Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: March 2011


Flashback: “Just words”–welcome to our latest “war of choice”. Welcome to our latest “dumb war”.

Like much of what this particular president has said over the past 3 years, both as a candidate and President, we have another example of a promise or statement that turned out to be “just words”.  Actions have not matched the rhetoric so many times.   And the attack on Libya is no different.  From candidate Obama:

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power…. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors…and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

One assumes we’ll soon be hearing from Barack Obama as he explains to the nation what “imminent and direct threat to the United States or its neighbors” Libya posed.  And I further assume he’ll tell us why he believed Saddam could be “contained” regardless of what he did to his citizens, but Gadhafi couldn’t.

And one more point to make – given the Obama paradigm (based on the UN’s “new” principle of the “right to protect” (R2P)), he can no longer call Iraq a “dumb war” or a “rash war”, can he, since one of the reasons in the AUMF was to stop him from perpetrating violence on the citizens of Iraq.

Of course adherence to this new doctrine (It is no longer necessary to base military action on a imminent and direct threat to the US), means we should be gearing up for humanitarian interventions all over the globe … no?

No.

This is an excuse to be selectively applied for whatever benefit politically those in power can see it garners them.   Pressed to intervene on humanitarian grounds, our so-called leaders folded, backing away from his own standard for committing our armed forces to war and doing precisely what he had formerly denounced.

But then, that’s really nothing new with this guy.

I assume we can expect the anti-war left to denounce this as another “war of choice”, just as they denounced Iraq – right? 

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 20 Mar 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Japanese Libyan no-fly zone and the strange case of a man convicted of creating “Liberty Dollars”.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Reaction to the Libyan NFZ decision

Lots to talk about, both domestically and internationally in terms of reaction to the No Fly Zone imposition.

First and foremost is the effect thus far.  Seemingly not much if some reports are to be believed.  Apparently 112 tomahawk missiles were launched against around 20 targets.  If you’re wondering why so many against so few targets, the answer is the type of targets they were used against.  My understanding is they were fired against air defense missile batteries.  Those type targets are spread out with command and control in one place, acquisition radars in another and the actual launchers in even another area.  So “servicing” such a target with 5 t-hawks is not excessive.

But, that said, there are reports that Gadhafi’s forces are still advancing into Benghazi and other areas.

Secondly, and this was almost predictable, the Arab League has criticized the US and allies for the initial campaign.  Yes, the same Arab League that has been calling for the establishment of an NFZ for a couple of weeks.  Reason for the criticism?  The strikes are reported to have killed … civilians.  Of course the primary reason for the NFZ was to prevent further killing of civilians by troops loyal to Gadhafi.

Arab League head Amr Moussa told reporters Sunday that the Arab league thought the use of force was excessive following an overnight bombing campaign that Libya claims killed at least 48 people.

"What we want is civilians’ protection, not shelling more civilians," he said.

Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but tomahawks are an area type weapon that really aren’t at all discerning about the target. They’re told to go to a particular place and do their thing. Whatever is in that area is not going to like the result. The problem, of course, is if your intel isn’t good and it goes to a place full of civilians, well, the result will be dead civilians.

That apparently has happened in the case of some of the t-hawk missiles launched yesterday.

We all understand "collateral damage", but when the entire purpose of the mission is to prevent such "collateral damage", it doesn’t do well for that mission to then cause it. Should it continue, we’ll see a dwindling coalition, especially among the Arab faction. And you can count on Gadhafi to propagandize the results to the max. Think Saddam’s "Baby Milk Factory".

Here at home, well, it has been an interesting set of reactions. Most Congressional Democrats, to include Nancy Pelosi, have held their nose and backed the President’s decision. But not all of them. The anti-war Congressional liberal caucus has condemned the decision.

A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) “all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president’s actions” during that call, said two Democratic lawmakers who took part.

That’s quite a coterie of liberals.  Of course I’m pretty sure the war powers act covers the Constitutionality angle, however, Obama can certainly expect to hear from these people in the coming days and weeks.   Kucinich thinks that firing the missiles are an impeachable offense.

And liberals fumed that Congress hadn’t been formally consulted before the attack and expressed concern that it would lead to a third U.S. war in the Muslim world.

I especially enjoyed Charles Rangel’s point about all of this:

"Our presidents seem to believe that all we have to do is go to the U.N. and we go to war," Rangel said

Precisely so.

I expect those who didn’t agree the Congressional Authorization to Use Military Force for Iraq constituted a declaration of war to be much more upset by this.  Firing missiles into Libya at the behest of whatever global body “authorized” it is still an act of war.  In the case of both Iraq (in violation of the cease fire) and Afghanistan (harboring the NGO that attacked the US) there was a much firmer basis for going to war in each place than in Libya.  We’ll see how far those who prosecuted this line of argument against the Bush administration do the same with the Obama administration.

Full disclosure – I’m not anti-war, I’m anti-this war.  I see absolutely no compelling national interest that should involve us in Libya.  I say that so I’m not lumped in with the next two goofs.

Michael Moore and Louis Farrakhan.  Now there’s a pair to draw too.  Moore took to Twitter to vent his displeasure:

It’s only cause we’re defending the Libyan people from a tyrant! That’s why we bombed the Saudis last wk! Hahaha. Pentagon=comedy

And we always follow the French’s lead! Next thing you know, we’ll have free health care & free college! Yay war!

We’ve had a "no-fly zone" over Afghanistan for over 9 yrs. How’s that going? #WINNING !

Khadaffy must’ve planned 9/11! #excuses

Khadaffy must’ve had WMD! #excusesthatwork

Khadaffy must’ve threatened to kill somebody’s daddy! #daddywantedjeb

Moore comes from the terminally naïve “war is never the answer” club.  I certainly agree in this case – it’s not the answer for us.  That said, funny how, as usual, Bush became a source for Moore’s displeasure at the Obama decision.  Although this next Moore tweet did at least make me laugh:

May I suggest a 50-mile evacuation zone around Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize? #returnspolicy

By the way, the article about Moore’s pique mentions the irony of the fact that the strikes in Libya come on the 8th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war.

Meanwhile in Farrakhan land, a question was asked of Obama:

FARRAKHAN: "I warn my brother do you let these wicked demons move you in a direction that will absolutely ruin your future with your people in Africa and throughout the world…Why don’t you organize a group of respected Americans and ask for a meeting with Qaddafi, you can’t order him to step down and get out, who the hell do you think you are?

Well, George Bush, of course.   /s

Andrew Sullivan points out that this is an action that breaks yet another of Obama’s campaign promises:

My point is that Obama made a specific distinction on this in the campaign. And I quote again:

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

My only point on this is that the decision to commit military forces in North Africa – made on a dime in one Tuesday meeting – is a direct breaking of that campaign promise.

And, in this case, Sullivan is actually right – there is no “actual or imminent threat to the nation” from or concerning Libya.  None.

Times Square in NYC saw a sprinkling of anti-war protesters outside a military recruiting station:

An anti-war demonstration in Times Square that was meant to mark the eighth anniversary of the Iraq invasion quickly became a protest against the military strikes on Libya Saturday.

About 80 protesters gathered near the U.S. military recruiting center in Times Square, chanting "No to war!" and carrying banners that read, "I am not paying for war" and "Butter not guns." A quartet of women in flowered hats who called themselves the Raging Grannies sang: "No more war, we really mean it!"

Of course they should have been staging their protest outside of Hillary Clinton’s home since she apparently was the moving force in taking us to war while the SecDef Gates opposed it.

Finally, and this is just another example of poor leadership – you don’t commit your nation to war, and make no mistake that’s precisely what this is- and put young American men and women in harm’s way  and then gallivant off to Rio.

As they like to say nowadays, it’s the “optics” of the thing.  And in this case, the optics are poor.  He’s decided that the priority for our nation is to attack Libya, but his priority is, instead of postponing a trip that could be conducted another time, to continue on to Brazil even while his nation goes to war.

Yeah, about that, not good.  Not good at all.

~McQ


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~McQ


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

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

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

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

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

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

However:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:  From the Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

Apparently the rebels shot down their own plane.

Other reports:

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

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

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

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

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

Why does Gadhafi consider Obama his “son”?

~McQ


Obama’s budget would double public debt by 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~McQ


How the decision was made to press for a No Fly Zone

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?

Ah, glad you asked.

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.

~McQ


Ending NPR’s subsidy – a thousand mile trip begins with a first step

Joyce Slocum, writing in the Hill, is upset about the vote to defund NPR.

These days, I’m frequently asked, “Can public broadcasting survive without federal funding?” I understand the reason for the question — we all understand the terrible burden of our national debt — but the real question is, “What’s the cost to the nation of defunding public broadcasting?”

Eliminating federal funding would seriously damage public broadcasting and harm millions of Americans who rely on us. Period.

I’m calling BS.  By the way, Slocum is the interim CEO of NPR.

What it would mean is instead of banking on a hand out, NPR would actually have to get off it’s collective duff and find a way to raise more money.  And that’s the real problem, it doesn’t want to have to do that.  It prefers the handout.

And Slocum is also  implying that the programing NPR does isn’t sufficient enough to earn its own way. 

It will mean fewer stations, fewer programs, and less news produced — especially locally. If stations go dark, that hurts us at NPR, but it hurts local listeners more. At NPR, our mission is to reach and inform as many people as well as possible about what’s going on in the world and in their communities. A weakened, smaller public broadcasting economy will deeply damage our ability to deliver on that mission.

But if that mission is as essential as Slocum believes and it is a good as she implies, then NPR should have little difficulty raising the money to offset the subsidy it now gets from taxpayers, shouldn’t it?

First we need to get something straight – NPR receives no direct subsidy from the government.  It receives its subsidy through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  This is how NPR’s funding breaks down according to Wikipedia:

In 2009, NPR revenues totaled $164 million, with the bulk of revenues coming from programming fees, grants, contributions and sponsorships.[14] According to the 2009 financial statement, about 40% of NPR revenues come from the fees it charges member stations to receive programming. Typically, NPR member stations raise funds through on-air pledge drives, corporate underwriting, and grants from state governments, universities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In 2009, member stations derived 6% of their revenue from direct government funding, 10% of their revenue from federal funding in the form of CPB grants, and 14% of their revenue from universities.[14][15] NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government.[16] About 1.5% of NPR’s revenues come from Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants.

So what Slocum is talking about is the funding that is paid directly to member stations who receive 6% of their funding from government.  Secondly, NPR receives about 1.5% from CPB grants (about $246,000).

The entire point, of course, is defunding NPR’s client stations (where it NPR corporate gets its hands on government subsidy money) and the CPB isn’t going to kill NPR. Or shouldn’t.  It is going to mean more work for NPR.  Perhaps a few more beg-a-thons, corporate outreach and even, horror of horrors, considering taking on commercial advertising.

There are solutions for heave sake – but this constant whining “we can’t make it” or “programming will suffer” or “jobs will be lost” seems completely contrary to reality.  They can make it, programming doesn’t have to suffer, and, if they’d put together a decent marketing plan and hit the streets, there’s no reason jobs must be lost.  And that goes for local NPR stations as well.

Time to earn your keep.  The taxpayers are simply tired of subsidizing you (and many, many, many other entities out there).  And while CPB and NPR aren’t “big fish” programs, you have to remember, it’s a cumulative thing.  A billion here, 400 million there and pretty soon you’re talking big money.

~McQ


UN Security Council votes to impose No Fly Zone over Libya – too little, too late? (update)

The UN Security Council finally got its act together long enough to pass a resolution blessing the establishment of a No Fly Zone over Libya. Of course on the ground in that country, Gadhafi’s military forces are moving toward the last rebel stronghold in the city of Benghazi.

Benghazi erupted in celebration at news of the resolution’s passage. “We are embracing each other,” said Imam Bugaighis, spokeswoman for the rebel council in Benghazi. “The people are euphoric. Although a bit late, the international society did not let us down.”

Well, we’ll see about that, however, one has to wonder if the UN’s call for an NFZ leads to more civilian deaths rather than less.

What am I talking about?

Gadhafi has offered civilians who don’t want to be caught in the final push to take Benghazi the promise of safe passage if they’ll simply leave the city.

Yes, I know, we’re talking about a ruthless madman here – how can anyone believe him?  The fact is even Gadhafi realizes he needs at least token popular support to retain power.  It isn’t in his best interest to massacre or otherwise mess with any civilians seeking a way to avoid the fighting that will take place in and around Benghazi.  Plus, given the outcry from the rest of the world, this is a means of placating world opinion somewhat.  It also gives Gadhafi room to claim that anyone left in the city who was killed was either a rebel or a rebel supporter.  Gadhafi has promised:

“We will come house by house, room by room. It’s over. The issue has been decided,” he said, offering amnesty to those who laid down their arms. To those who continued to resist, he vowed: “We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy and no pity.”

You have to wonder now if many civilians who might have fled the city will now believe that they and their city can be saved by the imposition of a No Fly Zone and refuse to leave. That would be a huge mistake.

Another thing to consider is that when and if Gadhafi’s forces enter Benghazi, the effectiveness of an NFZ will be marginal at best.  Unless you have Special Operations Forces from the participating countries working with the rebels in that city and calling in precision strikes, the mixing of the population with fighters from both sides will all but nullify the ability of air power to effect the battle.

The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday to authorize military action, including airstrikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery and a no-fly zone, a risky foreign intervention aimed at averting a bloody rout of rebels by forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The inclusion of tanks and artillery as targets makes it more of a No Drive Zone than a No Fly Zone.  Face it, Gadhafi’s air assets have been marginal at best in the fight against the rebels.    So what the UN’s resolution does is expand the mandate to hitting armored vehicles and artillery as well.

Also included in this, before any such strikes can occur are taking down Libyan air defenses.  That means first and foremost, SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions will have to be run.  That can be done in a fairly local area, i.e. the immediate operational area around Benghazi, a broader area, perhaps Tripoli which is Ghadifi’s headquarters and the coastal road that runs to Benghazi, or country-wide.

Obviously local or regional would more quickly allow attack missions on Gadhafi’s forces approaching Benghazi, and including Tripoli would give the dictator something more to think about than attacking the last rebel city.   Recall that the last time a bombing raid hit Tripoli it scared the stuffing out of Gadhafi. 

But, then there’s the threat Gadhafi promises to carry out if there is foreign intervention.  Sure it’s a coward’s threat (think Pan Am 103) but still a threat that can be carried out none the less.  As far as Gadhafi is concerned, he has nothing to lose.

On the brighter side, France and the UK are taking the lead in this and there are Arab countries also interested in participating:

The resolution stresses the necessity of notifying the Arab League of military action and specifically notes an “important role” for Arab nations in enforcing the no-fly zone. Diplomats said Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were considering taking a leading role, with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt also considering participating.

The participation of Arab countries in enforcing a no-fly zone has been seen as a prerequisite for the United States, keen not to spur a regional backlash.

All good.  But two things to remember – Saddam Hussein managed to crush a rebellion aimed at toppling him after he was defeated in Desert Storm and an NFZ was imposed there.   And:

Yet some critics also noted that a no-fly zone authorized in the early 1990s in Bosnia had failed to prevent some of the worst massacres there, including the Srebrenica massacre.

So – the establishment of an NFZ is not a panacea guaranteed to stop the slaughter of civilians or the defeat of the rebels.  In fact, about all it guarantees, unless Gadhafi is willing to stop his advance and negotiate a settlement with the rebels, is that the government side will change tactics as it pushes toward Benghazi.   As James Lindsey says:

“It’s going to be tougher to stop Qaddafi today than it was a week ago. The issue is not going to be settled in the skies above Benghazi, but by taking out tanks, artillery positions and multiple-launch rocket systems on the ground.”

Mr. Lindsay said that would require helicopter gunships and other close-in support aircraft rather than advanced fighter planes. Other analysts said repelling Colonel Qaddafi’s forces might require ground troops, an option that has been ruled out by senior American officials.

But don’t expect Gadhafi to throw his hands up and say “I quit” just because the UN has authorized action against his regime.  He’s first going to see if the rest of the world actually means to carry it out and, if they do, how effective it is at stopping him from doing what he wants to do.  My guess is that he’ll find he still has the means to finish what he as started, even though it may be a little more painful and prolonged.  Then, once he’s crushed the rebellion, we might see him attempt to negotiate an end to foreign intervention.  But if he’s still in charge when the rebellion is crushed, there’s little the world can do about it other than overt military intervention to topple him. 

Sanctions, as they always do, will only end up hurting the poorest among the Libyans.  And, remember, Libya has oil – so it has a means of persuasion that Saddam used to his benefit to hold on to power in Iraq.

We’ll see how this all works out, but suffice it to say, there’s a definite down side to an NFZ and we may see that down side in Libya.

UPDATE: Libya’s Foreign Minister has unilaterally declared a “cease fire”:

Libya, after having seen the resolution, would like to explain the following.

As the country will try to deal with this resolution. Libya now has knowledge of this resolution, and according to article 25 of the UN charter, and taking into consideration that Libya is a full member of the UN, we accept that it is obliged to accept the security council resolution.

Therefore, Libya has decided an immediate ceasefire, and the stoppage of all military operations.

Libya takes great interest in protecting all civilians, and offering them all necessary humanitarian aid, and respecting all human rights, and obliging to the international and humanitarian laws and it is also obliged to protect all of the foreigners in Libya and protecting their assets.

In doing so, Libya is in accordance with the resolutions of the security council and the articles of the charter of the United Nations.

However, Al Jazeera is reporting that government forces continue to shell the rebel city of Misurata, a doctor there reporting that 25 people have been killed. 

So how much of this is designed to cause confusion among the possible participants in a NFZ and to build support for non-intervention?  Probably most of it. 

~McQ


Is anyone really serious about the debt?

I keep finding indications that the answer is no.

Why?

Well here’s a good example.  Presently Republican in the House are fighting Democrats about trimming $6 billion dollars from a continuing resolution which would fund government for 3 more weeks (the CR is necessary because Democrats failed to do their most basic job in Congress when they were in the majority – pass a budget).

$6 billion dollars (which Rand Paul says is about 1.2 days of government spending). 

Anyone know what happened Tuesday of this week?

Tuesday we added an additional $72 billion to the debt.  You do the math.  If the GOP is successful in removing $6 billion every three weeks for the remaining 36 weeks of the budget cycle, how much will they have cut?

In essence, zero.  They will have only matched the amount added to the debt on Tuesday.  And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are a bunch more “Tuesdays” coming in the remaining fiscal year.  So even with the cuts the GOP is attempting, they’re not even at the “treading water” level and are being fought every step of the way.

Right now our debt totals $14.2379 trillion ($14,237,952,276,898.69) an increase of $676.3 billion since October of last year.

As CNS reports:

Congress would need to cut spending by $6 billion every three weeks for approximately the next six and a half years (338 weeks) just to equal the $676.3 billion the debt has increased thus far this fiscal year.

Just makes you shake you’re head in profound dismay, doesn’t it?  What in the freakin’ hell do we have to do to get it across to these people that they have to stop this stuff?

~McQ