“Operation Odyssey Dawn” Begins

Seriously, whoever thinks up the tragically unhip names for these things needs to be sent into the theatre as the first line of offense. Obviously this is the biggest news of the day, so we might as well unpack it and see what 538 Refugees readers think about it.

French fighters head into Libya

This morning, French, British, Canadian, Italian, and US forces began the task of dismantling Libya’s air defense system after it became apparent that Gadhafi’s forces intended to take Benghazi despite the United Nation’s warning to cease fire. The US is playing more of a support role for other forces in the region.

So it’s happening, right or wrong. Head to the comments section and put in your 2¢.


About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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85 Responses to “Operation Odyssey Dawn” Begins

  1. filistro says:

    Ghadafi to address the nation within the hour. This is a fast-moving story.

    I saw Fawez Gerges On CNN this morning, sounding dire… he says that as per SOP, the Libyan govt has concealed its tanks and equipment in civilian neighborhoods, and as soon as a few innocents are killed the Libyan people will turn against the west and embrace the dictator again. Blood thicker than revolution, etc. Very depressing if true.

    Freepers completely tied in knots over this. They’re violently opposed because it’s Obama’s war… but then a couple of hours ago Farrakhan blasted Obama for this action, asking him furiously “Who in hell do you think you are?”

    Which led one poor Freeper to ask plaintively… “if Louis Farrakhan is opposed to this action and I am also opposed to it… does that mean I’m going out of my mind?”

    If I hadn’t been banned years ago, I would have dearly loved to give him an answer… 🙂

  2. dcpetterson says:

    I think this is one of those few issues in which one’s opinion about it has nothing to do with one’s general political outlook — that is, those opposed to or supportive of this effort can come from the ranks of progressives, conservatives, or nearly anything else. It’s a complex issue, and not easy to get a handle on. (The exceptions are people like the Freepers who are going to have a knee-jerk reaction having nothing to do with the merits of the issue itself.)

    I do think that IF the U.S. was going to intervene, we’ve done it the right way — through the U.N., with other countries bearing the primary burden. I’m also glad we didn’t rush in to this, just like we didn’t rush to intervene in Egypt. We’ve got the support of many of the Arab nations in the area, and of most of the rest of the world. That’s going to screw up any effort by Gadhafi or by al-Qaeda to paint it as an American war against Muslims.

    This is a tribute to President Obama’s careful and measured approach to working through issues. One of the reasons he was elected is that, unlike McCain, he didn’t show any tendency to leap before thinking. He is maintaining his calm and his steady consideration before making decisions, and it is refreshing to have that after the previous cowboy we had in the White House.

  3. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    @ dc,

    “One of the reasons he was elected is that, unlike McCain, he didn’t show any tendency to leap before thinking. He is maintaining his calm and his steady consideration before making decisions, . . .”

    That may be true, but doesn’t it show a distinct lack of leadership?

  4. filistro says:

    @Max.. That may be true, but doesn’t it show a distinct lack of leadership?

    I hope you were joking, Max.

    It’s as if America has been so traumatized by almost a decade of an administration running around dressed up like cowboys, yelling “Ready! Fire! Aim!” and calling it “leadership”… that they can’t even recognize REAL calm thoughtful leadership anymore.

    To say nothing of an administration so steeped in “America First, America Only” blather, they didn’t ever have the patience or the smarts to build a working coalition before taking action.

    This is the way it’s SUPPOSED to be done… and always was in the past, before American foreign policy was taken over by belligerent, trigger-happy 10-year-olds.

  5. GROG says:

    @DC: I’m also glad we didn’t rush in to this, just like we didn’t rush to intervene in Egypt.

    No one was threatening genocide in Egypt.

    I guess this is the kind of thing Obama was talking about when he said he was going to fundamentally change America. Let France take the lead in world affairs while our President is taking a “careful and measured approach to working through issues”.

    This isn’t community organizing or being editor of the Harvard Law Review. This is serious stuff and our President needs to take charge and be a leader.

  6. Mainer says:

    Not really Max. We got about all we could hope for out of Egypt and continue to nudge and prod where possible. With Lybia it was a more conflicted issue at least I think it is. We are dealing with a mad man and there are people that have already taken up arms against him. At some level we had to have him show his hand in his own country in dealing with his own people. With what appeared to be a clear patern of agression towards his own we were able in pretty short time to get Abrab countries to ask for help (a huge step if you ask me) that opened the door for the UN to pass the resolution it did (which is far broader than any thing I expected) and then to get our NATO allies and others to cross the line with us.

    All of this didn’t just happen because of tonights supermoon. While Sec Clinton has obviously been very busy one would have to expect that there have been a crap load of special phone calls and cables between the various heads of state involved. There are many ways to lead. It is not always about bombast (hell if that were the case Mouamar would be the king of the world) it is not always about playing to the crowd but the leaders that tend to win don’t tip their hand, the president said bad things wuld happen if Mouamar didn’t stop, he didn’t stop…..bad things happened. Some one should be surprised…..why?

    Gadaffy was gaining the upper hand because of several factors. He had what passes for the army, airforce and navy for the most part in his pocket and he had a slug of mercenary thugs from other parts of Africa and even some Eastern Europeans. These are not the most reliable troops. They may be ruthless but they lack in discipline and there experience would most likely have been from low intensity conflicts where their thugishiness was one of their major tools. They were making headway against untrained and ill equiped rebels and with that they would have had a comfort factor but today that changed.

    It is one thing to attack poorly armed people when you have the tanks, the planes and the artillary. It is quite another to meet cruise missiles and people in fighters that know how to use them. It is said that some of the best mercs he had were perhaps Serbs. If that is the case they know what they are up against now. The Sub Saharans haven’t seen some thing like this before. Daffys proclamation to turn the Mediteranian Red does at some level sound very similar to his Gulf of Sidra rants. He had his people make suicide attacks then too and pretty much needed a glass bottomed boat to review his fleet a short while later. Sure he will try some thing if hecan round up enough loyal followers but remember he is going to have a hard time turning this into a jihad and I’m not sure how loyal his backing is.

    There is I am sure much more going on that we don’t see. Bank accounts that are frozen, money not coming in, arms flowing to the rebels, and who really knows what else. No this is not the best of days but it may well turn out not to be the worst either. I don’t see this turning into a long drawn out stalemate. I don’t think the support he supposedly has is all that thick and those tribal issues could now come back to rally haunt him. The rebels are not blaming his tribe if any one has noticed.

    So Hugo may want to get cracking on those Maricaibo condos after all. In the mean time we can all keep our fingers crossed and try not to emulate the freepers.

  7. Whatevs says:

    I’m concerned about what happens next. Eastern Libya was actually a hotbed for some of the most American hating al quaeda members that fought against the US in Iraq. Hopefully the Libyans will take steps to form a Democratic government Otherwise there might just be opportunists who will seize the moment of disarray to fill the void left when this is over. Could this be another Somalia?

  8. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    So y’all are telling me that leadership is actually MORE than making loud noises, threats and firing off the toys? That leadership can also be doing the work behind the scenes and away from the cameras, building consensus among other heads of state on the who, what, when, where and how, and THEN showing one’s hand? That one doesn’t HAVE to be the 800 pound gorilla on the world stage?

    Are y’all SURE that is an effective way to lead? After all, ALL of the US’s assets aren’t already tied up in two wars, and EVERY predominately Muslim country isn’t pissed at us over that silly Iraq business.

    I just don’t know.

  9. filistro says:

    Ah Max… what a relief!

    I thought we’d lost you… 🙂

  10. filistro says:

    My favorite comment on the action thus far comes from a witty winger over at The Corner

    “‘Odyssey Dawn’? Sounds like the name of a stripper in a Chicago night club.”

  11. Bartbuster says:

    This is serious stuff and our President needs to take charge and be a leader.

    Why? I see no downside to the French getting the blame when this blows up.

  12. parksie555 says:

    OK Filly – So what’s the next move? Obama has already stated that we will not commit ground troops to this combat. Let’s say six weeks from now Quadaffi is not backing down, there is a stalemate between his army and the rebels. Do we send in ground troops then? And if we do how is that different from the conflict in Iraq?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Obama is doing the right thing here. But to pretend this is any different than how Iraq started is partisan politics at it’s best.

    And riddle me this – if we are willing to intervene in Libya now in support of revolutionaries against a tyrant why were not willing to do the same in Iran a year ago?

  13. Brian says:

    I honestly don’t know what we should be doing in terms of staying in or keeping out of this, but I think we should be working with the UN. Working with other countries is so much better than doing it all ourselves. I want the US to be a part of the international community, not apart from it.

  14. filistro says:

    Jeez, parksie… three easy fastballs, right in my wheelhouse. Good thing you’re still in spring training 😉

    1.) what’s the next move? Well, Obama strikes me as a guy who doesn’t ante up unless he has a pretty good hand. I suspect they already have somebody in place who’s going to take Qadaffi out and solve the whole problem. I wouldn’t bet on Daffy surviving long enough to hunt for Easter eggs.

    2.) to pretend this is any different than how Iraq started is partisan politics at it’s best Oh sure, because Iraq was EXACTLY THE SAME. I mean, there was that home-grown active revolution going on at the time, and Saddam was firing on his own people and threatening no mercy, blood in the streets … (oh, wait…)

    3.) why were not willing to do the same in Iran a year ago? Because Iran has the most powerful army in the Middle East (and maybe nukes)… while Libya has a few thousand thugs and a ragtag bunch of mercenaries form sub-Saharan Africa. Smart men pick their battles.

  15. Whatevs says:

    Parksie555 said

    “But to pretend this is any different than how Iraq started is partisan politics at it’s best.”

    The difference is the League of Arab Nations has given thier blessing and is planning to participate. The general perception of Iraq is that it was America and a few reluctant allies invading an Arab nation under false pretenses. Obama is going to be careful not to repeat that mistake.

  16. parksie555 says:

    Gee Filly, three strikes and yer out…

    1) If we “already have someone in place ready to to take him out and end the whole problem” as you so glibly suggest, than why waste 120 perfectly good Tomahawks bombing Libyan air defenses? Why not just take him out now?

    2). Maybe there was no active revolution because Saddam had been brutally suppressing any political opposition for several decades? Two brutal dictators, two sets of UN resolutions, two assembled coalitions. Hard to see a big difference to me. Like I said, I think Obama is doing the right thing here.

    3) So we have a president that only picks the easy fights. Yeah, that’s a strong leader. If not Iran, then what about Yemen or Bahrain?

  17. Number Seven says:

    1) The next move is whatever Obama’s corporatist overlords tell him.

    2) The corporatist overlords who told Bush the Younger to stay out have learned their lesson from the 1991 Iraq war.

    3) No wonder so many contries want nukes. They know that is the dividing line between ‘intervention’ and freedom.

    But like I said in another thread, we may get lucky again, like in Bosnia. Oh well, I guess we needed a place to test the next generation of cruise missles, etc.

    Such flexible ideals and morals we all seem to have.

  18. filistro says:

    @parksie..

    Why not just take him out now? Create a diversion, give the assassin some cover, get Daffy all scared and rattled so he’s more vulnerable…… it’s what we call STRATEGERY.

    Hard to see a big difference to me. Well, let me see how to explain this.

    There’s PROVOCATION…. and there’s NO PROVOCATION.

    One is not the same as the other. Therein lies the “difference.”

    If not Iran, then what about Yemen or Bahrain? The easiest course is to pick the one taht’s not only easy, but whose downfall is most likely to make the others topple of their own accord. And that would be Libya.

    This president is one shrewd dude.

  19. parksie555 says:

    Filly, when you take your next few practice cuts use the little doughnut-thingy in the on-deck circle. Might speed up your bat a little bit.

  20. filistro says:

    @parksie… Might speed up your bat a little bit.

    Yeah, like I’m taking advice from a guy who throws marshmallows and whiffleballs.

    (I was going to say “throws like a girl” but then I remembered Obama’s first pitch at the Nat’s opener last year, and I felt a little wave of nausea… 😉 )

  21. parksie555 says:

    It must be alternative reality day…

    I agree with both Obama’s decision and the New York Times’ first article on the strikes supports Parksie’s points against Filly…

    “Western leaders acknowledged, though, that there was no endgame beyond the immediate United Nations authorization to protect Libyan civilians, and it was uncertain that even military strikes would force Colonel Qaddafi from power.”

    “The assault may also present a double standard: While the West has taken punitive action against Libya, a relatively isolated Arab state, the governments in Bahrain and Yemen have faced few penalties after cracking down on their own protest movements.”

    They did put it a little more eloquently though…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/africa/20libya.html?hp

  22. parksie555 says:

    And BTW Filly, you wouldn’t stand a chance against my Wiffle ball knee-buckler. Better than Clayton Kershaw’s curveball 🙂

    So is young JP Arencibia going to catch for your Jays this year? He is a possible second rounder in our Strat-O-Matic draft tomorrow…

  23. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    parksie,

    The NYT quote comparing Libya and Bahrain/Yemen was the first sensible thing you said since you joined this thread.

    Your comparison of Libya and Iraq was so far off the mark, you looked like a chipmunk staring down the barrel of a 155 looking for a place to store your nuts. Completely wrong analysis.

  24. filistro says:

    @parksie… So is young JP Arencibia going to catch for your Jays this year?

    I should hope so, after they lost John Buck to make way for him.

    (I liked John Buck :-()

    Arenciba is a cute kid though… and a real comer. No doubt about it.

  25. parksie555 says:

    OK Max, why is it so different?

    Dictator? Check.
    International Outlaw? Check.
    UN Resolutions? Check
    Participation by other nations? Check.

    And Quadaffi had not invaded any other countries, unlike Saddam. Quadaffi was obeying the international community with regards to nuclear proliferation, unlike Saddam.

  26. JC2 says:

    This is a good article and there are many more pertinent questions that can be asked.

    Although I am not so much of a fan of the WSJ since Rupert Murdoch sent my So’s job to India I do find solace in this article published today:

    Some quotes:

    “From the start of White House deliberations about how to respond to the crisis in Libya, President Barack Obama set two clear parameters for his top advisers: he didn’t want to use military force if the U.S. had to be in the lead and he had no intention of sending American ground troops.”

    “With Saturday’s start of airstrikes against Libyan leader Col. Moammar Ghadafi, Mr. Obama appears to be putting into practice a foreign-policy doctrine he first sketched during the 2008 presidential campaign.

    Facing off against then-fellow Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a debate for the Democratic primary, Mr. Obama said he didn’t want to just end the war in Iraq. ‘I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place,’ he said.”

    “Top military officials described the cruise-missile strikes as “the leading edge” of a multiphase campaign against Col. Gadhafi. But the officials stressed that Mr. Obama’s goal was to create conditions that would allow the U.S. to step back and assume largely a backup role.”

    Happy sailing.

  27. parksie,

    Let’s say six weeks from now Quadaffi is not backing down, there is a stalemate between his army and the rebels. Do we send in ground troops then?

    I hope not.

    And if we do how is that different from the conflict in Iraq?

    Mostly in the timeline, I guess. The stalemate, such as it was, in Iraq lasted 12 years. But I doubt Gore would have invaded, so that stalemate could have gone on much longer.

    And riddle me this – if we are willing to intervene in Libya now in support of revolutionaries against a tyrant why were not willing to do the same in Iran a year ago?

    The short answer is “because we have a better chance of winning.” The longer and more complex answer is that we have the support of several other Arab nations (many of whom are too afraid of Iran to publicly support attacking their infrastructure), plus an already reasonably well-organized rebel group who (probably correctly) believes that they have nothing to lose by fighting to the death.

  28. filistro,

    there was that home-grown active revolution going on at the time, and Saddam was firing on his own people and threatening no mercy, blood in the streets

    Yes, there was, in 1991, along with a tacit promise from the US to support them. And then we abandoned them to be slaughtered.

  29. jc2 says:

    Oh, crap. screwed up the html again. Sorry about that. Early AZ?

  30. filistro says:

    @JC.. No problem, I fixed it (at least I THINK I did.. 🙂

    @Michael… And then we abandoned them to be slaughtered.

    Yes, that was Poppy Bush’s greatest sin. (And maybe it WAS , after all, the reason America went after Saddam 10 years later.. to expiate Poppy’s great sin. )

  31. parksie,

    If not Iran, then what about Yemen or Bahrain?

    The cynic in me observes that Yemen and Bahrain are not known for significant oil reserves. Nor the Ivory Coast, which you didn’t even mention.

  32. Todd Dugdale says:

    3.) why were not willing to do the same in Iran a year ago?

    – Iran has more than three times the population of Iraq, and as many men under arms as Iraq has in total population.

    – The “opposition” in Iran doesn’t want foreign support or “liberation”. Maybe they were turned off by the “liberation” of their neighbour and bitter enemy, Iraq. They are also nationalists, who would not be particularly sympathetic to Western interests if they acceded to power.

    – The people currently in power in Iran got there by overthrowing the dictator that we put there — to “liberate” them from an elected government that we didn’t like. So we have a “history” with the Iranian people. In Libya, we are more or less limited to a “history” with Khadafy himself.

    – The “opposition” in Iran is a minority (though considerable), and the opposite is true in Libya.

    – Shia in several countries would do bad things in response, and nobody is willing to stick up for Khadafy (except for his mercenaries).

    Time is not on Khadafy’s side here. His mercenaries signed on to wipe out un-armed or poorly-armed irregulars, and he can’t keep paying them if they are just going to sit around in a stalemate, even if they weren’t inclined to desert. He can’t afford to lose significant numbers of regular troops or hardware, because he has no means to replace either of those. He can’t move his forces around, since France seems to be enforcing a “no-drive” zone, and he’s already over-extended in his attempt to crush the rebellion quickly.

    The longer this goes on, the more troops and mercenaries will desert, the more tanks he will lose, and the more tenuous his supply lines will get. There is no longer a scenario for a quick victory on Khadafy’s part, and the long-term is unsustainable for him.

  33. JC2 says:

    @Filistro:

    @JC.. No problem, I fixed it (at least I THINK I did.. 🙂

    Thanks (again)

  34. Chris Rich says:

    http://www.juancole.com/ will be helpful in making sense of this. It is another stunning example of windbag media hand wringing without much in the way of data.

    Quadaffy ducks when his obsolete T 72 tanks and crappy old air force larded with third rate pilots comes up against anything much more effective than amateurs with old Anti Aircraft guns.

    His SA Missiles are bargain basement junk and his ‘elite’ units are small and pitiful. It is strange seeing the place names reborn as battlefields 70 years after the last time when Khadafi was born in a village that saw see saws of Afrika Corps and 8th Army with my grandpa flying in a hawker Typhoon through the mess.

    It even has the same rhythms, fast sprints across barren lands to fight in far flung out post towns and a few that have since become cities.

    I don’t see Gadaffi holding on much longer now and there will be yet another shuffling of alliances among what’s left of his command now that it’s looking like he won’t be top dog.

  35. dcpetterson says:

    Any comparison between Libya and Iraq must take into account the reasons we invaded Iraq. If you recall, there were two reasons: 1) Iraq was said to have weapons of mass destruction, and 2) Iraq was said to be funding and assisting al Qaeda. That these were both lies is irrelevant — these were the reasons America was given. Bush put together a coalition of nations that didn’t want to do it, in order to form a pretense of international agreement. In Libya, in contrast, nearly the entire world agrees that it’s a good idea to take action against Gadhafi, and we are not taking action on false dummied-up pretenses.

    So, in Iraq, we had basically a unilateral unprovoked invasion, the true reasons for which are still not known. In Libya, we have most of the world, including other Arab nations, cooperating to the point where they are even willing to take the lead, rather than being bribed and blackmailed.

    There really is no sane comparison.

  36. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Sorry, fell asleep early in the middle of a basketball game.

    parksie,
    truth vs lies
    international (including Muslims) consensus vs coalition of deceived and liars

    dc’s post said it as well as I could have. No need to repeat for ya.

  37. filistro says:

    Such interesting countervailing impulses at work here on both sides.

    * The lefty distaste for war is balanced by its sympathy for Libyan citizens and its desire to support the presiednt.

    * The righty support for the military is balanced by its hatred of Obama and the general distrust of all Muslims that the wingers have been ginning up for years.

    As a result…. nobody knows what to say or think. The whole country is frozen in place.

    It’s fascinating.

  38. parksie555 says:

    MWeiss/Todd Dugdale – Certainly Libya is a less formidable opponent than Iran. And maybe there is a chance that air power alone can win the day in Libya. But historically that has not been the case. Generally you need boots on the ground to overthrow a regime. Maybe the rebels can supply these but if Quadaffi’s forces are a disorganized rabble than what about the state of the rebels that are basically peeled-off elements of the sad-sack Libyan army? These are the guys that shot down their own plane yesterday.

    I think Obama’s statements about not committing ground troops was premature and foolish. Why let your opponent know you are going in half-heartedly? What is the advantage to take options off the table at this point? It smacks of the worst kind of Clinton-esque parsing and pandering.

    Iraq was undertaken because correctly or incorrectly Bush felt that Iraq offered a significant threat to national security. This is a constitutionally valid reason to commit the US military. The side benefit was it allowed us to try and rid the world of a known bad actor that had fought two agressive wars during his regime and had brutally supressed internal dissent for decades.

    Not sure I see the pressing national security interests in Libya. Quadaffi has toed the line with regards to nuclear proliferation and to my knowledge has not invaded anybody during his regime. But he is certainly a bad actor who should be given a push off the world stage. Obama has chosen this fight well but I still don’t see a whole lot of daylight between committing the US military to this operation and any other type of “regime change”.

    And MWeiss – agree Bahrain is not a petro player but we have significant strategic interest there as we have based the US Mediterranean fleet there for decades.

    Not sure what the long term plan is there, the Saudis have clouded the picture somewhat. I read in another article that the Saudis used tear gas to clear a group of protestors and when the protestors went to pick up the canisters and hurl them back they were quite clearly stamped “Made in USA”. It’s always the little details…

  39. dcpetterson says:

    @parksie
    Iraq was undertaken because correctly or incorrectly Bush felt that Iraq offered a significant threat to national security. This is a constitutionally valid reason to commit the US military.

    This was his stated reason, yes. And the Bush Administration manipulated the intelligence to support their desire to invade. Sort of like a cop bringing along a bag of cocaine just to make sure the drug bust sticks.

    In any case, it was a unique event in American history, in which we preemptively invaded another nation who had taken no action against us or our allies, simply because our president at the time was a scaredy-pants. I don’t tend to view ginned-up wars of aggression as “constitutionally valid.” More like a fourth-grade bully with F-15s.

  40. parksie555 says:

    dc – Don’t forget that there was a joint resolution of the US Congress supporting intervention in Iraq. And I believe Iraq was also in violation of the cease-fire that had ended the 1991 war.

    What action has Libya taken against us or our allies? Remind me?

    Seems Michael Moore agrees with me with regards to the similarities between the Libyan and Iraq campaigns. Don’t know how that makes me feel exactly…

  41. parksie555 says:

    Oh, and DC/Maxie – Looks like your “Muslim and Arab support” for the operation in Libya is becoming a bit tenuous…

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110320/ap_on_re_af/af_libya_arabs_1

    Whooops!

  42. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    parksie,

    It should make you proud to be an American.

    It should also confirm your initial insight that there is only so much that can be defined as Right versus Left, that there is no real black and white, but various shades of grey, that causes all of us to agree part of the time, disagree part of the time and that, because of that truism, the “other guy” IS NOT BAD. It just happens to be one of those time y’all are in disagreement!

  43. parksie555 says:

    No – Moore is an asshole. Just because we happen to agree on this point means nothing.

    I can’t stand the fat jerk. He is one of the jackoffs that is always running his mouth about how stupid everyone else is and is never willing to do the hard work of coming up with a solution to a problem.

    And, when you come up with a solution, he’s the asswipe that tells you what a stupid idea it is, until it works, then he tries to make a stupid joke that falls flat on it’s face.

    But tell us how you really feel about Michael Moore, parksie :).

  44. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    parksie,

    You may well be right about Moore being an asshole. But never forget the importance of an asshole for the whole body to function properly. If the asshole does not do its work for a few days, notice how badly the body suffers!

    Besides, THIS time YOU agree with the asshole!

  45. Todd Dugdale says:

    parksie555 wrote:
    I think Obama’s statements about not committing ground troops was premature and foolish. Why let your opponent know you are going in half-heartedly?

    Obama said no American ground troops would be deployed.

    I can see a plausible scenario of Arab League troops maintaining security while the rebel government (which exists already in a loosely-organised condition) takes over. But that would only be after Khadafy stepped down.

    Tripoli (Khadafy) no longer receives the oil revenues. Essentially, the loyalists/mercenaries are running on Khadafy’s personal chequebook. For the mercenaries, money is the obvious motivator. For the regular troops, a steady pay-check is a strong incentive not to desert. Those few in Tripoli who continue to support Khadafy do so out of primarily economic motives, not ideological loyalty.
    Without money, Khadafy’s limited support evaporates, and his military forces stop fighting.

    Not sure I see the pressing national security interests in Libya.

    I have yet to hear anyone in Europe or America say that this is about anyone’s national security. It’s about preventing a slaughter, not about regime change. But it seems clear that regime change is just a matter of time.

    Now, the Libyan Defence Ministry has threatened that all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean would be “fair game” if Libya were attacked, but those are empty threats. Still, if you need a “national security” justification, there you have it.

    Basically, France has recognised the Benghazi “government” as the ‘legitimate’ government of Libya, and they are defending them from the ‘illegitimate’, overthrown Khadafy loyalists. We are helping France to do that. I know that it’s weird when we aid our allies instead of demanding that they aid us, but that is the ostensible reasoning.

    I am not enthusiastic about this military action, but it’s been put together with far tighter justification than the Iraq action and has almost no risk of allied casualties, long-term quagmire, or even huge expense. It has the support of the Arab League and other countries (such as Spain and Denmark) that usually would be reluctant. Best of all, none of this support comes from bribery, browbeating, or coercion, which is what the situation was in the Iraqi invasion.

    rid the world of a known bad actor that had fought two agressive wars during his regime

    The U.S. supported the first “aggressive war”, because we wanted to see Iran get beat up. It’s kind of hard to justify making Saddam the bad guy for acting as our proxy in that regard.
    In the second war, Saddam thought that, as one of our new “client states”, the U.S. would turn a blind eye to the “liberation” of Kuwait. Indeed, the official U.S position was communicated to Saddam by April Glaspie: “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” One dictatorship invaded another dictatorship – how was “freedom” being defended there?
    And we sold Saddam the chemical weapons that he used on the Kurds. We intended for them to be used on Iranian troops, though, in contravention of international law. That’s not much of a moral defence, in my opinion.

    We used Saddam when it was convenient. We turned a blind eye to his actions when it was convenient. And we hung him out to dry when it was convenient. There’s nothing glorious or particularly commendable to it.

    Our strongest allies in the Arab world are monarchs, after all – not figurehead monarchs, but “real” and powerful monarchs. Note that Turks are not Arabs.

  46. dcpetterson says:

    parksie
    Don’t forget that there was a joint resolution of the US Congress supporting intervention in Iraq.

    I don’t think so. If I recall correctly, the resolution simply authorized Bush to take whatever actions he felt were “appropriate.” At the time, Bush was insisting that he hadn’t yet decided if he wanted to invade. (He was lying, because he’d made that decision before being elected President — but that was what he was saying at the time.) But it has been a while, and my memory may be faulty, so if you can pull up the wording of a resolution “supporting” an invasion, please do so.

    And I believe Iraq was also in violation of the cease-fire that had ended the 1991 war.

    In what way?

    Anyhow, none of this touches on my comment where I pointed out the vast differences between an unprovoked unilateral war of aggression, and lending support for a multi-nation effort to enforce a no fly zone to prevent a genocide. Those two instances are hardly similar.

  47. parksie,

    Bahrain is not a petro player but we have significant strategic interest there as we have based the US Mediterranean fleet there for decades.

    Yes, but there are two reasons that the US doesn’t get involved in this case. First, it’s easier and far less expensive (albeit not cheap) to move a fleet than to move a petroleum reserve. Second, it’s hardly clear that supporting the uprising in Bahrain would help the US maintain that base. If anything, from a military standpoint, maintaining the status quo is the way to go. But it should hardly be necessary for the US to help the Barhainian government with their crackdowns on their citizens. So there’s no real upside in intervening there.

    Lest you get confused here, the point of this particular subthread was to illustrate the distinctions among Iraq and Libya, Bahrain, etc. I’m hardly an enthusiastic supporter of what’s going on in Libya, so don’t expect me to be a cheerleader.

  48. Todd Dugdale says:

    What action has Libya taken against us or our allies? Remind me?

    Detaining and beating foreign journalists. And, in the case of several Al-Jazeera journalists, apparently “disappearing” them. Seizing an Italian tugboat and multi-national crew. Threatening to attack civilian ships and planes.

    To me, the bottom line is the nature of our “alliance” with our allies. Is it just a “one-way street“, where our allies’ militaries are nothing more than our reserves, to be called up and put into action under American command at the order of the U.S? Or do we heed our allies’ call for aid, subject to U.N. approval, judicious deliberation, and the failure of diplomacy?

    The evidence is undeniable. The French caught Khadafy’s forces “red-handed” violating the cease-fire. No journalist has seen any evidence of “Al-Qaeda” at work in the rebel-held areas, as Khadafy claims. The massacres in Tripoli are documented, though they are denied by Khadafy. There is no honest party to negotiate with.

    It’s all been lies, bluff, and bluster from Khadafy while the civilian deaths pile up.

    Certainly, the U.S. could ignore it, as we have ignored other atrocities in the past. And we could ignore the U.N, as we have in the past. And we could ignore our allies, as we have in the past. We could leave such military powerhouses as Spain, Denmark, the UAE, and Italy to fill the gap.
    Would the Right be okay with that? I sincerely doubt it.

  49. Whatevs says:

    “What action has Libya taken against us or our allies? Remind me?”

    Ummm, Lockerbie?

  50. Todd Dugdale says:

    MW wrote:
    Second, it’s hardly clear that supporting the uprising in Bahrain would help the US maintain that base.

    Spot on. Taking the side of Iranian-backed Shia in Bahrain would be a very bad idea, even if it didn’t involve attacking Saudi troops to do it.

    I would rather not have the U.S. aggressively defending every autocracy (dictatorships or monarchy) that is threatened, simply because that regime is “friendly” to us. And we have to realise that democracy would not automatically create pro-Western governments in these countries. In many cases, the public opinion is strongly opposed to us, and the dictatorship is the “friendly” party.

    Our support of (“subservience to”, really) Israel’s interests has relegated us to a largely suspect role in Arab affairs. We back (i.e. “take orders from”) Israel ostensibly because they are a democracy, while we also support dictatorships/monarchs because they do not threaten Israel. We hand over several million dollars every day to Israel, while wondering who they will drag us into war with. And this wonderful “ally” sits out every military conflict we are involved in, while tangibly (money, arms, training, diplomatic) supporting some of the most brutal dictators on the planet. In the name of “democracy”.

  51. filistro says:

    The Arab League has just issued a clarification and reaffirmed their support for the no-fly zone. Huge relief all round for the coalition. (No text as yet.)

    Qatar announces it is also joining the mission.

    Man, that Obama is GOOD, isn’t he? Holding his coalition together while he’s not even in the country 🙂

    Stephen Harper told Canadians this morning the bombardment of military assets will weaken Ghadafi and cause him to lose his grip on the country. He expects it “shouldn’t take long.”

  52. filistro says:

    Is anybody else getting really, really tired of wingnuts?

    NRO just put up this quote from Saif, Son of Moammar:

    Saif Qaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, spoke with ABC’s This Week earlier today. “Yesterday, we were surprised that the Americans and the British and the French attacked Libya,” he said. “[The coalition forces] attacked five cities, terrorized people.”

    Qaddafi noted that it was a “big surprise” that President Obama decided to move forward with military action. “We thought [Obama] was a good man and friend of the Arab world,” he said.

    “Step aside, why?” Qaddafi asked. “Again, there is a big misunderstanding. The whole country is united against the armed militia and the terrorists. Simply, the Americans and the other Western countries, you are supporting the terrorists and the armed militia. That’s it.”

    One of their faithful wingnut readers responds:

    COMMENTS 1

    [Approved commenter]
    03/20/11 14:45

    A sad state of affairs that one of the most despicable human beings on the planet has the moral high ground over the United States.

    Words fail me…

  53. Jean says:

    Fili,

    Gadaffi sounds like he was surprised his “brother” Barack would back up his words with action. As I posted in a thread here yesterday, Gadaffi is floating the “we’re only fighting Al Qaeda” defense of his actions, that same justification of brutal treatment of their own citizens which appears to have helped keep dictators in the middle-east in power for years.

    And the difference in Gadaffi’s tone in his letter to his “brother leader” Barack and his tone in the letter to Ban Ki Moon, Sarkozy and Cameron is quite striking.

    Al-Jazeera posted text of the speeches that Gaddafi’s spokesman read out:

    The first letter to brother leader to Barack Obama:

    “To our son, his excellency, Mr Barack Hussein Obama. I have said to you before, that even if Libya and the United States of America enter into a war, god forbid, you will always remain a son. Your picture will not be changed. I want you to remain in the same image. I have all the people of Libya with me, and I’m prepared to die and we have all the men, children and women with me. Nothing more. Al Qaeda is an armed organisation, passing through Algeria, Mauritania and Mali. What would you do if you found them controlling American cities with the power of weapons? What would you do, so I can follow your example.”

    Letter to Ban Ki Moon, Sarkozy and Cameron:

    “Libya is not yours, Libya is for the Libyans. The security council, their resolution is void because it is not according to the charter to interfere with the internal affairs of the country. … You have no right. ou will regret if you get involved in this, our country. We can never shoot a single bullet on our people, it is Al Qaeda organisation.”

  54. Armchair Warlord says:

    I’m getting a kick out of the left-vs-hard left argument here. You can really see where the liberal coalition breaks down over these kinds of issues.

    The important thing to remember here is that America is a country of enduring values, not a country of shallow and temporary interests. Living our values is in our interests. An oppressed people have revolted against a brutal dictator – it is in accordance with our values as Americans that we make sure they win.

  55. filistro says:

    Jean… what strikes me is the attitude of many on the right (I know you’re seeing it too, because you visit many of the same websites I do.). They are prepared to cede the “moral high ground” to the butchers in Libya as long as the Qadaffis are at odds with Obama.

    “The enemy of my enemy is my friend… and the enemy of my president is also my friend.” What stirring patriotism.

    Poepel used to be appalled, when learning about the fanatic Islamists, to realize “they hate America more than they love their own chidlren.”

    I think some wingnuts have reached the point of total perversion where they now hate the president more than they love their own country.

  56. filistro says:

    @AW… An oppressed people have revolted against a brutal dictator – it is in accordance with our values as Americans that we make sure they win.

    We have recently established that you are quite young (despite being formidably smart… ;-)).. so maybe you don’t realize that if this is indeed an “American value,” it is a fairly recent one.

  57. dcpetterson says:

    @filistro —

    Another American value that AW may be discounting is the value of dissent and lively discussion, a thorough examination of an issue from all possible angles. “The left” is not a monolithic block the way “the right” sometimes is. We value openmindedness, anda range of opinion. That we have an issue of “the left-vs-hard left” is hardly surprising. It happens all the time.

    Let us also point out that you have documented a very clear case of a right-vs-hard-right argument as well. The right has hardly ever seen a war it doesn’t love, and the only real criticism they have of the attack on Libya is that it took “so long” (i.e., America didn’t fly in with guns blazing a whole week ago). Yet the hard right detests this nearly worldwide coalition enforcing a no-fly zone, because Obama supports it.

    Fascinating times we live in.

  58. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    AW,

    As a serviceman you are sworn to defend the Constitution. Regretfully, too many people in the service forget that essential fact. Because, when you hold up your right hand and take the Oath, you forsake certain of your rights under the Constitution, are no longer held to the civil and criminal code that the rest of Americans are, and are bound by the UCMJ.

    Further, the entire culture of the military is separate from the rest of your fellow Americans. Strict obedience to a superior’s lawful orders, esprit de corps (in all branches), the bonding into a brotherhood that evoke heroic acts in the face of certain danger and death, etc., form a culture that is NOT democratic.

    It is understandable, and forgivable, when someone in the military, or recently separated, find a laxity and even contradiction, in the debate and open discussion, and outright disagreement once you put on mufti again. But do not forget, there is a difference and one cannot judge both the same way.

    So when you see and hear such, do not assume there is a “breakdown” in some coalition. There is no coalition. Each American is free to think and speak and judge for themselves.

    This ain’t the monolithic military culture, but the freewheeling, raucous and contentious American Culture the Constitution, that you swore to protect, provides.

  59. Armchair Warlord says:

    dc,

    I’m merely pointing out the conflict between the hard left, which is dogmatically opposed to any war, anywhere, for any reason and the moderate left, for whom this war is (for good reason) almost perfectly aligned with their beliefs on the use of military force.

    Now, I think the right-wingers are just pissed because Obama’s poised to collect on one of Reagan’s death warrants and Al Jazeera is cheering him on. The irony is so fierce it’s muddling their thinking. 😉

    fili,

    The greatest mistakes of American foreign policy have come from playing zero-sum games and pursuing shallow interests in conflict with our values. That we haven’t always lived up to American values abroad (or at home) does not mean that we should continue making the same mistakes because standing for our values can be inconvenient.

  60. Jean says:

    AW

    You said, “The greatest mistakes of American foreign policy have come from playing zero-sum games and pursuing shallow interests in conflict with our values. That we haven’t always lived up to American values abroad (or at home) does not mean that we should continue making the same mistakes because standing for our values can be inconvenient.”

    You may be young, but you are very wise.

  61. Armchair Warlord says:

    Max,

    The military is only rigid when it comes to official business. Off-duty, I know soldiers whose beliefs range from borderline birtherism to out-and-out fans of Michael Moore. We all get along because we’re part of the monolithic structure of the military and at the end of the day it’s our job to implement policy, not make it.

    That being said, I was merely commenting on the emergence of unexpected divisions in a bloc of people who otherwise generally agree with each other. The main arguments here are generally progressive versus conservative instead of hawk versus dove.

  62. filistro says:

    @AW… That we haven’t always lived up to American values abroad (or at home) does not mean that we should continue making the same mistakes because standing for our values can be inconvenient.

    I think you’re being too hard on America. One of the problems is assuming “American values” are the same on a macro scale as on a micro scale. I mean, it is definitely an “American value” to root for the underdog, and to protect the weak against bullies. If a woman or a child is in trouble, anywhere in the world, it willl usually be an American who is first to lend assistance (even at risk to himself.). Maybe that sounds like a broad stereotype, but I believe it’s true. In fact, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

    But this is not a national value. Traditionally the “American value” on a global scale has been to stand back, letting other countries fight their own battles and work out their own destinies. For good or ill, America only began to depart from that value-set in the past half-century.

  63. dcpetterson says:

    Excellent observation, filistro. “American values” are sometimes in conflict with each other. The desire to help the helpless vs. the principle of self-determination, for example; have we the right to determine for other nations what is and is not acceptable behavior? Should, say, China invade us because we have ignored many of the treaties we have made with Native Americans?

    Should America really invade every foreign nation who, in our eyes, mistreats a segment of its citizens? Can we afford to do that — in terms of life and blood, let alone the immense cost in treasure and in destroying our image on the world stage? And do not impugn the idea of “image” — this a a single small planet we live on, and our security and prosperity depends upon our relationship with other nations.

    The world is seldom simple enough, black-and-white enough, for a thinking person to boil international events down to simplistic answers without hypocrisy.

  64. dcpetterson says:

    AW: You should be aware that two of the foremost voices in opposition to foreign wars are Quakers and Libertarians — neither of whom can be called “hard left.” The world may be more complex than dreamed in your philosophy.

  65. Armchair,

    The important thing to remember here is that America is a country of enduring values, not a country of shallow and temporary interests. Living our values is in our interests. An oppressed people have revolted against a brutal dictator – it is in accordance with our values as Americans that we make sure they win.

    What about Ivory Coast? Yemen? Bahrain? Do you advocate us bringing in the fighters in those three countries as well?

  66. Jean says:

    Yes Fili, sadly, we have departed from our enduring values. The US has played geopolitics and propped up or ousted dictators for as long as I can remember (see Mubarek, Hosni and others). Actually articulating and upholding the enduring American values that we claim to hold so dear, instead of pursuing shallow and short term interests, could instead have gone a long way towards citizens of other nations themselves learning, by example, and appreciating those type of values and self-determination, even though doing so may not have been in the immediate self-interest of America. In the long run though, it would have been.

    That, indeed, is what Barack Obama appears to recognize and seems to be trying to get back to now – and what Armchair Warlord seems to understand. We, as a nation, have NOT walked our talk. Not for a very long time. And that is exactly what we need to do, regardless of the immediate consequences.

    And DC re “Should America really invade every foreign nation who, in our eyes, mistreats a segment of its citizens?” If America lives up to it’s own ideals, America would have far more credibility to assist others. And if we HAD lived our ideals, there would be far less parts of the world that would need our assistance today.

    As one Libyan noted, “This is likely the very first conflict, in the whole of human history, that is being waged for the rights of man, for human rights. Previous conflicts were of one or more groups against another, or nations fighting one another. This conflict is not for Libyan oil (which could have been purchased from Gaddafi), nor because Libya attacked or threatened another nation. — NO, this is a fight for humanity against inhumanity.”

  67. filistro says:

    Al Jazeera reports that several divisions of the Yemeni army have defected and are now supporting the protesters. President is expected to step down today.

    Is this really an Arab Spring?

  68. parksie555 says:

    Nice summary here of the perils and the advantages to Obama’s handling of the Libyan situation so far…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/opinion/21douthat.html?_r=1&hp

  69. parksie555 says:

    Here’s a rather depressing quote from the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the operation is less than two days old…

    “There have been lots of options which have been discussed, but I think it’s very uncertain how this ends,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged on CBS’s “Face the Nation.’’

    Mullen, who appeared on five television talk shows, was pressed repeatedly to define the mission and its objectives. “I think circumstances will drive where this goes in the future,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.’’

    Not sure you can get any more mealy-mouthed than that, seems unfortunate to me that he was forced to commit to combat operations with this level of uncertainty.

    Sounds to me like Obama’s essential goal is some good PR and toughness cred if it goes well; bail out quick if it starts to go bad… in other words straight out of Bill Clinton’s handbook of how to use the US military.

    Nice leadership qualities there…

    Seems like since Harry Truman Democratic presidents have been far too prone to a incrementalist approach of ever-shifting level of commitment and risk with regards to military operations. LBJ in Vietnam, Carter in Iran, Clinton in the Balkans, and now Obama in Libya.

    I think once you start letting circumstances define the objectives you are in deep trouble.

  70. mclever says:

    Thanks for the link, parksie.

    I agree that the opinion column is a decent summary that highlights both the strategic pros and cons of a coalition-based approach in Libya.

  71. Parksie,
    I suspect we’re hearing the words of a military guy who is miffed that the State Department is running this instead of DoD.

  72. parksie555 says:

    MWeiss –

    I would say he is rightfully miffed if the striped pants boys are in the business of running military operations.

    Seems to me he is straying a little far from the reservation with that kind of talk on major news shows a day or two after the operation began…

    If I were him I wouldn’t be talking to any Rolling Stone reporters anytime soon :).

  73. Brian says:

    What exactly was our end game with Iraq though? Getting rid of WMDs? Removing a dictator? Installing a democracy? Eliminating al-Qaeda?

    Doesn’t seem we’ve had a real handle on how to end a war since the goal was “Kill the Nazis!”

  74. Brian says:

    And is it just me or does it seem like these mini-topics seem to get more conversation than the bigger ones you guys work so hard to research and write?

  75. It’s not just you. I think one of the contributing factors is that if we researched the topic well, it’s been carpet bombed and there’s not much else to say. Just a guess.

  76. Mr. Universe says:

    @Brian

    Yeah, we know. Our working theory is that the bigger articles are so well done that nobody has objections to them. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

    Seriously, though. Our traffic is pretty consistent. But the response in the comments section is usually highest when the issue is contentious.

  77. filistro says:

    @Brian… And is it just me or does it seem like these mini-topics seem to get more conversation than the bigger ones you guys work so hard to research and write?

    No, it’s just that everybody loves Mr. U.

    (Obviously they’ve seen his photo ;-))

  78. dcpetterson says:

    @parksie
    I would say he is rightfully miffed if the striped pants boys are in the business of running military operations.

    Yeah. What a bummer the Constitution puts the military under the control of the President.

  79. GROG says:

    @Brian… And is it just me or does it seem like these mini-topics seem to get more conversation than the bigger ones you guys work so hard to research and write?

    I’ve a theory on that.

  80. filistro says:

    @GROG… I’ve a theory on that.

    And… ?

    (Cavemen are so laconic…)

  81. filistro says:

    As parksie pointed out, he and his friends on the right are now in bed with Michael Moore, who just tweeted:

    “May I propose a 50-mile evacuation zone around Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize?”

    In bed with Michael Moore, parksie!

    Now, there’s an image…

  82. GROG says:

    @fili,

    I’ll try to be laconic. The more opposing viewpoints, the longer the thread.

  83. filistro says:

    @GROG… so my “Matter of Style” article isn’t getting any action because everybody agrees the Pres is a weenie? 🙂

    Back to “Operation Odyssey Dawn”… the wags over at The Corner are making fun of the name, and proposing ones they think would have been better.

    The funniest so far… “Operation Ghadaffi DUCK!”

    LOL…

  84. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    For those moaning about the constitutionality of Obama’s Libyan action, I have three words: War Powers Act. Like it or not, it is there since 1973.

    Avoiding most of the details, the gist says this about the actions of the Executive exercising “war powers”:

    1) Pretty much can do any damn thing they wish, but must “notify Congress” of the details of his plans within 48 hours;
    2) There is a 60 day “cap” on the action, with an additional 30 days for “withdrawal”;
    3) Congress may “authorize” the action, which will eliminate the “cap”.
    4) Congress may, at any time, exercise its constitutional prerogative and cut funding or require a specific date for the ending of the action.

    Much simplified, but, like it or not, the legality.

  85. Monotreme says:

    American F-15 crashes in Libya, crew safe.

    http://on.cnn.com/iaVf9j

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