A warmonger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya

Summary:  It’s astonishing to see the craziness that Americans consider geopolitical analysis.  There are sophomores in other nations that would consider these to simplistic to take seriously.  That such work forms the mainstream of US foreign policy illustrates the decline of America.  Clarity and depth of thought decline first, eroding away our power and stability.

Rather than attempt to summarize their articles, this post provides brief reviews of various hawks’ cries for war.  Read the articles for yourself and decide.  Should America act as the unpaid policeman to the world. 

About the title:  for details see What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers?, 10 March 2011.

(1)  Attorneys mocking the Constitution, crying “Hail Caesar”

Ecstatic crowds in Libya celebrating imminent use of U.S. military force against Gaddafi“, David Kopel (attorney, research director for the Independence Institute), The Volokh Conspiracy, 17 March 2011

A few points about this.

  • In a largely tribal society cheering crowds tell us nothing about the balance of opinion in full nation.  They just indicate which side we’re supporting.
  • He makes the childlike assumption that since Qaddafi is bad, the rebels must be good.  A little reading of history shows otherwise.  More specifically about Libya, see “Saving the Libyan Islamists“, Pajamamedia, 20 March 2011 (follow the links to the sources).
  • Most important, note the contempt for the Constitution shown in Kopel’s article.  He ignores any need for Congressional authorization.  He sees the President as Caesar, master of the Legions.  (This is becoming a common view.  We get to bow.  The Courts exist to arbitrate the minor aspects of society.  Things like commercial and jurisdictional disputes, what men can do with their dicks, etc.  More about this tomorrow)
  • For an alternative view about the Constitution see “Obama on presidential war-making powers“, Glenn Greenwald (constitutional and civil rights litigator), Salon, 18 March 2011. 

(2)  Putting a fake intellectual gloss on attacking other nations

Tyrannical ‘governments’ are not genuine governments“, David Kopel (attorney, research director for the Independence Institute), The Volokh Conspiracy, 17 March 2011

A brilliant and interesting article.  The last paragraph displays weak logic, IMO.

“All tyrants reach a miserable end,” wrote John of Salisbury. He was not universally right, at least in the sense that he meant, listing various tyrants who died violently; Stalin, Lenin, and Mao died of natural causes. But his words are coming true in Libya. How long will Gaddafi’s mercenaries from Chad, Niger, and Syria be willing to endanger their own lives in attempting to resist the overwhelming might of air forces and navies which are better-armed, and superior in every respect?

His confidently assumes that the western military will wage war to overthrow the Libyan government, although he cites not basis for this.  The UN has not authorized such action.  Neither has the Arab League (which has no authority to do so).  And if we’re in the business of overthrowing tyrannical governments, when do we move against the Saudi Princes (the world’s top kleptocrats).  They have long oppressed the Shiite tribes living on top of the oil.  They recently suppressed peaceful protests with a combination of dire threats and mobilization of their massive security forces.

On a different note, Kopel trots our Augustine of Hippo.  How often have hawks cited him during the past 1600 years to justify shedding blood?  How often have they run his checklist and said “Nope, this war doesn’t qualify.”  Augustine might have written differently if he saw the rivers of blood his words would be used to justify.

(3)  Lofty rhetoric, thin logic — and making stuff up to incite wars

Obama’s moment of truth“, David Kopel (attorney, research director for the Independence Institute), The Volokh Conspiracy, 15 March 2011 — Excerpt:

Diamond mainly discusses the consequences for the Libyan people, but I think that the harm will be global. Barack Obama’s America is showing itself to be a paper tiger; and every one of America’s enemies, especially the tyrants in Iran and Venezuela, are realizing that they can step up their aggression. If Gaddafi stays, he will resume his nuclear and chemical warfare plans and his support of global terrorism, secure in the knowledge that this American President will do nothing to stop him, unless the Russians and Chinese give permission. This week is may be one that will cause terrible problems for the United States for decades to come, comparable to the week when Khomenei seized power in Iran.

Over-the-top assertions without even an attempt to provide evidence or logic.  That we don’t support every rebellion by stranger tribes doesnt mean America becomes a paper tiger.  That we don’t overthrow Libya’s government does not imply that we’d tolerate their attempt to build nukes, let alone support for global terrorism.  Also, Libya, even with Gaddafi at his worst (before Reagan administered a lesson in 1986; see Wikipedia) was small time — not remotely in Iran’s league.

Also, Iran has an elected government.  Not the home of the free — but far more so than most of our allies in the Middle East.  As for Iran being an aggressor — we’ve invaded nation on both sides of Iran.  So far Iran has invaded nobody.  Iran has supported insurgent groups around the world, as have all major powers (e.g., the US, Russia, and the UK).

Note:  the Volokh Conspiracy has an article arguing that the Libyan war required prior approval:  “Does US Military Action Against Gaddafi Require Congressional Authorization?“, Ilya Somin (Assoc Prof Law, George Mason U), 20 March 2011.

(4)  We should be policeman to the world, until we go broke or suffer massive defeat

It’s Not Too Late to Save Libya“, Max Boot (Council on Foreign Relations), op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 16 March 2011 — No war monger froths as the mouth like Boot.  It’s worth line by line examination.  Here we’ll just glance at the highlights.

“But there is no question that his weak, vacillating response to the slaughter now unfolding in Libya will reduce American power and prestige in ways that will do us incalculable long-term harm

What about the slaughter in Africa and all the other places across the world since WWII.  Did we lose influence by not sending troops to the bloody attempts by our European allies to retain their colonies?  How about Biafra (1967-70)?  The Congo wars (many)?  The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (1975-78)?   The Rwandan Genocide in 1994Wikipedia lists 25 episodes of genocide between 1950 and 2000.  Perhaps Boot thinks we should have intervened in each and every one.

On March 3, President Obama said that “Colonel Gadhafi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. It is good for his people. It’s the right thing to do.”  When the president of the United States publicly proclaims that the head of another state needs to “step down,” his words carry considerable weight — or at least they should. Yet what has Mr. Obama done to back up his rhetoric?

Which Boot-ism is sillier?  That a President recommending that a head of State resign must automatically be followed by US military force.  Or that other leaders take such rhetoric seriously.

Given the way the U.S. and our allies have turned against Gadhafi, at least rhetorically, he could easily decide to seek revenge by returning to his old tricks. Considering that Gadhafi was responsible for the midair bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, among many other acts of terror, that is no idle threat.

Should tail risks — every scenario war mongers can imagine — rule US foreign policy?  Will Libya attack everybody, the US and our allies?  

Moreover, if he is able to keep power by force, it will encourage other Middle Eastern despots to emulate his example. Already the Saudis have sent an armored column to quell protests in Bahrain. Expect more of the same if Gadhafi clings to power.

I doubt even Boot believes this nonsense.  That Obama’s failure to immediately attack Libya influenced the Saudi’s decision to crush the Shiites protests in Bahrain.  If Obama had immediately sent the bombers over Libya, would the Saudi Princes have ended their multi-generational policy of suppressing the Shiites?  As ED Kain says, “Hell, we could topple the leader of Iraq using much more than air power, occupy that nation for years, execute its former dictator, and we still wouldn’t convince the governments of Gulf states that America poses a threat to them.”

That means consigning the entire region to a dysfunctional status quo ante in which the long-term winners will be al Qaeda and their ilk.

Stating confident guessing as fact is the war monger’s primary tool.  Perhaps bombing and invading Islamic nations is the greatest gift we can give al Qaeda.  Already even the Arab League objects to our bombing.  See Agence France-Presse today.  Stratfor says “there is also deep concern among many member states of the Arab League about being perceived as supportive of another Western war in the Arab world.”

And of course Boot favors ever more intervention:

By itself, a no-fly zone might not be enough to topple Gadhafi. At the very least, however, it would dishearten Gadhafi’s supporters and buy time for the rebels. We could further tilt the balance in their favor by bombing Gadhafi’s installations and troops. It may also be necessary to send arms and Special Forces trainers to support the rebels.

(5)  The war mongers tell us to close your eyes to see the world more clearly

Obama’s Moment of Truth“, Larry Diamond (Hoover Institute), The New Republic, 15 March 2011 — “The clock is ticking on action in Libya—and on the president’s foreign policy legacy.”

And a surprising number of specialists — including hard-eyed realists like Fareed Zakaria—have seized upon the crisis in Libya as a defining moment not just for the United States in the region but for the foreign policy presidency of Barack Obama as well.

He never explains why Libya, rather than Bahrain, is the defining moment.  In fact Libya is a garden-variety rebellion.  Bahrain offers a stronger test of our principles — democracy or support for kleptocratic tyrants? 

When presidents are tested by crisis, the world draws their measure, and the impressions formed can have big consequences down the road. After watching Jimmy Carter’s weak and vacillating posture on Iran, the Soviets figured he’d sit on the sidelines if they invaded and swallowed Afghanistan.

The Soviet Union used tanks to retain control of their vassals during the Administrations of Truman and Eisenhower — neither “weak and vacillating”.

But, when we have encouraged them to stand up for their freedom, and when they have asked for our very limited help, it becomes our business.

If Obama doesn’t encourage the rebels, the hawks insult him in a dozen ways.  Once we encourage them, then use of force becomes mandatory — in the hawks shoddy logic.

Yet denying them {human rights} through murderous violence and merciless suppression—with a massacre of semi-genocidal proportions likely waiting as the end game in Benghazi — is exactly what Qaddafi is in the process of doing.

Diamond predicts this massacre by the same prescience the hawks used to predict easy victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Confident guessing.

For more information

About the rebel government — will the new regime be better than the current one?

  1. Libya’s Opposition Leadership Comes into Focus, 20 March 2011 — It”s coming into focus, but still remains vague.  We’re fighting to bring a new regime into power, of a nature To Be Determined Later.
  2. Saving the Libyan Islamists“, Pajamamedia, 20 March 2011 — Follow the links to the sources
  3. A Libyan Fight for Democracy, or a Civil War?“, New York Times, 21 March 2011 — Confident guessing with one cautionary note.

About recent events in the Middle East:

  1. The Middle East scorecard, 18 March 2011
  2. Events in the Middle East expose the nature of US foreign policy. There is yet time to change before we hit the rocks., 20 March 2011

About Libya: 

  1. Libya’s people need uninvited infidel foreigners to save them!, 1 March 2011
  2. “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death”, 8 March 2011
  3. About attacking Libya – let’s give this more thought than we did Afghanistan and Iraq, 6 March 2009
  4. Our geopolitical experts see the world with the innocent eyes of children (that’s a bad thing), 14 March 2011

About Egypt:

  1. The Revolution Is Not Yet Over”, Yasmine El Rashidi, blog of the New York Review of Books, 23 February 2011
  2. Volcano of Rage“, Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books, 24 February 2011
  3. Important information about the riots in Egypt, FM website, 30 January 2011
  4. Why do we fear the rioters in Egypt?, FM website,30 January 2011
  5. Sources of information about the situation in Egypt, FM website, 6 February 2011

6 thoughts on “A warmonger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya”

  1. Only now do we ask "Who are the rebels?". Update

    Will we knock up yet another secular regime, to find ourselves facing another Islamist government? So far the US news media shows little interest in the question, as seen in “A Libyan Fight for Democracy, or a Civil War?“, New York Times, 21 March 2011 — Excerpt:

    “It is a very important question that is terribly near impossible to answer,” said Paul Sullivan, a political scientist at Georgetown University who has studied Libya. “It could be a very big surprise when Qaddafi leaves and we find out who we are really dealing with.”

    The behavior of the fledgling rebel government in Benghazi so far offers few clues to the rebels’ true nature. Their governing council is composed of secular-minded professionals — lawyers, academics, businesspeople — who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law.

    The last sentence appears to be incorrect. So far as I can determine, the membership of Libya’s Interim Governing Council remains secret — with a few exceptions. But the news media seldom lets facts interfer with their narrative.

  2. Important background information about Libya, update

    Important information about our war in Libya

    (1) The slippery slope in action: “Planning for a Post-Qaddafi Libya“, Max Boot (Council on Foreign Relations), op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 21 March 2011 — Now that we’re involved, ne of our leading war-mongers suddenly discovers the obivious risks and complexities of the war. The solution (surprise!): deeper intervention. After all, those brown people cannot choose the right government without our help!

    (2) “What intervention in Libya tells us about the neocon-liberal alliance“, Stephen M. Walt (Prof of International Relations, Harvard), Foreign Policy, 21 March 2011

    (3) “US in Libya: Protecting Civilians? A Rebel Army? What?“, Robert Dryfuss, The Nation, 22 March 2011 — Dryfuss describes the absurd gymnastics of our leaders describing what we’re doing in Libya. As usual, it’s difficult to determine if this reflects lack of thought or just lies about US policy.

    (4) “The history of Libyan unity and partition“, Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution, 22 March 2011

  3. Too many wars is not enough for some Republicans, update

    Here we go again: GOP criticizes Obama inaction on Syria“, Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, 24 March 2011 — Opening:

    Two GOP senators opened another line of criticism of President Barack Obama’s approach to the Middle East on Thursday, this time calling on the administration to more strongly criticize the Syrian government for its deadly crackdown on popular demonstrations and begin engaging the Syrian opposition.

  4. The Latest Temptation of Air Power, update

    The Latest Temptation of Air Power“, Robert Haddick (managing editor of the Small Wars Journal), Foreign Policy, 25 March 2011 — “The Libya air campaign will not be as quick or painless as the White House seems to think.”

  5. Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels, update

    Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels“, Reuters, March 2011

    President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday. Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding”, within the last 2 or 3 weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter. Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.

    As is common practice for this and all administrations, I am not going to comment on intelligence matters,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. “I will reiterate what the president said yesterday — no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya.”

    The CIA declined comment.

    … Obama said the U.S. had not ruled out providing military hardware to rebels. “It’s fair to say that if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could. We’re looking at all our options at this point,” he told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted to reporters that no decision had yet been taken.

    U.S. officials monitoring events in Libya say neither Gaddafi’s forces nor the rebels, who have asked the West for heavy weapons, now appear able to make decisive gains. While U.S. and allied airstrikes have seriously damaged Gaddafi’s military forces and disrupted his chain of command, officials say, rebel forces remain disorganized and unable to take full advantage of western military support.


    People familiar with U.S. intelligence procedures said that Presidential covert action “findings” are normally crafted to provide broad authorization for a range of potential U.S. government actions to support a particular covert objective.

    In order for specific operations to be carried out under the provisions of such a broad authorization — for example the delivery of cash or weapons to anti-Gaddafi forces — the White House also would have to give additional “permission” allowing such activities to proceed.

  6. More evidence that we've been conned into war again (in Libya), update

    False pretense for war in Libya?“, Alan J. Kuperman, op-ed in the Boston Globe, 14 April 2011

    Alan J. Kuperman, a professor of public affairs at the University of Texas, is author of The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention and co-editor of Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention.

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