A reader writes:
While casting Obama as "The Imperial President", you state, "None of this makes any sense, except as an emotional response to an emergency." That's an apt description of your post. Calm down.
But my reader makes no other arguments. Yes, I am emotional about another war started by a president elected to break that pattern. Another writes:
Did we hear the same speech? What I heard is a President joining the international community in this effort not unilaterally going to war as Bush did. They were the ones beating the drum for this, not the administration, as Bush did in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I also heard that we would take a subservient role to Britain, France and the Arab League. I am not seeing the imperial presidency that you are seeing.
I look forward to the US military following the vast might of, er, Qatar, in stopping the slaughter in Libya. My point about the imperial presidency is a domestic one. The Congress has a vital role in debating and authorizing what could become an intractable, open-ended military commitment. Bush asked for Congress's permission in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama launched this new war with no vote or debate at all. Another:
Please stop the false equivalencies. Bush did not “argue” Saddam was a threat. Bush lied, repeatedly, and had his entire administration, and a pliable press corps, push nuclear Armageddon hyperbole (“mushroom cloud as a smoking gun”) until the American Congress and public, already scared because of 9-11-01, and reacting emotionally to 9-11-01, conceded to a war that was promised to be quick, cheap, and easy.
Just because you were among those in the intelligentsia who were duped into believing the BS does not make the BS anymore of an “argument” than my dog crapping on my carpet and telling me it's fertilizer.
It depends on what you feed the dog. But that an argument was made is indisputable, however foolish that argument turned out to be. Another:
One thing I've not seen mentioned regarding the "why" of US participation in the no-fly zone, or whatever other entanglements occur, is our relationship with our allies. How could we, after dragging everyone into Iraq and Afghanistan, not offer at least token support to France and the UK?
We had ample support for Afghanistan, a war that at least was viewed by all of our allies as a just one after 9/11. But then we strong-armed them into becoming a coalition of the willing for Iraq, so at least we could all pretend it wasn't a unilateral decision by the US. So now, after all of that bullying of our allies for the past 10 years, we're just going to tell them to pound sand when they want our support?
I'll be the first one to stand up and say I don't like the idea of military action in Libya. But I also don't like the idea of spitting in the face of the people who backed us on our own boondoggles for the past 10 years. If France and the UK want to do this, it's only fair for us to support them, especially considering that on any score of justifying military action, Libya comes out way ahead of Iraq any day.
Well, if all the US does is support them - by backing or abstaining from a UN Security Council Resolution - fine. But that is not what we've done. Another:
Could you comment on how what Obama has done is different from Cameron and Sarkozy's actions? Has a vote taken place in the House of Commons and the French Parliament that "authorized" the signing on to the UN declaration and enforcement of the no-fly zones? Do you feel Cameron's actions have been un-democratic?
My understanding is that the French presidency is constitutionally more powerful in foreign affairs generally than the US system. Cameron's decision to go to war without a vote in the Commons is a democratic outrage, it seems to me. But I'm sure a debate and vote will be forthcoming. Another:
As someone who generally sympathizes, if not always agrees with your perspective regarding world events, I must admit that when it comes to Libya I am extremely disappointed with what I am reading on your website.
What worries me the most about your logic is that it seems to preclude any intervention anywhere, at any time. Why intervene here if we didn't intervene in Cote d'Ivoire? Why stop the next genocide when we didn't stop the last one? Is this honestly what you believe? That we do not any responsibility, indeed that it is never appropriate, for us to violate the borders of another nation-state to protect civilians?
Actually, I do not believe in such a humanitarian mission for military action. I believe vital national interests, as well as humanitarian concerns, have to be at risk for military action to be justified. Otherwise we'd never stop intervening.
It's amazing to me that you have half a dozen or so posts on the UN resolution on Libya, and the word "Rwanda" doesn't get a single mention. And, in the ultimate irony, you accuse supporters of intervention in Libya of mass amnesia on Iraq and Afghanistan.
It looks to me like Obama sweated over whether the question of whether to intervene in Libya for weeks, and resisted in the face of pressure from allies and advisors. In the end, what pushed Obama over the edge to intervention (and, quite possibly, convinced China, Germany and Russia to abstain from voting on the UN intervention resolution) was Qaddafi's bald and public statements to the effect that he would, in fact, engage in slaughter as soon as his troops broke through the rebel lines to Benghazi. To the extent that Obama has acted "secretly" or "impulsively," it's been out of necessity. Comparison to the massive fraud that led up to the war in Iraq is rankly facetious.
Here we have a case where a dictator has openly stated his intention to engage in mass slaughter, and the international community has the will and wherewithal to take effective action to stop it. Contrast your cited example of the Congo, where there is no international will to intervene, and little that could be done even if there was.
I'm glad you're asking the questions you are asking, but you need to answer some questions of your own. Do we wait until Qaddafi's forces are engaged in the mass killing of civilians until we intervene? Where effective intervention is realistic but risky, does the world's most powerful nation bear any responsibility for standing idle while thousands of innocents are mercilessly killed?
We do not bear responsibility for the actions of others we do not control. We bear some responsibility for the acts of allies with whom we have some influence. But that would demand our intervention in Bahrain and Yemen, not Libya. As for Rwanda, I am as horrified by what occurred as anyone, but I saw no sane way to intervene militarily at the time and still don't now - especially without solid public support. I think the closest analogy is actually Somalia. I remember vividly arguing against that humanitarian intervention at TNR and losing the debate. Maybe it will take a few downed pilots in the wasteland of Libya to jolt us into a deeper grasp of the risks here. I just hope it won't come to that. And believe the American people, through their Congressional representatives, deserve a say first.
(Photo: Libyan anti-government protesters chant slogans and wave the French flag along with the Libyan revolution flag in the city of Tobruk on March 18, 2011 as thousands gathered for prayers and celebrations after a UN vote approved a no-fly zone. By Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)
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