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Daily Archives: March 19, 2011

Is a new UN “principle” now guiding US foreign policy and intervention?

I’ve told you about the timeline of the decision to intervene in Libya.  But I’m not sure I was clear on the supposed reason.  So take a moment and read this:

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also said on Thursday that the justification for the use of force was based on humanitarian grounds, and referred to the principle known as Responsibility to Protect (R2P), "a new international security and human rights norm to address the international community’s failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."

"Resolution 1973 affirms, clearly and unequivocally, the international community’s determination to fulfill its responsibility to protect civilians from violence perpetrated upon them by their own government," he said.

Inside the NSC, Power, Smith, and McFaul have been trying to figure out how the administration could implement R2P and what doing so would require of the White House going forward. Donilon and McDonough are charged with keeping America’s core national interests more in mind. Obama ultimately sided with Clinton and those pushing R2P — over the objections of Donilon and Gates.

Remember that until Tuesday, the consensus around Washington DC was the US would not intervene in Libya.  Obviously UN SecGen Moon’s communication of this new “principle”  (R2P) isn’t something that he thought up that morning.  Apparently it was communicated (and one assumes, agreed upon) well before then and, it would seem, may have played an important part in the decision to participate in a place in which which we have no real national interest at stake.

Read that last paragraph very carefully.  Well, read the whole thing carefully, but you have to ask, what does agreeing with this “principle” mean in the future?

Do we intervene in Sudan or the Congo?  Ivory Coast?  And if not, why not?  None of them, like Libya, put our core national interests at stake.  But all certainly fit the new R2P principle.  How about Bahrain and Yemen?  Nepal?

Instead, what we see here is precisely what the left has decried for years – the US along with others who can afford it and are willing to do it –agreeing to police the world.  However, in this case, it would be at the behest of the UN.  We are agreeing that the UN can determine when and where we commit our military forces simply by invoking this principle.  Invoke R2P and, by our precedent in Libya, we agree to respond.

This is far and away different than case by case agreements among member nations to intervene with peace keeping troops in troubled areas around the world.  This is a “principle” that Moon says is a “new international security and human rights norm” apparently is interpreted as a “right” to intervene with military force.

Funny – I don’t remember us agreeing to this “new norm”, do you?  Did we negotiate and sign a treaty saying all of this?  Or did we just hand over our power to make sovereign decisions concerning the use of our military to a world body?

Think about it – the new principle, this new “norm”, essentially gives the UN the ability to decide when we should deploy military force in support of this new “norm”.

Fascinating – and not in a good way.  Remember Hillary Clinton’s words about “venue”.  It wasn’t proper to talk about action against Libya at the G8 conference.  That was a topic for the UN only.  Now we have an inkling of why.

I’m not much on conspiracy theories or other grand schemes, but if what Moon is saying is true and given the action by the Obama administration that reversed its presumed course on the subject of Libya, I am indeed concerned about the “why” of the decision and if it was in support of the principle Moon outlined above.

If it is, we need to renounce it immediately.  I don’t want any world body making decisions about where our military should be used, especially when we have no abiding national interest in the area of concern.

~McQ

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French flying over Libya while Gadhafi ignores UN resolution (update)

I’d love to tell you I’m surprised (well I am somewhat surprised that the French are already trying to enforce the NFZ), but finding out that Gadhafi’s forces are still attacking despite declaring a “cease fire” seemed pretty predictable at the time.

According to Nicholas Sarkozy, the French have the situation well in hand:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said allied air forces had gone into action on Saturday over Libya and were preventing Muammar Gaddafi’s forces attacking opposition fighters and civilians.

"Our planes are already preventing air attacks on the city (Benghazi)," he said adding that military action supported by France, Britain, the United States and Canada and backed by Arab nations could be halted if Gaddafi stopped his forces attacking.

Well, that’s nice.  Seeing as how air attacks don’t really seem to have been very decisive one way or the other to this point, and based on everything I’ve read, I’d suggest the benefit is marginal at best.

However:

Gaddafi’s forces also battled insurgents on the outskirts of the opposition-held city of Benghazi on Saturday, defying world demands for an immediate ceasefire and forcing opposition fighters to retreat.

The advance by Gaddafi’s troops into Libya’s second city of 670,000 people appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention which diplomats say will come after an international meeting currently underway in Paris.

A Libyan opposition spokesman said Gaddafi’s forces had entered Benghazi while a Reuters witness saw a jet circling over the city shot down and at least one separate explosion near the opposition movement’s headquarters in the city.

"They have entered Benghazi from the west. Where are the Western powers? They said they could strike within hours," opposition military spokesman Khalid al-Sayeh told Reuters.

See what I mean about “marginal”?  Apparently they have struck “within hours” but taking out a single plane that apparently wasn’t doing much more than recon isn’t going to swing the balance of power to the rebel side.  And, as mentioned yesterday, once Gadhafi’s forces enter the city, it will become much too dangerous to strike within the city for fear of collateral damage killing civilians (unless you put SOF folks in with the rebels to handle that sort of job – but remember, we’re not committing any ground troops).

Benghazi isn’t the only place Gadhafi’s troops are on the move:

A witness told Al Arabiya television on Saturday that Zintan in western Libya was being bombarded and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks were approaching the town. "Now we are being bombed in Zintan from more than one direction: from the north and the south," said the witness, who was not identified.

"There are tanks heading towards the southern entrance of Zintan, around 20 to 30 tanks, which are hitting the city and residential areas in the south," he said.

Obviously, “preventing air attacks” isn’t going to change much is it?  The tanks are still rolling on.

The words are over, the threats have been made – now it is put up or shut up time.

I think involvement in this is a mistake.  We’ll see how it goes.

UPDATE:  From the Washington Post:

Forces loyal to Moammar Gaddafi entered the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi early in the day after shelling and fierce fighting, a fresh act of defiance of U.N. calls for a cease-fire. Government troops in tanks and trucks entered Benghazi from the west, in the university area, and began to shell the city, including civilian areas. Intense fighting broke out in some enclaves. The city of 1 million quickly became a ghost town, with residents fleeing or seeking cover in barricaded neighborhoods.

So they’re in Benghazi.  Apparently there is a huge civilian exodus to the East (Egypt).

Oh, and about that airplane that was shot down circling Benghazi:

A warplane was shot down over Benghazi, and rebel leaders later claimed it as one of their own. While they said mechanical problems caused the crash, calls from mosques across the city suggested that friendly fire brought down the plane. “Don’t attack the airplanes, because these are our planes,” a mosque preacher urged over loudspeakers.

Apparently the rebels shot down their own plane.

Other reports:

But the besieged town of Misurata, 130 miles east of Tripoli, was still coming under heavy artillery fire, residents said, and there were also reports of continued fighting around Ajdabiya, even farther to the east. The assaults on rebel-held towns took place despite government promises of a cease-fire.

On the rather daffy side (yeah, couldn’t help it):

In what appeared to be a desperate attempt to avert military action, Gaddafi sent two letters to international leaders, according to deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim, who read the letters to journalists. One was a warm, conciliatory note to Obama, and the other was a sharply worded, menacing message to the United Nations, France and Britain.

To Obama, he wrote: “If Libya and the US enter into a war you will always remain my son, and I have love for you.” Libya is battling al-Qaeda, he said, seeking Obama’s advice. “How would you behave so that I can follow your example?” he asked.

In the other letter, addressed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of France and Britain, he warned that the entire region would be destabilized if they pursued strikes against Libya. “You will regret it if you take a step to intervene in our internal affairs,” he wrote.

Why does Gadhafi consider Obama his “son”?

~McQ

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Obama’s budget would double public debt by 2021

If you thought President Obama was serious about his rhetorical appeals to fiscal responsibility, one only has to look at the latest CBO report to know better.  There is nothing in the report to support any such contention by the administration.  To the contrary it points to a level of fiscal irresponsibility that is unprecedented in the history of this republic.  Obama’s budget would, if executed, double the public debt by 2021 to $20.8 trillion or 87% of the GDP.  That is if our economic and financial systems, not to mention the dollar, last that long:

In 2012, the deficit under the President’s budget would decline to $1.2 trillion, or 7.4 percent of GDP, CBO estimates. That shortfall is $83 billion greater than the deficit that CBO projects for 2012 in its current baseline. Deficits in succeeding years under the President’s proposals would be smaller than the deficit in 2012, although they would still add significantly to federal debt. The deficit would shrink to 4.1 percent of GDP by 2015 but widen in later years, reaching 4.9 percent of GDP in 2021. In all, deficits would total $9.5 trillion between 2012 and 2021 under the President’s budget (or 4.8 percent of total GDP projected for that period)—$2.7 trillion more than the cumulative deficit in CBO’s baseline. Federal debt held by the public would double under the President’s budget, growing from $10.4 trillion (69 percent of GDP) at the end of 2011 to $20.8 trillion (87 percent of GDP) at the end of 2021.

Given the outright deceit we’re regularly treated too by Democrats concerning their seriousness in addressing the problems we face, or their outright disinterest in  actually doing so (Harry Reid’s recent “see me in 20 years about Social Security” or his whining about defunding “cowboy poets”), it shouldn’t really surprise anyone that we’re in the shape we’re in or that this administration is actually offering these budgets on the one hand while claiming to understand that we can’t continue spending as we are on the other.

We even have Nancy Pelosi claiming Democrats have always been for fiscal responsibility.

It boggles the mind to even consider these numbers and yet we have an administration offering them as the way to go for the future and doing so with a straight face.  

Note the chart included here.  The “baseline projection” is what we’d spend under current law.  CBO claims one of the problems is a decrease in revenues under the President’s proposed policies with, you guessed it, an increase in outlays.  And we’d also see – and this isn’t unexpected at all, given the amount of money we continue to borrow – an increase in the percentage of outlays required to service the debt:

In particular, net interest payments would nearly quadruple in nominal dollars (without an adjustment for inflation) over the 2012–2021 period and would increase from 1.7 percent of GDP to 3.9 percent. Total outlays under the President’s budget would equal 23.6 percent of GDP in 2012, decline slightly as a share of GDP over the following two years, and then rise for the rest of the 10-year projection period. They would equal 24.2 percent of GDP in 2021—about 0.3 percentage points above CBO’s baseline projection for that year and well above the 40-year average for total outlays, 20.8 percent.

So if the President’s budgets were enacted, we’d see government outlays – that’s spending for the rest of us – hit almost a quarter of the GDP and the debt in total about 87% of GDP in 10 years.

Meanwhile Democrats continue to fight against almost every cut for the most inane reasons while we see the debt numbers continue to climb.  Republicans are at least are making an attempt at cutting spending, no matter how weak, but Democrats have given up all pretense.  And all credibility.  The President’s budgets are the final nail in the Dem’s faux “fiscal responsibility” coffin.

~McQ

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