeling I (personally) get is we really don’t matter.
“I can tell you the “perceptions” that I’m worried about. I worry about the perceptions of millions of Iranian dissidents who must be wondering why the United States is so obsessed with the civil rights of the Libyan people while it ignores the human rights of the Iranian people.” (Wigwag)
I fail to see how using military force on behalf of the Libyans and rhetoric on behalf of the Iranians acquits us of a double standard. My point is that waiting a few more weeks to resolve the Libyan situation is preferable to inciting uprisings in Syria and Iran while we are still preoccupied with Libya.
I don’t understand why we need to describe Bashar Assad as a reformer or what reason we have to talk to Hezbollah. But none of this matters as much as the outcome in Libya. If that goes well, we can reaffirm our support for human rights in other countries and have some momentum on the side of what we support. If we make expressions of support for human rights now and then don’t follow through in Libya, the people of the region will conclude quite rightly that our rhetoric is empty.
“My point is that waiting a few more weeks to resolve the Libyan situation is preferable to inciting uprisings in Syria and Iran while we are still preoccupied with Libya.” (David Billington)
It is entirely possible that waiting a few more weeks will render the possibility of helping the Syrians moot.
There was a window of opportunity to help the Iranians during the massive demonstrations that took place after the rigged elections last year. Instead, Obama decided to do virtually nothing. He didn’t offer logistical support to the Green movement; he didn’t even offer very many kind words for what it was trying to accomplish. He certainly didn’t order up any tomahawk missile strikes. Predictably the moment of maximum vulnerability of the regime passed and it is unclear when, if ever, Iranian dissidents will again have a chance to reform or overthrow their repressive government.
The demonstrations against Assad and his Baathist regime are taking place in Syria right now. The one thing we know is that Assad won’t be as restrained as Mubarak was in putting down the revolt and we know that the Alawite dominated military and security forces that control the Syrian Government have far more to lose than the Egyptian army did if the Assad regime were to falter. If Obama misses this window of opportunity in Syria it may never return. Revolutionary fervor has a limited lifespan and it comes along only occasionally. If you don’t believe it, think about the optimism that followed the Cedar Revolution and contrast it with the state of Lebanon today.
By the way, Obama’s blunder in Libya is likely to have the effect of making the behavior of both the Iranian and Syrian regimes even more intractable. The Iranians clearly have a nuclear program and it is possible that the Syrians have a nascent one as well. When Gadaffi gave up his nuclear program it bought him only a temporary reprieve from Western bombardment. Isn’t the message to the Iranians and Syrians (not to mention the North Koreans) that they would be crazy to follow in Gadaffis footsteps and eschew their nuclear weapons programs? Doesn’t the bombardment of Libya make it even more likely that the Iranians will accelerate their program?
There was certainly a humanitarian interest in protecting the Libyan tribesmen who dislike Gadaffi but the same humanitarian interest exists in both Iran and Syria and the United States has a tremendous strategic interest in seeing these regimes overthrown while everyone admits that we had no strategic interest in Libya one way or the other.
No one is suggesting that Obama bombard Syria. But there are numerous overt and covert ways that the U.S. could pressure the regime, instead the Obama Administration decided to genuflect to Assad in the crazy hope that this would make him think about reforming his ways. The absurdity of this is hard to overstate.
And respectfully, David, I still don’t know whose “perceptions” you are worried about. Could it be the increasingly irrelevant and deluded European left or the radical Islamists who are ubiquitous throughout the Muslim world? I just don’t understand why you consider it important what they think.
Gates’s testimony before Congress yesterday was interesting. Asked whether it were possible we would have any “boots on the ground” in Libya, he answered, “Not while I’m here.”
“No one is suggesting that Obama bombard Syria. But there are numerous overt and covert ways that the U.S. could pressure the regime…” (Wigwag)
The Israelis don’t want us to “genuflect” to Syria but my understanding is that they have urged caution. I would take their view seriously here.
“Revolutionary fervor has a limited lifespan and it comes along only occasionally. If you don’t believe it, think about the optimism that followed the Cedar Revolution and contrast it with the state of Lebanon today.”
The Soviet bloc saw uprisings in the 1950s and 1960s that we did not support effectively, but sentiment for revolution in eastern Europe continued. The Middle East is no different. I think you need to take a longer view.
“And respectfully, David, I still don’t know whose “perceptions” you are worried about. Could it be the increasingly irrelevant and deluded European left or the radical Islamists who are ubiquitous throughout the Muslim world? I just don’t understand why you consider it important what they think.”
Wigwag, I am concerned about what we did in Iraq after 1991, when we incited the Shias to rise up and then did nothing when Saddam Hussein massacred them. What I care about are the perceptions of innocent people who might expose themselves to gunfire, not apologists for tyranny or anti-American groups outside the region. I do not want to see innocent people rise in revolution with our encouragement unless we are willing and able to defend them in the event that lesser forms of U.S. support are not enough.
The days are clearly numbered for the tyrannies in the Middle East. I think we ought to focus on Libya and Egypt and help these countries complete their transitions to popular government. If they do, the results will undermine tyrannies elsewhere in the region more effectively than any covert or overt intervention that we might contemplate. If the popular uprisings in Libya and Egypt fail, then I doubt anything else we might do right now will matter, and the region will be unchanged for another decade. But the combination of demographics and politico-economic dysfunction guarantee that the authoritarian regimes in the area cannot endure.
“The Soviet bloc saw uprisings in the 1950s and 1960s that we did not support effectively, but sentiment for revolution in Eastern Europe continued. The Middle East is no different. I think you need to take a longer view.” (David Billington)
The aborted Hungarian Revolution took place in 1956; Hungarians did not win their freedom for 33 more years (1989.) For an excellent first-hand account on the subject I recommend Kati Marton’s “Enemies of the People;” it’s quite riveting.
Alexander Dubcek and the Prague Spring took place in 1968; Czechs and Slovaks didn’t win their freedom for 21 additional years in 1989.
It is true that the United States was unable to intervene on behalf of the Hungarians or Czechs because doing so would have risked nuclear war with a belligerent and paranoid Soviet Union.
But Syria is not Hungary or Czechoslovakia; it isn’t a vassal state of the second most powerful nation on the planet. Syria is a poor, backwards nation with a per capita income of $5,100 per year (111th out of 158 nations ranked by the World Bank). It’s only important allies are a country rocked by internal conflict itself and suffering under an internationally adopted sanctions regime (Iran) and two terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah although perhaps in fairness, Turkey might also be called an ally of Syria these days.
Moreover, Syria is an ethnic stew whose various tribes and religious subgroups view each other in the best of times with suspicion and fear.
Syria’s status is precarious enough that rhetorical support and covert measures might actually be enough to cause the Assad regime to crumble; if not, a few well placed missile strikes, certainly far fewer than we are showering on Libya, should be more than enough to get the job done. Personally I doubt Assad’s resolve or staying power; Gadaffi is a mad man; Assad is an optometrist.
I understand the predicament of the Israelis when it comes to Syria; it’s not unreasonable to prefer the enemy you know to the enemy that you don’t. But a Syria led by Sunni Muslims likely to sympathize with their Sunni co-religionists in Lebanon as opposed to the Shia represented by Amal and Hezbollah is so manifestly in American interests that pushing for the overthrow of Assad is an opportunity that would be tragic to waste. I just don’t share your optimism that if we are patient, another opportunity will soon come along.
The main obstacle to a success in Syria is that in the United States we are suffering under the leadership of a President who is too feckless and blinded by a bizarre ideology to advocate the overthrow of anyone other than American allies.
During the Cold War, the only Premier that was ever described as a “reformer” was Gorbachev. Even Khrushchev wasn’t described that way by American Administrations of either political party. Certainly the term “reformer” was never used to describe Stalin, Brezhnev or Andropov. Yet Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry believe that Bashar Assad is a “reformer.”
Who does Assad remind you more of, David, Brezhnev or Gorbachev?
ps: Recently on a visit to the Strand used bookstore in New York I picked up a copy of a book entitled “Big Dams and the New Deal Era: A Confluence of Engineering and Politics.” The authors of the book, which I am about to start to read, are listed as David P. Billington and Donald C. Jackson. If it’s not to forward a question, are you the author of that book?
“Syria’s status is precarious enough that rhetorical support and covert measures might actually be enough to cause the Assad regime to crumble; if not, a few well placed missile strikes, certainly far fewer than we are showering on Libya, should be more than enough to get the job done. ” (Wigwag)
I’m not really qualified to assess the practicality of what you propose. We were not able to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 1991 with air strikes inside Iraq, though, and his country was as fractious as Syria and in addition had just lost a war. The Syrian regime could be different but if there is reasonable doubt that it would fall to covert action and missile strikes in conjunction with a popular uprising, then I think we must be willing to defend a popular uprising more forcefully before inciting one.
There is also a strategic question. It would isolate Hezbollah if we were to bring an anti-Shia majority to power in Syria right now, but I wonder how the Shias of Iraq would respond if it appears that we are taking the other side in the wider Sunni-Shia conflict in the region? I would be careful about exchanging Iraq for Syria as an ally, if that is what you are prepared to accept.
What can be said for your argument is that there is a democratic moment in the Middle East and that sectarian differences might be set aside by newly freed populations that do not want civil war. The Egyptians seemed to want to unite a few weeks ago and a non-sectarian spirit imbued the initial protests in Bahrain. It might be worth our taking greater risks to prevent the flame of freedom from being extinguished. But I think we need to be realistic about the risks and not let anyone we encourage to rise up be massacred for listening to us.
Thank you for your interest in “Big Dams and the New Deal Era,” but the co-author is my father, not me, although I spent some fascinating time doing research for some of the book. I learned a great deal about how the federal government once did infrastructure investments quickly and efficiently. If you run across a book called “Power Speed and Form,” you’ll find me as a co-author.
Thank you, David. I look forward to reading “Big Dams and the New Deal Era” and will look for “Power, Speed and Form.”
“Gates’s testimony before Congress yesterday was interesting. Asked whether it were possible we would have any “boots on the ground” in Libya, he answered, “Not while I’m here.””
Gates sounds to me like someone who is on the verge of resigning, and probably would do so now if he could do it honorably and without turning his back on the men under his command.
I imagine that like many of us, he is probably thoroughly disgusted at liberal Wilsonians like Obama, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton who heap endless scorn upon our military behind closed doors, cut their funding, and kill our advanced weapon systems while at the same time they increase our military responsibilities and send our men and women into one meat grinder after another on behalf of people with little or no gratitude to show for it.
To summarize, three Defense Dept. insiders with long experience in the weapons procurement process argue that the U.S lacks a rational defense strategy based on a realistic assessment of threats to our national security and that consequently new weapons are designed and procured without reference to their effectiveness or costs. The result is an arsenal that is vastly smaller, more expensive, and less effective than in decades past. There is no field testing of new weapons to assess their capability or suitability to ordinary soldiers under real battlefield conditions. Instead a “politics of fear” (based on unrealistic threat assessments) combined with “political engineering” (making sure the weapons manufacturing process is spread over as many congressional districts as possible) guide procurement decisions. The result is a bloated defense budget (currently 1.2 $Trillion/yr) with little bang for the buck. They call for auditing of the Defense Department — not currently done! — and the application of cost-benefit analysis to all weapons systems.
Our spending on defense and health care are the two biggest out-of-control items in the federal budget. The first is sacrosanct (Congress rubber-stamps annual Defense Department appropriations with little critical oversight) while neither is subject to rigorous cost-benefit analysis within budgetary constraints. This must change if we are serious balancing the federal budget while maximizing our national security under realistic assumptions.
For example is the “War on Terror” an appropriate response to the threat posed by small bands of poorly-organized, less-than-competent Islamic fundamentalists on the other side of the world? Are worst-case-scenarios of biological or nuclear attacks by such groups a rational way to ration our defense spending? Was the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center a lucky sucker punch landed in a moment of inattention, or true indication of the strength and sophistication of Islamic terrorist organizations? More generally, is national security strengthened or weakened if we over-react to exaggerated threats?
Finally, are new state-of-the-art Cold War weapons systems such as Patriot missiles, stealth bombers, new fighter jets with advanced avionics (instead of an adequate supply of already battle-tested close-ground-support aircraft) the best way to spend our limited supply of defense dollars?
Hm, I’m seeing noises in the media about Gadfly’s sons trying to cut some kind of deal (possibly as I’ve outlined above). Most media outlets seem to believe that a sufficient rebuttal to that is saying, “But the rebels don’t want those sons in power” so they dismiss the whole thing.
To which I have to ask: Is the US really going to go all-in to support rebels that are unlikely to have the military wherewithal to hold (and keep) the country, without holding (and keeping) the support of crypto-jihadis?
Some diplomatic pressure on rebels from the US to accept half a loaf (amnesty, a Constitution limiting but not eliminating the power of the executive) is likely the only thing that will keep us from getting into another Iraq.
I also started reading the “Big Dams and the New Deal Era” book and I’m actually enjoying it!
There is no Constitutional requirement to get Congressional approval for a kinetic military operation.I totally agree with this opinion.