March 30, 2011
A Question That Deserves an Answer
Today's Libya news is not good:
Moammar Gadhafi's ground forces recaptured a strategic oil town Wednesday and moved within striking distance of another major eastern city, nearly reversing the gains rebels made since international airstrikes began. Rebels pleaded for more help, while a U.S. official said government forces are making themselves harder to target by using civilian "battle wagons" with makeshift armaments instead of tanks....
Airstrikes have neutralized Gadhafi's air force and pounded his army, but his ground forces remain far better armed, trained and organized than the opposition....
Gadhafi's forces also have adopted a new tactic in light of the pounding airstrikes have given their tanks and armored vehicles, a senior U.S. intelligence official said. They've left those weapons behind in favor of a "gaggle" of "battle wagons": minivans, sedans and SUVs fitted with weapons, said the official, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss sensitive U.S. intelligence on the condition and capabilities of rebel and regime forces.
Obviously, it's still a volatile situation, and the rebels might yet rally and regain the upper hand. But we must grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face: There is a very real possibility that Gaddafi's forces will finally crush the untrained, unled, poorly armed uprising.
Whither then? Commander in Chief Barack H. Obama has very few options, given his prior performance (or nonfeasance) and emphatic pronouncements, including his speech a scant two days ago:
- He could intensify the bombardment and target military facilities across Libya. (Which I say he should have done from the git-go -- strike not just tanks but bases, government buildings, gasoline refineries, and the homes of top members of the government, including You-Know-Who.)
- He could arm the rebels; but given that many of the rebels are radical Islamists who hate America -- and evidently some are even full-blown members of al-Qaeda -- that might raise opposition to the Libyan adventure to a fever pitch, and it could create huge problems over the next two years.
- He could rescind his heartfelt pledge to protect and preserve Muammar Gaddafi's life at all costs; but then he would have to spin like a whirling Dervish to explain why yesterday's war crime is today's U.N.-authorized, kinetic military action.
He could change his mind even more profoundly and order American boots and rifles on the ground. But a full ground invasion would require weeks to prepare, and Qaddafi would almost certainly have won by then.
We could instead use small groups of special forces to get an attack rolling more quickly; but strike where? Raid what? Capture who? Unless we seized or killed Col. Q. almost immediately, our Arab "allies" would likely flip on a dime and condemn the entire operation, pull out their own forces, and of course leave us vulnerable to IED and terrorist attacks. Plus, our Western allies would probably get cold feet as well.
And how could Obama possibly avoid the obvious and odious comparison to George W. Bush, and the highly successful operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the dog's breakfast of a collapse in Libya?
Or the final Obamic option: After the president dithered for weeks before deciding to do anything; after he waited to get approval from the U.N., but then completely bypassed our own Congress; after he flung our forces into aerial attacks and killed many civilians along with the bad guys; after he made a huge point of renouncing American leadership and handing the operation over to NATO; after he went on television and unconvincingly explained why he thought this
warkinetic military action was so vital to America (if not us, who? if not now, when? if not about me, then why bother?) -- Barack Obama could simply declare defeat and go home.
That is, he could start a war few seemed to want, prosecuted it in a pathetic, faint-hearted, and fumbling way, and then run away, leaving Muammar Gaddafi even stronger and more despotic than ever. Heck of a job, Barack! I'm sure that will do wonders for his plummeting poll numbers.
Other dictators (e.g., Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar Assad) would be emboldened and would regain their vicious and bloodthirsty Libyan ally; the entire situation in the Middle East would become decidedly worse and more deadly for the West, and for America in particular.
See, this is the sort of Hobson's-choice we get (and deserve!) for electing the unexamined presidency in 2008; for allowing jingoisms like "Hope" and "Change," which sound vague but are in fact meaningless, to displace experience, gravity, competence, and coherence; for opting to roll the dice on a complete unknown, an unseasoned "playground president," rather than demand the same standard of disclosure, openness, access, and investigation that we have always insisted upon in previous Presidents of the United States: We got us an incurious, incompetent craven in the White House at a time of grave national peril. (Of course such a president creates his own tsunami of grave national peril.)
I mentioned the contrast with the two wars of the preceding administration; let's make that comparison.
George W. Bush took both major wars seriously: He consulted extensively with Congress, including the minority Democrats. He sought and received authorizations for the use of force from Congress on both occasions. He went to the U.N. and, as Obama did, obtained a UN Security Council resolution that could be read as authorizing both wars; but he had an actual strategy for both the initial invasions and the occupations of both countries -- the first worked brilliantly, the second not so well. He knew how many troops he would have to commit and had at least somewhat of an idea how long it would take. He certainly had a firm set of victory conditions in mind, and thus we always knew whether we were winning or losing at any given moment.
Finally, Bush leveled with the American people, persuasively explaining the rationale for the wars and what we the people could expect.
Obama has done none of that. He more or less stumbled into the war like tripping over a drunk, finding himself thoroughly entangled with incoherence and befuddlement before even realizing it. He has no plan, just a series of negatives which boil down to a steadfast refusal to do anything that might actually win the war. And he's doing everything imaginable to convince us that he is no leader and doesn't even want to be one; he prefers that NATO -- meaning France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Germany's Angela Merkel, and Canadian Gen. Charles Bouchard -- take command, with American forces just following their orders. Thus Obama hopes to avoid at least some of the blame if things go dreadfully wrong... which his own fecklessness makes much more probable.
And suppose they do go dreadfully wrong: Losing a war in such an embarassing manner would not only flip the 2012 election once again, making it likely that any vaguely competent-sounding Republican would beat the Obamunist at the polls, it would damage American national security for years to come.
For that reason, even if victory would slightly help the Obama administration, we should still fervently hope that some miracle occurs to transform our president from a mere community organizer sinking in the deep end (or more recently, "an errand boy for grocery clerks") into a reasonably competent warrior.
Either that, or we must hope that one of our allies, who stands to lose as much as we if Qaddafi wins this war, steps up and grabs the reins. But my God, what a position to find ourselves in: Praying that the flibbertigibbet French swoop down and save our bacon!
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 30, 2011, at the time of 6:16 PM
The following hissed in response by: DKDwyer
Well Dafydd I wouldn't advise holding your breath about the French. The last time they saved our bacon was at Yorktown in 1781. :) Then again like certain fault lines here in the US, maybe we're about due again?
The following hissed in response by: MikeR
I am having an especially hard time getting my head around the idea that Congress was not consulted. Making it particular weird is that there are conservatives (part of Powerline, for instance) who insist that this is the president's Constitutional prerogative.
In their minds, what does it mean that the Constitution gives Congress the job "to declare war", whereas the President is the "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy"? Granted that we don't so much "declare war" any more, what does it mean?
The only meaning I can understand is that Congress decides on whether to go to war and with whom, and the President runs the operation. Obviously, we give him discretionary powers to defend us in an emergency.
But the idea that the President, all on his own, can go off and decide to start a war with another country - well, I find that outrageous. A war?!
I don't know that I would be in favor of actually impeaching President Obama, but to me this is definitely an impeachable offense. How dare he go and start a war?
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