What in the hell are we doing in Libya?

A rebel emptied the pockets of a dead African soldier who had been fighting with Qaddafi's forces. - Patrick Baz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Have we learned nothing? Eight years to the day (March 19, 2003) that we launched the failed Iraq War, we find ourselves drawn into yet another war in a Middle Eastern country with absolutely no idea of what we are getting ourselves into. Let’s look at our rock-solid preparation:

-No congressional declaration of war.
-No stated exit strategy.
-No discussion of how much this will cost. (Haha, and I thought people cared about the deficit!)
-No honest discussion of whether we can achieve our stated objectives (of course, if you have vague objectives, you can always bullshit this one. See: Iraq War, Afghan War, Vietnam War…etc. Or, you can just blindly trust that America can do no wrong. It works out great in Middle Eastern wars!)

I rounded up some of the best commentary I’ve seen on the Libyan war so far:

James Fallows – The Atlantic:

Launching air strikes is the easiest, most exciting, and most dependably successful stage of a modern war, from the US / Western perspective. TV coverage is wall-to-wall and awestruck. The tech advantages are all on our side. Few Americans, or none at all, are hurt. It takes a while to see who is hurt on the ground.

But after this spectacular first stage of air war, what happens then? If the airstrikes persuade Qaddafi and his forces just to quit, great! But what if they don’t? What happens when a bomb lands in the “wrong” place? As one inevitably will. When Arab League supporters of the effort see emerging “flaws” and “abuses” in its execution? As they will. When the fighting goes on and the casualties mount up and a commitment meant to be “days, not weeks” cannot “decently” be abandoned, after mere days, with so many lives newly at stake? When the French, the Brits, and other allies reach the end of their military resources — or their domestic support — and more of the work naturally shifts to the country with more weapons than the rest of the world combined?

The United States Navy destroyer Barry fired Tomahawk missiles from the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday. The Pentagon said more than 100 missiles were targeted at Libya's air-defense systems. - Fireman Roderick Eubanks/U.S. Navy

Josh Marshall – TPM:

It looks more like once we’ve closed down Qaddafi’s air forces we’ve basically taken custody of what is already a failed rebellion. We’ve accepted responsibility for protecting them. Once we recognize that, the logic of the situation will lead us to arming our new charges, helping them get out of the jam they’re in.

So let’s review: No clear national or even humanitarian interest for military intervention. Intervening well past the point where our intervention can have a decisive effect. And finally, intervening under circumstances in which the reviled autocrat seems to hold the strategic initiative against us. This all strikes me as a very bad footing to go in on.

And this doesn’t even get us to this being the third concurrent war in a Muslim nation and the second in an Arab one. Or the fact that the controversial baggage from those two wars we carry into this one, taking ownership of it, introducing a layer of ‘The West versus lands of Islam’ drama to this basically domestic situation and giving Qaddafi himself or perhaps one of his sons the ability to actually start mobilization some public or international opinion against us.

Andrew Sullivan – The Atlantic:

The regime is shooting unarmed civilians at will – killing scores. We must surely stop this. Oh, wait. It’s Yemen, and we support the regime. Meanwhile, the Bahrainian autocracy, backed by the Saudi theocracy, “cleanses” its capital city of the symbols of democratic hope, with the assistance of foreign troops. But we are somehow able to resist the impulse to intervene – and maintain diplomatic relations with the royal family there.

The trouble with intervening somewhere is that it begs the question of: why not somewhere else? If the motive is entirely humanitarian, and involves no “vital national interest”, then how can it be compatible with allowing, say, the Iranian dictatorship to kill, shoot dead, torture and disappear countless Iranians who peacefully sought real change?

Yes, the Obama administration has now interjected American power into what was a few days ago a revolution entirely for the Arab world to resolve itself. My fear is that this decision was made without a thorough public airing of all the unanswered questions about unintended consequences. I worry that the West’s involvement will merely reignite the paradigm in which the Arab world is incapable of reforming itself without meddling from the West, and revives the danger of changing the subject from the malfeasance and incompetence of the various regimes to the broader argument about the Arab world’s relationship with the outside world. I remain of the view that, for reasons of prudence and constitutional propriety.

An injured captured soldier loyal to Col. Qaddafi is interrogated by a rebel soldier at the Jalaa hospital in Benghazi. - Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press

Glenn Greenwald – Salon:

After George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama, New York Times correspondent R.W. Apple wrote that starting new military conflicts is “a Presidential initiation rite,” that “most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood,” and that Bush’s order to attack tiny, defenseless Panama “has shown him as a man capable of bold action.” Just as the Founders predicted, allowing Presidents to order military attacks without the approval of the citizenry (through their Congress) has engendered a whole slew of unnecessary wars that serve the political and ruling classes but not the people of the country.

The dangers from unilateral, presidential-decreed wars are highlighted in the Libya situation. There has been very little public discussion (and even less explanation from the President) about the reasons we should do this, what the costs would be on any level, what the end goal would be, how mission creep would be avoided, whether the “Pottery Barn” rule will apply, or virtually anything else. Public opinion is at best divided on the question if not opposed. Even if you’re someone who favors this intervention, what’s the rationale for not requiring a debate and vote in Congress over whether the President should be able to commit the nation to a new military conflict? Candidate Obama, candidate Clinton, and the Bush-era Democrats all recognized the constitutional impropriety of unilateral actions like this one; why shouldn’t they be held to that?

Alex Spillius – Telegraph:

Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the outcome of military action from the air was “very uncertain” and made it clear that Washington did not see the goal of Operation Odyssey Dawn as removing the Libyan leader from power.

Opening up the possibility of a rift between the US and Britain and France if the Gaddafi regime does not crumble quickly, he said: “The goals are limited. It’s not about seeing him go. It’s about supporting the United Nations resolution which talked about eliminating his ability to kill his own people.”

Adm Mullen said it was “certainly potentially one outcome” that the mission could succeed while leaving Col Gaddafi in power.

So basically, we can blow a couple hundred million dollars launching Tomahawks and aircraft into Libya, only to leave a pissed-off, wounded Qaddafi in power. The only way we win is if the rebels are able to recover, push all the way to Tripoli, and then seize power from Qaddafi in a relatively short amount of time. Every single other outcome is a failure for American and NATO forces and a propaganda victory for Qaddafi. If Qaddafi doesn’t fall, what then? Do we maintain a no-fly zone indefinitely while waiting for the rebels to gain strength? Do we send in ground troops? Do we start targeting Qaddafi? We could always just walk away, but I doubt we as a nation have the moral courage to do that. Peggy Noonan had a great piece in the Wall Street Journal recently that was spot on:

Peggy Noonan – Wall Street Journal:

The biggest takeaway, the biggest foreign-policy fact, of the past decade is this: America has to be very careful where it goes in the world, because the minute it’s there—the minute there are boots on the ground, the minute we leave a footprint—there will spring up, immediately, 15 reasons America cannot leave. The next day there will be 30 reasons, and the day after that 45. They are often serious and legitimate reasons.

So we wind up in long, drawn-out struggles when we didn’t mean to, when it wasn’t the plan, or the hope, or the expectation.

We have to keep this phenomenon in mind as we chart our path in the future. It’s easy to start a war but hard to end one. It’s as simple as that. It’s easy to get in but hard to get out. Even today, in Baghdad, you hear that America can’t leave Iraq because the government isn’t sturdy enough, the army and police aren’t strong enough to withstand the winds that will follow America’s full departure, that all that has been achieved—a fragile, incomplete, relative peace—will be lost. America cannot leave because Iraq will be vulnerable to civil war, not between Sunnis and Shiites, they tell you now, but between Arabs and Kurds, in the north, near the oil fields.

Rebels gathered around the body of a fighter loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. - Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

SECDEF Gates lays it down.

I'm not messing around here, ladies.

Tom Ricks highlighted a good quote from a speech that Secretary of Defense Gates gave today at West Point. Money quote:

The need for heavy armor and firepower to survive, close with, and destroy the enemy will always be there, as veterans of Sadr City and Fallujah can no doubt attest. And one of the benefits of the drawdown in Iraq is the opportunity to conduct the kind of full-spectrum training — including mechanized combined arms exercises — that was neglected to meet the demands of the current wars.

Looking ahead, though, in the competition for tight defense dollars within and between the services, the Army also must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements — whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere. The strategic rationale for swift-moving expeditionary forces, be they Army or Marines, airborne infantry or special operations, is self-evident given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions. But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.

I ❤ Gates.

Rep. Broun (R-GA) laughs when asked by a constituent, “Who’s going to shoot Obama?”

Quite the comedian.

TPM: Republican laughed when asked “Who’s gonna shoot Obama?”

This guy’s a keeper, he almost makes me miss the great state of Georgia where you can go to find Real Americans. Broun was at a town hall meeting with constituents when an old man got up and asked, “Who’s going to shoot Obama?” Naturally, since this is part of the bible belt and there is a general feeling of love and brotherhood towards your fellow man, everyone at the meeting howled with laughter. Including, it turns out, the esteemed Congressmen Broun:

After laughing at the question, Broun reportedly said “there’s a lot of frustration with this president.”

“We’re going to have an election next year,” Broun said. “Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller… who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Yea, great tact there. Instead of doing the right thing and having the moral courage to explain to his constituents that it isn’t actually funny to talk about shooting the President, he just kind of ducks the opportunity in that passive-aggressive way that suits cowards like Broun. Of course, when the media got wind of it, his office released a statement saying that the comment was “abhorrent”. It’s cool though, he gets it both ways. He can be the fun, cool, good ole’ boy who jokes about killing the President, and he can also be the principled Congressman who displays outrage at a misguided and violent statement. That’s true character!

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 27 Jan 2010


(Intro Music)

(00:11) Hello.

(00:13) The international meeting to determine how to best support Yemen and stabilize the country started today in London. The American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, arrived in London today to participate in the meeting that is being attended by 24 countries.

(00:32) In other news, the Washington Post newspaper quoted American officials who said that American teams were working in secret operations with the Yemeni Army against the al-Qa’ida organization. The officials clarified that American advisors helped plan an operation against al-Qa’ida in December of last year.

(00:51) The United Nation’s sections committee announced today that the names of five previous members of the Taliban were scratched off a list of those described as involved with terrorism. Diplomats believe that this step paves the way for the conference in London on Afghan affairs that will be held tomorrow.

(01:10) The official (1m) in Sri Lanka announced that the current President Mahinda Rajapaksa won a second (presidential) term. The (Sri Lankan) army surrounded the headquarters of the opposition leader for the second time. (The opposition leader) requested the protection of one of the neighboring countries.

(01:25) The spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Unity spoke about the country’s stance in the face of Pyongyang’s decision to implement a “no-sail” zone in a contested area between the two countries, saying that it was “still under review.” Pyongyang and Seoul had exchanged fire the previous day in the contested area.

(01:46) An official in the Lebanese army said that they will expand the search area for the remains of the wrecked Ethiopian airline if the black box is not found today. The official said that improving weather conditions will help further facilitate the (search) teams’ mission.

(02:04) Until next time…

(Exit Music)

Al Jazeera: Yemeni scholars decide to call for Jihad against any invasion

http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/F1240DD1-BCE9-4066-BEA7-58C2B2375C99.htm

'Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, one of the most prominent scholars who signed the report.

Yemeni (religious) scholars said today that they would call for jihad in the event Yemen was subjected to any military incursion or foreign invasion.

A report, signed by 150 Yemeni scholars of which the most prominent was ‘Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, indicated that, “Jihad will become obligatory for all Muslims if Yemen is subjected to any aggression or foreign invasion.”

The report, which was read out loud for journalists by Member of Parliament Shaykh ‘Arif al-Subri, included the opposition of Yemen’s scholars to any foreign presence, and any Yemeni military cooperation or agreement with foreign elements.

The report sought the support of the rulers of the Islamic Umma'(nation of believers), those governed (by Islamic law), scholars, groups, and organizations, to, “Support their brothers in Yemen, and stand as one front against the foreign conspiracies and interference.”

He indicated that the scholars who signed the report represent all different areas of the country; the most prominent of them being al-Zindani who is wanted by Washington who accuses him of sponsoring what they call “terrorism”.

al-Zindani has already intensely opposed the international conference on Yemen that will be held in two weeks in London, and has called for the sons of Yemen to pay attention before a guardianship is placed upon them.

Baiting (America)

These developments come in light of recurring media reports about the possibility of the American war against al-Qa’ida being extended to Yemeni soil.

Joseph Lieberman, a member of the US Senate, has already said that America must follow it’s enemies to new battlefields in Yemen and elsewhere.

On the other hand, the British newspaper “The Independent” said in an editorial that the al-Qa’ida organization seeks to lure the United States into Yemen where it has ease of movement in it’s mountains, especially in light of the weak government.

NFTR//
DMD

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 13 January, 2010

(Intro Music)

(00:13) Newsman: Greetings.

(00:15) An earthquake with a strength of 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the Haitian peninsula in the Caribbean Sea has led to the destruction of vast areas and many buildings. It’s been reported that there could be up to thousands killed (still) under the rubble of the collapsed buildings. Already, governments from countries around the world have announced (their intent) to deliver hasty support to supply to the victims of (this disaster).

(00:39) An al-Jazeera correspondent in Yemen reports from the Shabwa province that a (person) named ‘Abdullah Mahdhar, leader of an al-Qa’ida cell in the area of al-Hawta, was killed in clashes with Yemeni security forces in the southern Shabwa province.

(00:53) Riyadh announced officially that the President of Syria, Bashar al-Asad, will visit the Kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) today, and will take part in talks with the Saudi family, and the King ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abd-al-‘Aziz. The discussions between the two sides will revolve around bilateral relations in addition to regional and national issues.

(01:11) Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, apologized for his conduct with the Turkish Ambassador. He said that the foreign embassies were not amongst his opponents. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had criticized the statements of the Israeli Foreign Ministry as disgracing Turkey in the latest (1m), and Israel promised that it would respond appropriately.

(01:36) In Beirut, the seventh annual conference of the International al-Quds Foundation began with the participation of associations of scientists, intellectuals, and politics. The conference will be discussing issues and developments in al-Quds(Jurusalem) and a number of steps to preserve it’s Arabic and Islamic character.

(01:53) The International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in Afghanistan said that two American soldiers were killed this morning in an IED detonation in the southern part of the country. Meanwhile, the United Nations said that this past year was the deadliest for civilians since 2001.

(02:14) Until next time…

(Exit Music)

NFTR//
DMD

Al Jazeera: Two American soldiers killed in Afghanistan

http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/2F689474-FF46-40F3-8245-62874E370D19.htm

America has lost around 900 of it's soldiers since (the start) of it's war against Afghanistan.

Two American soldiers working with the North American Treaty (Organization) Forces (NATO) were killed in an explosion in eastern Afghanistan according to a NATO announcement today. Elsewhere, the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, emphasized that his country has required very little of the financial aid from the United States and there was no blank check as was mentioned in discussions with the American President, Barack Obama.

In the context of combat developments in Afghanistan, four Afghan soldiers and a civilian were killed in a car bomb in southeastern Khost province.

Likewise the Afghan Army announced the injury of three of it’s members and three civilians in a car bomb in southern Kandahar province, and a Afghan officer was killed and six soldiers wounded in an IED detonation targeting their convoy in the Ghazni province.

It’s worth mentioning that it was announced yesterday, Tuesday, that eight people were killed in clashes with Afghan and American security forces during protests of what (the protesters) said was desecration of a copy of the Holy Qur’an by international forces in the Jarmasir area of the Helmand province. At the same time, the NATO commander in Afghanistan said that 16 armed fighters were killed in UAV drone strikes in southern Afghanistan.

American Support

On the political side, the Afghan President denied what his American counterpart, Barack Obama, has repeated, which is that Washington was giving Kabul a blank check, but with that Karzai expressed his gratitude for the little financial (aid) that Washington was sending to Afghanistan.

Karzai (left) is grateful for the small amount of aid that Washington has granted to his country.

Karzai said in an interview with the American television network ABC News, “We don’t have the right to obligate the American people to pay for us, or to help us, this is our country and we must protect it by ourselves and carry the financial burden ourselves.”

Karzai added, “We welcome the aid from America, and until now has (1m) billions for us, likewise in regards to the gratitude we are grateful for the help that we have received.”

Karzai has already requested America’s patience if his government is unable to meet the mandatory final date to take over responsibility for security that is set to occur at the end of 2011, and with that he has expressed his satisfaction that the withdrawal date is beneficial for Afghanistan.

Karzai explained his opinion, saying, “It pushes us to work with increased diligence towards strengthening and training our forces, and we will be involved in the life of Afghanistan, and we think a lot about how we use our resources in the best way, live within our means, and protect our country.”

The Afghan President gave assurance of his conviction that the United States and Kabul’s other allies will continue to stand with his country for many coming years, emphasizing that Afghanistan that enjoys self-sufficiency in all aspects of the country.

Obama had already announced – in a speech he gave last month – that he will send 30,000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan, but he is placing pressure on Karzai, “To stamp out the corruption in (Karzai)’s administration,” and (Obama) pledged to begin bringing the American soldiers in Afghanistan back home at the end of 18 months, and to turn over responsibility to the Afghan forces.

It’s worth mentioning that since the United States lead the invasion into Afghanistan in 2001 to throw out the Taliban, Washington has sunk around 171.4 billion dollars to keep the Taliban away, and around 900 American soldiers have been killed in fighting with the Taliban and the al-Qa’ida organization in Afghanistan.

NFTR//
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