Thursday, March 24, 2011

In Defense of Cowboy Diplomacy

As the international community, led by France (?!?!?!?!?!) takes action to deal with the attacks on protesting civilian and rebels in the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi's Libya, I've found myself lamenting the fact that we're not at the forefront of leadership in this military action.

Now before I get to the meat of the post, this is not necessarily about whether we should be doing this, because I can (in my own confusing way) see both sides of the issue.  Because this is, in a larger sense, about the power of the United states and the Commander-in-Chief.  And yes, I'll be taking a cheap shot at the Ron Paulistas as a side issue, since this is the larger issue which should disqualify Rep Paul from even seriously running for President.

Now to be fair (since I'm going to tear Obama a new one), I relented and listened to an entire 9 minutes of Obama talking about our involvement in actions in Libya (9 minutes of my life I wish I had back, especially the requisite use of the words "hope" and "change" in the first minute or two).  And there are two aspects I'm going to talk about that are both important:  Words and Actions.


There are three things that I expect from a President whenever he commits our armed forces to any conflict: Leadership, Strength, and a Statement of National interest.  So far, I've heard none of these from Obama.  He goes out of his way to make sure that the world knows it's a UN action, and that we're not in charge (which explains why the EU nations are fighting over the leadership role), he foolishly says we're not going to do certain things like sending in any troops (when that uncertainty could scare the shit out of Gaddafi privately). 

And remember, this is not about what we do (so far).  It's about what the President says, and the perception around the world as to whether the United States will commit to kill the shit out of an enemy.  In this, I'm going to draw a contrast between Presidents (W) Bush and Reagan.  And I'll call on the anti-war crowd here: would it be fair to say that the perception of these presidents would be that if they went to war, they'd blow a whole lot of shit up and kill people?  Because that's strength is the sight of tyrants.  Obama is tapioca.

However, the worst thing of Obama's statements (as this goes to the Constitutional power of the Commander-inChief) is that he has failed to state a national interest in our actions in Libya.  I can't agree or disagree, because he's ceded it to the UN as something that's it their (and the World's) best interest.  Uh, that's not a justification for committing troops.  Supporting the development of democratically elected governments as a catalyst for peace, and therefore less threats of terrorism could be (this was part of the Bush doctrine).  But it's a failure to give us a reason we should commit our armed forces that makes this action harder to support.


I actually have fewer problems with the actions the President has taken than his words on the issue.  This is because I can imagine us taking similar action under a Republican POTUS in support of the people of Libya, for the interest I suggested above.  And limiting it (so far, and according to statements, permanently) to air superiority and support is generally a safer option, since this gives a window for rebel forces to hopefully get in and use Gaddafi's body for target practice (and maybe more if there's some gay necrophiliacs among the rebels). 

I'd even be ok if we were (very quietly) dropping some surplus weapons and ammo in to the rebels, and maybe a few advisers who would promptly hump on out of there as soon as the rebels got the upper hand.  The point is that the President and military officers need to define a mission, carry it out, and then get out.  This was one of the weaknesses in our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the mission evolved and were not always clearly defined.  Thankfully, we've achieved the goals that eventually coalesced, and we're on the way out.

I'm also supportive of the idea that the President can, without running to Congress to listen to endless debate, to commit our forces when he sees a clear national interest that requires military intervention. If we required idiotic debate by a bunch of political hacks that may not have the full picture, and motivation to oppose a President of the other party automatically, we may miss opportunities that require decisiveness (a trait that Obama mostly lacks when it doesn't concern NCAA brackets).

Summation and Ron Paul Shot

There is a reason the Constitution invests the President with the military power of Commander-in-Chief.  The military does not function on consensus.  And the Founding Fathers knew that the extension of America's power (when it finally had it) had to be invested in a leader, not a Congress.  Ultimately, the Congress has the ability to check the President in an ongoing conflict (though the power of the purse), but that, again gives time for the CIC to do what's necessary and explain what he has done. 

 And for those idiots that are screaming about this being unconstitutional and warmongering (like the Paulistas, who follow an isolationist who couldn't recognize a threat to this country if it bit him in the ass and would then respond by asking or a declaration of war, then starting to move only if he got the Congressional hand job), you're, as I said above, idiots.  We have been doing things like this for a couple centuries now.  And those actions, conflicts, and occasional wars have almost all had a base in protecting our national interests (agree or disagree on the specifics).  And that is a Constitutional duty, backed by precedent, the President does have (as CIC).

In the end, I hope Obama's actions have been reasoned, and despite the mealy-mouthed bullshit he's been spewing in trying to both justify his actions and cover his ass, it's also my hope that what has been set in motion ends in success (and a dead Gaddafi or two).


Z-man said...

A very good blog but no mention of the Amazonian Guard. If they blow Khadafy can they still remain virgins?

Jerry Critter said...

I find it interesting that you say,

"I actually have fewer problems with the actions the President has taken than his words on the issue."

One of the problems that I see (and I am not accusing you of it) is that many people make decisions on who they support based on words, not actions. Politicians have a tendency to say one thing but do another. We need to look at actions and base our decision on their actions, not their words.

Now, maybe that's the point you are making when you talk about "mealy-mouthed bullshit", but ultimately it is about whether our actions in Libya are good or bad.

dmarks said...

Khadaffy is such a relic of another age. He palled around with Billy Carter. Geez.

I'm surprised some in the conservative media haven't run with the fact that Khadaffy is one of those socialist leaders. A rather typical socialist, as it is, with his self-glory, megalomania and strict fascist rule.

Like Saddam Hussein and the Assad dynasty.

Z-man said...

My thing is for conservatives why was it ok for Bush to go into Iraq but Obama should stay out of Libya? I'm not even saying whether both wars are right or wrong or in-between but the issue for me is the usual fault lines that develop in politics. Bush gets to start a war and that's good, Obama does something and that's bad.

Patrick M said...

Jerry: When I wrote this post, I wasn't sure on my position on the air strikes. I'm hesitant, in any case, to call for an immediate end when I'm not on the scene and have little of the available information. And even if I have objections, I still would like to see the mission accomplished successfully, however it is defined.

The primary point was defending the president's power to use the power of the CIC when he sees a national interest.

Z-man: The contrasting of Bush and Obama is the reason I wrote this post. As I said, I'm not sure whether this was the right move. In Iraq, it took me years to come to the conclusion it might have not been the best thing. So I'm hesitant to immediately jump on the POTUS until things become clearer. The next post covers that more clearly.