That’s essentially the role we’ve assumed according to President Obama. We have a “duty” to respond to a potential humanitarian crisis like that which was developing in Libya. Just not in Iran or Syria or, well, North Korea where the population is starving because of its government.
Let’s be clear about its application. John Dickerson of Slate lays it out pretty well:
The statement that had sounded like a bold doctrine — that what guides a U.S. decision to intervene is not just threats to our safety, but threats to ‘our interests and values’ — came with an asterisk that led to some fine print at the bottom of the speech: Offer valid only if it’s a relatively easy military mission and we have a lot of allies and we only share a limited amount of the burden."
So the people of Iran, Syria and North Korea and other “potential humanitarian crisis” hot spots which may bring difficulties in other areas need not apply.
As for the claim that we’re stepping back and letting others run the show? Pure artifice:
In transferring command and control to NATO, the U.S. is turning the reins over to an organization dominated by the U.S., both militarily and politically. In essence, the U.S. runs the show that is taking over running the show.
Lets look at a few facts about the matter:
The United States supplies 22 percent of NATO’s budget, almost as much as the next largest contributors – Britain and France – combined. A Canadian three-star general was selected to be in charge of all NATO operations in Libya. His boss, the commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is an American admiral, and the admiral’s boss is the supreme allied commander Europe, a post always held by an American.
So, as usual from this administration, we get words that just don’t really mean what you think they mean when you get into the details of the claim. I know, you’re surprised. NATO is and has been run by the US since its inception and this operation will be no different regardless of who they put in a figurehead role.
Obama also claimed the mission was “narrowly focused on saving lives”. Pure nonsense to anyone who understand what has been deployed and what is being attacked:
Despite insistences that the operation is only to protect civilians, the airstrikes now are undeniably helping the rebels to advance. U.S. officials acknowledge that the effect of air attacks on Gadhafi’s forces – and on the supply and communications links that support them – is useful if not crucial to the rebels. "Clearly they’re achieving a benefit from the actions that we’re taking," Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs, said Monday.
The Pentagon has been turning to air power of a kind more useful than high-flying bombers in engaging Libyan ground forces. So far these have included low-flying Air Force AC-130 and A-10 attack aircraft, and the Pentagon is considering adding armed drones and helicopters.
AC-130s and A-10s are not aircraft used in the maintenance of no-fly zones. They’re killers. They hunt and kill vehicles and people. There’s some conjecture out there that their deployment requires boots on the ground to produce targets for them, but that’s not true. Both can operate independently without JTAC support on targets of opportunity.
The point, however is the introduction of those type aircraft have nothing to do with a no-fly zone and certainly nothing to do with a “narrowly focused mission” of protecting civilians. They’re there to kill the opposition – Gadhafi’s soldiers and overthrow the existing regime.
In essence, he’s saying “"If we tried to overthrow Gadhafi by force, our coalition would splinter," and then supporting action to do just that hoping the Arab League won’t notice what is actually afoot.
There was a lot of hypocritical nonsense in the speech as well. The biggest barf line for me was this:
"Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."
Except for Iraq of course, where even with the well-know atrocities including images of slaughter, mass graves, rape rooms and reports of the regime feeding its citizens through wood chippers, he definitely wanted to turn a blind eye. And he has turned a blind eye on the atrocities in Iran perpetrated by that regime and is presently turning a blind eye on those in Syria.
Perhaps the president ought to go back and read his own book:
In his pre-presidential book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama said the U.S. will lack international legitimacy if it intervenes militarily "without a well-articulated strategy that the public supports and the world understands."
He questioned: "Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?"
Why indeed, Mr. President – why Libya and not Syria? So we go back to John Dickerson’s addendum to the Obama Doctrine which in essences says “if its easy and I can score some political points, I might do it – otherwise you’re on your own”.
So, perhaps understanding the hypocrisy of his position and how it must appear to the American people he said:
"It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs," he said. "But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right."
Again see the Dickerson corollary and substitute “what’s easy” for “what’s right”.
Finally, completely missing from the speech is the end state and exit strategy. We have no idea. This could go on for literally years. To this date it is estimated to have cost the US $600 million. And, as noted, we may claim to be in the backseat now, but the facts of the matter – the command structure of NATO – point to a entirely different reality.
This adventure – this war – despite his claims otherwise, is not one started because of a threat to any vital interests of the US. It is again a war that the president claims required our “unique capabilities” to prosecute.
That. Is. Not. A. Legitimate. Reason. To. Go. To. War.
The more we let our allies depend on our “unique capabilities” the less they’ll develop their own. Why do it when they can “volunteer” the US into doing it?
Just 47 percent of Americans support the U.S. airstrikes, while 36 percent don’t and 17 percent don’t know, according to the Pew poll.
The Gallup Poll found similar results, the lowest level of initial support for a U.S. military action in at least three decades, and the first time in 10 interventions dating to the 1983 invasion of Grenada that a majority of Americans didn’t support the action at the onset.
American’s aren’t fooled by this sort of nonsense anymore. They understand what is or isn’t in their own vital interests and they further recognize this action doesn’t rise to that level. Some, who support it, are calling it “pragmatic”. Others claim it is an eminently “centrist” approach to such problems. But some are also saying that every word in last night’s speech could have come from George Bush.
Bottom line: this is not a role that the US needs to play and certainly can’t afford to play. The world is full of inequities, violence and death. And despite his high sounding rhetoric last night, President Obama had turned a blind eye to plenty of it. The only time US troops should be deployed and committed to war, such as is now happening in Libya, should be when the vital interests of the US are at stake – a point the candidate Obama made many times prior to assuming the presidency.
Libya doesn’t meet that standard and Obama’s speech last night didn’t make any convincing arguments that it did. He once said, “I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.” Interestingly his first war as Commander in Chief is a “dumb war.”
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