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Wrong At Every Step

Well, Friday came and went without President Obama seeking Congressional approval for his little UnWar in Libya. So we are left wondering what will happen next -- if anything.

And as I think about the past few months, I -- like most folks -- find myself second-guessing the decisions President Obama made all along the way. And I think he got every single one of them wrong.

I would not have intervened militarily in Libya. One of the less-mentioned benefits of our invasion of Iraq was the message that went out around the world -- cause us enough headaches, and we'll take you out. That message was heard loud and clear in Tripoli, as it caused K-Daffy to not only admit to having a WMD program far more advanced than anyone suspected, but to surrender the whole thing, lock stock and barrel, to the US.

The full details were never publicly released, but from observation we can deduce the rough terms of the deal. K-Daffy surrenders the WMDs, owns up and makes amends for a lot of the crap he's pulled over the years, gives up intelligence on terrorists he's supported, and stops being a pain in the ass, and the US accepts his apologies, allows them to start rejoining the civilized world, and forgives a lot of our grievances. Not the best deal, but a healthy dose of realpolitik and probably the best we could hope for without using force.

And then Obama threw that deal out the window. Now, I don't mind our breaking our word to K-Daffy, and I certainly won't miss him when he's gone, but it gives a very bad message to other states we have disagreements with: we won't keep our word. Especially in the field of WMDs -- we had been saying "get rid of them, and we won't go after you," now it's "lose the WMDs, and we'll take you out as soon as is convenient for us." Compare Libya with North Korea. The incentive should be to get these rogue nations to give up their WMDs and programs, not make them embrace them tighter.

Once the decision was made to attack Libya, I would have involved the Congressional leadership.
The president is the commander in chief, but he's only one-third of the government. Congress has certain prerogatives in these kinds of matters, and that should be respected. A quiet heads-up to Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Nancy Pelosi, telling them what was going on before it started. They might not have signed on to the plan, but it might have disarmed some resistance before it started.

Once the decision was made to attack Libya, I would have made a public address outlining the vital US interests. Obama's after-the-fact rationalization was insulting, doubly so when one considers that he did first get the approval of NATO and the UN before checking with any Americans.

Once the decision was made to attack Libya, I would have given the Pentagon a clear directive -- "get rid of K-Daffy" -- and had them carry it out as best they believed they should. When one starts a war (even if you call it a "kinetic military action,") you best be in it to win it, or not even start. "When you strike against a king, be sure to kill him." This half-assed "we're not really waging war" bullshit and incremental ratcheting up of force without a clear objective is reminding me way, way too much of how we got into that whole Viet Nam mess -- even to the point of our getting involved as a favor to France.

Once the fighting started, I would abide by the requirements of the War Powers Act.
I would follow the example of other presidents and refuse to acknowledge the Act's authority, but would still act in agreement with its tenets. I would make certain Congress was notified on time, give them reports, and seek Congressional approval. The Constitutionality of its mandate is debatable, but the plain common sense of it is not. Actions as significant as war ought to have wide, bipartisan support within the government and the American people, and a Congressional mandate is a solid way of getting that kind of "buy-in."

Each of these decisions don't require a great deal of thought or knowledge or intelligence or experience. They are all simple, common-sense choices.

And common sense seems to be something critically lacking in this administration.


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Comments (32)

"The Constitutionality of i... (Below threshold)

"The Constitutionality of its mandate is debatable, but the plain common sense of it is not."

I wonder if the Founders could have envisioned Korea, Vietnam, Irag, Afghanistan, Libya they might have placed provisions in the Constitution for checking the power of the executive to involve the United States in wars such as these. On one hand, I do think it is important to allow the Commander-In-Chief the privilege of expediently mobilizing the armed forces against direct threats to our security. On the other hand, providing for debate on which conflicts are indeed threats to our security - particularly commitmets to long term armed conflicts and "nation-building" - is important as well.

As far as I am concerned Obama turning a deaf ear to this debate is just another episode in a long standing pattern with this administration. Obama is not unique among presidents in trying to end run laws perceived as collaring the the whims of the executive but he is clearly the most blatant and shameless about it. I guess there is something to be said for having the talent of maintaining a high personal approval rating despite advocating policies that are generally unpopular and detrimental to the stability of our country. He even pisses off his base at times but I am sure he chuckles knowing that no matter what, they are still going to vote for him.

Obama is such a brilliant p... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Obama is such a brilliant politician that he has completely isolated himself with his decision. Iraq wasn't "Bush's War" but Libya certainly is Obama's.

Wars or their opposition ma... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Wars or their opposition make strange bedfellows! Jay who, as I recall when Bush Junior, was at the helm was enthusistically in favor of stirring up the Middle East,(as Reagan did in Latin America with military actions, clandestine or open,) now upbraids Obama that he better come clean with the American public, about the 'secret war', we are waging in Libya.

Neocons, such as William Kristol, Robert Kagan, an Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraqi war are ironically in danger of making Obama an honorary member of their club, for extending the Bush doctrine into Libya.

(Obama's interpretation in fact)

is more anarchic in its implications than the Bush doctrine of 2002, which reserved the right to respond to any physical threat even while the threat was forming. Obama goes a big step further. He reserves the right to respond to spiritual threats and not just physical ones -- threats to our "values" as well as our "interests".

Mnn..Obama a neocon and Jay Tea a pacifist in the mideast,?

Jimmy Carter weakened the U... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

Jimmy Carter weakened the United States by devaluing our military on the world stage (failed hostage rescue mission, allowing a bunch of "students" make him into a vertual hostage held in the White House).

It was left to the next administration to re-position our military as credible and potent, which is an essential element of having an effective foreign policy and international relations.

But even by the start of The Global War on Terror our military was still not being accepted at full value (bin Laden preached to his supporters that we wouldn't stay in for the long haul, that while our military was formidable we lacked the political will to prevail).

The Obama Administration's behavior since taking office has demonstrated to the world that it does lack the political will to engage effectively, in a timely fashion, fully committed to doing whatever it takes to win. It's not just about funding the resources that the military requires to do it's job, it's about demonstrating you have the will to exert yourself over another. Except for Obama's personal enemies (I think we all know who and what Obama has "targeted") he is completely lacking in this capacity. As a result, the United States is weaker and more at risk today than it was on January 20, 2009.

SteveYour observat... (Below threshold)
retired military:


Your observation of Jay Tea as a Pacifist is misguided as most of your statements are.

Bush had bipartisian support before the war. Obama did not.
Bush had a clear objective with Iraq.
Obama did not.
Bush owned Iraq and Afghan though the ups and downs.
Obama will only own something if it ends well. Otherwise it is always someone else's fault.

The war in Libya is everyth... (Below threshold)
jim m:

The war in Libya is everything that the left wants in a war:

*No vital American interest
*No clear objective
*No definition of what victory would be (because we are supposed to lose)
*No military strategy, but we do have a PR strategy

This is war the way the left and obama want it. American lives lost, America embarrassed/disgraced, American power and influence eroded.

Obama went to Libya because... (Below threshold)

Obama went to Libya because he knows a Democrat can't get reelected without blowing something up. That's why Clinton blew up a building in Iraq. Obama didn't know he was going to get Bin Laden so he attacked Libya.

Now he can't back out because getting Bin Laden didn't help him as much as he thought.

"And common sense seems to ... (Below threshold)

"And common sense seems to be something critically lacking in this administration."

They don't need common sense, they know everything.

Why just look around, they've done absolute WONDERS with the national economy.

"They don't need common sen... (Below threshold)

"They don't need common sense, they know everything."

One things for sure. They sure know where to find the Kool-aid.

Unlike yesterday's post, I ... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:

Unlike yesterday's post, I agree with you 100% on this one. Except maybe just a little bit on the part that DaveD quoted:

The Constitutionality of its mandate is debatable, but the plain common sense of it is not.

If the WPA was integrated with the constitution as written that would be one thing, but as currently applied is another. Everyone is talking as if under the WPA, Obama had the authority to go to war with Libya on his own, as long as he reported to congress and wrapped it up under the 90 day deadline. But, under the WPA, the POTUS is only allowed to act unilaterally if section 3 below is satisfied:
The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
(1) a declaration of war,
(2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

There is no way that anybody, in good conscience, can call the state of affairs in Libya, prior to our involvement, any kind of national emergency caused by an attack on the USA. Under the WPA, the only way that Obama could have started his adventure in Libya is with prior approval of the congress.

No American lives have been... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

No American lives have been lost so far in Libya. He would have bipartisan support if went to Congress. I can only include he wants maximum discretion, probably for skulduggery (yes, I have lost my naivete about Obama) to the point of ignoring his top lawyers advice as to the Constitutional illegality of his not seeking Congressioal approvaI.

Juan Cole pretty well sums up my position. Sure mistakes are being made,that is expected, but Jay Tea and most conservaties were not so anathema to aiding the lifting the death sentence of the thousands of citizens of Benghazi who were about to be massacred by the certified madman Gdaffy, by weapons supplied by the West. This was no act of state self-defence by Gdaffy.

Supporters of the Iraqi invasion constantly cited Saddam gassing his own Kurds in the town of Halabja in 1988,- over 3,000 casualties- as one justification, why he should be toppled. If you can do something to prevent an impending massacre isn't that much better, than wringing your hands from the sideline, years later? Remember Clinton's biggest regret of his presidency was not acting in Rwanda to prevent genocide.

I would like Obama to be doing more in Bahrain and Syria, but considering the flack he is getting for Libya, it is politically impossible.

Steve,The reasons ... (Below threshold)
jim m:


The reasons obama is getting flak are that he went in without reaching out to Congress to try to get a resolution approving of any action (something he could easily have done if he bothered about the law). He is also getting flak because he went in without a clear purpose and without and plan of what he wanted to do etc.

You can make as many remarks about the reasons given for going into Iraq but hey are irrelevant. obama gave no reasons for doing this except that he wanted to and has not bothered to consult with Congress, but has only usurped their authority. Bush got the resolution first and had the support of Congress before he went in. Only afterward and for naked partisan purposes did the democrats renege on that support.

As for no American lives being lost I would venture to say that by such criteria we could nuke Moscow and not be at war with Russia until they retaliated. Such an excuse is asinine on its face.

"Such an excuse is asinine ... (Below threshold)

"Such an excuse is asinine on its face."

Well, Barry has ass written all over his face so...

The only word to describe this is 'hypocrite!' Boosh's long lead up authorized campaign was 'illegal' and 'warmongering' and 'nation building'. According to stand up citizens like John 'Lurch' Kerry.

Barry's antagonizing all over the mid-east is merely how thoughtful liberals administer justice.

Its all in the nuance.

"The only thing we have to ... (Below threshold)

"The only thing we have to fear from Barry is Barry himself"

...& a 2nd term..

Really. Where does the lef... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Really. Where does the left go with this. Bush got Congressional approval but Iraq was 'illegal'. obama tells Congress to pound sand, Congressional dems say that he is in violation of the law and the left is utterly silent.

It just goes as proof that the vast majority of the left were opposed to Iraq on solely ideological grounds, and those grounds were that the country was lead by a Republican. The left has demonstrated that they don't really care about war or whether we go to war legally or how many soldiers die. They care that they get to be the ones giving the orders. Hypocrite doesn't quite cover the depth of the monstrosity of this attitude.

"There is no way that anybo... (Below threshold)

"There is no way that anybody, in good conscience, can call the state of affairs in Libya, prior to our involvement, any kind of national emergency caused by an attack on the USA."

Barry can.

His poll numbers are low, his misery index dwarfs Carters and for the good of the country he must earn that Nobel he received retroactively if he has to kill a few heads of state, so be it. Of course the attack on the country is coming from him, but that's besides the point.

Lately there are a lot of R... (Below threshold)
Art W:

Lately there are a lot of Republicans who have lost their spines.

People in the party are noticing....

Amid rising calls from Republican presidential candidates and members of Congress to reduce American foreign intervention, three figures who are influential with GOP hawks zfought back Sunday morning against what they see as a dangerous, short-sighted rise of isolationism.

The three men—outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.— warned that retreating from conflicts across the globe could have long-term consequences.

Spineless wimps who hate Obama so much they'd drive the country down the wrong path - just to get his black ass out of office.

Even though it goes against their core principles.

McCain, the last Republican nominee for president, was the most pointed in his critique. Appearing on ABC News’s This Week, the longtime foreign policy hawk said he felt concerned after watching the GOP presidential candidates during last week’s debate, in which several of them criticized war efforts in Libya and Afghanistan.

“There’s an always been an isolationist strain in the Republican Party, the Pat Buchanan wing of the party,” he said. “But now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak.”

During the debate, the field of Republican presidential candidates appeared to signal they are taking their party’s foreign policy in a new direction, one that relies less on foreign intervention. Putative primary front-runner Mitt Romney, for instance, said Afghan citizens, not Americans, need to fight their own war of independence.

Even as Romney also said economic and political factors shouldn’t determine the speed of the country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, his comments drew widespread media attention. And on Sunday, it drew a rebuke from McCain, who said he wishes the former Massachusetts governor would meet with the man leading the military’s counter-insurgency strategy there, Gen. David Petraeus.

“I do want to send a message: We cannot move into an isolationist party,” said McCain, who was Romney’s chief rival during the 2008 campaign. “We cannot repeat the lesson of the 1930s. We are the lead nation in the world.... Sometimes that leadership entails sacrifice, sadly.”

Looks like the real Republicans are going to have to shove quite a few spineless racists out of the way.

Popcorn anyone?

Steve"If you can d... (Below threshold)
retired military:


"If you can do something to prevent an impending massacre isn't that much better"

So going by your and Obama's reasoning than we should be going into Libya, Egypt, North Korea Uganda, most of the countries in Africa, and any other place where a despot may cause a massacre.

Wasnt it the left's mantra that we are not the world's policeman and that our constant interfering were causing other countries to turn against us. Wasnt it the left's mantra that we shouldnt try to impose our values on other cultures?

OH wait, that was when Bush was president. Now that a dem is president than all bets are off.

People are noticing:<... (Below threshold)
Art W:

People are noticing:

How Today's Conservatism Lost Touch with Reality"Conservatism is true." That's what George Will told me when I interviewed him as an eager student many years ago. His formulation might have been a touch arrogant, but Will's basic point was intelligent. Conservatism, he explained, was rooted in reality. Unlike the abstract theories of Marxism and socialism, it started not from an imagined society but from the world as it actually exists. From Aristotle to Edmund Burke, the greatest conservative thinkers have said that to change societies, one must understand them, accept them as they are and help them evolve.

Watching this election campaign, one wonders what has happened to that tradition. Conservatives now espouse ideas drawn from abstract principles with little regard to the realities of America's present or past. This is a tragedy, because conservatism has an important role to play in modernizing the U.S.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2077943,00.html#ixzz1Pl29yZ49

The writer goes on, step by step, breaking down the ways that conservatives have lost their conservative ways and seem to me to be just driven by a blind hatred for Obama.

Republicans aren't conservative any more so much as they are just driven by racist hatred for Obama. Feel free to explain why so many conservative principles have fallen to the side if it isn't just ObamaHate.

Oh noes!Art W solv... (Below threshold)

Oh noes!

Art W solves it all by throwing down the racism card! Game over!

...and yet Steve and art wo... (Below threshold)

...and yet Steve and art won't discuss the particulars of what I said.

Because they can't.

Obama's conduct has been utterly indefensible. So instead, they attack and bring up irrelevancies.

Sad, really.


Sadly, what the pro-Obama c... (Below threshold)

Sadly, what the pro-Obama camp fails to see is that the issue is not about the reasons the US went into Libya, but about the reasons the President did not involve Congress with the WPA.

Perhaps Art W can explain t... (Below threshold)

Perhaps Art W can explain the "black logic" that escapes the rest of us.

And if he does, it'll be the first time he ever actually explained anything. It'd be a refreshing break from his standard BS...


Jay, I'm with you, as most ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay, I'm with you, as most of the independent blogging right and blogging left; including Glenn Greenwald, John and Juan Cole, and Kevin Drum. I am not defending Obama not seeking Congressional approval. I don't know anyone who is really robustly defending him? Democrat politicians will undoubtedly give the President, predictible but only lukewarm backing.

However, I do think the intervention was the right policy and he has or had bipartisan Congressional support. That would be a good debate. The House can vote to deny funding, if push comes to pull. Let's see if Boehner pulled Obama's ear during their golf match, but Obama doesn't seem interested in any one else's opinion, even his own Department of Justice OLC lawyers.

So SteveSince inte... (Below threshold)
retired military:

So Steve

Since intervention was the right policy in Libya then why not Syria, NK, China, etc etc.

Are you saying that the leftists cries under Bush about our pushing our ideas on other countries, being the world's policemen etc were wrong? Note I am not saying those BS mimes were stating what was actually happening but I am asking you if you are calling those leftist liars who described Bush policy as such.

Our intervention in Libya w... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Our intervention in Libya was voted on by the UN Security Council, agreed upon by the Arab League. It is a collective action under Nato to avoid a genocide. The regime change of getting rid of Gdaffy and targeting him in assssasination bombing is a borderline legal proposition.

Syria, I think we should be applying more pressure on the governemnt and north Korea probably the carrot approach. I suppose if they invade South Korea we have a treaty.

Each nation should be dealt with case by case approach and war as the perfect threat, one that is almost never used. In Libya we had little choce. Policeman of the world no, but as leader to get others to contribute their share, multilateral rather than unilateral.

Blah Blah Blah, the bottom ... (Below threshold)

Blah Blah Blah, the bottom line is Obama did it it's ok if Bush did it it's bad. And Art shove your race card up your ass, it's max'ed out!

Steve, think about your las... (Below threshold)

Steve, think about your last comment. Before committing American service members to combat, Obama got the approval of the UN, NATO, and the Arab League -- but NOT Congress or the American people. Doesn't that freak you out just a little?

The fundamental difference here is that you see this as an aberration, as some kind of sign that Obama has failed. To those of us on the other side, this is exactly what we predicted would happen and one of many reasons we didn't vote for him.

It's kind of like Breitbart and Weiner. Even though we were correct, you still have to fight like hell to keep from giving us credit for being right. It must have been some kind of aberration or freak occurrence or coincidence that we were right. We must have stumbled on to the truth, it was purely a matter of random chance that things happened the way we said they would. And it in no way reflects poorly on you that you were wrong.

Sorry, Steve. I wish we'd been wrong, too. But we're stuck with this guy for another.... um... carry the seven... 19 months at a minimum.

Thanks SO much.


"When one starts a war, you... (Below threshold)

"When one starts a war, you best be in it to win it, or not even start."

Thank you, truer words were never written.

Our best strategy would to be letting these rock throwing, spear chucking, sword swinging barbarians continue AS THEY HAVE FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS killing each other off. There is no shortage of factions within their countries that will not eventually challenge whatever particular group is in charge. If, in fact, (doubtful) a particular leader or faction ever rises to a solid position of power and threat, then it can be dealt with with decisive military options, air mail. In the meantime, the more they kill each other, the less we have to fight. If a nation ever becomes a hostile and viable threat to the USA, then take out their military, industrial, and communications comlexes (air mail) and DO NOT ALLOW "BOOTS ON THE GROUND"! No occupational forces, and no reparations. If they bring it upon themselves, they are responsible for the consequences.

Steve"multilateral... (Below threshold)
retired military:


"multilateral rather than unilateral.

Oh you mean like the number of countries Bush had to assist in Iraq vs the number of countries Obama has to assist with Libya right?

How many cruize missiles have been fired at Libay? 125 or so. How many of those were from the US? 115 or so.

Also good nonanswer on Syria.

Your standards above were as follows:

" If you can do something to prevent an impending massacre isn't that much better, than wringing your hands from the sideline, years later"

Isnt that is what is happening in Syria on an even larger scale than in Libya?

How about the thousands starving in NK due to the dictator feeding the army and keeping them happy and letting the populace eat grass to try to stay alive.

And this

"He would have bipartisan support if went to Congress'"

So the question begs. WHY DOESNT HE??

SteveJay Tea addre... (Below threshold)
retired military:


Jay Tea addressed this a bit

"Our intervention in Libya was voted on by the UN Security Council, agreed upon by the Arab League'

But umm they arent paying the bills. WE Are. AND WE ARE REPRESENTED BY CONGRESS WHO according to the CONSTITUTION has the power to declare war.

And last time I checked missiles being fired generally indicates a war is going on.

Obama's time has come:... (Below threshold)






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