Gates: No vital US interests at stake in Libya

March 27, 2011

I’m not averse to the use of force in foreign affairs, in cases where it’s the best available option and clearly seen American interests are at stake.  I also am not against going “John Wayne” on a maniac dictator and helping his people be free of him when, again, demonstrable American interests align with the desire to give said maniac what he deserves. I argued, and still do, that Iraq presented such a case in 2002-2003.

Otherwise, in the absence of vital American interests, there seems little reason to commit American blood and treasure.

So what am I to think when, on national television, the Secretary of Defense says he can’t think of any vital American interests in Libya, where we’ve just gone to war?

As the war in Libya moves into its second week, tag-team Sunday talk show appearances by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State suggest the Obama administration remains divided over the fundamental question of whether the war is in the United States’ national interest.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gates was asked, “Is Libya in our vital interest as a country?”  He answered, “No, I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the U.S., but we clearly have interests there, and it’s a part of the region which is a vital interest for the U.S.”  Gates’ statement wasn’t an entirely convincing rationale for a major military commitment, and moderator David Gregory responded by saying, “I think a lot of people would hear that and say well, that’s quite striking — not in our vital interests and yet we’re committing military resources.”

Emphasis added.

In that case, Mr. Secretary, let me ask a question: In a time of national fiscal distress when we’re borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend and when we already have major commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter involving frequent combat, why in Heaven’s name are we attacking Libya? If you and your boss can’t articulate a coherent reason for starting a war, what possessed you (and him) to think this would be a good idea?

And, no, “I dunno” doesn’t cut it.

Oh, but then acting-President and Secretary of State Clinton jumped in to offer a reason:

At that point, Clinton suggested that the U.S. went to war to repay NATO allies for support in Afghanistan.  “We asked our NATO allies to go into Afghanistan with us ten years ago,” she said.  “They have been there, and a lot of them have been there despite the fact that they were not attacked.  The attack came on us…They stuck with us.  When it comes to Libya, we started hearing from the UK, France, Italy, other of our NATO allies…This was in their vital national interest…

Emphasis added.

So, our European allies asked us to attack Libya because they went to war when we were attacked, so we agreed to bomb Libya because they were… Wait. Did I miss a Libyan raid on Naples or something??

Hey, I can see a vital interest for some European countries in Libya — they get quite a bit of oil from there, much more than we do. But that’s their vital interest, not ours. And al Qaeda’s attack on the US triggered the Article V mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty, which is in play in Libya… how, exactly?

Clinton’s “explanation” reminds me of this corker from her boss:

And that’s why building this international coalition has been so important because it means that the United States is not bearing all the cost.  It means that we have confidence that we are not going in alone, and it is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions that are important not only to us, but are important internationally.  And we will accomplish that in a relatively short period of time.

And again, emphasis added.

What, did this all start because of a phone call from Europe? “Congratulations! We’ve just volunteered your military for a little war in Libya! And, hey, Barry, you owe us.”

I’m all for allies sticking together, but, if intervening in Libya is a vital European interest, maybe the European states should start spending the money to create the forces they would need to defend those vital interests and not “volunteer” us.

Meanwhile, someone needs to give the administration lessons in not sounding like clueless idiots.

LINKS: More at Hot Air

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Foreign Policy: Obama’s map

February 14, 2011

Mark Steyn is back, this time with a column about the crumbling of the post-colonial American order in the Middle East. As one would expect from a old-school and highly literate conservative, Steyn’s view is a depressing one:

Iran is nuclearizing, Turkey is Islamizing, Egypt is …what exactly? Well, we’ll find out. But, given that only the army and/or the Muslim Brotherhood are sufficiently organized to govern the nation, the notion that we’re witnessing the youthful buds of any meaningful democracy is deluded. So who’ll come out on top? The generals or the Brothers? Given that the Brotherhood got played for suckers by the army in the revolution of ’52, I doubt they’ll be so foolish as to make the same mistake again – and the hopeychangey “democracy movement” provides the most useful cover in generations. Meanwhile, James Clapper, the worthless buffoon who serves as the hyperpower’s Director of “Intelligence”, goes before Congress to tell the world that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “secular” organization. Americans ought to take to the streets to demand Clapper vacate whatever presidential palace in DC he’s holed up in.

Amidst all this flowering of democracy, you’ll notice that it’s only the pro-American dictatorships on the ropes: In Libya and Syria, Gaddafy and Assad sleep soundly in their beds. On the other hand, if you were either of the two King Abdullahs, in Jordan or Saudi Arabia, and you looked at the Obama Administration’s very public abandonment of their Cairo strongman, what would you conclude about the value of being an American ally? For the last three weeks, the superpower has sent the consistent message to the world that (as Bernard Lewis feared some years ago) America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.

I’d be more hopeful if I had any confidence in the Obama administration’s handling of foreign affairs, but I don’t. From Inauguration Day forward, Obama and his entire team have shown themselves to be dunderheaded incompetents whose philosophy of foreign policy can be summed up by “Kiss your enemies, backhand your allies.”

As for The One, himself, outside of a bizarre fixation on arms-control with Russia, which was au courant when he was in college but is a hopelessly retrograde priority in the modern day, I really don’t think he cares a whit about foreign affairs, even though that is a primary responsibility of the presidency. The Egyptian revolt was Obama’s 3AM phone call, that moment that Joe Biden told us we should gird our loins for, and he let it go to the answering service. When his aides, his Secretary of State, his vice-president, and even he, himself, all said confusing and contradictory things day after day, it was because he doesn’t care enough to learn what he needs to know in order to come up with an effective strategy. As Niall Ferguson writes in an essay for The Daily Beast ripping Obama’s handling of Egypt:

Grand strategy is all about the necessity of choice. Today, it means choosing between a daunting list of objectives: to resist the spread of radical Islam, to limit Iran’s ambition to become dominant in the Middle East, to contain the rise of China as an economic rival, to guard against a Russian “reconquista” of Eastern Europe—and so on. The defining characteristic of Obama’s foreign policy has been not just a failure to prioritize, but also a failure to recognize the need to do so. A succession of speeches saying, in essence, “I am not George W. Bush” is no substitute for a strategy.

Bismarck knew how to choose. He understood that riding the nationalist wave would enable Prussia to become the dominant force in Germany, but that thereafter the No. 1 objective must be to keep France and Russia from uniting against his new Reich. When asked for his opinion about colonizing Africa, Bismarck famously replied: “My map of Africa lies in Europe. Here lies Russia and here lies France, and we are in the middle. That is my map of Africa.”

Tragically, no one knows where Barack Obama’s map of the Middle East is. At best, it is in the heartland states of America, where the fate of his presidency will be decided next year, just as Jimmy Carter’s was back in 1980.

At worst, he has no map at all.

Nor any desire to buy one.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Elitism + Cluelessness = NRSC

August 27, 2010

I’ve often accused the Obama Administration of being filled with the politically tone-deaf, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee is giving them stiff competition:

Sean Cairncross, the general counsel of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is headed to Alaska at the request of Sen. Lisa Murkowski  (R) to help provide guidance to the GOP incumbent who finds herself trailing attorney Joe Miller (R) by roughly 1,600 votes.

Cairncross will spend several days on the ground in Alaska as Murkowski and her campaign prepare for the counting of as many as 16,000 absentee ballots — a process expected to start next Tuesday and continue through early September.

Committee sources insisted that too much should not be read into Cairncross’ presence in Alaska — only that the NRSC is an incumbent-retention committee and, as such, provides assistance when Senators ask for it.

As evidence that the committee is not putting all of its chips on Murkowski, a GOP source tells the Fix that Rob Jesmer, the bespectacled executive director of the NRSC, spoke by phone with a top Miller aide yesterday — making clear that if he wins the election the committee will support him wholeheartedly.

How nice: “Oh, if you still happen to win, Mr. Miller (you peasant), we’ll deign to help you. Until then, we’re going to do all we can to help our incumbent sister keep the seat Daddy gave her.”

You would think, after the flack the NRSC took for interfering in Florida’s primary, they’d remember the lesson. (Just how did that Crist endorsement work out for you guys, eh?) Senator Cornyn, head of the NRSC, even promised to not spend money in contested primaries. So…what? Cairncross isn’t  being paid?

For a supposedly smart bunch, the NRSC is like the guy who goes to the doctor complaining that it hurts whenever he hits himself in the head with a hammer: too dumb to realize he should stop doing it. They’re completely misreading the mood of the electorate and spitting in the faces the voters – who want to vote for conservative Republican candidates, not kinda-sorta squishes who are all too happy to bolt the party.

There’s a huge anti-Beltway elitist, anti-incumbent wave sweeping the electorate, and it’s showing up in election after election and poll after poll. People are angry at Washington telling them what they must do; the rejection of  ObamaCare is just one example. It’s largely aimed at the Democrats for the insane way they’ve governed since 2009, showing little but contempt for ordinary citizens, and they’re going to get punished for it harshly in November. But stupid stuff like sending a top lawyer to fight for the incumbent who’s been rejected by the locals tells the voters that the national Republicans are little different from the Democrats. That’ll help bring in the donations.

Is this really smart,  Senator Cornyn? It may not be a big deal in reality, but just how do you think this will look to the average grassroots voter? Ooops. And how long will it take you to scrape the egg off your face again after Murkowski loses in the absentees and then says “thanks for all the help” by bolting to the Libertarian Party?

No wonder they call the Republicans the “party of stupid.”

LINKS: More at Hot Air, Conservatives for Palin, and Obi’s Sister.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Clueless on line one!

June 11, 2010

I’ve often said that, to be a progressive, one must give up any knowledge of real-world economics and of what makes a business work. As yet more proof, I offer the following excerpt from Jim Geraghty’s must-read Morning Jolt newsletter:

At least [the Obama administration] understand the situation and are on the case. Oh, wait, maybe not: “With three shuttered oil rigs preparing to leave the Gulf of Mexico for foreign waters, Gov. Bobby Jindal ratcheted up the rhetoric Thursday against the Obama administration’s moratorium on deepwater drilling, saying the White House still doesn’t understand the economic pain the forced stoppage is causing Louisiana workers. Jindal said he had a conference call with President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, and appealed to her to shorten the six-month moratorium, arguing that a half-year pause would force oil companies to move drilling operations overseas for years and that the federal government could easily impose new safety standards and monitoring in a shorter time frame. ‘She asked again why the rigs simply wouldn’t come back after six months,’ Jindal said. ‘What worries me is I fear they think these rigs can just flip a switch on and off.‘”

Not at all surprising from people who think the government can run whole industries and even the entire economy according to their whim. Ignorance is surely bliss.

I rest my case.