In 1917, the United States found a casus belli to enter World War I in the Zimmerman Telegram. Prior to this, President Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of the war.”. A year later we were belligerent in that war.
What we know now is that the European nations had bled each other white since August, 1914. There were already discussions in all the belligerent capitals about a negotiated end to the war that would have ended the war with the status quo ante intact.. America’s entry changed all that, and eventually forced the surrender of Germany. That victory led directly to an unwisely humiliating peace imposed on Germany, which caused the resentments that led directly to the rise of nationalist radicalism. Which nationalism led, in turn, to the Nazis gaining control of the country. Nazi government in Germany led directly to WWII, a war the Nazis planned beginning in 1933. Whatever suffering WWI caused, WWII was substantially worse. An argument can be made that American intervention is the ultimate cause of WWII in Europe.
Similarly, in 1991, America led a coalition to intervene in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Since then, American forces have been a more or less constant presence in the region of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. By Osama bin Laden’s account, the presence of infidel Christians in Muslim lands was the reason for his dispute with Saudi Arabia and the United States, and the genesis of his animus against the United States. That animus led to 9/11, from which followed the last 13 years of…unpleasantness. One could, if one wished, make a parallel between American intervention in WWI and in the Gulf War.
Intervention has ripples, like pebbles tossed into a still pond, that reverberate long after the event. It can be argued that ISIS/ISIL is the latest ripple in the US’ Gulf War intervention.
So, nasty video images aside, what is it about ISIS that requires a US intervention in the Mideast again? Saddam Hussein ran a particularly nasty terror state, with rape rooms where suspect’s wives and daughters were brutally gang-raped in front of them as they were forced to watch. Dissidents were routinely dissolved alive in acid. Mothers were forced to watch as their children were shot, and their infants had their heads dashed against cement walls. Uday Hussein famously fed people who displeased him feet first into wood chippers. There is no way in which Saddam Hussein’s government was, in any way, objectively more humane or less brutal than ISIS.
ISIS seems to actively want a US intervention in the region, based on their publicly released media and statements. If they desire this, why should we be so keen to do what they wish, without at least seriously examining why they wish us to do it? In fact, I have several questions about a possible intervention against ISIS.
1. In what way is ISIS a greater threat, or indeed as much of a threat, as Saddam Hussein was from 1991 to 2003?
2. Why are both Republicans and Democrats willing to cede the President the authority to intervene in the Mideast again, without explicit Congressional approval?
3. What do we accomplish by intervening in Iraq, and not in Saudi Arabia, from whence ISIS receives funding? Indeed, what do we accomplish at all without cutting of Saudi money to fundamentalists? How do we cut that money off?
4. How likely is it that intervention against ISIS in Iraq will require intervention in Syria to defeat ISIS?
5. How likely is it to defeat ISIS without a substantial ground presence of American combat troops?
6. If ISIS is such a threat, why isn’t Israel doing anything about them?
7. How much of ISIS’ existence is part of a proxy war between Sunni states against Iran, especially as the end result of US intervention was increased Iranian influence in largely Shi’a Iraq?
8. What is the desired end state of US intervention against ISIS? Mustn’t it not simply be ISIS’ defeat, but also foreclose the rise of future ISI-like groups, lest we gain nothing but a little time?
9. Does “fighting them over there” actually make us safer from ISIS over here, or does it simply exacerbate Arab resentment, increasing the chance of terror attacks against the US?
10. How much blood and treasure are we willing to spend, and for what length of time, are we willing to commit to this intervention?
11. Would spending that blood and treasure in increasing border and port security have a greater effect on ensuring our security than military intervention?
12. Has the region become more or less stable since America began intervening in the Mideast in 1991?
13. Has the threat from the region increased or decreased since 1991?
14. Is the current situation the result of the current president’s inaction, or rather, the result of entirely too much action over the past few decades?
Frankly, the result of American intervention in the Mideast seems to have accomplished little. Yes, Kuwait was liberated, and Saddam Hussein hung but at what cost? So far, it’s been 23 years of more or less constant presence in the Mideast, during which the region has become less stable, not more. It seems that the answer to dealing with the results of our intervention in the Mideast has become more intervention.
It’s all beginning to remind me of the War on Drugs. “If only we increase prison sentences, we’ll reduce drug use.” “If only we seize assets, we’ll cripple the drug lords.” “If only we make it hard to deposit more than $10,000 in cash, we’ll shut down money laundering.” Meanwhile, we’re going through more cocaine than Hunter Thompson in Vegas, cops are using SWAT teams to serve no-knock warrants, and people’s legal cash is being seized.
Sure, I’d love to stomp ISIS flat, with a big ol’ American boot on their neck, as they gasp their last breath, while watching us kill their pet goat. I’m not really sure that’s the best answer, anymore, though.
It is now fairly widely acknowledged that what was hoped for in Egypt after its “Arab spring” revolution began is increasingly unlikely to happen. Namely the emergence of a secular and democratic government which will bring stability, peace and prosperity to its nation. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t unexpected to those who understood the dynamics of such revolutions. Nature abhors a vacuum. Power does as well. When the Mubarak regime fell, it created just such a power vacuum. And just as with nature, something was bound to fill that vacuum. In situations like the one in Egypt, that’s usually the most organized and ruthless group available. Unsurprisingly, that group was the Muslim Brotherhood, and Egypt, like a good number of other states in the area, appears to be headed down the long road to Islamic fundamentalism where Islam and sharia dominate the culture with the usual results.
As Libya goes through the final throes of ousting a dictator, one has to ask what the dominant group might be to fill the power vacuum created there. We know the Transnational National Council (TNC) is that supposed vehicle for taking power. But who are they?
Claire Lopez at Big Peace does a little research and gives us an idea. First, she starts by reading the proposed constitution put forward by the TNC and points to the reality that document promises :
Part of that reality is actually on full display with the online posting of Libya’s “Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage. As the equally level-headed Dr. Andrew Bostom wrote in his 22 August 2011 posting, “the salient feature of Libya’s new draft constitution is Part 1, Article 1: Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” [emphasis added]
For those still unsure of what is actually happening in Libya, that Article, which places Islamic law (shariah) at the very top of the constitution, means that principles Jeffersonian republicans consider foundational to a democratic system—such as equality, individual freedom, pluralism, tolerance, minority protections, consent of the governed, natural rights/natural law derived through exercise of human reason, independent (secular) judiciary, and a vibrant free press—even if mentioned later in the draft text, have no real validity. It is what comes first and is stated explicitly in the constitution that carries the real weight. In Libya’s case, that means Islamic law.
Among some that revelation will elicit the reply, “well we don’t know that. We don’t know that such a declaration will really have the effect that critics are claiming”. Of course, you have to deny the reality in the vast majority of states in the Middle East where Islam is the state religion and sharia the legal system to say such a thing.
Secondly, Libya is a country with no real experience with western democracy, philosophy or ideals. For at least 40 years, individual rights have been trampled. “Natural law” consisted of Gaddafi dictating and the people obeying. The organs of such a hoped for revolutionary change simply don’t exist in Libya. But what does exist is an organization of Islamists bent on taking power. What one has to realize is they believe what they are going to try to do is what is best for both the country and the people. And they have help:
Those taking over are no less a cause for concern: as Walid Phares points out in his insightful Fox News analysis of 23 August 2011, the Libyan TNC is a motley crew comprising “former diplomats, bureaucrats, and military officers from the old regime” as well as “politicians and leaders from movements and groups from the political left, Marxists, Socialists, Arab Nationalists, liberals and Islamists.” As in Egypt and elsewhere across the region, however, it is the proponents of shariah who are the best organized and most determined to impose their agenda in the post-revolutionary milieu. Their push for power in Libya already is underway, openly supported by Yousuf al-Qaradawi and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and will accelerate from positions within the TNC as its grip on the country is consolidated.
Emphasis mine and an argument I’ve been making prominently since Egypt. There is nothing at all to indicate that it will be any different in Libya. What most in the West, who have a different take on the involvement of religion in everyday life means, is that Islam is woven into the very fabric of the life of most adherents and is more than something they do once a week. It is going to be interesting to see how NATO and the US handle this, but when all is said and done, I expect to see another “Islamic Republic” in place, mostly hostile to the West and Israel and with its people again under the boot heel of another form of dictatorship – this time religious in nature.
After months, not weeks, of a NATO bombing campaign, it appears that the regime of Libyan strong-man Moammar Gaddafi is about to end. Rebels have advanced into Tripoli, the capital, and Gaddafi is said to be cornered in his compound. When last heard from his advice to his remaining supporters was to take to the streets:
In a brief broadcast on state television, Gaddafi made what came across as a desperate plea for support. “Go out and take your weapons,” the Libyan leader said. “All of you, there should be no fear.”
But the opposite seems to be what his loyalists are doing:
But reporters traveling with rebel forces said Gaddafi’s defenses were melting away faster than had been expected. There were reports of entire units fleeing as rebels entered the capital from the south, east and west, and his supporters inside the city tearing off their uniforms, throwing down their weapons and attempting to blend into the population.
A Tripoli-based activist said the rebels had secured the seaport, where several hundred reinforcements for the opposition had arrived by boat, and were in the process of evicting Gaddafi loyalists from the Mitiga air base on the eastern edge of the city.
There are also reports that a safe haven is or is still being negotiated for Gaddafi. South Africa has been identified as a participant in those negotiations with Zimbabwe and the Congo as two possible destinations.
Obviously Gadaffi’s reign is within hours, if not days of ending.
The question then becomes, “now what”? While this is supposedly a flowering of the Arab spring, there have been disturbing reports of Islamist radicals in leadership positions within the Rebel alliance. Additionally, there have been various councils and groups claiming leadership. Once Gadaffi is ousted and the capitol taken, the hard part begins – governing. Who or what band or group is likely to emerge as the leadership group. While there is a lot of talk about “revolutionary youth”, etc., in cases like this the most ruthless and best organized group usually take charge.
The “Twitter revolution” started by “revolutionary youth” in Egypt has since yielded to the Muslim Brotherhood – a well organized Islamist group which has seemingly reached an accommodation with the army and will apparently take power there after the next election. The secular and democratic activists have been pushed to the side.
There’s also the question of “now what” for the West. Does NATO tip its hat to the rebels and wish them good luck, or does it plan on some sort of post-Gaddafi role? France has a historic interest in Libya. Will European nations simply walk away or will they attempt to help craft a solution in Libya?
Finally, is the collapse of the Gadaffi regime a vindication of Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy? It certainly forced NATO to do more than has in quite some time and the campaign got the desired result. Does that make it a good strategy for the future, or a one-of-a-kind campaign that got lucky given the weakness of the target and the geography of the nation?
All of these questions and more will be answered in the next few weeks. One has to wonder how many of the answers will come as a surprise.
Marvin Kalb and his daughter Deborah have written a book called “The Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama”.
I can give you one very good reason not to even bother buying or reading the book. It comes from an email interview Kalb did with TIME’s Battleland:
Why did you write Haunting Legacy?
The Vietnam War was the only war the U.S. ever lost, and it left a deep scar on the American psyche. From then on, American presidents, whenever faced with the need to send troops to war, worried about getting trapped in another Vietnam, meaning another war without a clear mission, without an exit strategy, without Congressional support. Deborah and I wanted to explore this crucial dimension of recent American history. That’s the reason we wrote the book.
Bullsquat. “Losing” a war usually means you were there to fight it and got beaten. That’s not the case with Vietnam, although it is a very persistent myth. If we lost anything it was the political war (and will), certainly not the war on the battlefield.
So someone who would make a statement like the first in that paragraph has zip for credibility with me. Our last combat troops left South Vietnam in August of 1972. Saigon fell in April of 1975. Who is the “we” that lost the war? I think we all know who that is and Kalb was right there with the bunch of ‘em painting a picture that wasn’t accurate and is still doing it.
Yes there are still people in this world that just don’t get it. The irony, of course, is their target:
A Spanish lawyer has formally accused Barack Obama of crimes against humanity for ordering the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
Apparently “lawfare” was how this should have been prosecuted:
Daniel Fiol lodged a written complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing the US president of breaching the Geneva Convention.
In his written complaint, the Majorca-based lawyer said bin Laden should have been "pursued, arrested, tried and convicted" on behalf of "the victims of some terrible and appalling atrocities". The killing of bin Laden was even worse as it took place in foreign territory, Pakistan, without the permission of that government, he said.
So here we are with another “ war criminal president” on our hands. How does it feel, lefties, to have your agent for “hope and change” accused of being a “war criminal?”
So how does the left feel about the 3rd term of George Bush – when it comes to prosecuting wars?
The Obama administration, which refuses to send terrorism suspects to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, on Wednesday defended its decision to interrogate a detainee for two months aboard a U.S. Navy ship, outside the reach of American law.
“He was detained lawfully, under the law of war, aboard a Navy ship until his transfer to the U.S. for prosecution,” presidential spokesman Jay Carney said.
Uh, wasn’t that the argument of the Bush administration? Didn’t they say that detaining unlawful combatants at Guantanamo was a lawful detention under the “law of war” (or similar words to that effect)?
After all, the only difference here is location. One place is located on an island outside the US and the other is a ship located outside the US. However, the very same thing happened in both locations – something Obama argued against most strenuously when but a mere candidate for office.
My, my … you mean George Bush might have been right about all this? That it is indeed both legal and necessary? How come we’re not being treated to the usual “Bush did it” this time?
Oh, and so much for Miranda rights, huh?
“Wherever possible, our first priority is and always has been to apprehend terrorism suspects and to preserve the opportunity to elicit the valuable intelligence that can help us protect the American people,”Mr. Carney said. He added that the International Committee of the Red Cross was allowed to visit the Navy vessel “and had an opportunity to interview the detainee aboard the ship.”
I’m sure the Red Cross was able to visit – after our boy had coughed up what he needed to cough up. I love the expression of the “first priority” too. To “preserve the opportunity to elicit the valuable intelligence that can help us protect the American people.” But evil Bush – not so much huh?
Funny how the rules change when you get stuck with the responsibility of prosecuting a war and protecting the nation and everything is fine that you condemned previously. Ignorance and hypocrisy are the operative terms here.
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I’m all for winding down our commitment in Afghanistan, but it should be for solid reasons to do with the security and stability of that nation and not because of US politics. Alas I fear what we’ll hear tonight has been decided for exactly that reason and no other.
Barack Obama is set to reject the advice of the Pentagon by announcing on Wednesday night the withdrawal of up to 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by November next year, in time for the US presidential election.
The move comes despite warnings from his military commanders that recent security gains are fragile. They have been urging him to keep troop numbers high until 2013.
The accelerated drawdown will dismay American and British commanders in Kabul, who have privately expressed concern that the White House is now being driven by political rather than military imperatives.
And, of course, they’re entirely right. Obviously military commanders are going to argue for more, not less – and most people understand that. They will always say they need more. But in this case, what they’re arguing is they need to keep what they have. The so-called “surge” has barely been completed and full deployment of those assets is only months old. We’re in the middle of a “fighting season”. Certainly it would be better to announce and begin these withdrawals, whatever their size, in the colder months when the fighting is naturally less.
But to the point – “listening to the generals” is apparently only something Republican Commanders in Chief should do. Obama has decided, for entirely unmilitary reasons, it is time to pull the plug on any hope of holding our gains in Afghanistan. Note, I didn’t say get out of A’stan. 30,000 troops isn’t even close to a full withdrawal (100,000 there now). However, it is a margin of difference between consolidating and keeping what we’ve driven the Taliban out of and being too thinly spread to do that. In fact, that was the whole purpose of the surge (just as in Iraq) – take and hold.
The withdrawal has created deep divisions in Washington. The defence secretary, Robert Gates, argued for a modest reduction – at one point as low as 2,000 – citing the advice of US commanders in Afghanistan that they need to protect gains made during the winter against the Taliban.
But senior White House staff, conscious that the president has an election to fight next year, argued in favour of a reduction that would send a signal to the US public that an end to the war is in sight.
General Petraeus and his staff have made clear the risk of pulling out 30,000 troops this soon. Obama has chosen to ignore their advice for political reasons. Some will attempt to characterize this as a “gutsy call” when in fact it is anything but that. It is the antithesis of a gutsy call – it is a decision driven by political and not military reasons. In fact, it would appear the military’s reasons for wanting a much smaller withdrawal weren’t really considered at all. That is to say, this was a decision made on a timeline, reality be damned.
Interestingly, this was the “good war”, the “necessary war”, the “war we ought to be fighting” when Mr. Obama was a candidate. As with much he does, he’s taken a swipe to satisfy political critics and is now pulling out to satisfy others. The war (or is it a “kinetic event?”)?
It’s a “distraction.”
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So, where’s the UN, NATO and R2P? I mean, this should be bad enough to get them involved given the Libya scenario:
Syrian tanks took up positions outside the city of Hama on Saturday, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to mourn the deaths of at least 65 protesters gunned down by security forces there the day before.
But wait, there’s more:
The government’s violent crackdown against a three-month-old popular uprising continued, with helicopter gunships killing 10 people in a neighboring province and residents of Hama bracing for a military assault that would be the first on the city since the government bombed it in 1982, killing at least 10,000 people.
Wow, that was enough to get Gadhafi the full might of the UN, NATO and the US to come down on him.
What is that? Is that the sound of hypocrisy I hear in DC, Europe and the UN? Inconsistency? Or just cluelessness?
So many were treated for gunshot wounds at local hospitals that blood supplies ran low, residents said. Throughout the night, loudspeakers on mosques normally used for calls to prayer urged people to donate blood.
Yeah, this isn’t anything like our illegal war in Libya, is it?
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And mission creep continues apace because, as most military experts would have told you, you can’t change a government with a “no-fly zone” and only airpower.
French and British officials said this week that they were sending more than a dozen attack helicopters to allow for more precise ground attacks, particularly around Misurata, where loyalist forces continue to fire mortars and artillery despite rebel gains and heavy air attacks.
With no troops on the ground, NATO planners and pilots acknowledge that they often cannot pinpoint the shifting battle lines in cities like Misurata. “The front lines are more scattered,” said Col. L. S. Kjoeller, who commands four Danish F-16s flying eight daily strike missions from Sigonella air base in Sicily.
Unsaid in those two paragraphs, but reported elsewhere, are that groups of special operations types will be inserted to do targeting for the helicopter attack assets. Yes, “boots on the ground”.
And why is this supposed war of days taking months if not longer? Well, they obviously underestimated their foe and overestimated their capabilities. Also, they planned for one mission and tried to execute another (no-fly and regime change) and don’t have the assets necessary to accomplish that real mission). We’re now seeing them begin to understand that they may have bitten off more than they can chew – at least as they’re presently arrayed.
Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the overall commander of NATO forces in the Mediterranean, said from his office in Naples that the allied mission has largely achieved its goal of protecting civilians, especially in eastern Libya, and has seriously damaged the Libyan military.
“Qaddafi will never be able to turn a large army on his people again, because it’s gone,” said Admiral Locklear, noting that the air campaign has wiped out more than half of Libya’s ammunition stockpiles and cut off most supply lines to forces in the field.
But the admiral acknowledged Colonel Qaddafi’s resiliency, and said that without sustained political and economic pressure as well, “the military piece will take a very long time.”
Not really – if its mission is to establish and enforce a no-fly zone as we were told in the beginning. And as is obvious, Adm. Locklear certainly isn’t talking days or weeks anymore. He’s talking months and possibly longer. Meanwhile, British papers are reporting the war of “days not weeks”, that their present visiting guest talked them into, is in the $1 billion to 1.5 billion pound range – a cost the debt ridden country can ill afford. Makes you wonder how much longer they’re willing to wage it (even as they escalate their presence with attack helicopters).
Nice mess you’ve got there Mr. Obama. So much for being against “dumb wars”, huh?
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I think we all know what would be the number one story today had we been this close to having this happen on the last president’s watch.
At issue: The 1973 War Powers Act, which says if the president does not get congressional authorization 60 days after military action, the mission must stop within 30 days.
The president formally notified Congress about the mission in Libya with a letter on March 21, which makes Friday the 60-day deadline.
See, here’s how this works … Congress makes the laws and the President signs them into being. Everyone is obliged to follow them. And that includes the President. However, that’s not the case, or so it seems, with Libya. Today is the last day of the 60 grace period for the President to get Congressional authorization and there has been no move to accomplish that. Apparently the administration believes they’re above the law.
The irony, of course, is that it was Mr. Bush who was continually accused of waging an illegal war. Yet it has been the last two Democratic presidents who are guilty of doing so:
But it is virtually unprecedented for a president to continue a mission beyond 60 days without a resolution from Congress.
"Make no mistake: Obama is breaking new ground, moving decisively beyond his predecessors," Yale law professors Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway wrote this week in the Washington Post.
The only thing that comes close is President Clinton’s military effort in Kosovo.
He failed to get congressional approval before the 60-day deadline was up. His administration argued that Congress had effectively authorized the mission by approving money for it, and the Kosovo conflict lasted 78 days.
The Obama administration doesn’t have that option with Libya, because the Pentagon is using existing money. Congress never specifically funded the mission.
Now, the administration is trying to figure out what to do.
“Now?” Now the administration is “trying to figure out what to do”? And “what to do” is fairly straight forward – seek congressional approval for the continuation of the “kinetic event” or whatever it is we’re calling it this week, or stop our involvement.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, tells CNN he believes Obama is trying to "bring democracy to Libya while shredding the Constitution of the United States."
"He cannot continue what he is doing in Libya without congressional authorization. When a president defiantly violates the law, that really undercuts our efforts to urge other countries to have the rule of law," Sherman said.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, concurs.
"You could say, ‘Well, we have a good president, he’ll do the right thing.’ Well, someday you may have a president who does the wrong thing, and that’s why you have rules, because you can never count on people being good people," Paul told CNN.
Indeed. The process and rules are only there for the little people I guess. The President appears to believe he is above the law.
Finally, where’s the Congressional leadership on this? Why isn’t Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid both banging the drum loudly and persistently while calling the president “incompetent” ? After all, only an incompetent would just now be trying to figure out what to do, no? And tomorrow will they declare the war “illegal” like it actually will be?
And where are McConnell and Boehner?
Time to elevate this and get a little bit of a firestorm going boys. If it were your side, you can trust that Pelosi and Reid wouldn’t be dawdling in their offices, they’d be attacking the lawlessness of the presidency.
Where are you, Congressional “leaders?”
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