Obama on Libya vs. Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Romney, Gingrich and Carrot Top

President Barack Obama in his Monday evening address to the nation on Libya outlined an effort of limitations. The US could not intervene everywhere, but it could intervene to good effect here. America is acting in concert with the Arab League, the United Nations and NATO, not striking out unilaterally. The most important US contribution will be up front, after which the Pentagon will turn the endeavor over to NATO. There will be no effort led by ground troops to overthrow Qaddafi. It is up to the Libyans to deal with him once his armor is neutralized (presumably in the way that the Romanians dealt with Ceausescu and the Serbs dealt with Milosevic). The US simply doesn’t have the wherewithal to do more trillion-dollar Iraq-style operations, Mr. Obama said– another limitation.

Despite the close and elegant moral reasoning tempered by a steady pragmatism, the speech was full of genuine feeling, including empathy and outrage. It strikes me as among the better speeches President Obama has given since taking office.

In fact, the same awareness of limitations combined with honoring obligations to allies should reinforce Obama’s determination to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, in accordance with the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement concluded between the Iraqi parliament and the Bush administration.

Whether one agrees with President Obama or not on the Libya issue, he was clearly well-informed and in control of the facts and analysis. His fabled intelligence and cool-headedness were on display.

It is a sad commentary that American political discourse is so cheapened and debased by demagoguery promoted by sly billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers that the responses to Obama from the other side of the aisle were sometimes comical in their ignorance.

Potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was interviewed afterward on CNN by Piers Morgan. Trump alleged that the rebels in Libya might be connected to Iran, and that there was a danger that the US intervention might end up turning the country over to Tehran.

Dear American politicians: Please note that while the Libyan liberation movement beseeched the West to intervene, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei roundly condemned the US action in Libya, accusing Washington of seeking a toehold in that country. In other words, bringing up some sort of alleged link of the Benghazi provisional government, which has reached out to Washington, and Iran is about the stupidest thing anyone could say about the situation.

Michelle Bachmann, according to Think Progress, said

“I have been very reluctant to see the United States to go into Libya. For one thing, we haven’t identified yet who the opposition even is to Qaddafi. We don’t know if this is led by Hamas, Hezbollah, or possibly al Qaeda of North Africa. Are we really better off, are United States, our interests better off, if let’s say Al-Qaeda of North Africa now runs Libya?” [03/24/11] ”

Hizbullah is a Shiite movement of southern Lebanon. There are no Shiites in North Africa, where almost all Muslims are Sunni. Hamas is a Palestinian movement and does not have a branch franchise in Libya. The people of Benghazi and Misrata, together amounting to 1.3 million, the backbone of the liberation movement, are not al-Qaeda, which is not a mass movement. In fact, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is like a few hundred guys and is an Algerian organization. I know, I know, pointing out that Michelle Bachmann has said something uninformed is like pointing out that Lady Gaga has done something outrageous. But we are told that Bachmann made a positive impression among possible Republican voters in Iowa recently, and the world in which we live has such persons as potential presidential candidates.

Sarah Palin wants the US military to go into Libya, kill Muammar Qaddafi and then get back out. Palin doesn’t seem to realize that 110,000 US troops on the ground took 8 months just to find Saddam Hussein after they had invaded and occupied Iraq, and that at that point were were bound by Pottery Barn rules per Colin Powell– we had broken the vase and had now owned it. That vase cost about a trillion dollars all told, as Obama pointed out tonight, along with thousands of US and Iraqi lives. Palin lives in a magical world where she can wave her wand and Sarah suddenly gets her way.

Newt Gingrich was for the intervention before he was against it.

And Mitt Romney is all for invading Libya, but thinks the United States should have done it all by itself without consulting allies and apparently should bear all the costs of doing so. Romney alleged that the US ‘followed France’ into Libya, though in fact the US fired 110 Tomahawk missiles at Qaddafi’s anti-aircraft batteries as the engagement was beginning, making it safe for the French pilots to fly missions there.

Our temporary good luck is that we have a president who knows what he is talking about, knows how to assemble a complex international alliance, and has the moral vision to do the right thing even if it is unpopular. It wasn’t so long ago that none of those things was true, and you can’t count on them being true much longer.

Posted in Libya | 96 Responses | Print |

96 Responses

  1. Juan, everything about Libya you have written I agree with 100%. I was very moved by the speech-like the Pres finally found his voice on a moral issue of consequence (and I have been waiting to see that). I hope, hope, hope that a) the outcome in Libya is a positive one (in addition ore still of massacre) but also that we can see a transformation in our relations in the region based on this vision that the Pres sketched out tonight. We have to get Palestine right also in
    the not-too-distant future.

  2. A person (or nation) can’t do everything, but they should something.

    It sounds like something my mother would have said. And she’d be right.

  3. For the third time, I challenge you to address the fact that Obama has broken US law by authorizing military action without congressional approval. I know you like what he is doing, but laws exist for a reason, and no amount of good intention or pretty words erase the fact that it is illegal for the executive to declare war without congressional approval.

    Would you support a republican president in the same decision? The logician in me says you would not. And even if you would, it would still be unconstitutional!

    • Why should I answer your challenge when you don’t read my blog? I already said that I think Obama should have gotten Congressional authorization, last Monday.

      But note that the US Senate voted overwhelmingly, calling for a no-fly zone over Libya, even before the Arab League did, so it is not as if we don’t know what they think.

      • Plus, does not the War Powers Act authorize the President to send the military into action if he feels time is of the essence, so long as he notifies Congress in writing within 60 days of his reasons for doing so, which Obama has done? If so, then an argument about violating the Constitution here is sort of moot.

      • Under the War Powers Act, Congress gave the president 60 days to go to war without asking them for a permission slip. If this goes on longer he’ll have to ask them for authorization, but presidents going back to Thomas Jefferson have had military actions without permission. Whether it’s Constitutional is a question for the Supreme Court. But it’s legal.

      • K is misinformed: The Constitution creates two paths by which the US can go to war. The first, under Article I, involves Congress’ well-known “war powers”, and is the only way that the US can legally go to war unilaterally.

        However, under the Treaty Power of Article, the President – with the consent of two-thirds of the Senate – can enter into a binding treaty which, by Article VI, is the “supreme law of the land”. Since many treaties envision a pledge to go to war under certain conditions – e.g., an attack on an ally – the Senate’s ratification of a treaty constitutes advance authorization for the President power to take the country to war when those conditions are met.

        And the President, as chief executive, must determine that.

        In the present case, the President commenced hostilities under terms of the UN Charter, a valid treaty ratified by the US Senate on July 28, 1945. Congressional (or rather, Senatorial) consent having been thus granted, the President had no need to request a further congressional authorization.

        • You are exactly right. Unfortunately, most Americans do not realize that treaties may override the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. (Then again, most Americans would vote to repeal the First Amendment.)

        • “And the President, as chief executive, must determine that.”

          This is not obvious at all. Article I clearly gives Congress the power to declare war and this constitutional prerogative is not changed by a treaty. A treaty is not a constitutional amendment which changes Congress as the branch which determines when the US will go to war.

          Article II only gives the president the power of commander in chief. When war is declared by Congress, then, under Article II, the president runs the war. Treaties don’t change that. If the UN asks the US to engage in a war this is a request that the US declare war — a question to be answered by Congress, not the executive.

        • Rick does not cite any text to support his assertion from the Treaty, or the Congressional debate ratifying the treaty, or any legal analysis of the Treaty. For good reason; it is false.

          For a detailed analysis see “The Korean War: On What Legal Basis Did Truman Act?“, Louis Fisher (Congressional Research Service), American Journal of International Law, January 1995. URL:
          link to law.berkeley.edu

          Also see:
          Letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on War Powers and Kosovo, from the ACLU, 30 April 1999 — esp note the documentation at the end.
          link to aclu.org

          2.“When Wars Begin: Misleading Statements by Presidents“, Louis Fisher (Library of Congress), Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2010 — URL:
          link to loc.gov

      • Hmm… it’s true, as you say, that the vote in the Senate gives us an idea of “what they think.” But isn’t a President’s knowing what the Senate thinks significantly different from seeking Congressional authorization in accord with U.S. law? Over many decades now, I’ve watched the erosion of Congress’s unique constitutional right and responsibility to declare war, not least in the abdication of that responsibility through passage of the War Powers Act. The President’s actions in Libya seem to me a dangerous further bite out of that constitutional separation of power.

        Certainly you did say that you believe the President should have sought Congressional authorization. I guess I think the failure to do so represents more than a minor misstep in an otherwise reasonable course of action. I wonder whether it’s a good idea to fight for democracy abroad while contributing to its diminution at home.

    • Your statement: “For the third time, I challenge you to address the fact that Obama has broken US law by authorizing military action without congressional approval.” is simply wrong. Regardless of one’s position on President Obama’s actions regarding Libya, he has not broken U.S. law.

      You should understand two fundamental facts:

      A. A Congressional declaration of war was not necessary for Obama to insert U.S. forces into a hostile environment. An entire body of Constitutional scholarship has established that a “declaration of war” simply recognizes that a legal state of war exists between the U.S. and a hostile nation. A “declaration of war” is not synonymous with the President’s authority to “engage in war,” or “initiate hostilities,” and it is not necessary for him to do so. In the entire history of the U.S. since adoption of the Constitution in 1789, there have only been five Congressional declarations of war: The War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War One, and World War Two.

      B. Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, President Obama notified the Congressional leadership of his action. He now has 90 days to get Congressional authority. In short, he has followed U.S. law to the letter. It may have been better if he had obtained Congressional approval before engaging in hostilities against Libya, but it was not necessary.

      • re: Baskell

        Both points are incorrect.

        A. “an entire body of constitutional scholarship” — there are no court cases, so you must mean academic or punditry, which is not dispositive, merely suggestions — so which scholars are you on the side of? Greenwald makes a convincing case you are quite wrong on this issue. If you appeal to authority, you might tell us what authority you mean.

        B. Obama has not informed Congress under the War Powers Act (and is unlikely to do so, as no president has acknowledged the legitimacy of the war powers act).

        • Anonymous, you state “there are no court cases” in response to Baskell’s assertion that “an entire body of constitutional scholarship has established that a ‘declaration of war’ is not synonymous with the president’s decision to engage in war.”

          In the related question of whether Article VI, paragraph 2 of the Constitution would allow a president to follow UN Security Council resolutions as if they were the “supreme law of the land” there is considerable case law establishing that treaties obligations do have the force of law. For example:

          Ware v Hylton (1796) and
          Hopkirk v. Bell (1807) and
          Foster v. Neilson (1829) and
          the Head Money Cases (1884) and
          Geofroy v Riggs (1890) and
          Nielsen v. Johnson (1929) and
          Kolovrat v. Oregon (1961)

    • The rightful power of the Congress to pass the War Powers Resolution and the UN Participation Act is perfectly constitutional.

      And Obama’s actions here are quite plainly legal under both laws.

      If Congress wants to change the law, and apply their war powers in some other way, they can do that. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    • K is right. Whatever one might think of the intervention in Libya (I happen to agree with the president), a US president is bound by law to ask permission from congress for any non-emergency military action where there is no direct threat to the US. He could have done that rapidly. The fact that Obama did not get congressional approval (even Bush got congressional approval for Iraq)is a disturbing abuse of power and discredits the rightness of the Libya policy. We have rules and laws, including the US Constitution, which the president is bound to uphold and defend. In this case president Obama ignored the law and constitution.

  4. President Barack Obama in his Monday evening address to the nation on Libya outlined an effort of limitations. The US could not intervene everywhere, but it could intervene to good effect here.

    The Bahrain and Yemen pro-democracy movements thank you and President Obama for your pragmatism.
    After all, it would not have been “to good effect” for Secretary Gates to threaten the Saudi regime with a massive bombing campaign if they dared to send tanks across the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain. And so the tanks rolled in only days after Gates left the area, and the violent crackdown ensued, including attacks on hospitals and doctors and nurses – atrocities that Mr. Cole finds so vile when committed by the Libyan authorities.

    Despite the close and elegant moral reasoning tempered by a steady pragmatism, the speech was full of genuine feeling, including empathy and outrage. It strikes me as among the better speeches President Obama has given since taking office.

    There’s that term “pragmatism” again.
    When it was Nixon or Reagan or the Bush’s spouting such Orwellian doublespeak, the Left rightfully and accurately labeled it as such. Not so when it’s a Democrat spewing the identical propaganda. Could we fill a million column inches with all of the former Presidents who expressed “genuine feeling, including empathy and outrage” as they bombed another Third World nation into the Stone Age?
    Obama has already proven himself a liar when he said it would only be a matter of “days, not weeks.”

    The rest of Cole’s article is simply a resort to partisanship, which really shows either how desperate or pathetic he’s become. It’s the fallback position, I guess…

    – Eli.

    • to be fair Saudi Arabia would just laugh if we threatened to attack their troops in Bahrain. They know we want their oil and they have a shit ton of fancy equipment we sold to them so there’s no way that wouldn’t be a huge, huge blunder. They’d flip us the bird and keep on rolling towards the 5th fleet base. Same thing with Yemen, if we threatened to hit Saudi troops rolling in there they’d just fuck with everything coming out of the Red Sea. So yeah it is pragmatic, with all the attendant implications of cold logic, but I understand your frustration.

      • on second thought I cant remember if Saudis are blowing up crap in Yemen but I know theyre involved there in some capacity and so if anything went down in Yemen they’d be mighty pissed

    • Whereas your fall-back position is ranting and spewing your anger simplistically–the not much thinking as usual response. Why do we insist on this self-righteous “war” charge for an intervention? Juan Cole has been sorting through the positions to present his conclusions on what is needed in this situation. He has presented these with evidence and a reasonable tone. The essential nub is what would have happened without an intervention. If the WAY of the intervention is the problem let’s hear why, with some evidence to back it up.

    • It’s absurd to describe the Libya campaign thus far as “bomb(ing) another Third World nation into the Stone Age…” We’re destroying the materiel and military capabilities of a tyrannical lunatic. Civilian casualties, where they exist at all, are minimal. We’re decidedly avoiding anything even near civilian population centers. To compare this with past Presidential excursions into, say, Cambodia or even Belgrade is willfully misleading at best.

    • So no agency can be ascribed to the rebels in Benghazi and Tobruk that asked for western intervention to prevent a massacre?
      The rebels held territory. The protesters in Bahrain held a square. And the tens to dead in Bahrain are a tragedy. But the Saudis and Sultan didn’t promise to exterminate all the shiites “like rats.” There is an inability to understand scale and scope in your argument. Are hundreds of thousands of deaths just a statistic to you?

    • atrocities that Mr. Cole finds so vile when committed by the Libyan authorities

      If you think the crackdown in Bahrain is even remotely in the same ballbark as the crackdown in Libya, you need to enrich your understanding of the facts on the ground.

      There’s that term “pragmatism” again.

      Ohnoes! The consideration of consequences as a guide to decision-making! Hold me, mommy!

      as they bombed another Third World nation into the Stone Age?

      Again, if you think this is remotely accurate as a description of what’s going on in Libya, you need to do some reading.

      Obama has already proven himself a liar when he said it would only be a matter of “days, not weeks.”

      The bombing campaign began nine days ago, but thanks for playing.

  5. I would like to buy humanitarian intervention as a non-imperialist use of force in the global south. Gaddafi is as purely evil as a man can be–a North African Slobodan Milosevic and the streets of Benghazi would have been an abattoir for a while. Unfortunately the application of the “Responsibility to Protect” is so selective and discriminating that it just doesn’t ring true in Libya or elsewhere.

    Right now, for example, Côte d’Ivoire is in what many knowledgeable Africa watchers call a pre-genocidal phase. Laurent Gbagbo, the defeated but unwilling to leave President has mobilized and armed thousands of young men, held all night rallies to whip them up and has already targeted intellectuals, civic leaders and elected officials who support his opponent. Sound familiar?

    It is very likely they are preparing for a genocidal attack on those who support Alassane Ouattara who defeated Gbagbo. This is Africa south of the Sahara genocide–think of Rwanda in 1994, Uganda in 2008, Zaire/DRC throughout the 1990s. Hundreds of thousand dead, millions displaced.

    In Côte d’Ivoire there are already one million refugees and this is before the serious killing has started. It is a much greater humanitarian crisis than Libya could ever be but there is no hint of humanitarian intervention.

    • You couldn’t intervene in the Ivory Coast effectively with some aerial bombings of tanks. Some interventions are more practical than others.

      • Gbagbo has incurred the near universal condemnation and censure of the regional and international community. Western leaders, including U.S. president Barack Obama and French president Nicolas Sarkozy have congratulated Alassane Ouattara on his victory. The European Union has announced the possibility of targeted sanctions against individuals who obstruct the electoral process, and the World Bank has warned that continued intransigence will put development assistance flows at serious risk. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon has recognized and endorsed the electoral commission’s announcement of Ouattara’s victory.

        link to csis.org

        You couldn’t intervene in the Ivory Coast effectively with some aerial bombings of tanks. Some interventions are more practical than others. – Mr. Cole

        Is that so, Mr. Cole?
        Except that the bombing campaign in Libya is targeting more than just tanks. “Command and control,” “communications,” not to mention a blockade to stop arms flow to Qaddafi. And now we’re being told the air campaign will enter a new phase, of more targeted bombing using close-support, tactical weaponry – A-10s, C-130s, etc.
        Please tell us, which of these cannot be applied to the IC, and why?

        And what precisely do you think would cause more harm to an underdeveloped country like IC? A precision bombing campaign that would only last “days, not weeks,” or a long, drawn-out sanctions regime that would essentially strangulate an already desperate population?

        An internationally recognized free and fair election has been violently overturned in a Sub-Saharan nation. There are reports of horrific atrocities being committed by pro-Gbagbo forces – these 2 facts arguably making the crises even worse than in Libya.

        But somehow, it’s not practical to intervene in the Ivory Coast. Just like in the 90s, Liberal Interventionism doesn’t seem to apply to sub-Saharan Africa. There are no alleged rapes of pro-democracy movement women being highlighted round-the-clock in the Western press. No Pro-interventionism liberal pundits are calling for a NFZ there. Not even a blockade is practical in the eyes of certain liberal interventionists.

        Bahrain, Yemen, and the Ivory Coast will just have to learn the limitations of pragmatism.

      • This is not meant to be critical, but is a serious question. I thought we bombed tanks in Libya? How is Cote D’Ivoire different in that respect?

    • Sounds like the perfect opportunity for the African Union to step in. Im sure they could get UN support for a peacekeeping action, if they would bother to do something.

    • There is already a UN Peacekeeping force in the Ivory Coast; it has taken casualties.
      So the UN has already intervened.

    • Call me racist but, for me as a European, the north african Arabs are our next-door neighbors. If I was given a choice to help the poor people from North Korea who are currently starving among other things or the Libyans, I´d once more go for Libya.
      Read Juan´s part about Churchill and think it over again: did the positive effects of the US financial and structural aid to various countries after WWII outweigh the facts that it was distributed grossly unfair? Countries like Poland that suffered the most got the least help, mostly because helping them got simply too difficult. Is that a reason to withdraw any help altogether?

  6. If this is the only thing I followed on twitter tonight it would be worth it. Really

  7. I am curious now NATO has assumed command of the operation for reasons not clear to me, will they now report to the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council, or has it ceased to be a UN authorized venture to protect civilians?

    • As I understand it, the current military action under the provisions of SC 1973 are being conducted by a “coalition of the willing and able”. So there no chain of command from the forces enforcing SC 1973 to the US SC or the UN Gen Sec; Obama as the US CiC hasn’t been reporting to Ban-Ki Moon.

      When action is being undertaken under that auspices of the UN Peacekeeping Department then there is a chain of command direct to the UN Head of Peacekeeping and then to the UN Sec Gen. Note the post conflict UN mission in Iraq was not a peacekeeping mission, it was under the control of the two Occupying Powers – US & UK.

      The participating countries have an obligation under SC 1973 to inform the SC and Gen Sec of actions taken and progress, but they do report to them, neither the SC or the Sec Gen can issue orders to the “coalition forces”.

  8. So, you engaged the arguments of Trump, Bachmann, Palin, Gingrich, and Romney and you expect me to be convinced?

    Yet you still fail to address the very real constitutional issues of Obama’s act of war, aside from saying that he “should have gotten Congressional authorization?” But, I would submit, he did not do so. Hence, that is still an outstanding issue, the lame excuse that we already know what the Senate thinks notwithstanding.

    I also have my doubts that 1973 comports to the remit allowable by the UN Charter and would like to know if you think that the UNSC is allowed to go beyond the Charter by simple writ (and what checks exist to prevent such, aside from permanent member veto).

    But I suppose you don’t have to engage in these issues if you only pick out malinformed right-wingers to be your interlocutors on this topic.

    • Rojo,

      You claim that there is a real constitutional issue involved when an American president engages in an act of war allowed by a resolution of the United Nations Security Council. Yes, this is a constitutional issue. But, it’s a settled issue.

      Read the U.S. Constitution. Article VI, paragraph 2:

      This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

      Consult the Congressional Record for July 28, 1945 (U.S. Senate ratifies United Nations Charter)

      Consult the United Nations Charter, especially Articles 24, 42, and 43.

      Consult United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

  9. may be there is other type of interventions that the international community can do in an efficient way .
    places like Ivory Coast and Gaza are in need of real international intervention at least as much as Libya. (and in the case of gaza they have been waiting for much longer and so far nothing).
    Yes i know we cannot be everywhere and we should not oppose one intervention based on the many we did not do and we should be happy that so far this one seems to be going according to plan , but still it leaves a very strange taste in my mouth and it smells so much of hypocrisy from most actors in it.

  10. no mention of the cia’s significant role (that is why the organization exists) in driving america’s ost (objective-strategy-tactics) in north africa. but, hey, that stuff is classified and joe public cannot get security clearance. so the explanation by the post-to-the-american-people and the hash-rehash by political commentators is mostly hot-air. humanitarian my ass.

  11. Pepe Escobar at atimes.com does a great job of exposing the truth which you seem to hide with great eloquence.

  12. “If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people.”

    Just like those who opposed the invasion of Iraq. Saddam loyalists every last one of them.

    “the speech was full of genuine feeling, including empathy and outrage. It strikes me as among the better speeches President Obama has given since taking office. ”

    Yes the speech clearly shows that Obama is fundamentally different to Bush. That’s why Guantanamo has been closed, why the US has withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan and why Obama hasn’t expanded the GWOT to bomb Yemen and Pakistan.

    “and has the moral vision to do the right thing even if it is unpopular.”

    Yes, that is definitely Obama’s reputation, making the hard and unpopular choices. I’m certainly glad he didn’t cave in against the Republicans on health care and give the insurance industry a massive present. I’m also glad he didn’t cave in to Wall Street and give massive cash injections to prop up a corrupt economic structure while doing virtually nothing to correct the issue. Finally, I’m glad he didn’t cave in on the tax issue and refuse to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. If he hadn’t shown such moral strength and fortitude he could be accused of being a more eloquent Republican.

  13. Thanks Dr Cole for an informed perspective.

    1)With your critical eye a small piece on Tunisia and Egypt would be timely. The Egyptian economy falters and at some stage the ‘honeymoon’ of revolt must come to an end and the hard facts of living with a stuttering economy and high unemployment will have an effective on the aspirations of these countries.

    2) As regular reader of your blog and associated comments I gain great insight on the desperate state of American internal politics. I wish your hopes for the future never become as desperate as your despair.

  14. [Trump alleged that the rebels in Libya might be connected to Iran, and that there was a danger that the US intervention might end up turning the country over to Tehran.]

    presstv.ir is here to read, and they are very explicit in their support for the rebels and condemnation of the US intervention. So, what Trump says makes lots of sense.

    Without ground intervention, we have no reasons to believe that, having won, the rebels will be any more pro-Western than pre-revolt Gaddafi. Well, unless one believes in miracles like their gratitude for the help they receive now.

  15. You are a knowledgeable guy. I read you just about every day. But his partisanship and his puppy dog attachment to Obama makes you too ready to praise someone who doesn’t deserve it. Eloquence and intelligence(whatever that is) are not the most essential ingredients of a good leader. They can be negatives, which has been the case with Obama. Your attack on leftists was very troubling. There is nothing more odious and despicable that labeling. Stick to issues, not labels, Juan. That is what you are good at most of the time.

    As to the merits of intervention you make a strong case if the facts are right but there is an opposite case to be made. Recent history is full of bad policies and actions made based on the “truth” and your dismissal of the constitutional issues is very disappointing. I think you need to go back to your diatribe on leftists and think about a mea culpa. It would reinstitute your prior standing before you decided to insult many of your readers.

  16. The intent does not justify the means. Otherwise we wouldn’t need any constitution or the rule of law. Goodbye democracy, goodbye constitution. But we already knew it.

    “Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution could not be clearer: the power and obligation to declare war resides solely in the U.S. Congress.”

    “There was ample time and opportunity for the administration to consult the UN, NATO, and the Arab League before going to war, but not the U.S. Congress.”

    “Imposing a no-fly zone over the air space of a sovereign nation is an act of war, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out before the bombing began. That the administration hesitates to call this war, possibly due to the troubling constitutional implications, does not mean that it is not one.”

    link to original.antiwar.com

  17. Recent proposed spending cuts have by now been completely wiped out with this new war!

    Next step? Now that very little can be taken out of education, social services, etc. take the money out of social security and medicare. Anyone wants to bet?

  18. Juan said

    “Our temporary good luck is that we have a president who knows what he is talking about, knows how to assemble a complex international alliance, and has the moral vision to do the right thing even if it is unpopular. It wasn’t so long ago that none of those things was true, and you can’t count on them being true much longer.”

    Obama is every bit a committed to defending the indefensible as Bush – hence the stupidity that has flowed from Obama’s lips on a regular basis. Imagine the reaction from liberals if Bush had said the following

    When Obama has been pressed to investigate Bush and Cheney for war crimes, he said “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards”.

    Of course Bush might have said “I wanna look ahead not back” – a huge grammatical difference.

    Another idiotic excuse offered by Obama was that many of the torturers just following orders. Why didn’t the Nazis think of that one? Oh yeah, they did.

    Obama’s position on Bush/Cheney crimes is transparently stupid but also an exercise in CYA since, as commander-in-chief – Obama is responsible for the fact that Bradley Manning is being tortured in broad daylight. Obama’s response to Manning’s plight

    “I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”

    Obama added “I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Pvt. Manning’s safety as well.”

    Could Bush or Rumsfeld have offered stupider, or more disgusting, replies?

    About the uprisings in Egypt

    “All the forces that we’re seeing at work in Egypt are forces that naturally should be aligned with us, should be aligned with Israel,”

    The protestors should “naturally” back the countries that support their oppressors?

  19. Funny, isn’t it, and sad, that people are so mired in the details of conflict, the weapons and capabilities and rationales and the “law of war” and “rules of engagement,” that they have no interest in or ability to think about what might come after. How maybe next time it might be different. How some manifestations of democracy are maybe mor stable than others, and how hard it is not to devolve so quickly back into tribalism and corruption. How to be something more than a yelling, fist-pumping, V-for-Victory-signing, AK-47-shooting-into-the-airing face in a crowd, ready to be taken in by the next Sergeant Doe or Colonel Sanders.

    We have instinctive models and design limitations, apparently, for making our world and our part in it what they are now. Where are the models, the drivers, the incentives, the counter-irritants to move people off just another increasingly well-armed turn of the same old wheel? Where is the spiritual change that lets the altruistic and charitable and empathic parts of the brain get the upper hand over the part that lives for the thrill of killing and dominating and blasting? Where are the institutional forms and frameworks that limit corruption in all its manifestations? How can self-interest grow a larger set of eyes and a capacity to identify with the species, not just self-pleasing or the emotions that stop at the boundary of a tribal group?

    • Amazing social conditioning …a few( too many) years of “Cammo is cool, Bombing is ‘surgical’ , collateral damage is ‘their’ fault -patriots don’t ask questions -SUPPORT THE TROOPS’ claptrap …it works ,obviously, since now anyone with an ounce of caring and humanity( apparently) is behind the ‘Killing for Peace’ push.

      You would think that if there are so many smart people designing smart weapons there would have to also be at least on or two mildly clever people who could design a blueprint for Peace…how to live harmoniously as Good Global Neighbors?

      • A blueprint for peace? Have you read the charter of the United Nations? Or how about the writings of peace activists, visionaries, and spiritual leaders such as ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Malread Maguire, etc.? Or speeches of various winners of the Nobel Peace Prize? There are many blueprints for peace. It’s up to us to build the structures outlined in these blueprints.

        • I have to acknowledge I’ve not read any Malread Maguire, do know a bit from the others you name, but I would argue that the tenor and tone of your comment make it plain why there ain’t gonna be no “peace.” A word as carelessly used, and as undefined, as “victory” and “freedom.”

          You personally, and maybe a small circle around you, might have drunk deeply at the well of calmness and tolerance and affection and empathy, but you still have to offer your rebuttal from a presumed superior position. With just a soupcon of that annoyed, lizard-brain, maybe condescending approach to someone who writes yearningly for a spiritual change on a scale that is, in my reading and experience, impossible.

          How are you proposing to build those structures, in a flood plain of violence and greed? Scientists, some of them, state that tribalism and all our other strong emotions (affection, tolerance and empathy and that other squishy stuff not being “strong”) are built into our limbic systems via a long slow process of evolution which has been lapped repeatedly by the speedy development of the world the way it is, fostered by those strong emotions and the unfortunate capacities of our cerebrums.

          On all fronts, we are driven to competition and parasitism by the seductions of self-indulgence and those violent images of war and battle. You got tens of millions spending their days immersed in the acute violence of “World of Warcraft,” just one of thousands of virtual exits from fleshy life into “heroic” warplay. You got maybe half a billion of us humans immersed in the building of weapons, and the jesuitical manipulations of the theories of their use, and their actual deadly use on other humans, and millions more profiting from their financing and transportation and maintenance and repair. You got state security (sic) apparatuses across the globe, doing what they do. A huge “illegal drug” opaque economy, built on violence and dominance and satisfaction of the pleasure centers or deadening of existential pain. You got hordes of governments and their “nations,” built on consumption of resources over which wars have been conducted and which our war planners, looking ahead to scarcity and control, are getting ready for still more compulsory violence.

          All of this in a world where, from what I read, there actually already is enough to go around, to sustainably meet all those basic NEEDS of even 7.5 billion of us, if only there were no individual and collective greed and arrogance and urge to accumulate and dominate and destroy. And that so-easily-activated urge to follow a flapping flag, assault rifles in our fists, “war faces” in place, rage in our eyes.

          So there are these small packets and pockets of sweet, charitable, gentle thoughts out there by the few of us humans who wish we were other than we are. Where are the parts of the human melange that are going to carry the species out of its present darkness and into some time of even just a major reduction in conflict and competition? Who will figure out how to short-circuit the basic nature that is so patently expressed everywhere? It’s a tautology to offer only that it’s up to us to build the structures. HOW is that going to happen, short of a huge die-off and return to small-group living, in a world where all the resources we have assumed to be our birthright have largely been consumed?

  20. I’ve read both sides of the debate (And Juan, you present the one side very convincingly) but I have to say I’m not as gung ho as Juan is. At this point I’m in a wait and see mode. I see your points Juan, but I think it is partially based on the assumption that the Pres has a lot of say in these matters… I don’t think he (or past presidents) really have that much power – the Pentagon, CIA, NATO, and Big Oil hawks are the real deciders – IMO based on a hunch.

  21. Sounds pretty good. Obama doesn’t have the world’s greatest record when it comes to matching actions to words, though.

  22. Nice priorities. USG is about to shut down. Millions unemployed & on food stamps in U.S. Thousands in U.S. die every day owing to lack of medical care. But U.S. has $100 million/day (not including the $30 million plane that crashed) for some adventure in a country it knows nothing about.

  23. US may be taking a back seat, but evidently in a vehicle controlled from the rear.

    WASHINGTON — Even as President Obama on Monday described a narrower role for the United States in a NATO-led operation in Libya, the American military has been carrying out an expansive and increasingly potent air campaign to compel the Libyan Army to turn against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

    My read of this NYT article leads me to the conclusion that Obama has told the military to do everything possible,without “putting boots on the ground”, to destroy Qaddafi, his regime, and his military forces. Not regime change, regime incineration.

    The “speech” was just another Obama fig leaf bouquet. NATO is simply a loose leash on the American pit bull.

  24. Obama gave a superb speech yesterday, I totally agree. And I whole heartedly support his decision to lead/join the effort against Kaddhafi.

    Sadly, there is some underlying hypocrisy regarding the defense of our values, especially regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hope springs eternal!

  25. From the other side of the atlantic it seems to me that the main difference between Republicans and Democrats presidents is that the later lies better and more elegantly. It’s the same in the US than in Spain I think. A governement that calls himself ‘left’ and it is actually doing the dirty work for the ‘right’: cuts on pensions, cuts on working rights, cuts on education and health, and wars on third world countries.

    The war on Libya has NATO support?: Of course.

    Has it UN support?: I think not. The UN-resolution speaks about no-fly zone and “stopping threats to populated centres”. The no-fly zone was implemented long ago and Qaddafi troops are not threatening cities in Tripoli, nor in Sirt, nor in Ajdabiya or any other eastern city, so what is the point bombing DEFENSIVE pro-governement positions? what is the point helping rebels to “threaten population centres”. Regime change not suppported by UN resolution.

    Has it Arab League support?: Not. They supported the no-fly zone but not this interfering in a civil war. The Secretary General of the Arab League said it clearly: this is not what they voted for.

    African Union: someone has asked them? Yes, and they said NO, so they are totally ignored now. You know, Libya is an African country and I think the opinion of the major African organization should matter. We support them when they do the dirty work occupying Somalia but now we despise them.

    News: link to english.aljazeera.net Today, the rebel advance has been halted and reversed. They have lost Bin Jawad in a governement counter-attack. Are we going to piss again on the UN-resolution to make a new round of soldier-killing from the air in order to flatten the terrain ahead of the rebels? Btw, Yugoslavians and Romanians did not need a foreign power to destroy their armies in order to overturn their own governements (the yugoslavian army remained fairly intact after the NATO campaign to ‘liberate’ Kosovo).

    The Lybian is the first liberation movement that need constant pet-care by the greatest military powers on Earth in order to advance against an isolated, tribal-fractured governement whose army is perhaps the weakest in the Arab world.

    Again, this make me wonder about the true popular support enjoyed by the rebels outside Benghazi.

  26. Anybody remember Bush I and his “humanitarian” intervention in Somalia? This effort in Libya looks like it will end badly. As a progressive it saddens me to see that imperialism is so deeply embedded in the American being as to be inevitable regardless the party in power.

    In the end everything that Obama claims to seek in Libya will turn to ashes for a number of reasons:

    1. Hypocrisy: The Arab world will not suddenly fall in love with the US given the sheer hypocrisy the US is displaying. Where is the intervention in Yemen? Where Saleh is shooting his own people or Saudi Arabia and the Al-Khalifas shooting innocent civilians in Bahrain. How about Palestine, where Israel continues to shoot civilians at a steady clip. Any no fly zones for them?

    2. The Nuclear Example: Libya gave up its nascent nuclear weapons program and established diplomatic relations with the west. Now the same west is bombing it. Any Arab or Persian nations want to learn from experience here? I think we weill see a lot more interest in nuclear weapons from Arab nations in future.

    3. Its all about oil. As Robert Fisk once said about Iraq, if its major export was asparagus the US military would not be there. Same for Libya.

    4. Its also about money and water. Now European countries are giving the rebels access to Libyan funds held in Europe. Now we hear the rebels can sell oil. So Libyans without being asked will end up funding the western intervention in their own country. Do the rebels really have that much legitimacy in Libya? And then there is the water. Libya sits on a massive aquifer. This may be just as valuable as oil. Who ends up controlling it? I bet a bunch of French companies!

    5. Legitimacy: How legitimate are the rebels. Do they speek for all Libya or just for their own tribes? Its not clear. And so its not clear that they can in fact win and hold Libya. Western air strikes or no.

    The majority of Libya’s population is in the west, will they welcome these rebels from the east? If Gaddafi is so unpopular why do we not have an uprising in the west yet? Why is the US frustrating African Union efforts at mediation if regime change is not the goal?

    I feel we are being sold a bill of goods once again, just like in 2003 with Iraq and in the final this is war on behalf of the same interests as in that earlier story.

    In the end US and western global dominance is in steep decline and the greedy desperate, brown nosing of history that this latest intervention represents will do nothing but accelerate that decline.


    • “Everyone loves a war for the first month.”

      Yet I doubt that President Obama will get to enjoy this little war that he just started for that long. When the Shock and Awe of Magical Air Power fails to immediately shock or awe the evil monster and those who support him, then what?

      What if the current supporters of the despicable Libyan regime can defeat President Obama’s favored “rebels” with bows and arrows? How many million-dollar-a-pop cruise missiles does President Obama plan to launch at those thirty-five-dollar bows? Has President Obama ever heard of the Law of Diminishing Returns? Does President Obama even think at all? Or does he spend his days trembling in terror lest Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power accuse him of not having the balls that they — combat veterans all — do?

      I hate war because I’ve participated in one. And I deeply suspect and resent hothouse orchids like President Obama who cannot refrain from starting more needless ones when he can’t even FINISH the handful of debacles that we’ve had going for almost a decade now. He really needs to get an early start on making ex-President speeches for large sums of money.

  27. The fact that our President speaks in paragraphs doesn’t mean he makes sense. The Secretary of Defense said no vital US interests are involved. If that’s accurate, the discussion should be over.

    Liberal interventionism is no better than neocon interventionism. Bomb-wring hands-bomb. How about we close 500 bases overseas and spend the money rebuilding our industries devastated by bipartisan “free trade” and “globalisation”?

    • Because then the very powerful military industries which have been doing very well thank you will not do so well- peace …or even ‘sitting this one out’ is not good for their bottom line so you will continue as before ‘bomb- wring hands- bomb’.

  28. Professor Cole, you have been a source of good sense over the Libyan matter. But did you not write that by our adherence to the UN the US was obligated to intervene when the UNGA voted for intervention? A request to Congress to support the intervention would have been redundant. Correct or not?

  29. The news this morning is that the government forces have made a counter attack and the rebels are retreating. No what do you do? Having made the commitment this far, what will we do if the side we have intervened on starts to lose? The presumption of this whole adventure was that we can intervene cleanly from the air and it will be over. But what if aerial bombing is not enough, as our experience from WW II to the present have shown us it NEVER IS.

    Once started down this path, can we stop? Of course not. That is why we should never have started. Real soldiers know that there must always be boots on the ground. If Libyan rebel boots cannot do it, we will have to put our own there or admit defeat. Here is my assessment of Mr. Obama’s speech: We are waist deep in the big muddy and the big fool says, “Press on.”

    • A good reference to Pete Seeger’s timeless anti-war song during the late unpleasantness in Southeast Asia. A few years ago Presidents Bush and Obama inspired me to write a verse update called “Neck Deep in the Big Sandy. Just two stanzas picked from three pages of them:

      We’ve come around to sink once more
      Where no one ever planned.
      Instead of Delta mud, this time,
      We sink in desert sand
      Because an adolescent twerp
      Could not wait to “command”
      Some troops behind which he could hide
      His thieving sleight-of-hand.

      But things have not gone well, of course.
      Wars based on lies and fraud
      In no time go awry and leave
      Our legions mauled and clawed,
      Marooned for years and trapped by those
      Who – neither shocked nor awed —
      Reserve the right to rule themselves
      And name their own one GAWD.

      And so it goes …

  30. This war is all about oil. In 2009 Gaddafi wanted to nationalise oil. Look it up.

  31. I thank you for a cogent and comprehensive assessment of the current Libyan situation. But I suggest you retain some of your ire for the left, in which there is almost no one other than yourself who admits to the reasonableness of assisting the Libyan opposition.

    It is truly amazing that so many people today has abandoned common sense, and fail to recognize that the US being irresponsible almost everywhere doesn’t automatically mean they are irresponsible in Libya.

    For K, please re-read your Constitution. It gives Congress the right to declare war, but no where forbids the President from using troops outside the US border for any reason without Congress’s approval. War ought to be defined as an extensive military action against another country, where defeating and then replacing the government of that country is the objective. When you provide military assistance for a segment of a population of a country, to move to where they create a country in which each person can chart the course in life each person wants to do, that is a police action, not a war, and there is nothing in the Constitution that states the President has to get Congress’s permission before he acts. There are current laws that state within a reasonable time he has to talk to them and let them know his basis for action. And Obama is certainly doing that with his speech last night.

    When the police send in the swat squad, which is heavily armed, to confront a criminal(s), and it is fully intended that after that action each person in that area is free to resume the actions he or she desires to take, do you call that a war? No, you call it a police action. Same with international military actions by a country. A police action, not a war.

    Iraq is a war, Afghanistan is a war, not so with Libya.

  32. Juan, check this out: Cost of Libya Intervention $600 Million for First Week, Pentagon Says link to blogs.abcnews.com

    Wow. And that’s only the first week. I hope you understand that American is going bankrupt. You won’t have a job if the US government keeps spending all our money on war and bombing.People won’t be able to attend college unless the cost is drastically reduced, which means you’ll probably be paid 8 dollars an hour lol. At any rate you proably deserve it. I hope you enjoy the wars as American crumbles.

    • ‘The United States reported a trade deficit equivalent to 46.3 Billion USD in January of 2011’

      link to tradingeconomics.com

      ..America is not ‘going bankrupt’ and at this stage another $600 million per week isn’t going to make a hell of a lot of difference.

  33. Thanks for your clear interpretation of the president’s speech, Dr. Cole. He’s been saying the same thing since he first made the decision to intervene in Libya. I applaud you and President Obama for your pragmatism.

  34. “Our temporary good luck is that we have a president who knows what he is talking about, knows how to assemble a complex international alliance, and has the moral vision to do the right thing even if it is unpopular.” –The first phrase (“knows”) is prima facie preposterous and, of course, devoid of proof; the second (“assemble”) says nothing concerning the “shelf life” of the “allies”; the third (“moral vision”) is preposterous, given the “moral” record of the Obama administration. Prof. Cole’s remarks today are as illogical and untrue as his “Open Letter” to the Left. There he slandered the Left by asserting that Left opposition to the Libya intervention was “de facto” support for the crimes of Khaddafy–neatly “forgetting” that it is quite possible to oppose both. And his repeated claims that the US-led assault is “legal” are belied by the U.S. Constitution, which declares that (1) only Congress can authorize war and (2) only the Senate can ratify international treaty obligations. In a word, neither Cole nor his mentor “knows what he is talking about.”

  35. Some interventions are more practical than others.

    I can hardly wait for the next one, I can’t tell the difference gwb or o it’s all about the minerals.

    • Maybe a little to do with population as well – Iraq ( population 31 Million ) didn’t seem to go real well , Afghanistan – land of Poppies,Donkeys and Mud Huts ( population 29 million) also seems a bit ….’impractical’ in retrospect – whereas Libya has a population of only 6.5 million – that’s gotta be a more ‘practical intervention’ ,right??

  36. Pope Calls for Libyan Cease-Fire: “I make a heartfelt appeal to international organizations and to political and military leaders for the immediate launch of a dialogue that will halt the use of arms,” the pope said. (beliefnet 3/28/11)

    Can we we assume that President Obama will be keeping all options on the table to crush further opposition from the Bolshevik in the Vatican?

  37. While I appreciate the great work by you in the past, I completely disagree with your support for this attack on Libya. There is simply no denying the fact that we are taking sides in a civil war and not simply preventing a massive massacre, as stated by our esteemed Nobel Laureate. If we were simple preventing massacres, we would have stopped operations immediately after bombing the tanks moving towards Bengazi. But in the week since (and in the weeks to come) it will become clear that we’re the air force for the preferred (by France and Britain?) rulers of Libya.

    • Thank you Lambert for your pithy pro-truth Intrusion of Fact into this strong tendency to sanitize Our Peace-Prized President’s intentions & ventures of Conscience (in Libya or elsewhere).

      Empathy? Yeah,right – for Goldman Sachs. Obama’s rhetorical gifts(and ingratiating personal style)are limited to phonetics and body-language only – bereft of moral consistency over a wide-range of crucial issues. I find it very difficult to listen to him anymore. I better serve my sanity by not listening(unless I’m in my cold analytical mode).

      If the bombing(killing)was/is saving rebel lives(and don’t we all want lives saved?), that’s just a side-effect of another video-game war. Are unmanned drones flying yet over North Africa?

  38. Thanks for the summary, I feel the same way and I feel so much better now then a week ago. (Only please remember that the Serbs dealt with Milosevic in a very different way then Romania did with Ceaucescu… couldn´t in fact have been more different, not a very flattering memory for Serbia… oh well.)

    on Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Romney: do you have to reply to every dog barking in the street? I mean… people who believe what THEY say don´t read your blog anyways, neither do they … neither of them ever reads anything, because they just can´t care less how things outside of the US really are. It wouldn´t be that hard to understand once they took the slightest interest… you can´t change the fact that they simply are NOT interested by correcting them.

  39. Speaking of hagiography:

    “… knows how to assemble a complex international alliance …”

    Lordy. Bush pere et fils also knew how to do this, in the first and second Iraq wars (though Bush pere was admittedly better at it). Really, though, arguing about which legacy party runs the empire better is a mug’s game, surely.

    What I’d be thankful for? A President who wasn’t installing a CIA asset as the head of an oil-rich region. But that’s just me.

  40. Good speech, but…

    I, for one, would have loved to hear the President state that he did not go to Congress for final approval of this “act of war” because, simply, the Congress is broken. And then detail how bills have been fatally watered down and still blocked (by Republicans), how appointments go to the Senate to die (because of Republicans), and the current status of the budget and inevitable government shutdown (due to Republican insistence that “negotiating” means giving in to all their demands).

    I’d like to hear him state that partisan (Republican) strife has rendered the US government non-functional, but that as President, he doesn’t have the luxury of sitting around doing nothing. (He doesn’t need to make the obvious comparison with the Former Resident, also a Republican, but making the implication clear would be a nice touch.) He could, however, note the light workload of the (Republican-controlled)House – just three part-days per week in session, the rest on the golf course with lobbyists.

    He could add, in conclusion, that the American people have gotten a lot less than they expected, and vastly less than we deserve, from our (Tea Bag Republican) choices in the last election. However, as President, he retains considerable power to act, and he’s done so.

    I know this is self-indulgent of me, and a President’s airtime is limited, but I’d appreciate it if he’d throw an occasional bone to the “freedom fighters” in this country, the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

  41. Doctor,

    Thank you for all your work on this, very informative.

    Have you links to recent accounts of Qaddafi’s killing of Libyans this year?

    Numbers, reliable sources?

  42. RE: Congressional approval of military actions.

    The House has in it’s powers the ability to formally either object to the use of our military in the Libya or to approve it. So far, it has decided to do neither. I think that a discussion on last night’s Maddow show nailed why neither is happening. Republicans are waiting to see how this plays out, and to then exploit that situation for their own benefit. If they vote to approve or object to the actions, then they are on the record one way or another. If they wait and things go well, then they can climb on the band wagon and quietly say that they were for this all along – in fact, they’re glad that awful Obama took my advice, after waffling for too long in the first place. If things are messy or go badly, then they can pounce on the president from one or several of many possible directions: “He done obeyed France and the UN and screwed things up!”, and so on.

    In theory, there should be millions of reasonably smart, reasonably well-informed, reasonably coherent conservatives across America. The pile of absurd, dim-witted drivel the Prof. compiled above must sicken them as much as it does centrists (by developed-world political standards) and progressives. Where are they? Are they all clogging up the sand traps at their country clubs, burying their heads hoping the Bachmanns and Gingrichs and Trumps just go away on their own?

    (PS: how dare you compare Lady Gaga to Rep. Bachmann?!?! Ms. Gaga actually produces something that millions of people value (even if it isn’t to your, or my, taste exactly) and thinks before she opens her mouth. There’s a huge difference between engaging in calculated, self-promoting shock versus being a chicken with its head cut off squirting effluence in random directions. While the Representative clearly has no idea what is actually written in the Constitution nor the two centuries of its interpretation, nor does she know where critical battles of the Revolution were fought even when presumably sober, Ms. Gaga has demonstrated that she can discuss contemporary music and pop culture accurately and coherently even after a few drinks (and possibly a little something else…) As low a bar as is set for “pop divas”, I think it’s inaccurate and insulting to imply that Rep. Bachmann rises to anything near that level of quality of work or intelligence.) (the preceding was meant humorously and not to be taken seriously, even if it is true…)

  43. @K, What law did President Obama break for participating in implementing a U.N Security Council Resolution? Didn’t the United States sign the U.N. Charter thereby making it part of American law? So I would like to put out a challenge to you to show us how the President broke the law in ordering a military action that was authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

  44. Prof. Cole,
    Could it be possible that some Shia people are helping the rebels as a revenge for what happened to Musa Sadr?

  45. Technically France really did start bombing before the the tomahawks cleared the way. Before the meeting took place to setup the targets, rules of engagement etc.. France did send out a significant number of planes and started attacking Gadhafi’s convoys. Of course this was soon followed up by the American, with a little help from the UK, tomahawks bombing the anti-aircraft capabilities of Gadhafi. But, technically Romney’s statement was correct even if it was misleading and stupid.

  46. I know we can’t intervene everywhere, so that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t intervene anywhere. But why Libya? And if and when Yemen and Bahrain meet our criteria, should we intervene there? And will we intervene in other parts of Africa now or in the future. The Ivory Coast?

    Having said all that, I struggle with the humanitarian argument. And let me stipulate that even if oil is a factor, that does not negate the fact that there are humanitarian considerations.

    It is nice that Obama is articulate, intelligent, and well informed, but does that mean the U.S. should continue its role as arbiter in the internal relations of other countries when those countries do not pose a direct threat to our survival or our vital interests?

    The U.S. is an empire in decline and while it may be a first rate power is a second or third rate country in those areas that represent achievement, quality of life, transportation, education, health care, livable cities, and actions to deal with the problems of peak oil and global warming. We intervene in other countries because we can. Since we have this massively bloated and corrupt defense budget, we have the resources to intervene in places like Libya and maintain two others wars at the same time.

    There are those amongst us who think that being in charge of the world has become a burden that prevents us from becoming the society we could be and should be. We are a society in decline whose decline will be expedited by the dominance of the military industrial complex.

    On the bright side, I suppose, is the apparent doctrine that we should only intervene if we have the support of the U.N., Nato, and the countries in the region. I guess that precludes any forays into Saudi Arabia should that country fall apart.

    And by the way, the locals in Iraq are lobbying hard to get us to stay there to maintain the peace between the factions. These factions are not going away. As our government is about to shut down over the budget, nice that Obama has the luxury in spending billions in foreign entanglements which get us nowhere and nothing.

  47. Ha! Like that carrot top moniker!!! Apparently you don’t have to have much underneath the top to make it to the top of the moneygrubbs!

  48. ‘Practicality,’ ‘pragmatism’… As an overriding concept these become suspicious when they unfailingly align with our own self-interest. To me, especially in your terse response about the conflict in the Ivory Coast, I feel logic and pragmatism often give way to rationalization, the world in which we make everything what we want it to be.

    • When President Obama and Professor Cole use words like “pragmatism” and “practical,” I always substitute the more accurate term “expedient.” Semantics do matter.

  49. NYT Washington in Fierce Debate on Arming Libyan Rebels

    Mr. Obama pledged on Monday that he would not commit American ground troops to Libya and said that the job of transforming the country into a democracy was primarily for the Libyan people and the international community. But he promised that the United States would help the rebels in this struggle.

    In London, Mrs. Clinton and other Western leaders made it clear that the NATO-led operation would end only with the removal of Colonel Qaddafi, even if that was not the stated goal of the United Nations resolution.

    Mrs. Clinton — who met for a second time with a senior opposition leader, Mahmoud Jibril — acknowledged that as a group, the rebels were largely a mystery. “We don’t know as much as we would like to know and as much as we expect we will know,” she said at a news conference.

    Interesting three paragraphs. Obama says its up to the Libyan people and the international community to transform Libya into a democracy.

    Then Clinton (whom I suppose speaks for the administration) says the NATO-led operation would end only with the removal of Colonel Qaddafi (aka regime change), UN be damned. She made it clear. Funny, Obama didn’t make that clear Tuesday night.

    Then Clinton acknowledges that not much is really known about the folks we’ll be giving the keys to Tripoli, after regime change.

    There’s also a lot of talk in the article about al Qaeda’s role in the Benghazi Brigade. No one seems to know much on that subject either, but its obviously scaring some people.

    Is it only us lefties that can’t chew gum and walk? Just based on the above, I’d say that the Obama administration can’t sequentially operate gum machine and put on its shoes.

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