Thank God For Humanitarian Bombs?
Published on: January 27, 2012
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  • vanderleun

    I can see we shall have to revise “Responsibility to Protect” to “Responsibility to Dissect.”

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I didn’t think at the time, and still don’t think we had a dog in the fight in Libya. I also think that if the French have a hand in the affair, it is always better for the US to keep its distance, as they will always stab us in the back.

  • Kenny

    There is no such thing as a ‘duty to protect.’

    The concept itself is absurd.

  • Mike G

    Overthrow of dictator that ends badly by Democratic president: humanitarian

    Overthrow of dictator that ends fairly well by Republican president: crime against humanity

  • Yahzooman

    I’m confused.

    The brilliant 2008 Obama campaign bulldozed the Clinton war room. Then these Chicago Boys ripped old pol Republicans in the general. They pushed every button and played three-corner bank shots as if they were tiddly winks.

    How did these geniuses pivot so completely to short-sighted buffoons who never see the long-term ricochets of their actions, both domestically and internationally?

  • Blue Hen

    “How did these geniuses pivot so completely to short-sighted buffoons who never see the long-term ricochets of their actions, both domestically and internationally?”

    Playing to the lowest common denominator doesn’t always work, nor forever.

    Or, there are great differences between political campaigns and military ones.

  • gs

    1. As you note, Ghadaffi did what we asked wrt WMD–and we overthrew him for his trouble.

    There is also Pinochet, who voluntarily relinquished power–and was persecuted abroad and domestically thereafter.

    The next time a buyout makes more sense than forcible removal of a tyrant, well, good luck to us with that.

    2. As you note, Syria was a bigger issue than Libya, yet we acted against the latter.

    9/11 made it even more unmistakable that we have a core conflict with Islamism. Nevertheless, we acted against the secular Baathist regime of Iraq instead of the Iranian theocracy. I have often asked for but never received a cogent rationale for that priority.

  • Andy Freeman

    > The brilliant 2008 Obama campaign bulldozed the Clinton war room.

    The Clintons were used to having media support. Without that, they were completely lost.

    > Then these Chicago Boys ripped old pol Republicans in the general.

    They beat McCain, who thought/thinks that a media that applauds him when he bashes Repubs is a media that won’t trash him to elect their guy.

    > They pushed every button and played three-corner bank shots as if they were tiddly winks.

    Not really – that’s just the press that they got, and the press was “nudging” the balls.

    > How did these geniuses pivot so completely to short-sighted buffoons who never see the long-term ricochets of their actions, both domestically and internationally?

    The US press can’t control perceptions outside the US or rig the game.

  • memomachine

    Hmmmm.

    IMO the instability in Libya doesn’t end there. It will be a source of instability in Egypt not only for the revolutionary forces that will reside in Libya but also because Egypt is in a dire fiscal situation.

    The reality is that I fully expect Egypt will invade and subjugate Libya on a pretext in order to gain access to the oil fields and the vast sums of money in various banks. Additionally Russia may bankroll this invasion in order to roll the dice again and get a better position vis a vis an Egyptian leadership installed in Libya.

    And as China has shown the world once you’ve established that some piece of territory might have been at one point a part of some ancient hegemonic homeland. Well then you’ve got a claim for all eternity.

  • You make some very reasonable points, particularly towards the end of your piece, but I find that you might be overstating the negative impacts of the Libyan adventure. Would you please address the following:

    A) To what extent has this really affected thinking in the Kremlin? Can you supply some additional evidence. It seems likely to me that the Kremlin was always going to defend Syria more vigorously than Qaddafi.

    B) Has this really affected the calculus in Tehran? Given the examples of Iraq and North Korea in the past decade, my impression is that Iran had determined long ago the desirability of possessing nuclear weapons.

    Thanks.

    -Tacitus

  • Deoxy

    How did these geniuses pivot so completely to short-sighted buffoons who never see the long-term ricochets of their actions, both domestically and internationally?

    They didn’t – they were short-sighted buffoons to begin with. They happened upon a golden opportunity (a “well-spoken” (per Biden) black democrat on the rise, a particularly supportive press (even more so than usual)) and leveraged the crap out of it entirely for short-term gain (get the Presidency NOW, no matter how badly those promises turn out later).

    They didn’t “play three-corner bank shots as if they were tiddly winks”, they screwed the crap out of things repeatedly, and the press (the “ref” in that game reference) covered for them. To switch metaphors, they were bowling with the bumpers pressed so close together, the ball was riding them to a perfect strike.

    Anybody who looked at the man behind the curtain could (and did) say they were buffoons (heck, I WANTED Obama to win the primary – I couldn’t imagine such an empty, obvious cult-of-personality campaign making it through the election). Far too many people closed their eyes to that and elected him just because he was black.

    (For the record, I was supporting Cain, and I would happily have supported Condoleeza Rice – race is IRRELEVANT to me in terms of fitness for office… and almost everything else.)

  • Cunctator

    This is an side, because I find myself wholeheartedly on side with what WRM has written about Libya – an expensive sideshow that has distracted the world from more important issues and that has thoroughly alienated Russia and China in the UNSC, yet again.

    What I cannot understand (in today’s news) is how Egypt has been allowed to prevent US citizens from leaving the country for any longer than it takes the US ambassador to inform the Egyptian government that such a policy is completely unacceptable. US power in the region is such that no government should risk a confrontation with Washington over something so important as the safety of its citizens abroad.

  • char

    Where are all the yard signs in the progessive(ly wrong) side of town, “No Kinetic Action for (French) Oil!”?

  • char

    Inattention and incompetence do not explain this administration’s record in the ME of having presided by rhetoric and action over a radicalization of the Crescent governance and a distancing from, or perhaps more like a dissing of, Israel.

    At least, Obama doesn’t want America to be alone in the grand comeuppance he seeks.

  • joel

    FDR foreign policy in his 2nd term was smooth?

    Pleez.

    Why do you think that Japan attacked the USA in 1941? Why do you think Germany immediately declared war on the USA after Pearl Harbor? Both countries had wanted to avoid war with the USA at almost any cost. (Germany fighting England and Russia, Japan fighting China.) Both countries had been forced into a corner by US economic and military warfare orchestrated by FDR.

    Defend or condemn FDR for his actions, but realize foreign policy was very bumpy during FDR’s 2nd term.

  • I have a friend who is a retired Marine officer with extensive service in the Middle East and Africa. His assessment at the beginning of the Libya misadventure was that Obama got rolled by the Europeans.

    “It’s their mess,” David said. “This is an after-affect of French and Italian colonialism. The Libya war is neo-colonialism by the Europeans. And the United States is like fraternity pledges that the brothers make mop up the frat house floor on Sunday morning after an all-night kegger that they didn’t attend.”

    Yep.

  • Mike L

    Libya was only a failure if you think the goal was setting up a democracy. It wasn’t – the goal was getting rid of Ghadafi (in order to encourage other dictators who might be inclined to mess us about)

  • richard40

    “I’m confused.
    The brilliant 2008 Obama campaign bulldozed the Clinton war room. Then these Chicago Boys ripped old pol Republicans in the general. They pushed every button and played three-corner bank shots as if they were tiddly winks.
    How did these geniuses pivot so completely to short-sighted buffoons who never see the long-term ricochets of their actions, both domestically and internationally?”

    The answer is quite simple really. The competance of the Obama campaign was an illusion. Obama just promised everybody the moon, and with cover from the MSM, too many rubes beleived those promisses. But making profligate impossible promisses is one thing, delivering on them is another. And once the promisses meet with the facts, and with his actual record, a few of the rubes finally wised up, and now refuse to beleive the next round of glowing promisses. To at least a few of the rubes, it is now a case of Fool Me Once Shame On You, Fool Me Twice Shame On Me.

  • “Meanwhile for Russia, the “lessons of Libya” are clear. Russia’s abstention on the Libya resolution at the UN Security Council extended a mantle of legitimacy over the Libyan bombs; this is now seen as a strategic mistake that must not be repeated over Syria.”

    True, but not quite complete.

    The mantle of legitimacy covered the authorization to use force to protect civilians. In the beginning, the Obama administration and NATO used that authorization for its intended purpose. In short order though, they perverted that into regime change and acting as close air support for the rebel army. That was not what Russia or any of the other abstaining nations had agreed to allow.

    It’s no surprise then, that not only Russia, but also Brazil, India, China, South Africa, and other nations now have zero trust in the Obama administration to stick to the spirit and letter of any resolution regarding options against Syria. Or anywhere else for that matter.

    “Duty to protect” is a dead concept for now, and any who wish to protest that should direct their complaints to the arrogant and short-sighted Obama administration.

  • char

    “Humanitarian bombs” or humanitarianism bombed?

    Good intentions, hell and all that. What good are guided missiles with misguided aims?

  • Anthony

    “In Russia, the belief that the west cynically uses internal instability as an excuse to replace unfriendly regimes with compliant puppets (often no more “democratic” or “humane” than the previous thugs) has become dogma, and this western propensity is now seen as a national security threat to Russia and the friendly regimes on its frontiers.” The aforementioned and the intimation about French ploy for oil are most salient aspects of essay vis-a-vis U.S. Foreign Policy interests and the strategic difficulties engaging foreign policy in world alliances – U.S. interests globally (international order, open sea lanes, etc.) are varied but must have coherence (importance to national interest).

  • Walter Grumpius

    Deoxy @ #11: “For the record, I was supporting Cain, and I would happily have supported Condoleeza Rice – race is IRRELEVANT to me in terms of fitness for office… and almost everything else.”

    If a candidate or an office-holder is a “race man” and looks to administer that office through the lens of race, then no, race is _not_ irrelevant. Rather, it is highly relevant. Obama was and is a race man. Therefore, his race is highly relevant to voters, not because of his physical appearance but because of what he has in mind, based on his deepest loyalties; that is to say, it’s relevant in a “Who? Whom?” sort of way. Race is about things far more deep and difficult than pigmentation, and these things necessarily inform politics; indeed, they are a major part of politics.

    On the other hand, if a candidate is not at heart a race man (and good luck finding one of those, except among white candidates), then race would be a lot less relevant in an election. But because race is never entirely absent from human perceptions, it’s unlikely the issue would ever be 100% irrelevant, simply less so or more so, depending. That’s because human beings choose up teams and take sides, in a “Who? Whom?” sort of way. It’s just part of how the species operates, there’s no real getting around it.

    To think otherwise is naive.

  • Toni

    Wow. In an earlier post, I laid out the case that Iran’s mullahs might go after Israel and Iraq because groupthink may lead to the idea that if they can’t get the Great Satan, Allah will bless their effort to get Little Satan on the Jordan and meanwhile take advantage of chaos in Iraq to wipe out their erstwhile Sunni enemies. Then they’d have Iraq’s oil, too.

    And if Russian oligarchs wanted to fund this effort with their own oil and other money, well, why not?

    With Americans war-weary and Obama focused on winning his second term, in which he wants to pursue his “fundamental transformation” of America into the Blue European Social Model — if he gets it, what then?

    Imagine if Iran made a move on Israel. Oil prices would immediately shoot up, helping both Iran and Russia. Russia would then have more money to fund Iran, plus access to the Persian Gulf through Iran. It’s a straight shot across the Caspian Sea.

    Obviously I’m speculating. But what are the odds that Iranian mullahs and Russian oligarchs might decide a second Obama Administration would be the perfect moment to take action? What are the odds that this would be fine with oil-rich Azerbaijan and Kazachstan, which also border the Caspian Sea, and might join the Iran-Russia alliance?

    Also obviously, I don’t know the answers. Prof. Mead, has this possibility occurred to you?

    Both Europe and the US could come to regret the Blue Social Model, for lack of funds to counter Islamic theocracy wed to Russian ambitions. Gulp.

    If nothing else, the state of the world today proves that the U.N. is obsolete except for non-controversial data-gathering and humanitarian projects. For Americans and Europeans to refer to “the Security Council” is Orwellian. Its permanent membership ensures that any project important to the U.S. and Europe will be vetoed.

  • Externality

    Franklin Roosevelt’s foreign policy in his second term was pretty smooth, but only because the US sat passively as Nazi Germany, Fascist Japan and Stalin’s USSR cooked up the most dangerous global challenge we have ever faced. Given the state of US public opinion at the time (humanitarian legalists and crackpot isolationists were stinking up the place with bad ideas) there might not have been much FDR could do

    I am surprised to see such a condescending and ahistorical analysis of American non-interventionism during the 1930s.

    In the case of the USSR, many American intellectual, cultural, and political elites praised the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin. They believed that, but for American “reactionaries” and “religiosity,” the American people would be living like Soviet citizens they saw on their carefully orchestrated tours to the Stalinist equivalent of Potemkin villages. Common people and “crackpot isolationists,” ironically, opposed communism far more than their purported betters. Elite opinion, much more than the “crackpot” or “reactionary” opinion, was wrong about Stalin.

    The New York Times’ Walter Duranty, for example, received the 1932 Pulitzer prize for his articles praising Stalin, his methods, and his actions in the Ukraine. Among his Pulitzer Prize-winning articles was an article, written on June 24, 1931, lauding the incipient anti-Ukrainian genocide later called the Holodomor. (6,7) Nearly six million Ukrainians (and large numbers of other ethnic groups) would soon perish by starvation, disease, gunfire, etc. Throughout the 1932-1933 genocide, the NY Times’ Duranty and The Nation magazine in the US — along with prominent British writers George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells — supported Stalin’s actions in the Ukraine and denied (or minimized and justified) the suffering of the Ukrainian people. (1) They also vilified anyone who tried to point out the truth. As late as the 1980s, many American leftists engaged in Holodomor denialism and smeared those who tried to discuss it as far-right extremists.

    American elites were also amazed at how ethnic tensions seemed disappear under Stalin; in reality, troublesome ethnic minority groups were often murdered en masse and/or shipped to prison camps in Siberia or Soviet Central Asia. The Crimean Tartars, for example. (2) Again, the American establishment of the time smeared those who tried to tell the truth as “reactionaries.”

    Many in the Congress and the Roosevelt administration were also solid supporters of the USSR The VENONA intercepts and other records show that there were Soviet spies and agents of influence (e.g., Harry Dexter White) throughout the Roosevelt administration. (3,4) Congressman Samuel Dickstein, co-founder and vice-chair of what would become the House Un-American Activities Committee, was on the payroll of the Soviet NKVD. Dickstein regularly used his position to attack Eastern European-Americans and others who opposed Communism. (5) Any “humanitarian legalists and crackpot isolationists” who tried to “stink[] up the place with bad ideas” found themselves aggressively targeted by the Roosevelt Administration, HUAC, etc.

    Blaming American non-intervention vis-a-vis Stalin on “humanitarian legalists and crackpot isolationists” ignores the very substantial support for the Soviet Union among American elites of the 1930s. Some, such as Congressman Dickstein, used their very real power to destroy Americans who criticized Stalin; at the same time, they worked to destroy anyone who opposed war with Hitler.

    —–
    (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial_of_the_Holodomor#Contemporary_denial_outside_of_the_USSR
    (2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_Tatars#In_the_Soviet_Union:_1917-1991
    (3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Americans_in_the_Venona_papers
    (4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Dexter_White
    (5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Dickstein_%28congressman%29
    (6) http://www.pulitzer.org/durantypressrelease
    (7) http://www.garethjones.org/soviet_articles/duranty_1931_8.htm

  • “We should be the friends of liberty everywhere but the champions only of our own.”

    Who said that? John Adams?

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