Proposition: If bombing Libya was to “protect U.S. national security interests,” something the president has the inherent authority to do, there is no regime in the world – friend or foe – that is protected from our president, whoever he might be.
Second Proposition: While Yoo says that “One can argue over the costs, or about the benefits of any individual intervention,” one will always be called names by John Yoo if one argues over the costs and benefits of any individual intervention. Because if he will call you an “isolationist” for not wanting to intervene in a civil war against a cooperative tyrant, there is no foreign conflict in which one can oppose intervention without being an “isolationist.”
Third Proposition: If I can fit into Yoo’s definition of an “isolationist,” at least three-quarters of the American people are “isolationists.” I’m such an “isolationist,” I was supporting the Iraq war before it started and through its darkest months, and supported the Iraq and Afghanistan surges (and believed the fatal flaw in the latter was the president’s call for a timed withdrawal). I hung a 6′ x 6′ sign on my 8th floor dorm window in Februrary 2003 that read simply “WAR NOW.” Indeed, I’m not sure one could be more interventionist than me while still being able to draw lines between places where we should and shouldn’t intervene. Yet Yoo thinks I’m an “isolationist.”
Fourth Proposition: After reviewing the prior three propositions, it’s time to reduce our military budget. The easiest way to prevent future presidents from going egomaniacal in their foreign interventions, and also to reduce our deficit at the same time, is to give future presidents fewer military resources.
Apollo posted this at 8:42 PM CDT on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 as Politics, To the Shores of Tripoli
3 Comments »
This seems to have the makings of a genuine cluster. We will make far worse allies to the rebels than they anticipate, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see us abruptly turn on them if they start with the slaughter and the mayhem.
There will be [at least] three categories of losers at the end of this – whenever the end comes. 1. The losing side (Gadaffi or the rebels); 2. the Libyan people; 3. Western taxpayers, whose wealth has been used to rain missiles on the Libyan people. Had we not gotten involved, loser 3 wouldn’t even be involved, and loser 2 would have been spared a half year (at least) of civil war.
Apollo posted this at 11:08 PM CDT on Thursday, August 18th, 2011 as To the Shores of Tripoli
2 Comments »
It’s not just a numbnut lawyer in the administration who thinks that bombing a sovereign state doesn’t count as “hostilities”; the president himself, a legal super genius we were assured, buys this “argument.” Perhaps if I’d been smart enough to go to Harvard I could be convinced of such nonsense, but I’m just a dumb Texas lawyer who is naive enough to believe that bombing a country is a hostile act.
This statement from a spokesman is much more revealing than it was intended to be:
It should come as no surprise that there would be some disagreements, even within an administration, regarding the application of a statute that is nearly 40 years old to a unique and evolving conflict.
Everything’s “unique” to this administration. The recession of 2008-09 was “unique” so it justified porkulus and our lengthy spending binge. Healhtcare is a “unique” market, so according to the administration’s arguments in court it can be the subject of unique government controls. And now a war in which we’re bombing another country is “unique” because . . . well . . . I guess it’s unique because it’s only the third time we’ve attacked Libya? Can anyone think of an actual way in which this war is “unique”?
The rule of law is premised on the fact that almost nothing is truly unique. There are rules, and they apply whether you like them or not. You may think you’re special, but the law, frankly, doesn’t give a damn. Simply saying that a situation is “unique” and therefore not subject to the normal rules is an argument for nothing less than despotism – in a world in which the guy with all the power gets to determine when the rules that limit his power don’t apply, it’s not obvious to me that the law still exists.
P.S. Think about this sentence: “A sticking point for some skeptics was whether any mission that included firing missiles from drone aircraft could be portrayed as not amounting to hostilities.”
Work through it word by word and think about it.
Apollo posted this at 10:38 PM CDT on Friday, June 17th, 2011 as CHANGE!, The Law Is An Ass--An Idiot, To the Shores of Tripoli
1 Comment »
This story contains a baffling statement from the Obama administration regarding Libya: “There’s been no exchange of fire with hostile forces.”
What? What what? Are they saying that our planes are shooting at Libyans but Libyans aren’t shooting at us (no “exchange”)? Or are they saying that we’re not shooting?
If it’s the first case, that may border on monstrous: are we really killing people who do not want a fight with us and aren’t firing back? That seems like exactly the sort of warmongering that Congress ought to put a stop to. Perhaps its in our interest to bomb people who don’t want to fight us, but it probably isn’t. The constitutionality of the War Powers Act aside – Congress has a role here and it needs to play that role.
If it’s the second case . . . well, that would be weird. But let’s say that our soldiers aren’t involved but we’re just helping the Europeans bomb Libya. Again, that’s just warmongering. We invaded Afghanistan on the premise that because Afghanistan provided a safe haven for Al Qaeda, it was responsible for Al Qaeda’s actions. Well here we are helping European countries bomb a sovereign state – so long as we’re materially aiding a combatant, we’re involved. Again, Congress needs to exercise its oversight and investigatory role and figure out what the hell’s going on, and stop the president from starting unnecessary wars.
The article helpfully explains:
Still, the administration acknowledged that unmanned U.S. military aircraft are operating in Libya, which can mean striking targets inside that country, and said American warplanes can respond if fired upon. Those would seem to test the limits of what is considered hostile action.
Under what possible definition of “hostile action” is this not “hostile action”? We fly armed planes over their territory to “strike targets inside that country.” And it merely “tests the limits of what is considered hostile action”? Whatever numbnut lawyer the administration has coming up with this crap needs to be fired, because he’s just spouting nonsense. Just because you assert that a particular fact pattern doesn’t meet a particular definition doesn’t mean you’ve made an actual legal argument.
And, oh yeah, for every peacenik who voted for Obama: SUCKA!
Apollo posted this at 4:40 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 as CHANGE!, To the Shores of Tripoli
1 Comment »
In two paragraphs, this Reuters story is able to distill the stupidity and, ultimately, immorality of our Libyan excursion:
NATO-led forces are bombing Libya under a U.N. resolution authorizing them to protect civilians. The United States, Britain and France say they will not stop their air campaign until Gaddafi leaves power.
They have hit targets within Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound several times during the conflict, but deny they are targeting the leader himself.
Translation: We will continue to kill other people until you give up power.
Apollo posted this at 1:16 PM CDT on Thursday, May 12th, 2011 as Sic Semper Tyrannus, To the Shores of Tripoli
No Comments »
So what’s worse: the administration refusing to seek Congressional approval for it’s Libya adventure (which, at least at the beginning of this fiasco, almost certainly would have been granted), or waiving around a March 1 Senate resolution that absolutely no one at the time thought authorized American military involvement as proof that Congress has approved this war? Is war now so mundane that Congress can be tricked into declaring it, like getting a road project for a Congressman’s district or rearranging a pet agency? And, um, anyone else notice that only one house of Congress voted on that resolution? Unlike Barry, I’ve never taught a constitutional law course, but I seem to recall there being two houses of Congress.
Apollo posted this at 10:04 PM CDT on Friday, April 1st, 2011 as CHANGE!, To the Shores of Tripoli, We don't need no stinkin' Constitution
No Comments »
Kaus, on the implications of treating war as a routine occurrence. I’m of the same mind as him regarding whether what’s happening is good or bad:
I’m not sure whether humanitarian imperialism is a good or bad thing. The world might be a distinctly better place overall if the U.N. could overthrow every dictatorship the Security Council could muster a majority to overthrow. But the accompanying routinization of war is at least troubling, no?
Apollo posted this at 8:50 PM CDT on Sunday, March 27th, 2011 as CHANGE!, To the Shores of Tripoli
No Comments »
Fresh on the heels of news that the Libyan rebels are engaged in racial cleansing of some sort, we now learn that we’re on al Qeda’s side. This point is too important to miss: that report notes that the leader of the Libyan rebels fought against us in Afghanistan, was captured in Pakistan, and was later released.
I’ll adapt slightly from Mark Steyn’s closing snark here: Our first black president is using the American military to make Libya safe for anti-black racists and the same Islamist fighters who, elsewhere, kill American soldiers. It’s hard to think of ways in which this could get worse without entering the realm of the ludicrous – perhaps a company of Nazis, marooned in Libya since the surrender of the Afrika Korps, join up; vampire assassins helping the rebels during nighttime operations; specicidal aliens assisting the rebels to use captured Gadaffi fighters as test subject to develop a virus to wipeout mankind. Even then, the awful would only increase at the margins. How much worse is aiding a bunch of racist jihadist Nazi vampires than merely aiding a bunch of racist jihadists?
Apollo posted this at 9:45 AM CDT on Saturday, March 26th, 2011 as CHANGE!, To the Shores of Tripoli
No Comments »
I don’t really buy into international “laws” of war, morally speaking, so when I think of what we ought to do I don’t think about them. Still, to the degree it makes it more likely that we’ll end this conflict quickly and painlessly by simply killing Gadaffi, I’m glad doing so would be “legal.” I don’t actually think our administration has the stones or the sense to step up and do the right thing; I just approve of everything that makes that scenario look more attractive.
Apollo posted this at 9:36 PM CDT on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 as Philosophy, The Law Is An Ass--An Idiot, To the Shores of Tripoli
No Comments »
Provoked by my earlier reference to The Prince, I got out my copy (Mansfield translation, natch) to see what further insight I could draw out regarding the Libyan conflict. It occurred to me that of the two sides in the Libyan civil war, one (Gadaffi) is relying on mercenaries, and the other is relying on non-mercenary foreign soldiers, what Machiavelli would call “auxiliaries.”
As always, NM is timeless and cutting. On mercenaries (from chapter 12):
Mercenary and auxiliary arms are useless and dangerous; and if one keeps his state founded on mercenary arms, one will never be firm or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, unfaithful; bold among friends, among enemies cowardly; no fear of God, no faith with men; ruin is postponed only as long as attack is postponed; and in peace you are despoiled by them, in war by the enemy. The cause of this is that they have no love nor cause to keep them in the field other than a small stipend, which is not sufficient to make them want to die for you. They do indeed want to be your soldiers while you are not making war, but when war comes, they either flee or leave. It should be little trouble for me to persuade anyone of this point, because the present ruin of Italy is caused by nothing other than its having relied for a period of many years on mercenary arms. These arms once made some progress for some, and may have appeared bold among themselves; but when the foreigner came [i.e. the French invaded in 1494], they showed what they were.
He’s even more biting about using the soldiers of a foreign sovereign (from chapter 13):
These arms can be useful and good in themselves, but for whoever calls them in, they are almost always harmful, because when they lose you are undone; and when they win, you are left their prisoner. . . . Let him, then, who wants to be unable to win make use of these arms [HAH!], since they are much more dangerous than mercenary arms. For with these, ruin is accomplished; they are all united, all resolved to obey someone else. But mercenary arms, when they have won, need more time and greater opportunity to hurt you, since they are not one whole body and have been found and paid for by you. In them the third party whom you may put at their head cannot quickly seize so much authority as to offend you. In sum, in mercenary arms laziness is more dangerous; in auxiliary arms, virtue is.
Just to clarify, in Libya we are the auxiliaries. NM says, then, that we are more dangerous to the rebels than Gadaffi’s mercenaries are to him. I think that’s right – we don’t know what the rebels’ post-war plans are, but does anyone think we won’t subject them to our democracy project? Gadaffi might actually prevail in this war, and if he does he’ll once again have the run of the place. But the rebels will either lose or be under our thumb. They’ve asked for American help, and they’re going to get it good and hard.
Or are they?
I shall never hesitate to cite Cesare Borgia and his actions. This duke came into Romagna with auxiliary arms, leading there entirely French troops, with whom he took Imola and Forli. But when such arms no longer appeared safe to him, he turned to mercenaries, judging there to be less danger in them; and he hired the Orsini and Vitelli. Then in managing them, he found them doubtful, unfaithful, and dangerous; he eliminated them, and turned to his own arms [i.e. native soldiers]. And one can easily see the difference between these arms if one considers what a difference there was in the reputation of the duke when he had only the French, and when he had the Orsini and Vitelli, and when he was left with his own soldiers and himself over them; his reputation will be found always to have increased, but he was never so much esteemed as when everyone saw that he was the total owner of his arms.
That’s also from chapter 13. We don’t know whether the Libyan rebels have a Cesare Borgia in their midst, but certainly if they were able to win with our help and then unite the country (i.e. raise their own arms) independent of us, they would be able to resist our influence and rule as they saw fit. I find that unlikely; Cesare was what a statistician might call an “outlier.” It’s much more probable that the rebels will either lose, or be undone by pressure from the western allies. Which of these is better for the Libyan people is, I’m sure, covered in a different book.
Apollo posted this at 11:44 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 as Belles Lettres, Philosophy, Politics, To the Shores of Tripoli
5 Comments »
Karol Markowicz makes some observations and asks some questions:
One thing we supposedly knew, though, was that Barack Obama wasn’t going to be a cowboy president. He was measured, intelligent and peaceful. He would never get us mired in a war.
Yet here we are, at the start of a third war. . . .
The Iraq war, he once told us, was a “war of choice.” As an American I would love for my president to inform me how he makes that war choice, how he made this particular choice. I have no idea why we’re bombing Libya, and unlike my friends on the left I’m trying not to jump to the same conclusions they did about our last president regarding our intentions toward their oil.
That we know zero about our purpose in Libya, the president’s rationale toward this war, what we may consider a win, all of it actually fits in with that empty suit who campaigned to be our president and who, in a time of confusion we actually chose. Are we removing Gadhafi? And replacing him with who, exactly? Will we build up the areas we bomb afterward? Is a Libyan democracy the end-goal? Do we have goals? Why is our president still in Brazil when we’re at war?
All good questions Obama will answer with a “let me be clear” followed by no clarity at all.
David Frum wonders:
Why did Obama Bypass Congress on Libya?
It’s very strange and odd that President Obama did not seek congressional authorization before launching strikes on Libya.
In his mind, he may have been signaling: this is a humanitarian police action (like Somalia or Bosnia), not a real war (like the Gulf war, the invasion of Afghanistan or the invasion of Iraq).
But he opened the door to his critics alleging: Obama is a liberal one-worlder who thinks that a Security Council vote can substitute for American democratic processes.
Did he possibly fear that Congress would say No?
Is he hoping that he’ll wrap this thing up faster than the debate would have required?
Is he signaling inner discomfort with his own decision, a preference for talking about almost anything else?
Or is he just recklessly forgetting the old rule: if you don’t invite them to join you at the takeoff, they won’t be there for the landing?
America seems to be backing into a war. The single person most responsible for America’s actions remains the president, in this case, Barack Obama. So understanding Obama is necessary for understanding why America is behaving thus.
First, recall Heinlein’s razor:
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.
The inhabitants of the fever swamps of the right are hellbent on a malicious explanation, and they’re as wrong as their left wing counterparts were about Bush’s war for oil. Perhaps the most sympathetic assessment of Obama came from Thomas Barnett:
By waiting on virtually every imaginable stake-holding nation to sign off — in advance — before unleashing America’s military capabilities, the Obama administration recasts the global dialogue on America’s interventions. All of a sudden it’s not the “supply-push” US intervention into Iraq, where it’s all “this is what America is selling and if you don’t like it, get out of the way!” Now, we’re back to the type of “demand-pull” crisis responses by the US in the 1990s, where the world (aka, “international community”) asks and America answers.
Moreover, by limiting US military participation up-front, the White House forces further “demand-pull” negotiations by our more incentivized allies (Vive la France!) and nervous neighbors as the intervention unfolds. That way, every step Obama takes can be justified in terms of the facts on the ground and how they make the rest of the world feel, while our cool Vulcan simply mutters in reply, “Fascinating.”
But again, the key revelation: This negotiating tactic does an excellent job of uncovering the actual global demand out there for America’s intervention & stabilization services. A lot of anti-interventionists (and sheer Bush haters) want to pretend that’s a myth and that there is no such demand for the American Leviathan, but the truth is, there’s plenty of demand out there. The question is US bandwidth, which Bush-Cheney narrowed considerably.
Obama’s approach — so long as it works, of course — is true genius. At a time when the US seeks to rehabilitate its national security image abroad, Obama’s Brer Rabbit shtick effectively de-ideologize US participation — essentially “laundering” our motives through others. Plus, it has the virtue of sheer transparency — as in, what you see is what you asked for.
The penultimate quoted paragraph is somewhat confusing: how did Bush-Cheney narrow the bandwidth? Does Barnett mean that America’s other military commitments make for less troops that are able to flow? Or does Barnett mean that literally and we can’t process an overflow of data?
Still, perhaps the most glaring weakness of letting other countries determine when America uses forces is that America gets cut off at the knees if these countries change their minds. Which they frequently do. It might be that 70% of Americans support a no fly zone, but that number will almost certainly drop if more American planes crash. The bulk of the blood and treasure is going to come from the United States, and Obama has outsourced the responsibility to others.
He is almost certainly hoping that they’ll behave responsibly. We hope they do. But the Europeans and the bureaucrats of the UN now have (American) power without any clear responsibility to the American people. This is a formula for mission creep and fuzzy thinking, which gets good people needlessly killed.
Hubbard posted this at 2:23 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 as Ex Pede Herculem, To the Shores of Tripoli
1 Comment »
This post from TigerHawk, which includes a lengthy discussion from George Friedman of Stratfor, is the best analysis of our surrent situation I’ve seen. Frieman comes to the same conclusion I’ve been coming to, which is that our military action seems to be geared toward saving the rebels from destruction without us actually being on the rebels’ side. He also concludes, like me, that this doesn’t make sense. His discussion, obviously, is better and more informed than mine and should be considered required reading.
One of the things Friedman gets at that is worth pointing out is that Gadaffi has a lot of supporters in Libya. Too often in the West we think of all tyrants as having no popular support and ruling by force alone. Certainly they rule through force, but they always come to power with a base of support (otherwise, how would they come to power), and the smart ones, like Gadaffi, use their power to make more friends and punish enemies. In most countries with successful tyrants, the tyrant would probably win a fair election. This is no secret to us Machiavellians, but we are few and must constantly reteach the lessons of The Prince. Unfortunately for all involved, I don’t think Gadaffi needs any refreshers.
Apollo posted this at 11:43 AM CDT on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 as Politics, To the Shores of Tripoli
No Comments »
In this Telegraph story about the first American plane to crash in our new Libyan operations (both pilots survived, and one has been recovered so far), we get a feeling for how ill-thought-through this war is:
But after Defence Secretary Liam Fox suggested over the weekend that Col Gaddafi could be a “legitimate target”, No 10 sources insisted it was legal to target anyone killing Libyan civilians.
The controversy blew up as Col Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli was hit in a second night of coalition air strikes aimed at suppressing the regime’s air defences and command and control structure.
Following a meeting of the newly formed Libya subcommittee of the National Security Council, chaired by David Cameron, Gen Richards was adamant that it was not permitted to target Col Gaddafi.
“Absolutely not. It is not allowed under the UN resolution and it is not something I want to discuss any further,” he said.
At a Ministry of Defence briefing, Gen Richards’ spokesman, Major Gen John Lorimer, stressed that the international military intervention was in support of the UN no-fly zone.
“It is very clear that, in support of the United Nations Security Council, we are there to implement and enforce the no-fly zone,” he said.
“The targets we are attacking are command and control facilities and the integrated air defence system. They are legitimate military targets.”
In what way is Colonel Gadaffi not a legitimate military target? He was a soldier who seized power in a coup, who has governed his country through a military dictatorship, and is now using military might to threaten the civilian population. Which is where we come in. He’s a military commander whose actions as a military commander have caused us to intervene. It’s difficult to think of a more legitimate military target than our enemy’s commander.
“I’m not going to speculate on the targets,” [Foreign Secretary William Hague] told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. “That depends on the circumstances at the time.”
Dr Fox also discussed the possibility at the weekend, although he stressed the need to avoid civilian casualties in any attack.
“Well, that would potentially be a possibility but you mention immediately one of the problems we would have, which is that you would have to take into account any civilian casualties that might result from that,” he said.
Decades of Western pussilanimity in the face of the human shield tactic have gotten us to this point, where every tin pot tyrant who faces Western military might can simply surround himself with civilians and we act like a vampire confronted with a cross. We have taught Gadaffi that this is how to ward us off, and he is doing as we’ve tought him. This tactic will be used in every future conflict we have until stop letting it work.
I don’t like the idea of killing civilians, but let us never imagine that these people are innocent. A fundamental tenent of Western political thought is that the people are responsible for their government. We’ve moved beyond the age of divine right, where the people and the government could be morally severed. To step back to the philosophical past, to say that somehow a people who have let a terrorist and a tyrant govern them for decades, whose sons have served in his army, are so innocent that we cannot legitimately kill them when they are protecting his life is a rebuke to every liberal advance going back to John Locke.
The talk of targeting Col Gaddafi also appeared to alarm the Americans, with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warning that it could undermine the cohesion of the international coalition supporting the no-fly zone.
“If we start adding additional objectives then I think we create a problem in that respect,” he said.
“I also think it is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.”
What? Robert Gates is a smart man, and on its face that last sentence is nonsense. He cannot possibly mean what that sentence literally means, as that would preclude ever setting any goal.
But, frankly, why does the cohesion of the international coalition supporting the no-fly zone matter here? If we kill Gadaffi, there’s no more need for a no-fly zone, and the coalition can simply dissolve. Yesterday I linked to a comment from John Bolton, that removing Gadaffi “apparently remains our political objective, but not our military objective.” The most appropriate way to see these comments from Gates is as a jawdropping response to Bolton: if we achieve our political ends, then our military coalition will fall apart.
Well, yeah. That’s what it looks like when you win a war. Could it be that victory is such an alien notion to us that we have forgotten this?
At this point, this war looks exactly like what the Left 8 or 9 years ago said Iraq looked like: we’re launching an illegitimate attack on an oil rich country that posed no threat to us, at a time when our resources are needed elsewhere, and we have no exit strategy. In Iraq, though, our leadership never waivered in what we were aiming for: a WMD-free, Saddam-free Iraq that was governed by some sort of representative government. We never turned away from that goal, and though it’s taken us longer to get there than we wanted, we’re basically there.
What is our goal in Libya, and how are our military actions aimed at achieving that? Judging by the comments from our government and our allies, I don’t think I’m the only one who can’t answer those questions.
Apollo posted this at 8:25 AM CDT on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 as To the Shores of Tripoli
2 Comments »
I’m not the biggest John Bolton fan, but he seems to view the situation the same as I do: “Bolton warned that Obama is leading the U.S. into a potential ‘quagmire’ by not making ousting Qaddafi a top military priority. It has become clear, he said, that President Obama’s use of military force is ‘not intended to overthrow Qaddafi — that apparently remains our political objective, but not our military objective.’
Whatever it is that we are doing other than killing Momar Ghadaffi, it’s immoral, it increases human suffering, and it does not advance our cause.
Apollo posted this at 9:15 PM CDT on Monday, March 21st, 2011 as To the Shores of Tripoli
No Comments »
Prof. A. gets the better of this:
It’s not about your feelings or Congress’s avoidance of formal gestures. Either there is a serious constitutional safeguard here or there is not. If there is, it doesn’t disappear because you are comfortable without it or because Congress holds back. If there is a constitutional safeguard, it is a permanent guarantee that goes to us, the people.
I’m quite disappointed in the fact that the House has not taken up our president’s new war as priority #1. The Senate, of course, is full of boobs and blowhards, like Graham, who think that the Constitution is all about their power. I expected nothing less from them. And, obviously, I had no expectations whatsoever that President Obama would obey the restrictions on executive power on which Candidate Obama waxed. But the Tea Partiers in the House need to step up here. Our president just started a damned war, and the Congress seems not to care one whit.
Apollo posted this at 9:08 PM CDT on Monday, March 21st, 2011 as To the Shores of Tripoli, We don't need no stinkin' Constitution
No Comments »