A child-like credulity is required to be a US geopolitical expert

Summary:  It’s amusing — in a gallows-humor way — to read our geopolitical experts attempting to explain our strategy in the Libyan War.  It requires having (or pretending to have) a child-like credulity to believe our government’s statements, no matter how often they’re proven duplicitous or false.  Attempting to reconcile their statements and actions is futile, the modern equivalent of squaring the circle.

How could our well-meant intent to protect civilians get us into such a mess, where we’re now told that only an invasion and increased bombing (including drones) to overthrow the Libyan government can preserve our credibility as a superpower?  As in this by Michael Cohen, “If the War in Libya is to Protect Civilians, Why Aren’t We Protecting Civilians?“, Democracy Arsenal, 22 April 2011:

… it seems, increasingly, that if Misrata were to fall we could be dealing with a similar situation. Surely there is the risk of significant civilian casualties, even massacres.  … The White House by refusing to consider putting troops on the ground has given the military an impossible mission – protect civilians without ground forces or even the ability to effectively conduct close air support. What’s worse, unless the White House wants to more fully escalate the conflict they’ve made it practically impossible to fully protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s wrath – a contradiction of why we went to war in the first place.

Cohen is a relative voice of reason among our geopolitical experts, most of who are professional warmongers (see here for details, as the meaning of the term has gone down the memory hole, along with much of America’s good sense).  Such as this by Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 20 April 2011:

France, Britain, the US and other participating members of the Coalition need to shift to the kind of bombing campaign that targets and hunts down Qaddafi’s military and security forces in their bases and as they move – as long before they engage rebel forces as possible. Qaddafi, his extended family, and his key supporters need to be targeted for their attacks on Libyan civilians, even if they are collocated in civilian areas. They need to be confronted with the choice between exile or death, and bombing needs to be intense enough so it is clear to them that they must make a choice as soon as possible.

This kind of operation cannot be “surgical’ – if “surgical” now means minimizing bloodshed regardless of whether the patient dies. Hard, and sometimes brutal, choices need to be made between limited civilian casualties and collateral damage during the decisive use of force and an open-ended war of attrition that will produce far higher cumulative civilian casualties and collateral damage.

This is despicable.  According to Cordesman we’ll have to kill them to protect them.  Also note his recommendation to kill Qaddafi’s children (“extended family”).  If Qaddafi has Obama assassinated — or Malia and Sasha Obama — will he acknowledge this too as a legitimate act of war?

It’s all bogus, from first to last.  The basis for fears of massacres has been shown to be exaggerated, or fabricated (see section 2 here for links).  As for our goals, even many of the war’s advocates no longer pretend to believe that we’re waging war to protect Libya’s civilians.  Aside from our quiet applause as the Saudi Princes crush the aspirations of the oppressed Shiites in Bahrain, it’s obvious that our goal from the start was regime change — with protecting civilians only a pretext.  Even Cordesman admits it:

French, British, and US leaders do not seem to have fully coordinated, but it is clear that they sought and got international cover from the UN by claiming a no fly zone could protect civilians when their real objective was to use force as a catalyst to drive Qaddafi out of power. They seem to have assumed that a largely unknown, divided, and fractured group of rebels could win through sheer political momentum and could then be turned into a successful government. They clearly planned a limited air campaign that called for a politically safe set of strikes again against Qaddafi’s air defense and air force, and only limited follow-up in terms of ground strikes against his forces. And then, they waited for success…

As with so much of America’s history, the reason for this determination to overthrow Libya’s government remains obscure.  For that matter, why did we really invade Iraq or Afghanistan (Iraq had neither WMD’s or alliance with al Qaeda; Afghanistan had only a minor role in 9-11)?

While we guess at why we’re there, a brief kinetic intervention (a no-fly zone evolves to ground support (but no assassinations) to CIA (and probably special ops) boots on the ground to — whatever comes next.  One of the few truth-tellers in this was one of our foremost warmongers.  As in “It’s not too late to save Libya“, Max Boot (Council on Foreign Relations), op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 16 March 2011:

The job could probably be performed with just one American ship — the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, now in the Red Sea, which has 34 F/A-18F Super Hornets and 10 F/A-18C Hornets along with a full complement of electronic-warfare aircraft. The Enterprise strike group could also unleash a devastating array of Tomahawk cruise missiles. … As the enforcement of no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq should have proved, the risks of such an operation are minimal — especially if we first neutralize Gadhafi’s air defenses.

By itself, a no-fly zone might not be enough to topple Gadhafi. … 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.

Being the man he is, this is sandwiched in his article between hubris and and delusion.  It’s our job to save Libya.  Otherwise “you can bet that his (Obama’s) name and that of the country he leads will be reviled by democrats across the region — not only in Libya.”  And victory is certain if we make the effort.

Without committing any combat troops of our own, we could deliver the same kind of potent combined-arms punch that drove the Serbs out of Kosovo when NATO aircraft supported ground operations by the Kosovo Liberation Army. … It is not far-fetched to imagine a Barack Obama Boulevard in Tripoli if the president finally finds the courage to act.

This is the pattern of US involvement since Korea.  Lack of clarity about our reason for fighting, lack of clear-thinking about the requirements for victory — and no thought about what comes after.  It’s a formula for the decline of America, if we continue along this road.

For more information

Other posts about our geopolical experts:

  1. Exum looks at Af-Pak campaign of the Long War, revealing more about ourselves than the foe, 7 June 2010
  2. The threat of insurgents using MANPADS is exaggerated (SOP for our experts), 31 July 2010
  3. Our geopolitical experts will destroy America, if we let them, 27 October 2010
  4. Our geopolitical experts see the world with the innocent eyes of children (that’s a bad thing), 14 March 2011

Other posts 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
  5. We’re at war, again. Another shovel of dirt on the corpse of the Constitution., 21 March 2011
  6. A war monger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya, 22 March 2011
  7. What will the world’s tyrants learn from the Libyan War? Get nukes., 25 March 2011
  8. Who are we helping in Libya? Here are some answers., 27 March 2011
  9. In America, both Left and Right love the long war, 30 March 2011
  10. Can the UN give Obama the authority to send US forces in the Libyan War?, 1 April 2011
  11. Tearing the Constitution is a bipartisan sport!, 4 April 2011
  12. Why the Libyan War is important to us – and to our children, 9 April 2011
  13. A status report on our intervention in Libya. Historians will find this farce fascinating., 17 April 2011

2 thoughts on “A child-like credulity is required to be a US geopolitical expert

  1. A mention of a blindingly obvious lesson from Libya (but one hidden from Americans relying on the news media for information):

    A troubling lesson from Libya: Don’t give up nukes“, Reza Sanati, op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, 30 August 2011 — “Qaddafi stopped his nuclear program. Would NATO have bombed if he hadn’t? Now, Iran watches as nonnuclear states are invaded and nuclear ones win favors.”

  2. I don’t know how much of this is true (he gives many facts but cites few sources), but this highlights how little we (the American public) knows about the new rulers of Libya.

    How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli“, Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, 30 August 2011 — Opening:

    His name is Abdelhakim Belhaj. Some in the Middle East might have, but few in the West and across the world would have heard of him.

    Time to catch up. Because the story of how an al-Qaeda asset turned out to be the top Libyan military commander in still war-torn Tripoli is bound to shatter – once again – that wilderness of mirrors that is the “war on terror”, as well as deeply compromising the carefully constructed propaganda of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) “humanitarian” intervention in Libya. ….

    See Escobar’s other articles about Libya here.

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