Camille Paglia is someone I disagree with at times but have always found to be, for the most part, refreshingly honest. I like to read her thoughts on current affairs (don’t really care much about the cultural side of it all) and this week, in an interview in Salon, she answered a couple of questions that I think are worth discussing.
Two words: Anthony Weiner. Your thoughts?
Two words: pathetic dork. How sickeningly debased our politics have become that this jabbering cartoon weasel could be taken seriously for a second as a candidate for mayor of New York. But beyond that, I have been amazed by the almost total absence of psychological critique in news analyses of the silly Weiner saga. For heaven’s sake, Weiner is no randy stud with a sophisticated sex life that we need to respect. The compulsion to exhibit and boast about one’s penis is embarrassingly infantile — the obvious residue of some squalid family psychodrama in childhood that is now being replayed in public.
I assumed at first that Huma Abedin stayed married to Weiner out of noble concern for her unborn child, who deserved a father. But her subsequent behavior as Weiner’s defender and enabler has made me lose respect for her. The Weiners should be permanently bundled off to the luxe Elba of Oscar de la Renta’s villa in the Dominican Republic. I’m sure that Hillary (Huma’s capo) can arrange that.
Her first point is the most important – how debased have our politics have become? Look at the circus we deal with on a seeming daily basis. Look at the people we attract. And consider the fact that Anthony Weiner actually figured he had a legitimate shot at being elected.
Look at this idiot mayor in San Diego. He just can’t imagine why he should shuffle off the stage. There are any number of others that need to take the hint as well.
It’s not just a problem on the left. It is a problem on both sides of the isle. As we have said many times here, we are extraordinarily ill served by our political class today… at all levels and from both parties. And it is we who we have to blame for that problem. The fact that Weiner was indeed taken seriously until his latest nonsense was revealed is the point. Elliot Spitzer is another example. The fact that neither demonstrated any character or integrity previously should tell us we don’t need them anywhere near public office. Yet somehow they get signals that they have a chance at a second try. What those signals are I haven’t a clue, but whatever they are, we need to quit sending them pronto.
Any hopes, fears or predictions for the presidential elections in 2016?
As a registered Democrat, I am praying for a credible presidential candidate to emerge from the younger tier of politicians in their late 40s. A governor with executive experience would be ideal. It’s time to put my baby-boom generation out to pasture! We’ve had our day and managed to muck up a hell of a lot. It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts.
I for one think it was a very big deal that our ambassador was murdered in Benghazi. In saying “I take responsibility” for it as secretary of state, Hillary should have resigned immediately. The weak response by the Obama administration to that tragedy has given a huge opening to Republicans in the next presidential election. The impression has been amply given that Benghazi was treated as a public relations matter to massage rather than as the major and outrageous attack on the U.S. that it was.
Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders. It’s even a key motif in “King Lear.” As far as I’m concerned, Hillary disqualified herself for the presidency in that fist-pounding moment at a congressional hearing when she said, “What difference does it make what we knew and when we knew it, Senator?” Democrats have got to shake off the Clinton albatross and find new blood. The escalating instability not just in Egypt but throughout the Mideast is very ominous. There is a clash of cultures brewing in the world that may take a century or more to resolve — and there is no guarantee that the secular West will win.
She nails Hillary and Benghazi on the head. I couldn’t agree any more with her assessment of that particular situation and the response from Clinton and the administration.
Note too that Paglia’s candidate isn’t another senator. She too has had enough of that brand of clueless fools that have no executive experience (although Clinton can claim exec experience with the Dept. of State, as far as I’m concerned she made a dog’s breakfast of her time there). Hopefully the rest of the country is just as tired of it as Paglia is.
[Guest posting at Hot Air today:]
In its usual inept and ham-fisted way, the Obama administration has chosen to address the scandals surrounding it by waving them away as “phony” – conspiracies dreamed up and pursued by political enemies. The president recently did that in his long-winded, laborious and incredibly boring re-hash of his failed economic policies. The “phony” conspiracies are “distractions” from the “real problem”, a problem he has yet to address satisfactorily during his term in office.
The “phony” scandals include Benghazi, the IRS targeting of political groups on the right and others. All were initially acknowledged by the administration and the president as serious breaches of public trust. They’ve since, however, transformed into conspiracies generated by their enemies.
But there’s one voice asking what was “phony” about her son’t death in Benghazi?
Patricia Smith, mother of Sean Smith, who was slain in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack, lashed out on “Your World” on the Fox News Channel about that terminology.
President Obama has never revealed what, if anything, he was doing while workers at the Benghazi embassy were urgently requesting support, nor has the administration explained why no forces were sent to protect the embassy. The administration also denied the attack was a terrorist incident, claiming it was a spontaneous protest against an obscure YouTube trailer for a film that may or may not exist.
To make matters worse, she was essentially lied to while standing on the ramp watching the body of her son being offloaded from an AirForce transport plane in Dover, DE. Speaking of Obama, she said:
“I don’t believe him anymore,” Smith said. “He’s wrong. My son is dead. How could that be phony?”
According to Smith, she has been given no answers about what happened that night. She said the administration told her she “didn’t need to know.”
“When I was there at the ceremony of the welcoming of the caskets, both Obama and Hillary and Biden and all of the other ones, all promised me they would get back to me to tell me what happened,” Smith said. “I begged them. Please, I must know what happened with my son. How come this happened? They all promised me they would get back to me. You know, not one of them, not one of them ever got back to me in any way shape or form — not by a letter, not by anything other than I got a memo stating that I didn’t need to know because I was not part of the immediate family.”
No answers, no contact and no closure. She’s lost all faith in the credibility of those who promised her answers, and rightfully so. And then, as if to deliver a final slap to her face, an arrogant president waves away the death of 4 men, including her son, as a “phony scandal”.
She, however, has no intention of leaving the questions the administration is avoiding like the plague unanswered:
Smith made one last plea to the Obama administration explaining her desire for answers.
“How can I tell you?” Smith added. “I mean, it is wrong. It is not phony. It is not fake. My son is dead, and why is he dead? All I am waiting for even to this day is just someone to get back to me and tell me what happened. Why did Hillary do as she did? Why was there no security there when there was supposed to be? Who was the general that called back the troops when they were going to help?”
Is it really too much to ask the President of the United States to be forthcoming about why you son died in the service of his country? Apparently so.
Meanwhile in Kabul, the administration is on track to see what happened in Benghazi happen there as again very lax security has been cited by an internal investigation that the Washington Times obtained under the Freedom of Information Act as a risk to the safety of embassy personnel.
U.S. diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan have serious security lapses that pose “unnecessary risk to staff,” including poor emergency preparedness and inadequate protections that might allow classified materials to fall into the hands of attacking enemies, according to an internal report that raises fresh questions about the State Department’s commitment to safety in the aftermath of the Benghazi tragedy.
Another “phony” scandal in the making.
Seriously. After spending 8 years holding Bush responsible for everything from 9/11 (it was an “inside job”) to a Pelosi’s hangnail, we now have the left settling on “it’s Hillary’s fault”?
Truman’s “buck” stops at the State Department now?
The point, of course, as any good commander in the military knows, is that everything that happens or doesn’t happen while you are in command is your responsibility.
“I take responsibility,” Clinton said during a visit to Peru. “I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision.”
Hillary, for political reasons, is trying to fall on Obama’s sword for him. Someone has to take the blame (and Bush is unavailable for this one) so Obama can once again seem faultless. He does no wrong, you know. And besides, he has a debate tonight and he wants someone to point his finger at when the subject is inevitably brought up. Now he has her.
Jumped? Or pushed?
This episode illustrates how spot on Eastwood’s empty chair metaphor really is. John McCain, the stopped clock that is right twice a day, actually gets this one right:
“The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the commander-in-chief. The buck stops there.”
Of course the left first tried to blame it on the GOP claiming they’d cut millions from State’s security budget.
Here’s the bottom line on that line of attack: If you have a security contingent of Marines in the Embassy at Barbados, but not Tripoli or Benghanzi, your problem isn’t “funding”. It’s resource allocation and politics.
Secondly, when something like this happens, you don’t act like a politician, you act like a leader. IF you’re a leader.
This past weekend we were treated to the spectacle of David Axlerod avoiding answering Chris Wallace’s direct question about whether or not Obama met with his national security advosors and State in the aftermath of the murder of the US ambassador in Libya.
We all knew the answer before Wallace finished the question. And Axlerod’s non-answer answer confirmed it.
Hell no, he was late for a political fund raiser in Las Vegas, and besides, these are just “bumps in the road”.
While Clinton’s attempt will seem courageous and loyal to some, it is pure, calculated politics. Hillary knows that by 2016 this will be well behind here and, actually, an advantage, since she’ll have stepped up into the leadership void and acted like a leader. Obama? Not so much.
And make no mistake, as the state of the world and our foreign policy have announced loudly this past month – we are indeed suffering from a leadership void.
The empty chair we now have must be filled. We, nor the world, can afford 4 more years of it remaining empty.
There are any number of indicators that point out that perhaps the left is both dispirited and disappointed with Obama. That may translate into low turnout in 2012. And while many will argue his campaign money machine will overcome that, we’ve seen examples where money was lavished on campaigns but the results of elections were less than expected.
Take the recent Wisconsin recall election for example. Unions and outside liberal interests pumped in more than $35 million dollars to opposed 6 Republican Senators. The goal, despite the spine the left is now trying to establish, was to oust enough to take back the majority in the Senate and block Governor Walker’s agenda. The result was the recall of 2 and allowing the GOP to keep their Senate majority. The $35 million spent on these 6 elections was almost double the $19 million spent on all 115 recent Wisconsin legislative elections and just a couple million short of the governor’s election total.
What that indicates is an inability, in a reliably liberal state and despite the money spent, to motivate enough voters to go to the polls and turn out the Republican. We’re repeatedly told that polls indicate Republicans are exceedingly unpopular, but the only poll that counts – this time in Wisconsin – doesn’t bear that out.
If the union machine can’t reliably turn out voters in a mostly liberal state for an election like this, what does that portend for Obama?
Gov. Scott Walker faces a recall election soon and polls are claiming it will be close. Maybe. But here’s a little clinker for the left. It appears his “agenda” is working and doing what it is supposed to do.
Indicator two: Talk of a primary opponent for Obama. I’m not sure it will happen, but it does indicate deep dissatisfaction with the incumbent. The Daily Beast reports this anecdote:
At a New York political event last week, Republican and Democratic office-holders were all bemoaning President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisis when someone said, “Hillary would have been a better president.”
“Every single person nodded, including the Republicans,” reported one observer.
The entire point of the article was to highlight the 18 million Hillary supporters saying “I told you so”. They weren’t particularly enthusiastic about voting for Obama last election. How enthusiastic will they be in 2012?
Indicator three: Town Hall meetings. In 2010 they were the venue in which the Tea Party’s anger was vented. And we saw a wave election follow. This year, indications are that the Town Halls may be dominated by dispirited and complaining liberals, if what Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) experienced becomes common.
On Tuesday night, McCollum’s fellow Democrats packed a music recital hall at St. Catherine University to give the six-term congresswoman an earful about their disappointment with Obama and his economic and military policies.
The crowd of about 150 was largely friendly and civil, but they were passionate about their opposition to the conservative policies flowing from the Republican-controlled Congress and what they consider an all-too-conciliatory White House.
John from St. Paul wanted to know why Obama has moved to the right. "Whose side is he on?" he asked. "What are progressives telling him?"
Just what Democratic members of Congress want to have to do, defend an increasingly unpopular president’s record. Just ask the GOP how well that works. What one can expect to see is an attempt by many Democrats to distance themselves from Obama if they feel he is a liability come election time. Oh, and a little clue as to the major issue in this next election (as if anyone paying attention really needs a clue) came out during the question and answer session:
While liberals dominated the question-and-answer session, a woman who identified herself as a fiscal conservative received a warm ovation when she told the congresswoman, "You’ve got to look for ways to live within your means."
She bottom-lined it for them. Now liberals in Congress have got to find a way to do what the woman said while trying to save their favorite welfare programs.
These indicators, all preliminary at this point, give a picture of an incumbent president in trouble. His base is dissatisfied and dispirited. Even in an election which the left raised to national prominence and spent lavishly on, they were unsuccessful in accomplishing their goal. The 18 million Hillary supporters who loyally pulled the lever for him last time aren’t at all happy with him and may not show up to vote for him this time around. And liberals in general are expressing their dissatisfaction with his performance.
Worst of all, Barack Obama has to actually run on a record for the first time in his life. And that record is certainly nothing to brag about. 2012 should be a very interesting election season.
I swear I think politicians are like geese – they wake up in a new world everyday and are both irony impaired and have no concept of hypocrisy.
Remember Senator Clinton in 2007?
[Mrs.] Clinton, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has since May requested a briefing from Pentagon officials as to whether they have undertaken any serious planning for a future withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
On Thursday she received a response from the Pentagon that she told ABC News was “outrageous and offensive.”
The letter from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman did not mince words. “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies,” he wrote.
“I deeply resent the administration’s continuing effort to impugn the patriotism of those of us who are asking hard questions,” Clinton told ABC News.
The other day, at a press conference in Jamaica, it was she who was being asked the hard questions. Her response?
QUESTION: [...] We’ve entered a situation in Libya that looks increasingly quagmire-like. And it’s starting to create a political headache for the Administration with Republican leaders arguing that the actions were inappropriate in the sense that they circumvented congressional approval for them. What is the – your vision for the endgame, a medium-term plan for U.S. involvement in Libya? And what do you make of House Speaker Boehner’s remarks?
SECRETARY CLINTON: [...] I have to take issue with your underlying premise. I think that there is very clear progress being made in the organization and the operational ability of the opposition, the Transitional National Council, the military efforts on the ground. I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that Qadhafi and the people around him have their backs against the wall. The kind of support that we saw forthcoming for the Libyan opposition at the recent Libyan Contact Group meeting in Abu Dhabi was very heartening. Money is flowing, other support is available.
So I know we live in a hyper-information-centric world right now, and March seems like it’s a decade ago, but by my calendar, it’s only months. And in those months, we have seen an international coalition come together unprecedented between not only NATO, but Arab nations, the Arab League, and the United Nations. This is something that I don’t think anyone could have predicted, but it is a very strong signal as to what the world expects to have happen, and I say with all respect that the Congress is certainly free to raise any questions or objections, and I’m sure I will hear that tomorrow when I testify.
But the bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them? For the Obama Administration, the answer to that question is very easy.
The irony? She’s questioning those who oppose her point of view’s patriotism. The hypocrisy? She’s essentially saying “you’re either with us, or against us” – something she roundly condemned in her previous life.
Oh, and of course as she rejects underlying premises, let me do my fair share. I reject the premise that says if you oppose the illegal war in Libya it is because you are “pro-Qadhafi”. But of course any thinking person should know it’s a false premise to begin with.
I talked about it yesterday, but to reiterate, this is an action blessed by the UN and Arab League – and no one else. But there are those among our leadership who see it as a precedent to pretty much do whatever we want under the principle espoused by the UN – “Right to Protect” or R2P. This new “principle”, according to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, gives the UN the “right” to go after governments that are killing their own citizens. And not just with aircraft (something Sec. of State Clinton used to differentiate what was happening in Libya and Syria as an excuse not to move on Syria).
To illustrate my point, one only has to go to the Sunday shows for an example:
Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said the events transpiring in Libya should send a strong message to the Syrian dictator.
“If he turns his weapons on his own people, he runs the risk,” Mr. Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“There is a precedent now. … We’re not going to allow Assad to slaughter his own people.”
Of course my first question is “who is ‘we’, Mr. Lieberman?”
In the case of Libya, certainly not the American people. They were never consulted (though their representatives). If ever there was a unilateral decision to go to war, this provides the example.
Secondly, this is precisely what the Neo-cons were accused of championing – and it now seems it has evolved as a policy of the Obama administration. The irony is incredible. Especially after we saw the same administration pretend like the slaughter of protesters in Iran by the government was something to essentially ignore.
And I can’t help but observe that this smacks of more than anything is international bullying. Pick on a weak country that displeases others for whatever reason, come up with a high sounding reason to intervene and go to war. Who you are backing and what they are or stand for isn’t as much of a priority as establishing the precedent of the “right” to act internationally without worrying about those pesky legal impediments such as Constitutions and such. But if the country is strong militarily or has supporters in the region (Syria and the Arab League), make excuses for not applying the same standard to them. That’s precisely what we’re seeing with Syria.
One of the laugh out loud reasons for not applying the same standard to Syria was Clinton’s contention that the Syrian dictator Assad is a “reformer”.
That had the Syrian protesters shaking their head in wonder.
Ammar Abdulhamid, who has emerged as an unofficial spokesman in the West for the activists organizing the Syrian protests, said, however, that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was wrong to refer to Syrian President Bashar Assad as a reformer on CBS News on Sunday.
“It was ridiculous to call Bashar Assad a reformer. She should not have done that,” he said.
I’m reminded of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recent speech at West Point where he said that any president who committed us to another war in the Middle East should have his head examined.
Frankly, I agree. The unfortunate thing is this “precedent” as Joe Lieberman correctly identifies it, sets us up to commit to an unlimited number of wars in the Middle East and elsewhere – just so we manage to get a sanction of some sort of NGO or another in the process. We’re officially in the “others volunteering our military” business, the “world policeman’s league” with this action – and as I understood it that was something Democrats and left objected too strenuously.
What happened to that?
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 …
It was made without the apparent participation of the United States in the early decision making process. From Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meetings in Paris with the G8 foreign ministers on Monday left her European interlocutors with more questions than answers about the Obama administration’s stance on intervention in Libya.
Inside the foreign ministers’ meeting, a loud and contentious debate erupted about whether to move forward with stronger action to halt Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s campaign against the Libyan rebels and the violence being perpetrated against civilians. Britain and France argued for immediate action while Germany and Russia opposed such a move, according to two European diplomats who were briefed on the meeting.
Clinton stayed out of the fray, repeating the administration’s position that all options are on the table but not specifically endorsing any particular step. She also did not voice support for stronger action in the near term, such as a no-fly zone or military aid to the rebels, both diplomats said.
"The way the U.S. acted was to let the Germans and the Russians block everything, which announced for us an alignment with the Germans as far as we are concerned," one of the diplomats told The Cable.
Clinton’s unwillingness to commit the United States to a specific position led many in the room to wonder exactly where the administration stood on the situation in Libya.
"Frankly we are just completely puzzled," the diplomat said. "We are wondering if this is a priority for the United States."
I’m beginning to understand the phrase "above the fray" or "stayed out of the fray" as essentially means refusing to involve or commit to anything much less make a decision. And that’s precisely what happened at the G8 meeting.
What worried diplomats even more was this:
On the same day, Clinton had a short meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in which Sarkozy pressed Clinton to come out more forcefully in favor of action in Libya. She declined Sarkozy’s request, according to a government source familiar with the meeting.
Sarkozy told Clinton that "we need action now" and she responded to him, "there are difficulties," the source said, explaining that Clinton was referring to China and Russia’s opposition to intervention at the United Nations. Sarkozy replied that the United States should at least try to overcome the difficulties by leading a strong push at the U.N., but Clinton simply repeated, "There are difficulties."
One diplomat, who supports stronger action in Libya, contended that the United States’ lack of clarity on this issue is only strengthening those who oppose action.
That “lack of clarity” can be translated as a lack of leadership on the issue. Casting around in the G8 minister’s meeting for some sort of consensus toward action or inaction, both sides looked to the US to commit. It simply refused to do so. Whether you support or oppose a NFZ, you have to be concerned that we had no strategy or apparent game plan when we entered that meeting.
Hillary Clinton tries to spin it as it being a matter of venue:
In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday in Cairo, Clinton pointed to the U.N. Security Council as the proper venue for any decision to be made and she pushed back at the contention by the British and the French that the U.S. was dragging its feet.
"I don’t think that is fair. I think, based on my conversations in Paris with the G-8 ministers, which, of course, included those two countries, I think we all agree that given the Arab League statement, it was time to move to the Security Council to see what was possible," Clinton said. I don’t want to prejudge it because countries are still very concerned about it. And I know how anxious the British and the French and the Lebanese are, and they have taken a big step in presenting something. But we want to get something that will do what needs to be done and can be passed."
"It won’t do us any good to consult, negotiate, and then have something vetoed or not have enough votes to pass it," Clinton added.
But that is patent nonsense. You had most of the movers and shakers there. In fact, it was the prefect venue to get preliminary negotiations underway, make a case one way or the other and then use the UN as the final place to seal the deal. Diplomacy 101.
Now, this is important – note the day the BBC interview was done: Wednesday. Note the day the G8 meeting was: Monday.
So what happened Tuesday?
At the start of this week, the consensus around Washington was that military action against Libya was not in the cards. However, in the last several days, the White House completely altered its stance and successfully pushed for the authorization for military intervention against Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. What changed?
The key decision was made by President Barack Obama himself at a Tuesday evening senior-level meeting at the White House, which was described by two administration officials as "extremely contentious." Inside that meeting, officials presented arguments both for and against attacking Libya. Obama ultimately sided with the interventionists. His overall thinking was described to a group of experts who had been called to the White House to discuss the crisis in Libya only days earlier.
"This is the greatest opportunity to realign our interests and our values," a senior administration official said at the meeting, telling the experts this sentence came from Obama himself. The president was referring to the broader change going on in the Middle East and the need to rebalance U.S. foreign policy toward a greater focus on democracy and human rights.
You may be saying, “wohoo, he finally made a freakin’ decision”. Well yeah, he could see how it was going and he could see where it would probably end up, so you have to wonder, was it a decision or was it more of a rationalization?
My guess it was the latter. And it is the third “strategy” for the region that the US has displayed in as many months.
But Obama’s stance in Libya differs significantly from his strategy regarding the other Arab revolutions. In Egypt and Tunisia, Obama chose to rebalance the American stance gradually backing away from support for President Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and allowing the popular movements to run their course. In Yemen and Bahrain, where the uprisings have turned violent, Obama has not even uttered a word in support of armed intervention – instead pressing those regimes to embrace reform on their own. But in deciding to attack Libya, Obama has charted an entirely new strategy, relying on U.S. hard power and the use of force to influence the outcome of Arab events.
"In the case of Libya, they just threw out their playbook," said Steve Clemons, the foreign policy chief at the New America Foundation. "The fact that Obama pivoted on a dime shows that the White House is flying without a strategy and that we have a reactive presidency right now and not a strategic one."
Bingo – Clemons is dead on the money. There is no well thought out strategy for the Middle East – this is just someone winging it, figuring out where world (or regional opinion lies) and giving himself enough space for deniability should something go wrong. The cool kids in the world want to bomb Libya, so hey, we should probably do it too now that they’re committed – but we shouldn’t be seen as leading it in case it turns out badly”.
The rationalization for backing the action comes from the realization that it is probably going to happen, and unlike the US, France and the UK aren’t going to let Russia and Germany decide it for them without ever engaging in a fight.
So we now trot out our 3rd “realignment” of “our interests and values”? Really? Pray what are they? And what were they?
Clemons point about the fact that this points to a reactive presidency shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s part of leadership, or lack thereof. Leaders have a strategy and a plan. You may not like it, but they have one. And since it has to do with foreign affairs, it should address the best interests of the US. Three different strategies driven by who knows what in a three month period does not argue for a comprehensive or coherent strategy, much less a plan.
This is the ultimate in finger in the wind diplomacy and another in a long line of indicators highlighting the dangerous lack of leadership under which this country is now suffering.
In a defense of the State Department budget, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says “we are in an information war and we’re losing that war”.
Further, Clinton claimed that the private media isn’t up to the task of winning it saying, “Our private media cannot fill that gap”.
The message – we need more money for government propaganda and media.
Interestingly she then goes on to cite a private media network as “winning”:
"Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened up a global English language and multi-language television network, the Russians have opened up an English language network. I’ve seen it in a couple of countries and it’s quite instructive."
There is a place (and need) for government propaganda and it isn’t on a private media network (although in some cases you’d be hard pressed to believe that given that some of our private news networks seem to be entities dedicated to the unquestioning republishing of government press releases). So propaganda operations should be conducted via government means – many of which are in place today.
Clinton seems to be calling for a government news network to compete with other government news networks (Russian and Chinese). Yet she uses Al Jazeera as the example of who is winning the information war.
Al Jazeera is kicking butt in the coverage of the Middle East and N. Africa. If you haven’t checked out their live blogs, you’re missing the inside scoop. For instance did you know that Hugo Chavez has offered to mediate the crisis in Libya and Gadhafi has accepted (I’m not sure what that means, since there is no mention of the other side in this mediation, but still).
But Clinton is doing a little bait and switch – Al Jazeera (private) is kicking the US (private) media’s rear when it comes to ME coverage, the US media (private) is not up to the job, therefore we need more money to set up a government outlet (what?).
Yeah, nothing could go wrong with that, could it?
And again, more government (and more spending) is the answer to a perceived private sector deficit (Al Jazeera is located in the ME – that’s their beat).
Of course all of this sort of depends on how you define the function of a news organization, doesn’t it? Sounds to me that Ms. Clinton thinks they should be “aiding and abetting” government in the functions it deems important – like propaganda. And they should be covering the stories she deems important. She’s not at all pleased with how the media here has covered the news in the Middle East apparently.
And then there was this little nugget:
“Our private media, particularly cultural programming often works at counter purposes to what we truly are as Americans. I remember having an Afghan general tell me that the only thing he thought about Americans is that all the men wrestled and the women walked around in bikinis because the only TV he ever saw was Baywatch and World Wide Wrestling."
So because some Afghan general prefers to see grown men wrestle and beautiful women prance around in bikinis, our private media is deficient and presents a picture that is at "counter purposes to what we truly are as Americans". Sounds like someone really, really, really wants a government propaganda channel set up so we can present what we "truly are as Americans". My bet, though, is that Afghan general will still be watching wrestling and bikinis when all is said and done … and spent.
As Egypt burns: has the administration picked a side? And some on the left are still in “moon pony” land about the Muslim Brotherhood and the potential for a Muslim state emerging
I’m not sure how you might interpret this, but it seems to me, given what Secretary Hillary Clinton has been saying, that we’ve picked a side in Egypt.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Sunday for “an orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, stopping short of telling its embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure.
Granted it doesn’t tell Mubarak to give it up, it certainly doesn’t openly support the protesters, but make no mistake, in diplo-speak, this is pretty close to doing both. I’m not judging it one way or the other, I’m just sayin’.
Stipulating that, who does the administration think will lead the transition to that country having more “economic and political freedom?”
Well, she doesn’t say, but my guess is the administration would find Mohammad ElBaradei to be an acceptable choice. The question is does he really have the support to actually take power or, as many worry, if Mubarak flies off to Saudi Arabia – the country of choice for ousted dictators – will ElBaradei suddenly find himself on the outside looking in as more powerful factions compete for control?
Of course, there are those on the left here who are pretty sure that the Muslim Brotherhood running some sort of anti-American Muslim state is just a myth and nothing to worry about. Meanwhile, in the real world, Haarretz reports:
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group,is in talks with other anti-government figures to form a national unity government without President Hosni Mubarak, a group official told DPA on Sunday.
Gamal Nasser, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, told DPA that his group was in talks with Mohammed ElBaradei – the former UN nuclear watchdog chief – to form a national unity government without the National Democratic Party of Mubarak.
The group is also demanding an end to the draconian Emergency Laws, which grant police wide-ranging powers The laws have been used often to arrest and harass the Islamist group.
Nasser said his group would not accept any new government with Mubarak. On Saturday the Brotherhood called on President Mubarak to relinquish power in a peaceful manner following the resignation of the Egyptian cabinet.
So the moves within the opposition are beginning to become visible. Meanwhile useful idiots like ElBaradei are necessary to calm the rest of the world to give the “revolution” an acceptable face until power can be consolidated. And leave it to ElBaradei to cooperate fully, given the hubris of the man:
Speaking to CNN later Sunday, ElBaradei said he had a popular and political mandate to negotiate the creation of a national unity government.
"I have been authorized — mandated — by the people who organized these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government," he told CNN.
A couple of things to remember – the Muslim Brotherhood has been the opposition in Egypt, not ElBaradei. The MB is closely identified with the revolutionary nationalism that is now evident, ElBaradei has been in “exile”. The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned from having seats in the Egyptian Parliament, yet they’ve still successfully run candidates as “independents” to capture a portion of seats.
Also remember that Egyptian prisons have been the incubators of Islamic jihad and that the MB has been well represented in those prisons.
Or, to put it more succinctly, look for the MB to make its moves when Mubarak is safely out of the country and the consolidation of power is near complete (and one way they will do that is by refusing Mubarak’s party any part in a new government). At that point, Mr. Useful, ElBaradei, may not be useful enough to keep around as the MB will be powerful enough to control Egypt without caring much how acceptable they seem to the rest of the world.