This Is Not A War


P M Carpenter makes the case:

Here, though, to somewhat repeat myself, is the overarching point: I don't know how to change the real world, and neither does Obama. There are domestic politics in play, like it or not. There are diplomatic politics in play, like it or not. There are regional transformations to be pondered and weighed together and separately, like them or not. There are some bad friends to be protected and many good allies to be assuaged, like it or not. And there is the stupidity of ideology and uniform answers and the nimble flexibility of pragmatism and nuance, the first of which Obama rejects, the second of which he embraces.

Does that guarantee a splendid outcome? Of course not. But that's the real if regrettable world in which Obama operates, and most blogospheric commentators do not.

Let me say two things in response. My terrible judgment on Iraq can legitimately be used to ignore whatever I might have to say on Libya. Fine. And there is no doubt that it is easier to be a blogger than a statesman, reacting to complex events and sudden crises in real time. And I do not question the integrity of the process that led to this fateful decision, or the good intentions of those, from Samantha Power to Susan Rice, who pushed for it. I know there is no clear linear path through this riveting and unnerving period in Arab history.

My fear is the following: that, when push comes to shove, there will be no real Arab cover for this action, by which I mean Arab arms openly engaged against Libya under an Arab flag. I also suspect that Britain and France don't have the depth of military resources to do this over the long haul, and their publics, like the American one, may balk if or when the war becomes more complex or Qaddafi outlasts it. The US is the final guarantor here. And it is a heavy obligation with unknowable consequences. That's why this is so unnerving:

The president had a caveat, though. The American involvement in military action in Libya should be limited no ground troops and finite. “Days, not weeks,” a senior White House official recalled him saying.

So lets take him at his word, shall we? The US commitment will be "days, not weeks." How long before we hear the phrase "weeks, not months"? And how, in this bankrupt country, will this be paid for? What will be cut to budget for this? Or is this new war - begun without even the pretense of consulting the Congress or the country - going to be "off-budget" like the last two?

(Photo: Smoke billows after a Libyan jet bomber crashed after being shot down in Benghazi on March 19, 2011 as Libya's rebel stronghold came under attack, with at least two air strikes and sustained shelling of the city's south sending thick smoke into the sky. By Patrick Baz/Getty.)