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March 14, 2011

Comments

For days and days now I have heard and read talk about a "no-fly" zone, which presumably meant we would shoot down any Libyan jets flying around that country, and possibly helicopters (I suppose it would apply to blimps and hot air balloons too).

Now, in the past couple days, we all of a sudden shift to allowing all manner of military action in Libya to protect civilians, up to an including the use of ground forces so long as they don't constitute an occupation force.

Mission creep, it's what's for breakfast.

The rulers of Yemen and Bahrain are murdering their people with foot soldiers firing into crowds, a situation in which it would be completely insane for a foreign air force to try to intervene.

I am glad that the decision to intervene to protect civilians from massacre depends on the instrumentality of the massacre. Future dictators of the world take note.

I don't find that a particularly compelling argument against intervention in Libya.

And I don't find any of the arguments for intervention in Libya to be particularly compelling, or at a minimum that don't also apply to many other countries around the world where we have apparently decided that mass massacres are fine.

Sh*t. That is all.

Qaddafy is a really bad guy, and deserves what is coming to him. I'd guess that some of the rebels are bad guys as well.

They are NOT rebels, every one of them is a civilian. The Libyan military is not allowed to approach Benghazi because all that is there is civilians.

Ignore the rebels, sorry civilians, with guns, tanks and armored ships off the coast.

Ignore the retired military guys from Egypt helping them plan strategy.

Ignore Mustafa Gheriani of the opposition transitional council, 54 years old and lived in the US 30 of them. (probably not too relevant but I thought it was very interesting in what has been portrayed as a very tribal culture)

None of those those people are putting civilians at risk by just being in Behghazi.

They are all just civilians waiting for our help. Except 9 days ago they put up billboards all over Benghazi telling us they could do it themselves. They were certain that Gaddafi would never be able to get to Benghazi. They thought they had the revolution in hand. They are armed rebels.

If we are going to take a side just because he is a "bad" guy just say so. We took a side in a civil war.

Hilary came pretty close today. She said he is right between Egypt and Tunisia who are trying to be Democracies and we don't want him to screw that up, obviously paraphrased.

Besides Afghanistan isn't going so great so maybe we can get a quick win. Famous last words.

It's good for the Tomahawk makers so far.

Apart from what I or anyone think of the UN action and the U.S.'s role in it, it's important to note for the record that Congress has not authorized this military action. Bush did not view the 2002 Congressional vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq as a legal necessity, just as an advisory expression (and a political weapon). Obama's action shows he views it as entirely within his power to authorize military action as well.

The Congress has ceded the war powers for good, it appears.

CCDG,
Thanks for that link, the discussion has been remarkably link free. I haven't been able to keep up at all, unfortunately, so this comment will also be free of dose demon links...

It seems to me that Gaddafi (I adopt whatever spelling is in the comment above, because I can see it) called a cease-fire and then struck at Benghazi in order to project force. If he was not in control in Benghazi and he wanted to attack it, he would have a hard time moving up forces. I suppose it is an argument against declaring the NFZ, because it seems to have resulted in the calculation that Gaddafi made, so it is a poker game and the resulting escalation is the next step. You and others can say we told you so, or can complain that we aren't doing anything in Yemen and Bahrain. They are both interesting cases, Bahrain was controlled by Portugal (and Portugese colonies such as Indonesia, Malacca and perhaps Sri Lanka seem to suggest that these places are often prone to these problems, though I think it is because the Portugese were the first in the colonial game and so chose areas that are now highly sought after) Yemen was part of the Ottoman empire, FWIW. With Libya, a former colony of France, you would expect France to lead and I look forward to a history that describes the steps that lead to all this. I suspect that this was pushed forward by Sarkozy, who summoned European support and the US joined in because, as I mentioned above, they are not going to be left out of an exercise of force. But that's just my speculation and I'd be interested in other's viewpoints.

"Hilary came pretty close today. She said he is right between Egypt and Tunisia who are trying to be Democracies and we don't want him to screw that up, obviously paraphrased."

Hmmm.....and what about the people - civilians - in Saudi and Bahrain and Yemen that are also trying to rebel and become a....ummmm er...democracy? They are getting shot down too.
I'll bet your bottom dollar we don't intervene in Saudi Arabia.

And then what about that one little democracy over in that region that voted in the Hamas platform? Haven't we tried to stamp them out? If not directly then via our 51st state?

That word "democracy", I don't think it means what you think it does.

"Sh*t. That is all."........yep.

Nell,
that's a good point, but I imagine that the fact that the French led the attack, NATO agreements will be invoked. This is not to disagree that this is crappy, but suspect that is how it will be dealt with if the question is raised.

"It's good for the Tomahawk makers so far."

We could combine the theories of 1) government spending, financed by taxation or borrowing in the capital markets, creates jobs .... with the recently conceived notion that, 2) government spending, borrowing, and taxation destroys jobs and cutting spending creates jobs and voila, solve all of our problems by taking out NPR, the EPA, community health clinics, public schools, and Planned Parenthood with Tomahawk missiles.

Also, apparently Muammar Gaddafi was responsible for Barack Obama's father's death in Africa.

I don't have a cite for that, but someone at FOX will in about a week, and that will explain everything.

This adventure in Libya, regardless of outcome, makes every political domestic, fiscal, and foreign policy position held and uttered by every American politician and pundit of all political pursuasions over the past ten (I underestimate) years pure shite.

We're a rancid collection of opinionated, rubes, marks and clowns with small floppy shoes ruled by malign government and corporate clowns with big floppy shoes.

Cuts in defense spending for our police state are a chimera.

A single dead Bahraini or Egyptian or Tunisian protester has more guts and character than any collection of one million ordinary (we are ordinary in every way) Americans who swallow the notion that we're broke as we fling ordnance at other countries and murder the poor at home and lower the wages of the middle class.

We're cowards. We're undertaxed, whining curs.

Mubarak and the King of Bahrain wish to God their populations were as docile and weak as ours is.

The streets are peaceful, but try to pay a street cleaner a decent wage and pension and corporate America will finance a street demonstration full of low-wage rubes to fight over the effing shekels.


Nell, Congress ceded its war powers a long time ago. Whether it did so "for good" is for the future to tell. The War Powers Resolution was, of course, an important step, although the idea that a President could use military force to enforce a UN resolution has been around since the Korean "conflict."

Nell, of course, you are abstaining as to what you "think" of the US actions. Some of the organizations which (I think) you support (although perhaps I'm confusing your comments with those of Donald Johnson) - ones which work tirelessly against torture and brutality around the world, such as Human Rights Watch, seem to be supporting the UN Resolution (and presumably its enforcement). Don't know whose side your on when there's an apparent conflict between these organizations and Glenn Greenwald.

As to Ugh's and avedis's worries that Obama hasn't decided to intervene against all evil dictators, I would suggest that the reason might be a combination of 1) national interest, 2) opportunity for success, 3) international consensus, 4) timing, 5) imminent massive slaughter of innocents.

In any case, the situation is clearly not one where Obama was beating the drum for war, and acting unilaterally. He was obviously skeptical, then was persuaded that intervention was the appropriate course, then proceeded under international law to obtain the imprimatur of the international community. There is certainly precedent for him to proceed to implement a UN directive, and under the War Powers Resolution.

lj: ...the French led the attack, NATO agreements will be invoked. ... suspect that is how it will be dealt with if the question is raised.

The question has already been raised, by Sen. Lugar, and will probably come up again on his Face the Nation appearance tomorrow. It will be interesting to see whether and how his objection is dealt with.

Senator Lugar is in the gun sights of the corporate Tea Party, who claim we're broke and can't afford to give Gaddafi what he deserves.

Dave C., all seriousness aside, you can't afford to give Gaddafi what he deserves.

Who cares what a dead man like Lugar has to say?

"Some of the organizations which (I think) you support (although perhaps I'm confusing your comments with those of Donald Johnson) - ones which work tirelessly against torture and brutality around the world, such as Human Rights Watch, seem to be supporting the UN Resolution (and presumably its enforcement)."


I haven't checked what HRW is saying about Libya and what to do about it, but HRW is sometimes criticized as being a little too close to the US government. I cite their human rights reporting, which doesn't commit me to supporting everything they recommend doing. I haven't read enough or thought enough about the current situation to have a firm opinion beyond skepticism about us going in once again for ostensibly noble reasons to save innocent people from being slaughtered while standing next to oil fields. That the US is hypocritical on human rights issues should go without saying, of course. Anyone who read HRW reports on various topics would know that.

""Don't know whose side your on when there's an apparent conflict between these organizations and Glenn Greenwald."

That was for Nell, but my name was mentioned. It is indeed a quandry. I feel much like someone living the Cretan liar paradox, or like those medieval scholastics who allegedly spent time wondering if God could make a stone too heavy for Him to lift. Or like those automatons in Star Trek which would commit suicide when Kirk confronted them with an apparent contradiction. Happened more than once. I feel my circuits overheating.

If the goal is to protect innocent civilians, doesn't that mean NATO remains engaged until K has lost?

If not, are there any reliable indications that this can end less ambiguously than, say, our time spent in Afghanistan?

Also, apparently Muammar Gaddafi was responsible for Barack Obama's father's death in Africa.

IMO it will emerge that Muammar Gaddafi actually *is* Obama's father, which gives our current actions there a kind of "Luke, I am your father" vibe.

Also, too, echoes of W's Oedipal drama in Iraq.

It'll be on Beck next week, Fox the day after, then the Washington Post op-ed page a few days after that.

I have no idea what the right thing to do is in Libya. More specifically, what the right thing *for us* to do is in Libya. Our relationship to the Middle East overall is so full of hypocrisy and convenient contradictions that almost anything we do will be equally problematic.

I'm not sure that "first, do no harm" is even an option. Too late for that.

Events drive themselves these days. Maybe there is something to this karma concept.

"I have no idea what the right thing to do is in Libya. More specifically, what the right thing *for us* to do is in Libya. Our relationship to the Middle East overall is so full of hypocrisy and convenient contradictions that almost anything we do will be equally problematic."

First, Libya seems to be in North Africa :)

Second, I commend this as a perfect DG comment.

So, just so we're clear, the american President can launch a long and sustained bombing campaign against a foreign country without congressional authorization in the absence of any actual, imminent, pending or theoretical threat to the United States or its national security. And not only does this not even cause an uproar, but AFAICT barely a whimper of protest from Congress, the "people's branch" of the Constitution.

Fun times.

Maybe this is just the same as Kosovo and Panama, but somehow it doesn't feel like (I'd be happy to hear better informed commenters on the latter two situations, IIRC Clinton justified Kosovo w/o an explicit authorization from Congress on the theory that since they voted for the $$$ for the operation they had voted for the operation).

I would suggest that the reason might be a combination of 1) national interest, 2) opportunity for success, 3) international consensus, 4) timing, 5) imminent massive slaughter of innocents.

1) I do like how merely "national interest," as opposed to national security or some sort of real threat, is now a for the U.S. to launch a military campaign, maybe we can start bombing Bermuda, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands for enabling the stripping of the U.S. tax base thus starving the gov't of necessary funds; 2) "success" at what? Stopping the current killing of civilians, sure, we might be successful at that, and then what? Permanent "no-fly" zone over Libya until Qaddafi kicks off? 3) is everyone contributing militarily to this "consensus" or are they free riding on the U.S. and Europe and voting for this costs them basicall nothing? 4) it seems to me the best time for this was at least a week ago; 5) can I use this one as a reason to invade the United States?

I tend to think that these decisions emerge for personal reasons, reasons related to the people who push for them, the people who push against them, and other considerations that shouldn't really be there, but are unavoidable nonetheless.

The NYTimes opened and others followed, suggesting that Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power were strongly pro-intervention, and convinced Obama to do so, over the objections of Gates and the NSC. While Clinton has always taken a relatively interventionist stance (which is one reason she isn't president), I imagine her meeting with Sarkozy gave her the compelling reason to push Obama to sign on as I tend to think that the French were willing to go alone (the initial French air attack occurred before the US cruise missiles went to suppress the Libya air defenses) and basically said so.

Given Sarkozy is facing low opinion polls, his push for action can be seen as self-serving, but Sarkozy's desire for action made it difficult for the US to not follow. The Guardian article points to the previous problems with France's ineffectual response to Tunisia and Egypt, and that area is traditionally a sphere of French influence, so that also must have also been a consideration.

And as evidence that old fissures don't disappear, they just get covered over, the glee in this Telegraph article about Sarkozy's hypocrisy, while not deceptive, seems to be supported by those differences. Note the last paragraph, and consider that the Telegraph's nickname is the Torygraph, and realize that they only made a passing shot at Tony Blair to see this dynamic in action.

IMO it will emerge that Muammar Gaddafi actually *is* Obama's father

Luke! I am not your father.

So, just so we're clear, the american President can launch a long and sustained bombing campaign against a foreign country without congressional authorization in the absence of any actual, imminent, pending or theoretical threat to the United States or its national security. And not only does this not even cause an uproar, but AFAICT barely a whimper of protest from Congress, the "people's branch" of the Constitution.

Probably they haven't received their talking points from Rush, yet.

Democrats too?

You'd be surprised at how influential Rush is. He's practically driving the whole bus.

The French government already recognized the rebel leadership as the legitimate government of Libya back on march 10.

It's a bit hard for me to imagine a campaign that will end with Gaddafi in still power.

It's bad enough that Obama is doing this, but thank God we didn't elect John Kerry, eh?

I can't tell what's more glib and substanceless today, Slarti or the retarded blog post he just linked to. Does anyone have a meter I can borrow?

Ugh, there's a specific UN resolution supporting our actions. I have to thank a commenter at Balloon Juice for pointing out the longstanding Congressional authority for the President to order military action in aid of enforcing certain UN resolutions. See this.

If we are going to be active and reliable participants in the world community, having responsibilities to other countries on the basis of votes taken in the UN, it probably was wise for Congress to give that authority to the President so that he wouldn't have to wrestle with John Bohner and Rand Paul in order to meet our obligations. Not being a hater of the UN, but realizing how difficult it is to obtain a consensus for action there, I think it's important that we respond.

As to "national interest," no that's not a good enough reason to go to war. It's just a reason we might choose some humanitarian battles over others. That was the point of my post. If a situation seems like we'd be inextricably involved in civil war, and we'd be rolling the dice as to our success, with nothing at all to gain in terms of our "national interest," it's less likely that we'd make that move as opposed to a situation where we or our allies might actually get something out of it. I don't necessarily approve of that, but certainly understand why it works that way - simple cost/benefit analysis.

Ugh,

I would suggest that the reason might be a combination of 1) national interest, 2) opportunity for success, 3) international consensus, 4) timing, 5) imminent massive slaughter of innocents.

1) I do like how merely "national interest," as opposed to national security or some sort of real threat, is now a for the U.S. to launch a military campaign, maybe we can start bombing Bermuda, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands for enabling the stripping of the U.S. tax base thus starving the gov't of necessary funds; 2) "success" at what? Stopping the current killing of civilians, sure, we might be successful at that, and then what? Permanent "no-fly" zone over Libya until Qaddafi kicks off? 3) is everyone contributing militarily to this "consensus" or are they free riding on the U.S. and Europe and voting for this costs them basicall nothing? 4) it seems to me the best time for this was at least a week ago; 5) can I use this one as a reason to invade the United States?

I don't think the argument is that you have to meet only one of those criteria, but that you have to meet all of them.

So if you were an alien hyper-power, you probably would have been justified in invading the US back in 2003 (you'd need to be powerful enough to defeat the US military relatively quickly, which no one on Earth is, thus aliens), but I don't think you personally would be justified in invading the US right now (for one thing, your chance of success would be quite small, for another I don't think there is an immanent threat of mass civilian slaughter in the US), and I don't think the US would be justified in invading the Cayman Islands (as national interest, and chance of success are not sufficient).

If you could drive the US from Afghanistan without inflicting comparable civilian casualties to what the US is inflicting there, you might be justified in doing so.

National security is a different situation. These five criteria are for humanitarian military interventions. National security was not at risk in Bosnia or Kosovo, nor Somalia in the 90's, nor the NFZ in Iraq in the 90s, all previous US military actions that were justified by humanitarian reasons.

I agree that a week ago would have been better on the timing front, but it looks as though now is still good enough to prevent the bombardment of Benghazi.

I can't tell what's more glib and substanceless today

I think you're making a pretty fair run for it, Phil!

But you could torpedo your chances and elaborate. I know you can do it.

"I agree that a week ago would have been better on the timing front, but it looks as though now is still good enough to prevent the bombardment of Benghazi."

However, Behghazi is now a rebel stronghold. They are massing weapons, importing fighters and advisors, forming a rebel government that has been recognized by France.

So protecting Benghazi is more than protecting civilians. If the rebels move to take Tripoli are the UN forces going to bomb their convoys also?

CCDG: "So protecting Benghazi is more than protecting civilians. If the rebels move to take Tripoli are the UN forces going to bomb their convoys also?"

Not really. Armed civilians are still civilians (or it would really be a surprise to the Second Amendment folks here that they are now considered a military). France has recognized a rebel government, but they don't have an organized army. So the answer is: No.

I haven't seen any evidence that the rebel capture of cities so far has involved mass slaughter. It certainly hasn't involved the indiscriminate slaughter inherent in the use of artillery and bombing against foot troops in a city (since the rebels have been taking cities using lightly armed foot soldiers).

If the rebels arm up with heavy artillery and bombers and lay siege to Tripoli, I certainly hope that the UN uses all available methods to end that siege.

However:
(a) I think the chance of the rebels getting and using heavy artillery or bombers any time soon is highly unlikely.
(b) I think the rebels would be very likely to be responsive to methods of persuasion other than bombing.
(c) Preventing a slaughter of civilians once does not require you to prevent a different slaughter of civilians later. Preventing the slaughter of civilians is a good thing even if you are unreliable or unfair in doing so.

Point (c) is greatly weakened in this case, since the imagined future siege of Tripoli would never have happened if Benghazi had been allowed to fall, so yes, I think the UN alliance has a strong moral responsibility to prevent a siege by heavy artillery of Tripoli from happening. I don't know if they have a strong moral responsibility to prevent small units of lightly armed foot soldiers from moving on Tripoli, as I don't have any real sense whether the resulting battle would be likely to involve mass civilian death.

Not really. Armed civilians are still civilians (or it would really be a surprise to the Second Amendment folks here that they are now considered a military).

No. Combatants are not civilians. There's an enormous difference between a guy who keeps a weapon to go duck hunting and a rebel armed with anti-tank weapons participating in an insurrection against his government.

Turbulence, true. I'll defer to Charles S, whose response was more thoughtful.

CS,

Perhaps you missed the report yesterday where the rebels mistakenly shot down their own fighter plane over Benghazi? They may have a tank or two to go with their fighter planes.

First, Libya seems to be in North Africa

True dat.

I tend to think about the Maghreb as if it were some kind of "greater Arabia", but that's likely very wrong.

And not only does this not even cause an uproar, but AFAICT barely a whimper of protest from Congress, the "people's branch" of the Constitution.

Steve Lynch, D-Southie, and Mike Capuano, D-People's Republic of Greater Boston, are both agin' it.

No doubt there are some others.

And thrown in at the end of this CNN report talking about people in Behghazi describing the damage to Gadhafis forces:

Residents of the city, which was reported to be calm late Sunday, believe they can now take the offensive against loyalist troops.

those civilians with guns trudging toward Tripoli......

"those civilians with guns trudging toward Tripoli......"

And good for them.

I hadn't seen that. They do actually have a few tanks to go with their (now 1 less) fighter planes, I've seen that mentioned (if I implied otherwise, I didn't mean to).

They have not used them against any of they cities they have captured, and I certainly hope that the French et al are pushing very hard diplomatically to ensure that they don't start using them (at the very least that they don't use them to besiege towns or cities, using them as glorified APCs doesn't seem morally unacceptable). I do believe that they have far fewer heavy weapons than the loyalist forces do, but I don't think anyone has anything like exact numbers.

The attacks against black African civilian emigres by the rebel forces in towns that they have captured (and the murder of black African POWs) have been reprehensible, and the rebel leadership has a clear moral responsibility to ensure that that stops, and that it doesn't happen if and when Tripoli falls. But slaughter of civilians, either in battle or in the aftermath, has not been reported in the cities the rebels have captured, as far as I can see.

It is certainly possible that a horrible humanitarian disaster will follow from the UN backed intervention, and I think everyone involved, the rebel provisional government, the rebel troops, and the intervening nations, have a clear duty to work to prevent that from happening.

CCDG was mentioning the question of who the rebels are, this stratfor analysis attempts to answer that question.

Thanks for the link lj

So, what do we known about the people whose side we've just taken?

We know lots and lots about them, amirite? I mean, surely we wouldn't throw down on one side of a civil war w/o deep knowledge of the country, its people, the origins and nature of the current conflict, the goals of our newest friends...

Right?

Hah. Just noticed the stratfor link from lj. LOL @ me, I suppose.

I'd also make another observation, the lead time we have for identifying leaders has become remarkably compressed. This is not simply for countries like Libya or Yemen, it's true for us here. Think about Sarah Palin's ascension to VP candidate, and you realize that this isn't a idiosyncrasy of Libya, it's what the world has become. In some ways, it sucks, but you have to live with it.

Along those same lines, I tend to think that what has happened is the way things are (unfortunately) supposed to work. As long as we have a notion of national sovereignty as a barrier to intervening, what you will get is a much higher level of impetus or force in order to overcome that barrier, such that the effort will be as violent as we see it. I realize this is an unprovable hypothetical, but if the Western nations had set up a no-fly zone a week earlier, would we have seen the French Mirage fighters striking tank columns? I'm not sure we would have.

This is also an interesting look at what is part of a NFZ.

This is not simply for countries like Libya or Yemen, it's true for us here. Think about Sarah Palin's ascension to VP candidate, and you realize that this isn't a idiosyncrasy of Libya, it's what the world has become.

Besides Palin, is there any evidence to support this assertion?

Instead of there being some general trend, it might just be the case that John McCain is a man of little intelligence who makes poor decisions.

Well, did we know the leaders of Tiananmen Square? Outside of Aung San Suu Kyi, could we identify folks in Myanmar? Who would we be supporting in Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain. You have a good knowledge of Egypt, so was there an identifiable leader and movement there in the opposition?

It is said that a leader is someone who finds out which way the crowd is going, takes a short cut and gets to the front and pretends they've been there the whole time. And I'm not saying that John McCain is of some superior intelligence, but in some ways, he was forced to pick Palin because the 'regular' candidates brought so much baggage with them that they would have, in the electoral calculus, provoked negatives in the people who were most active (and reactionary). Countme-in's identifying of the walking Republican dead underlines how this dynamic is not a blip, but a trend.

LJ, I was asking for evidence to support your assertion about picking politicians in the US: "it's true for us here". If the only thing backing up this claim is Palin, that's fine.

Sorry, I misunderstood. So, when I think of people like Christine O'Donnell, Michele Bachmann, any number of politicians who seem to be totally unprepared for the jobs they are campaigning for and sometimes getting, I feel like Palin was the natural extension of that trend. I realize there have been stupid politicians since the beginning of the Republic, so maybe I'm overthinking this.

Thinking about it, it may be a more deeper feature of US politics rather than something about Republican politics because Obama's rise, Clinton and Carter were successful, but the notion of becoming president as the capstone of a career (think Dole, Mondale, even McCain) is fast becoming like the notion of an 8-track.

I'm also thinking of something Valclav Havel said, which was that in a situation where there is a lot of central control, changes often happen much faster than one would think. He was specifically referring to the fall of the Soviet Union, but I think the general observation is true.

sapient: If a situation seems like we'd be inextricably involved in civil war, and we'd be rolling the dice as to our success, with nothing at all to gain in terms of our "national interest," it's less likely that we'd make that move as opposed to a situation where we or our allies might actually get something out of it.

Civil war, rolling the dice, nothing to gain, sounds like what we're doing in Libya to me.

Charles S: I don't think the argument is that you have to meet only one of those criteria, but that you have to meet all of them.

I guess I should have anticipated this response. I would say that a threat to the United States or its national security is a necessary condition for us to spin up the bombing campaign, etc. (it may sometimes also be sufficient).

As to the other factors, we're late on the timing, it seems the Arab League has decided it doesn't like our bombing campaign so we've lost our consensus, and I'm still not sure what "success" would look like six months down the road.

'success' must include a dead or exiled QKGaddafy, followed by a democratic-ish election. 6 months, tops.

A Friedman unit, IIRC. Surely, just one. Maybe two. Tops!

Ugh: "I guess I should have anticipated this response. I would say that a threat to the United States or its national security is a necessary condition for us to spin up the bombing campaign, etc. (it may sometimes also be sufficient)."

Then you need to get with the Republican Party of Texas and suggest that the United States withdraw from the UN.

UN membership implies that member states will join in military actions regardless of whether they have any national interest at stake?

That's an interesting interpretation. If that was the case, then yes, we surely should withdraw from the UN, because it would be a deranged institution.

Success in Libya will look like America looks right now with Gaddafy defeated, but resurrected and given his own talk show by Libya CNN/FOX to discuss dismantling democracy, taxes and health care for all Libyans with policy heavyweights Gene Simmons, Sarah Death Palin, and an assortment of ex-SNL failures whose careers are one rotation above Gary Busey's from disappearing down the toilet bowl.

Maybe Gaddafy could do a quick remake (shore up his budget-cutting and tax elimination creds, take on Planned Parenthood) and mount a Tea Party primary run for Lugar's Senate seat in 2012.

I'd give him an even chance. After all, you can say this about Muammar. He's truthful about being born in Africa, and by God, that shows integrity.

Rush Limbaugh would take one look and throw his weight behind Muammar. Dobie Gillis, being the open-minded sort would weigh his options on these very pages (yes, yes, there were the killings, but tax simplification and reduction has its merits; let's not be hasty in blaming the messenger) and Slart would cast aspersions upon Rush's influence. Rush who?

In other words, success in Libya will be what's left of American civilization -- a foamy excrescence of dumbsh*t Charlie Sheen pre-cum banality and Moe Lane punk smugness.

Signifying nothing, as Ben Franklin surmised.

Josh Rogin re: Western forces distinguishing between genuine civilians and rebel forces while enforcing SCR1973:

"We do not provide close air support for the opposition forces. We protect civilians," Gen. Carter Ham, the top military official in charge of the operation, told reporters in a conference call on Monday. The problem is, there is no official communication with the rebel forces on the ground and there is no good way to distinguish the rebel fighters engaged against the government forces from civilians fighting to protect themselves, he said.

"Many in the opposition truly are civilians...trying to protect their civilian business, lives, and families," said Ham. "There are also those in the opposition that have armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Those parts of the opposition are no longer covered under that ‘protect civilians' clause" of the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized military intervention.

[...]

So how are pilots in the air supposed to tell the difference? If the opposition groups seem to be organized and fighting, the airplanes imposing the no-fly zone are instructed not to help them.

"Where they see a clear situation where civilians are threatened, they have... intervened," said Ham. "When it's unclear that it's civilians that are being attacked, the air crews are instructed to be very cautious."

"We have no authority and no mission to support the opposition forces in what they might do," he added.

What's more, the coalition forces won't attack Qaddafi's forces if they are battling rebel groups, only if they are attacking "civilians," Ham explained. If the Qaddafi forces seem to be preparing to attack civilians, they can be attacked; but if they seem to be backing away, they won't be targeted.

"What we look for, to the degree that we can, is to discern intent," said Ham. "There's no simple answer."

Yep. Clear as f*cking mud.

"UN membership implies that member states will join in military actions regardless of whether they have any national interest at stake?"

Don't you think that, when we sit on the Security Council, when we have veto power, and when we vote for a resolution that requires military action, and when we have armed forces capable of helping to make that action successful, we should help to enforce it?

"Yep. Clear as f*cking mud."

What he said.

We have a clear set of well defined and public rules of engagement. How do those rules get applied? Who the fnck knows!

I guess I'd go further than Ugh in saying that US or universal interests may justify US involvement. So I would say that if neither one of those applies the US should abstain, and your situation would not obtain.

I don't think that membership of the UN creates a moral or legal requirement for member states to act as a UN police force, even if they have the means.

Now, I do believe that both US and universal interests are at stake in Libya. What I am not sure about is whether we have the capability to make the situation better. As it is, we are taking sides in a for-real civil war where "our side" on the ground is fundamentally outmatched by an intact, well-armed state military. The rag-tag band of rebels that defeat the heavily-armed government forces only happens in the movies.

Even without heavy armor, the side with trained soldiers and real logistics is likely to win.

Also, we have no promise and no real reason to believe that "our side" would refrain from murder and mayhem even if it prevailed in combat. Wars do not make nice people out of those who fight them. Maybe in Libya that won't be the case, but it was in Afghanistan. And while Gaddafi's men might have murdered civilians they wouldn't be doing it with an implicit US stamp of approval.

Don't you think that, when we sit on the Security Council, when we have veto power, and when we vote for a resolution that requires military action, and when we have armed forces capable of helping to make that action successful, we should help to enforce it?

That sort of presumes that we ought to have done everything that preceded the part where explosions began to happen.

I'm still undecided on that part, myself. I mean, where we decided to take action. I do think that if we decided that it was well worth UN involvement, it'd be kind of silly to say: well, we think it should be done, but we really don't want to dirty our hands with it.

"I mean, where we decided to take action. I do think that if we decided that it was well worth UN involvement, it'd be kind of silly to say: well, we think it should be done, but we really don't want to dirty our hands with it."

I agree, except that I don't think it would be silly; I think it would be a dereliction of duty. And, it's true - before the resolution, I had very mixed feelings about what we should do. But I don't think once we supported the resolution we were in a position to stand aside.

The international community took the high ground, and did so through a legitimate resolution of the UN, stating that it would not tolerate dictators committing massive atrocities on its people - that's exactly what the UN is for. By supporting the action through our military we not only support the content of the resolution, but deny a victory to those who scorn the UN as impotent.

So, if we lose? That would be horrible. It would have been really horrible to have lost WWII. But some things are worth fighting for. And part of what makes this worth fighting for is that the international community rose to the occasion through a United Nations resolution to condemn atrocities and to authorize action to stop it. The UN doesn't always do its duty, that's true. But this time it did.

I sympathize and agree with everyone here that there are huge worries about the execution of this effort. I hope (obviously) for the best outcome.

Obama's letter to Congress.

Who are the rebels we are now supporting?

On the one hand I detect the stink of the CIA among the rebel camp. Which is how I know there is a high probability of this ending baddly.

Once upon a time in long forgotton days of old there was this guy named Usama Bin Laden. He was fighting the Russians (aka "The Evil Empire"). he was a rebel and a freedom fighter. He was likened unto George Washington. The CIA supported his efforts because he was such a gloriously good man.

A few years later, but still way back long ago in times long forgotten, this very same Usama Bin Laden declared war on the US. In addition to backing terrorist attacks that resulted in the destruction of two US embassies, a damaged US Navy destroyer (all including loss of life and injury to US citizens) he implemented his spectactular magnum opus which killed thousand right here in "The Homeland" when airplanes crashed and buildings fell, etc.

Round about this same time, Usama issued a statement in which he described a plan to suck the stupid and prideful US into endless wars in the Muslim world which would 1. Reveal, once and for all, the US to be the imperial crusader dogs that they have always been. 2. Bring the muslim community together against the imperial dogs and their proxy apostate disctators 3. and this is most imporatant, Bankrupt an already financially troubled US.

I don't though. This happened so long ago that it's like history or something and can't possibly relevant to today's events.

On the one hand I detect the stink of the CIA among the rebel camp.

Among the things that worry me, a lot, about our intervention in Libya is how little we know or understand about what the hell is going on.

IMO it's actually hard to say whether events in Libya present a meaningful threat to us or our interests, or whether whatever actions we are taking will further our interests, or not.

We don't know.

The list of world events in, say, the last generation that have blindsided our foreign policy makers is disturbingly long.

The eruption of popular political action in the middle east and the maghreb is just the most recent example.

The intelligence agencies in this country absorb an astounding amount of money and resources. They operate, in many cases, with a amazingly free hand. To a degree that basically either freaks me out or pisses me the hell off, depending on my mood, they are unaccountable to the public.

I would really like them to stop screwing around with the rest of the world like a bunch of cowboys on meth and actually, you know, gather and analyze intelligence. Enough so that policy makers who are actually responsible to the public can make good decisions.

If the Directorate of Operations were to close its doors tomorrow, I'm not sure the net loss to the nation would be that great.

Just another comment from the peanut gallery.

sapient: "it would not tolerate dictators committing massive atrocities on its people"

1) Is there evidence that massive atrocities were occurring or imminent?

2) If we ignore that standard with regards to any number of other dictators at similar levels of atrocity-ness, what does that say about us?

There may be an answer to 1) that is worthwhile, and an adequate answer to 2) may be "You can't fix everything at once". But I'm not sure given available evidence that it is so obvious.

I'm not sure I'm exactly opposed to the Libya action. I'm not sure I'm exactly in support of it either. Of course it would be pretty easy to wait and see how it turns out to express a firm opinion (then I could go back and say that I said that all along).

I don't intend to do that. But I don't mind saying I don't know enough to have an opinion. I hope it turns out okay is about all I can say.

avedis, I'd really like to see some evidence of CIA involvement. A link, a paper, anything at all.

Jacob, I feel pretty much the same as you, but in an attempt to address some of your points.

Location and history matters. It may be like the old joke about the drunk looking for his keys over by the streetlamp, not because it is where he lost the keys, but because the light is better, but that's the bummer about being allied with NATO, it is remarkably difficult to ignore what your allies are doing.

Gadhaffi's public statements matter. If you have a tank column rolling down the road to Benghazi, and you place that on the background of statements like fighting to the last drop of blood, that carries some weight. In fact, when you get the kind of paranoid comments that Gadhaffi was making, I think that is something that puts a bit thumb on the balance.

Again, I'm not sure about this as well, but I'm not going to start invoking CIA plots, unless I see some proof.

This Time article/a> has some of the administration background on the decision, though I'm not sure how good the sources are (it seems to be a melange of the other reporting with no acknowledgements)

This McClatchy article reports that the Arab league is hesitant to let NATO take over, but I'm not sure why the US, UK and France have a better reputation than NATO. There is also a very interesting final paragraph that I put below

Meanwhile, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin blasted the military action in Libya, saying that the Security Council resolution authorizing military force in Libya "resembles medieval calls for crusades," Reuters reported from Gorki, Russia.

However, Putin's comments brought an unusual rebuke from Russia's president and one-time Putin protege Dmitry Medvedev.

"1) Is there evidence that massive atrocities were occurring or imminent?"

They're probably lying, and I don't trust the media either, but:


this and

this and

this

this

Miscellaneous post from Juan Cole

I mean, I don't know how many bodies have to be counted. What kind of evidence do you require? Piles of corpses and skeletons a la Auschwitz

So, it may all be a CIA plot, or a media propaganda blitz, or maybe Obama is dying for another war in the Middle East. I am cynical enough to believe that we may find out that one of those things are true. But I'm just not cynical enough to think that we should be paralyzed (in advance) by those kinds of suspicions.

From those accounts, I see only "A witness in the oil port said he had seen dozens of dead bodies in the residential part of the town" and "It is reported that between 1,000 and 2,000 civilian protesters have been killed" that refer to civilian casualties.

Killing armed men in combat who are engaged in a violent attempt to overthrow the government of their country is not an atrocity.

Imprisoning people attempting to overthrow the government (AKA "treason") is not an atrocity.

Killing civilians by accident while recapturing territory from rebels is not an atrocity.

Being a brutal dictator who disappears people and uses torture might be an atrocity, but that's a rather hard thing to prove in an international court, and it's also the same kind of thing that many US allies get up to all the time.

Now: I absolutely sympathize with the rebels, I think their government sucks and fully deserves to be overthrown. I would like very much for them to prevail.

I also appreciate that it is difficult to get evidence of crimes against humanity out of government-controlled parts of Libya right now. And it may be that such crimes have taken place.

But when you ask "What kind of evidence do you require? Piles of corpses and skeletons?" the answer is "Well, yes". Rumors are worth investigating, but they are not evidence. A belief that an atrocity is to take place is not evidence. A statement of intent to "fight to the last drop of blood" is not evidence (and how reliable is that translation?)

Like I say, maybe those things do add up to sufficient cause for a precautionary action. Maybe Obama knows something we don't. (But then why can't we know it?) Maybe, quite possibly, there have in fact been atrocities committed. But if there is real evidence for them I have not seen it.

I don't want to sound equivocal on who I support, I was glad to see the tanks manned by Gaddafi's loyalist thugs and mercenaries destroyed. But will that prevent Gaddafi from retaking the country? It's not clear. Will the massive escalation in violence represented by cruise missile attacks and large scale bombing have consequences in the way Gaddafi's forces treat them?

If rebels hold the east, will there be a full-scale, drawn-out civil war? If the outcome of that is massive civilian casualties, refugees, and a substantial risk that Gaddafi will end up retaining control anyway, how will we feel then?

As I say my sympathies are very much with the rebels and against Gaddafi, but it is not practical or wise to extend "sympathy" as far as "multi-billion dollar military intervention" in every such case, and I think it's fair to be suspicious of the fact that this particular intervention is happening in another major oil-exporter where Western oil companies have been kept out of exploration and production - a characteristic it has in common with Iraq and Iran.

There's also this:

The behavior of the fledgling rebel government in Benghazi so far offers few clues to the rebels’ true nature. Their governing council is composed of secular-minded professionals — lawyers, academics, businesspeople — who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law. But their commitment to those principles is just now being tested as they confront the specter of potential Qaddafi spies in their midst, either with rough tribal justice or a more measured legal process.

Like the Qaddafi government, the operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties. And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.

Oh and:

Human Rights Watch and this.

Amnesty International

Medicins San Frontiers

Save the Children

So, we wait until the piles of corpses are available. (How many corpses? Seems that there had already been hundreds in early March.)

For people who are so willing to accuse Obama of the "torture" of Bradley Manning (whose father visited him and says that he seems okay) insisting on piles of corpses (thousands? tens of thousands? since hundreds aren't enoug?) seems like a pretty high threshold.

From Obama's letter to Congress:

"United States forces are conducting a limited and well-defined mission in support of international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster. Accordingly, U.S. forces have targeted the Qadhafi regime's air defense systems, command and control structures, and other capabilities of Qadhafi's armed forces used to attack civilians and civilian populated areas. We will seek a rapid, but responsible, transition of operations to coalition, regional, or international organizations that are postured to continue activities as may be necessary to realize the objectives of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973."

He did not say he was supporting questionable rebels.

"He did not say he was supporting questionable rebels."

Perhaps you missed the point, for me at least, that he is doing one thing and saying another.

Like I said, I'm of the same mind of you, Jacob and I'm not going to wait till things finish up and then say 'yeah, I thought so'. I think sapient is taking the opportunity to get in a few shots, and that's fine, I've mentioned that I've been sympathetic to some points he's made earlier, so how the US deals with a SC resolution is a something to think about, though I think it would be far better to make that point without implying that folks on the other side require such a massive burden of proof that almost flirts with Godwin. I thought this by Juan Cole was more to the point:

That the world community has intervened in Libya but not in say, Yemen and Bahrain, has raised cries of hypocrisy. These charges are largely deserved. It is worth noting, however, that nowhere else in the Arab world where there have been widespread protests has the regime consistently responded with such massive brutality as in Libya. Yemen, with the sniper massacre of crowds on Friday, is moving in that direction, but Qaddafi has likely killed thousands since February 17, not just dozens.

From February 17, a peaceful protest movement broke out throughout Libya. Civilian crowds gathered without violence downtown, in Benghazi, Tobruk, Dirna, Zawiya, Zuara and even in the outskirts of Tripoli as in the working class town of Tajoura. City notables and military men in the east of the country formed a provisional government. Many diplomats declared for the provisional government, as did many officers and even cabinet members.

The Qaddafi regime responded with brutal violence to these non-violent protests. Early on, live fire was used against protesters in Tripoli itself. Last week, convoys of tanks rolled into Zawiya, supported by heavy artillery, firing on civilian crowds and on civilian apartment buildings. The tanks occupied the city center, and there are reports of a mass grave of the protesters. They were just protesters. They were easily defeated because they did not know, and most of them still do not know, how to handle a weapon. There were large numbers of self-inflicted gunshot wounds in the rebel ranks.

As far as translation, I have no Arabic, but it's not like it was an isolated comment, what he's said about youth taking pills provided by AQ and things like that is pretty out there. In looking for some of the rhetoric, there was this Juan Cole blog post about Gadhaffi's son. In that post, there is this.

Muammar Qaddafi even said there were no protests in the streets of his country, drawing a charge from US envoy to the UN Susan Rice that the old dictator is ‘delusional.’

It is also to be noted that Saif was supposedly the one pushing for Western rapprochment.

Another thing that bears mentioning is that Egypt just underwent some sort of governmental overthrow (though it looked like a popular revolt, the fact that Suleiman stepped up makes me wonder a bit) and seems to be supporting the rebels in some fashion. I'm not sure how to factor this in, but imagining a Libya-Egypt conflict might be another factor in making sure Gadhaffi is out.

I think it's fair to be suspicious of the fact that this particular intervention is happening in another major oil-exporter where Western oil companies have been kept out of exploration and production

Imagine that.

For people who are so willing to accuse Obama of the "torture" of Bradley Manning (whose father visited him and says that he seems okay) insisting on piles of corpses (thousands? tens of thousands? since hundreds aren't enoug?) seems like a pretty high threshold.

It's very weird to me that the discussion about whether we should intervene in Libya or not seems to be turning into a discussion of how bad a guy Qadaffi is.

Stipulated: Qaddafi is an evil murderous pr**k. Not only that, he's an evil murderous pr**k who has specifically targeted American citizens in acts of terrorism.

A personal note. A very good friend of mine was supposed to be on the Lockerbie flight. He didn't go, a co-worker went instead. Co-worker is dead, blown to tiny bits by a bomb sponsored by Qaddafi.

So really, if Qaddafi ends up as a pile of bones picked over by cockroaches and crows, I'm OK with it. Karma, y'all. What goes around, etc.

But if "evil murderous pr**k" is the bar for American military intervention, we are going to have our hands full.

For one thing, we are going to lose a significant number of "friends" and clients.

Why aren't we intervening with overwhelming military force in Zimbabwe? In Burma? In North Korea? In any of the other dozens of places in the world where people are oppressed, in great numbers, by their governments?

I'm not sure Mighty Mouse foreign policy ("Here I am to save the day!") is really working for us.

Co-worker is dead, blown to tiny bits by a bomb sponsored by Qaddafi.

It seems unlikely that Libya was responsible for the Pan Am 103 bombing. The LRB explains in detail here. The leading theory is that Iran blew up the plane in retribution for the savage American assault on an Iranian air flight that killed several hundred people.

I'm not sure Mighty Mouse foreign policy ("Here I am to save the day!") is really working for us.

I agree that the United States as Mighty Mouse is a very bad concept. The UN as Mighty Mouse is a very good concept.

The LRB explains in detail here.

Turb, thanks, I will take a look at it. Net/net, Qaddafi is still a very bad actor.

The UN as Mighty Mouse is a very good concept.

I agree that "UN as Mighty Mouse" is much better than "US as Mighty Mouse", because it requires some kind of deliberation about who the "bad guys" are.

The basic question stands - why Qaddafi and not any of the other tinhorns?

"The basic question stands - why Qaddafi and not any of the other tinhorns?"

Well, as I've said before, when there's an international consensus about who the "bad guys" are, there's going to be some attention paid to various countries' interests, and oil is, no doubt, a factor. But other factors exist as well here: a strong popular uprising, an opportunity for limited airborne intervention, an early enough understanding of the threat to civilians that a rapid, contained response can actually be effective (although it is a little later than would have been optimal).

It would be wonderful if the UN could act similarly against every malevolent dictator. As I said, a huge reason I support this action is that it is a step in building that kind of confidence in the moral force of the UN. The possibility that the UN might someday take on that role more seriously is something that I am too jaded to seriously believe will happen, but it's something that I sincerely hope for. The UN is still a young institution - people need to keep making the leap of faith that it is something that we can make work.

Here I come to save the day!

So far, I'm with sapient on this one. Given what I would term an alignment of factors of interest, both domestic and international, in the situation in Libya, I'd say the basic question is whether going after Qaddafi is right or wrong, and not "what about all the other bad guys?"

We can't go after all of them. We shouldn't go after any of them without international support, unless there's a clear and direct threat to our security (in which case we'd likely have international support, anyway).

Whether or not we're going about this properly from a tactical and strategic standpoint, I have no idea.

It seems unlikely that Libya was responsible for the Pan Am 103 bombing. The LRB explains in detail here.


Turb, is it strange that this theory hasn't gotten more play, that so many hold Libya and K responsible? One quote from a quick read of you link tells me that the author is not as deeply grounded in the facts as would need to be the case:

In July 1988 a US battleship, the Vincennes, shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in the Persian Gulf, with 290 passengers, many of them pilgrims en route to Mecca. There were no survivors.

The never was a "US battleship" on station off Iran named the Vincennes. The Vincennes was and is an Aegis class guided missile cruiser. Here's a link that offers an alternative view of the "savage American assault", including a timeline that can be objectively verified: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/aeronautics-and-astronautics/16-422-human-supervisory-control-of-automated-systems-spring-2004/projects/vincennes.pdf.

"UN as Mighty Mouse" is much better than "US as Mighty Mouse", because it requires some kind of deliberation about who the "bad guys" are.

Perhaps, but since deliberating on who the bad guys are involves the PRC and Russia signing off, my guess is that "deliberation" is probably not the right word and a lot of "bad guys" are likely to escape notice. The implication here is that the PRC and China offer a more balanced and insightful view of who is good and who is bad than the US, the UK and France. Personally, I'd go with liberal democracies pretty much every time.

As I said, a huge reason I support this action is that it is a step in building that kind of confidence in the moral force of the UN.

Is Libya still sitting on the UN Human Rights Committee? With respect, the UN resolution is a fig leaf, with virtually no moral force whatsoever behind it: the Libyan incursion's objective morality does not turn on the UN's imprimatur.

And, the incursion is not the mere imposition of a NFZ. It is war less an actual ground invasion.

Why K and not someone else? K is, relatively speaking, low hanging fruit--close by, easy and politically popular target for a relatively quick and easy operation (made so by US involvement).

Your deadlink is dead, McKinney. I think Gary has published the instructions, and actually linked instructions for how to do in-comment linking, that no one has any excuses for not doing so. Learn. Quit making us copy and paste, only to find the copy-and-paste doesn't work. You're swapping your inconvenience for ours.

The never was a "US battleship" on station off Iran named the Vincennes.

This, though correct, is a nit. It is, literally, immaterial to the claim, or the discussion of what really happened. The Vincennes is a ship of battle, and it's kind of beside the point that someone writing about the shooting down of a commercial airliner might not sharpen his pencil as regards the terminology of US warships.

Oh. Cut-and-paste error. So: not totally dead, McK, but please make them clickable.

Thanks!

This, though correct, is a nit. It is, literally, immaterial to the claim, or the discussion of what really happened.

If I was going to make a claim of the nature asserted by the author, I might take the time to know what kind of ship actually shot down Iranian Flight 655. My point was, that on a quick read, as opposed to an in depth unpacking, this error popped up pretty quickly. I suspect there are good deal of other contestable assertions and mistakes of fact.

On the techno side, how do I find GF's instructions? My intent was not to make things more difficult for anyone.

I'm not dismissing the LRB article, but it is linked with a lot of speculation about Major 'Tiny' McKee and some sort of CIA drug ring. Google McKee + Lockerbie and you'll find some and they were prominent enough to get an article in Time. There are some points that don't jibe (read the reply by Inigo Thomas to see some of them) but I'm not able to judge them. Unfortunately, when you have something like this, Google is not longer your friend, cause you look and you are swamped by reams of webpages and since Peirce doesn't give any links, it's really hard to sort it out. This is a blog I found that devotes itself to the Lockerbie case, but I can't vouch for it.

"I'd say the basic question is whether going after Qaddafi is right or wrong, and not "what about all the other bad guys?"

We can't go after all of them."

I'd like to point out that there are some right here in the good ole USA we could go after. It hurts my pride as an American to see people constantly focus on the bad guys elsewhere in the world. That's a separate question from whether we are the lesser of two evils in Libya, of course.

"As I said, a huge reason I support this action is that it is a step in building that kind of confidence in the moral force of the UN."

Gaddafi has managed to leave himself without friends--that's all that is going on here. Nasrallah gave a speech against him recently. (Nasrallah goes on to warn the Libyans about US motives, which is good advice coming from anyone.) You'd have a real change if governments were condemned for their human rights violations no matter who their allies were, but that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

Nasrallah's speech link

It takes some doing to get Hezbollah and the US on the same side.

Well, I'm not going to drive any traffic to those places, but there is a meme emerging in the fever swamp about how this whole thing is because Obama is supporting Al-Qaeda. Seriously. google al-qaeda + Libya.

There is a link I've seen (did someone provide it here?) that says a fair number of the foreign fighters in Iraq came from eastern Libya. Of course Gaddafi also claims he is fighting Al Qaeda. But I don't have time to look.

But is that Obama's motive? Um, not even us Greenwald readers think anything like that. Leave it to the far right.

Btw. I haven't noticed much of this in the US press, but here in Germany there were some stories mentioning Gaddafi's mustard gas stockpile and how some states are supposedly "concerned" about it, totally in line with the Iraq playbook. My local newspaper ran a story today quoting a Libyan doctor living here. He said "the gas could be used any minute" but of course there was no way he could tell what this was based on.

Donald, that's Andrew Exum who has been talking about that, I think.

I'm afraid that the shape of Libya as an issue (should we have intervened, is it constitutional, etc etc) is going to be similar to questions of nuclear power in that you are going to have people who are against military intervention in general (like Kucinich) are going to be joined by people who are reflexively against anything that Obama is proposing. With nuclear, you are going to have people who are truly concerned about the deployment of nuclear power and they are going to be joined by people who are advocating fossil fuels for their own gain.

I'd like to point out that there are some right here in the good ole USA we could go after.

NFZ over Wisconson?

Donald, that link is in this post.

On one hand, we have this argument, which I admit I'm partial to:

On July 4 1821 Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, referring to the conflict, told Congress:

"She [the United States of America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

On the other hand, we have the R2P argument (never again!), which while I don't support it I have sympathy for. After all, who actually likes standing by impotently while some a-hole dictator slaughters people?

I think, for many reasons, that Mr. Adams had it right. That said, I can understand if we basically got sucked into this because two close allies were pushing hard for it(UK & France, though it seems to me that of those two, it's the UK that really has a marker to call in w/us, since they followed us into Iraq). I can understand the impulse to *do something* to stop the madness. And yet... I doubt this will end well and I don't think this represents coherent policy.

UN as Mighty Mouse is, if you squint and don't think too much about it, really appealing. But then I get to thinking about it and I see problems. First, of course, is that "The UN" really means The UN Security Council. Second, the UNSC and the UN GA both contain autocratic states, some of which do all manner of nasty things (and, as readers of this blog will be aware, our sainted democratic selves do nasty things too). Thus, Might Mouse ends up deployed at the whim of the Security Council, with the 5 members holding vetoes being key. I dunno about ya'll, but I'm not much happier about that than I am about unilateral or near-unilateral US interventions.

on a quick read, as opposed to an in depth unpacking, this error popped up pretty quickly. I suspect there are good deal of other contestable assertions and mistakes of fact.

Again: if you'd noted any contestable assertions that went contrary to the laying-out of a wrongdoing by the US military, I'd be more open to those.

HTML link-embedding instructions here.

Sorry if I'm irritable. Our house is currently undergoing some remodeling, and my fuse is relatively short due to unavailability of my kitchen, seasonal respiratory ailment aggravated by plethora of airborne dust, etc.

Note, McKTx, that the link you posted in essence says a) [someone: the entire USN, the whole military-industrial complex, the captain of the Vincennes, or some other choice; take your pick] screwed up, and b) here's how and why. It doesn't attempt to justify what happened. That's how I read it, anyway.

Now, I don't particularly like it that one of our warships shot down an airliner laden with civilians, but neither do I want to deny it once it's manifestly obvious that's what in fact happened. And I'd like to think that everything possible has been done to minimize the possibility of such a thing ever happening again.

Note, McKTx, that the link you posted in essence says a) [someone: the entire USN, the whole military-industrial complex, the captain of the Vincennes, or some other choice; take your pick] screwed up, and b) here's how and why. It doesn't attempt to justify what happened. That's how I read it, anyway.

I never said otherwise. Anytime a civilian airliner is shot down, it's a mistake (at a minimum) absent something truly bizarre such as shooting down an airliner being used as a bomb.

Thanks for the imbedded instructions, which I have now saved.

Coincidentally, we are undergoing a remodel too. I recommend alcohol. Which I pretty much recommend in or out of adversity. Like tax cuts: good when the economy's booming, good when it's receding.

[In discussion of UN approval for action being superior to US approval]

McKT: ...since deliberating on who the bad guys are involves the PRC and Russia signing off, my guess is that "deliberation" is probably not the right word and a lot of "bad guys" are likely to escape notice. The implication here is that the PRC and China offer a more balanced and insightful view of who is good and who is bad than the US, the UK and France.

The purpose of getting UN Security Council sign-off is not to make an objective moral determination.

The purpose of getting UN Security Council sign-off is to ensure that none of the world's major powers does something that unexpectedly pisses off one of the other major powers to the point of using military force to stop it.

That's basically all it's for. It lets Russia and China veto anything that would really piss them off, and it lets the United States and Britain and France veto anything that would really piss them off, and the result is that a lot of resolutions don't go anywhere but we also haven't had another world war. So I would say it works pretty well.

What's the over/under on foreign troops on the ground in Libya? I'm going to say sometime this weekend.

Already happened. Two pilots on the ground after a crash, recovery team (who shot a bunch of friendly civilians) on the ground, plus mysterious people in a civilian vehicle who recovered the second pilot in Benghazi from a hospital.

I could imagine ground forces being sent into Misurata in the near future to try to break that siege, but I doubt it will happen and doubt it would be a good idea.

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