Free Markets, Free People

Quote of the Day–liberal war ideal edition

Ross Douthat, who I rarely quote, manages to nail it in terms of Libya and the left:

In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.

One minor correction, there is no – none, zip, nada – connection, not even a tenuous one, to American national security and the war on Libya.  There may be afterward, if Gadhafi survives and decides he needs to find a way to strike back at the US in the “long war” he’s promised to wage.  But going in?  Nope – none.

The quote above fought with this other Douthat quote for top QotD honors:

But there are major problems with this approach to war as well. Because liberal wars depend on constant consensus-building within the (so-called) international community, they tend to be fought by committee, at a glacial pace, and with a caution that shades into tactical incompetence. And because their connection to the national interest is often tangential at best, they’re often fought with one hand behind our back and an eye on the exits, rather than with the full commitment that victory can require.

And keep in mind that once the first Tomahawk flew, whether we call our participation limited and of short duration, we’re into it up to our hips as far as the Arab world is concerned.  So whatever happens there which might turn the “Arab street” against the US yet again, any argument made by the administration that most of the mission has been conducted by others isn’t going to change a single mind.

Also keep in mind, as Douthat implies, that this “consensus war” depends on the committee who are conducting it staying together.  Can’t have them deserting and then renouncing the Western powers committed to seeing this through – can we?  Already the Arab League is a bity antsy.

Finally – watch for mission creep.  The ostensible reason for this little foray is humanitarian.  But then, so was Somalia, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. 

I predict there will be boots on the ground, whether ours or others.  It will become necessary if I have any read on Gadhafi at all.  Why?  Because he will precipitate a humanitarian crisis of some sort – on purpose.

Then what?  What if he forces a “put up or shut up” moment?

Well the fair weather supporters will go home, that’s a given.  And those who see a downside risk politically will go home.  And I promise you the Arab members will say bye bye.

And who will that leave to deal with it?

The two quotes from Douthat are very instructive in understanding the liberal philosophy of war and why it is dangerously utopian, likely to fail and not at all in the best interests of this country, or any country, to pursue.

If you haven’t met your irony quotient for the day, here’s our present Secretary of State while a former Senator talking about the “civil war” in Iraq and how we should not take part in what is going on no matter the level of the violence:

“No one wants to sit by and see mass killing,” she added. “It’s going on every day! Thousands of people are dying every month in Iraq. Our presence there is not stopping it. And there is no potential opportunity I can imagine where it could. This is an Iraqi problem — we cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."

Of course that was then … apparently Libya is an international problem, not a Libyan problem, and we can save the Libyans from themselves, unlike the Iraqis.

Of course …



48 Responses to Quote of the Day–liberal war ideal edition

  • So does this make Obama, “Sarkozy’s poodle” ??
    You know the world is upside down when a US president is led about by a “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey” … OMG

  • [The war in Libya] was endorsed by the Arab League.

    It just hit me: isn’t this the same “Arab League” that has various member countries either teetering or actually in the throes of “revolution”?  As in, their governments do not really represent the will of their people, and may be next in line for some “intervention” if / when they start shooting their own protesters in the streets?

    So, why is THEIR endorsement worth anything to an administration, coaltion, and UN that is allegedly in this “for the people”?

    Hey, maybe we can get North Korea, Burma, Cuba, and the Taliban on board, too, and get some REAL legitimacy to this war!

    / sarc

    Jeebus, and libs complained about Bush’s “coaltion of the bribed”…

    • The Arab League understands that Americans have short patience and little political capital for war.  My guess is that if the US is fighting and distracted in Libya, then they can squash their own rebellions with little fear of US intervention.

      • Until a few days ago, I’d have said that they had exactly ZERO to fear from US intervention (aside from ill-timed and generally uninformed nagging from the White House and Foggy Bottom).  Now, there is a precedent not only for “intervention”, but for outright “regime change”.  Why in the world would ANY government want to establish such a precedent?

        • The countries have a window of opportunity.  They can act now, let the dust and blood settle, then when the US and UN turn to take a look, they simply say, “Mistakes were made, reforms are on the way, etc…”  They have time.  Expect them to use it.

          • Justin:
            I think you are right on time with this idea. And, you were right about the various House and Senate heavyweights getting on the talk shows and taking great pains to note just what a singular “first” it was for the Arab League to chime in and announce their desire to see the West salt such a poisonous slug like Kaddafi. … Why, the next thing you know, democracy will be bustin’ out all over! Not!
            While we do the heavy lifting, the League does some, ahem, “crowd control” and then we hand-off to the Coalition of the Willing .2 who then maintains what amounts to a newly partitioned country. Neat, uh.
            Truly, if Bush, the elder had that vision thing, then surely Barr has that thinking thing.

  • This Libya war only adds fuel to the irony fire of Iraq. Iraq, the illegal war of aggression and Zionism but the dictator Bush, and the only war that might actually end with some semblance of a decent outcome.

    • “The US and Western (allies) claim they want to defend the people by carrying out military operations or by entering Libya… You did not come to defend the people, you’ve come after Libyan oil,” Khamenei said in a live broadcast from the holy city of Mashhad.

      This must be part of that “unconditional” thing.

    • … and agreement from Capitol Hill …

      “We’re in Libya because of oil. And I think both Japan and the nuclear technology and this dependence we have on imported oil have both once again highlighted the need for the United States to have a renewable energy agenda going forward,” Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said on MSNBC.

  • In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.

    • And what I MEANT to add was all of that, and not a single word to CONGRESS and only a “running out the door on the way to my Rio vacation” word to the American people

      • Apparently, he told Clinton that, no matter, he wasn’t going to put off his Rio trip (with GE and Westinghouse CEOs).

  • Meanwhile, in Iraq, eight years after the “conservative war” things are worse than ever.
    To think, maybe the world can work together to actually protect people from brutal dictators, sharing the load, legitimized by the UN.   A right wing nightmare!  🙂

    • You all heard it here first.  Scott Erb just endorsed war against the following:

      – Iran
      – China
      – North Korea
      – Every Geoncidal lunatic in charge in Africa

      That’s your standard now – “protect people from brutal dictators”

      Ok b*tch, what’s your reason for why we SHOULDN’T go into NoKo under the “Erb Doctrine”?   Eh?  And if Qadaffi is such a brutal dictator, why isn’t the goal regima change?  Why are the people in Bengazi getting protection from a brutal dictator but the rest of the country has to suffer while he has free reign? 

      Why are the Libyans special?  Why do you want to leave the NoKo’s to starve under Kim Ill?  Hypocrite. 

      And one other thing you smarmy little pratt, the UN doesn’t LEGITIMIZE anything. EVER.  It’s a useful figleaf at times for useful idiots such as yourself, but that’s about the extent of it.  It’s our own congress that legitimizes our use of force.  And don’t you ever forget that.

    • Please get your buzzwords correct .. eight years after the “neo-conservative war”

    • PS-  If you’re so hung up on the UN “legitimizing” something…..I seem to remember “conservative war” you cite being “legitimized” by 17 UN reolutions, plus a resolution of Congress.

      So I guess Iraq is 17+ times more legitimate than Libya….

      PPS-  Iraq isn’t “conservative” war.  Not anymore.  Who’s been in charge the last 2+ years, I seem to forget.

      Yeah….thought so.

    • Ya write 16K and whaddya get?
      Another day older and Obama’s pet.
      St. Marx, don’t you call me cause I can’t go.
      I owe my soul to ObamaCo.

      I got my degree as a perfect fool.
      Teach at a moose college as a leftist tool.
      Don’t make much money but I sure can troll.
      I owe my soul to ObamaCo.

      (with apologies to the ghost of Merle Travis.)

      Prof Erb: That’s a new low — you are linking to Medea Benjamin of Code Pink hating the Iraq War and George Bush as usual, brought to by that upholder of fact, objectivity and democracy, Al Jazeera.
      Meanwhile, if you ask the people of Iraq — I know you won’t, but if you did — they would tell that ousting Hussein was worth it 77% to 22% ( ). That’s a Jan 2009 poll, but that majority has been consistent since 2003. Pollsters no longer ask the question.
      But of course you don’t care what the Iraqis think. You and Code Pink and the rest would be happier with the Iraqis still rotting in Hussein’s hellhole. If that was the cost for opposing the Iraq War and hating George Bush, it would be worth it.

      • Well, you dense righties don’t seem to like hearing just my own decrees analysis. So I thought I would like to another leftist tool observer.

        Besides, where else besides Code Pink do you think I’m going to find someone who agrees with me that Iraq is the biggest foreign policy diaster in history? Everyone else seems to have been taken in by stupids polls of what the Iraqi people think, as if those wogs counted for anything. Plus they’re all totally bamboozled by the supposedly low violence level, when all the smart tools people know that the violence is going to increase any day now and Iran will be the ultimate beneficiary of it all because those Arab Shiites in Iraq just can’t wait to turn control of their lives over to Persian Shiites in Iran.

        Yep, religion counts for everything over there, though of course only a tiny minority of Muslims are extremists. I would decree that as usual, but you nasty righties somehow resist my rich creamy analysis, prattling on about “buildings falling down” and “3000 people dead” and “soldiers on a murderous rampage shouting Allah Akbar” and stuff like that, as if it meant anything.

    • How are things Worse in Iraq? Iraq is a model of stability compared to the rest of the Arab world right now.

    • To think, maybe the world can work together to actually protect people from brutal dictators, sharing the load, legitimized by the UN.

      IIRC, you opposed Bill Clinton’s use of force in Yugoslavia, and pointed to that as an example of your non-partisan opposition to war.  Does this mean you are endorsing the use of U.S. taxpayer money to attack Libya with military force?  Does this mean you have abandoned your pacifist stance?

      the “conservative war” … A right wing nightmare!

      Military force is being used in our names, killing people, destroying things.  Is scoring points against “conservative[s]” and “right wing[ers]” your moral guide to when such things are acceptable?
      What about “no blood for oil”?
      Or, are you just playing a game now, prepared to claim in the future that you never supported the war in Libya, so you can claim that you’re still a non-partisan anti-war pacifist?

      • Looks like this “right wing nightmare” has even more going on: US fighter crash lands…. Apparently the crew are safe, but it could have gone the other way. Is this still a “nanny nanny boo boo” game to you, or do you need to see some corpses and angry protests before it’s real to you, before you can state whether you’re for or against our new war in Libya?
        I’m not a pacifist, but I’m absolutely opposed to using your money to pay for any war or occupation you don’t support, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and for killing people in those countries in your name.  And, if you decide you don’t like this war, either, then I don’t think you should have to pay for it, nor that anyone should claim it was done in your name.
        All the same caveats about innocent civilians, unintended consequences, turning opinions against Americans, atrocities by “rogue” units, etc. which apply in Iraq and Afghanistan also apply in Libya.

        • Six Libyan villagers are recovering in hospital after being shot by American soldiers coming in to rescue the U.S. pilots whose plane crash-landed in a field.
          The helicopter strafed the ground as it landed in a field outside Benghazi beside the downed U.S. Air Force F-15E Eagle which ran into trouble during bombing raid last night.
          And a handful of locals who had come to greet the pilots were hit – among them a young boy who may have to have a leg amputated because of injuries caused by a bullet wound. (Daily Mail)

          But the UN voted on it, it’s a “right wing nightmare”, so I guess that little boy who is going to be crippled will harbor no ill will towards us, right?  His loss is worth it because Libya will be a free country, or something.

        • You say “the world” (collective fallacy) is working together on this.  But even that seems to be turning into a big clusterflock.
          Tell us again how this is morally better than invading Iraq, please.

  • As hilarious as that first quote from Douthat is, I think he’s actually cleaning this mess up and putting some respectable corners on it.

    Why, in this whole contagion of uprising in the Middle East, Qaddafi becomes the goat, now, so late in his game, is a mystery. Maybe there’s intel out there that he’s got hands on nuclear weapons, but this wouldn’t be the way to deal with that.

    The right has been particularly bad on this action. First, there were a bunch of serious people on the right egging Admiral Nosferatu on to get into this fly-zone thing, and now they want Qaddafi taken out. Excuse me? We’re three days into a humanitarian mission and there’s one guy who was a Cheney national security team member who believes that Qaddafi’s ouster is now national policy.

    This isn’t foreign policy, it’s a postmodern mimetic contagion, with a radical Marxist president being urged to get onto military steroids by conservatives.

    That’s just f****** crazy.

    • I should make this clearer:

      “Why, in this whole contagion of uprising in the Middle East, Qaddafi becomes the goat, now, so late in his game, is a mystery.”

      I don’t mean why Libyans want Qaddafi out, but why it would become a priority for U.S. foreign policy.

      • Because Ghadaffi has killed hundreds of Americans (and British and French), but until 4 weeks ago was a vital cog in the war against terror with oodles of oil so in an invulnerable position of power.  Then 2 weeks ago was looking like he was going to be overthrown within days.  Then last week looked like he would be able to slaughter enough of the rebel civillian population to make them lay down their arms. 

        The rebellion makes him vulnerable, the slaughtering of civillians makes him non-useful in the war on terror and he isn’t pumping any oil.  The opportunity to strike is either now or never. 

        • There are probably hundreds of former Soviet officials, including KGB officers, who were responsible for killing Americans, thousands of Soviet citizens, and people around the world. I don’t recall that ever being raised as a question, let alone as a justification for arresting or killing a single one of them. Qaddafi’s crimes are not sufficient predicate to invade a sovereign state on the pretext of protecting its own citizens against their government in the midst of a civil insurrection.

          The one threat that Qaddafi did pose involved his nuclear weapons program, which he gave up during the Bush administration in the aftermath of the regime change in Iraq.

          So, the signal being sent with this move to now overthrow Qaddafi, to any dictator in any state with covert WMD programs, is that cutting a deal with the U.S. to get rid of the weapons is a prelude to being overthrown at the first opportunity.

          Qaddafi is detestable, but what comes after him? There is worse out there, plenty worse.

          • Gaddafi is old and will die in the not too distant future.  That something will come after him is a given, it can either arrive within the American sphere of influence (which means using this sort of force) or inside someoneelses.  

          • That can be said about any world leader, Angus.

  • I wouldn’t count on Libya having any WMD of any kind.  After Iraq in 2003 and capture of Saddam, Libya very publicly laid out their plans to abandon WMDs, even allowing inspectors, etc.  Unless the picked them up again in the years since Obama’s election, Libya is limited to a conventional military.

  • You say there is no connection to USA national security. But just to play devils advocate, I could say the same thing about several of the previous military actions we have pursued.  In fact, we have little to gain, and much to lose, in many of the areas of the world where we are involved in.

    I am not an isolationist, but I am more and more a Non-interventionist.  I think that at least half or more of everything we have done since the end of the cold war was unnecessary and ill conceived.

    • Saddam had shown a predisposition of rolling into other countries.  He tried to take over Kuwait and there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t have stopped.  He looks almost comical now because we did something about him early in the first Gulf War.  If Hitler or Napoleon had been put down early, they would have looked foolish too.
      And because he was on a mission to seize all the oil by means of invasion, we had a definite interest to act.  2/3rd of the world’s oil comes from that region.  What do you think happens if someone controls it all.  They will have the civilized world by the balls.
      Is it moral for us to defend another country, especially a supposedly friendly one, from invasion.  Perhaps.  Ultimately our self-interest part of the motivation is to prevent one entity from controlling it all.
      And that’s where the logic to Obama’s foreign policy fails to make ultimate sense with past US behavior.  He is supporting entities, like the Muslim Brotherhood, who will lead to unifying the region.  Most likely under a ruthless and potentially theocratic dictator.  But just think of that.  Obama is helping a backward part of the planet to have the civilized world by the balls.  If you scan all the groups that Obama has reached out to in that part of the world, I would bet they are all trans-national.  Either socialist, Muslim Brotherhood, or what have you.

  • Playing devil’s advocate a bit…

    Let’s assume that this is the left’s beau ideal for a war: selfless involvement, protection of civilians from a murderous dictator, promotion of self-determination if not democracy, broad international support.*

    Is that such a bad thing?  Could this be the first shaky step toward finally establishing the order that the western powers have tried and failed twice to achieve: a league of united nations, dedicated to the prevention / punishment of aggression whether external or internal?  Wouldn’t it be good for the cause of peace and freedom everywhere for the dictators and hoodlums of the world to be on notice that violence on their part will get them nothing but a visit from the combined armed forces of the major (and many minor) world powers?

    What if the world had intervened in Darfur to stop the genocide?  Is stopping the slaughter of thousands of innocent people not a noble use of military force?  As much as I detest Slick Willie (though I’m remembering him with increasing fondness every day; even Jimmuh is starting to look good!), I think that he did a Good Thing when he agreed to send our troops into Bosnia and Kosovo.  Perhaps the exection was lacking, but he stopped more mass graves being filled.  This was a fine moment in the history of American arms.

    If more of the world’s countries worried a bit more about doing right and a bit less about their “national interest”, perhaps we might ultimately see an end to the holocausts and pogroms and ethnic cleansings that have been a blight to humanity for… well, since forever.  I also suggest that this would reduce the cost (in blood and treasure) to the United States: if more countries were willing to pitch in, then we wouldn’t have to carry the heaviest load.  Australia, for example, took the lead in East Timor (I’m still angry that Slick Willie boned the Aussies; in general, our policy toward them should be “anything, anytime, anywhere, bar nothing”).

    Finally, on a related note, I’ve seen in various places complaints that we’re not leading on the Libyan issue.  While it IS embarrassing to be following the French (or, more likely, helping them get an outsized piece of the loot), have many of us not complained that we’ve been carrying Europe for years?  They are finally stepping up; that’s worth (very tentative) applause and support.


    (*) I know, I know: I don’t believe for one little second that the Euros, especially the rapacious and devious French, are in this for anything but some kind of gain.  I also feel pretty sure that the “broad international support” ain’t gonna last too long.  But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that these things are true.

    • Yeah, that is a pipe dream. We will establish nothing internationally.  Already Putin is complaining and China is hedging their bets.  And like John Kerry, the Arab league are now against it before they were for it.

    • I have several items for you to consider.
      “a league of united nations” — The UN in theory sounds good as a mechanism to end the slaughter by dictators but it’s terribly broken.  Take the human rights council for example.  It’s filled with the worst of the worst: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, etc.  Let’s reform the UN before we use it as our moral compass.
      “Darfur to stop the genocide” — There are dozens are countries that are currently involved in some sort of genocide, atrocities against citizens and minorities, civil wars, etc. Should we invade them all? How do we go apart policing the entire world?
      “reduce the cost in blood and treasure to the United States” — I think you’re terribly wrong here. Somalia is a good example. We invaded, made arrests, killed, etc. And what did we get for our blood and treasure? Nothing. Somalia is just as messed up today as it was then. We need to think long a hard before we so easily cast away our blood and treasure. Should we spill it in 5 counties? 10? What about 20? How much blood and treasure can we spill?
      “Europe … stepping up” — Great! Wonderful! Do you expect them to continue in your campaign around the world after they receive their applause? No? Well, I check we’re left paying the cheque.

  • Obama/Clinton Devil’s Advocate Position 1
    I don’t think there could be an over-arching principle that could handle the Arab states wave of unrest and protests. I think Tunisia was under the radar for what it meant in the wider context. Egypt was the moment of realization that this was spreading. Now I think the plan is simply this (unspoken)
    1) If you are a current US ally and have vital assets like oil or US bases, we will advise you to do some reforms, hoping it cools things down, but if you are forced to shoot some protesters, that will be acceptable. Please no tanks and no civil war. Yemen will likely be the test case for what happens when these blurry lines are crossed. I think once crossed, we have to abandon the old ally like in Egypt and hopefully have Plan B in place. Don’t count on it.
    2) If you are not a current US ally and you have a serious chance of losing power, the US might step in if enough support can be had from Europe. Oh, and if you have been a thorn in everyone’s side for years and have a bad reputation, then you are really in trouble This is Libya. The support of the rebels will be limited and everything done on the cheap by airpower with no boots on the ground.
    3) If you are not a current US ally, and you are having protests, but Europe is uninterested in assisting or you just are not important enough or you are sort of scary, then you probably have carte blanche to shell protesters, etc. This is Syria and Iran.
    Essentially, Libya ends up being sort of a special case. “Crazy” leader. Arabs outraged by his actions. Lockerbie issue. Oil supplier to France. Had defections in its army allowing a viable rebel force to come into existence. And a very easy target actually. Libya only has 6 million people. Its not Iraq or Syria or Iran.

  • Devil’s Advocate 2 – NFZ in Libya
    During the Iran-Iraq war we were tepid allies with Saddam. For example, when satellite images showed a huge gap in his lines about to be exploited by the Iranians, we told him about it. It wasn’t that we loved him, but that we didn’t want the Iranians taking Baghdad.
    I think this is similar to what happened in Libya, with regards to Obama suddenly agreeing to a NFZ. I suspect the normal Obama hemming and hawing would have taken place over months, except that the Qadafi forces were starting to gain momentum and it became a moment of truth. Do you want to be the guy who let them take Benghazi and kill a bunch of rebels? That doesn’t look good. But full scale war is worse, so he chooses the lightest option possible.
    That option is to impose a NFZ, but really use it to attack tanks and troops coming at Benghazi to buy the rebels time. Sure they also hit other areas and will continue to do so, but I think the original goal was just to buy Benghazi some time. This is why everyone is scratching their heads saying “and then what?” because it hasn’t been thought out that far, and the politicians are trying to use a very neutral NFZ to straddle a wide choice of options. It just seemed a shame to waste a chance to get rid of Kadafi using Libyan rebels as the means.
    If the next steps are intelligent, like arming the Libyan rebels (which may already be planned, but knowing Obama I think no decision has been made) with the goal of letting them finish the job with European air power occasionally knocking out Kaddafis tanks and artillery as the rebels advance. Maybe this is Frances and the UK’s plan, with us just providing no fly zone patrols, intel, refueling, etc. That way Obama can claim to be handing over the campaign to Europe in “just days.”
    I guess this is not a devil’s advocate actually. I do think the interdiction of the highway to Benghazi and blowing up tanks that are parked out their in the desert will be a cheap way to buy the rebels a lot of time. But if we end up in a long stalemate, with no arms for the rebels, and more bombing of Tripoli, and allied air forces not being able to handle the flight load it could easily spin into a real mess. Then again, Kadafi’s mercenaries could collapse and it could all be over in a  month.
    I thought McQ made a good point in the podcast…do we have access to Benghazi via a port or airport? Otherwise the plan to arm the rebels could be a no go, and they lost a major arms dump on Friday.

  • Well the fair weather supporters will go home, that’s a given.  And those who see a downside risk politically will go home.  And I promise you the Arab members will say bye bye.
    Nailed it……….absolutely nailed it:

    • They must have wanted to veto…I bet they expected China to veto, and China expected Russia to veto.
      This is like Korea…Russia messed up then too, otherwise it would not have been a UN war.

  • The Russians are extremely peeved with us.
    Time to reconsider, I suppose…

    • I dunno – ask yourself if an international coalition will send jets to hover over Israel and take out missiles during an attack by Hezbollah from Lebanon.
      You think this, international body, could manage that?

    • Order up another Re-set Button.
      But this time with the right words in Russian.