Trifecta: Should he stay or should he go now — could our war aims in Libya be any more confused?
I’ll be on The Rick Moran Show tonight at 8PM Eastern, with Jazz Shaw and Richard Baehr. Ought to make for good radio.
I’ll also let you in on a little secret. Any other show I do, I go in cold. I usually know what the topics will be, but otherwise I figure whatever is in my head is good enough for government work. But not for Moran. If you show up without having done your homework — as I learned the hard way — he’ll press you for not answering the question. You just don’t try to bluff your way past Rick.
So if you’ll excuse me, I have a little reading to do between now and 8:00.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill inadvertently explains why we hold our political class is such low regard:
“I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane,” she says. “He has hired a broker, and I can tell you I will never set foot on the plane again.”
Poor thing, having to endure the hardships of private plane ownership. Maybe being a Senator is just too much for Claire. She should consider retirement.
The Libyan operation, as Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said on yesterday’s Fox News Sunday, is not about protecting American interests. This is about Obama’s desire to subordinate American power to the “international community.” He was maneuvered into this action by the Europeans, the Arab League, and the ladies on his national security team led by Hillary Clinton.
Our prestige — assuming this President has any left — was put on the line two weeks ago, after Obama said Gaddafi “must” go. Then he dithered. And now that the shooting has started, Obama’s own hand-picked Joint Chiefs chairman doesn’t know if Gaddafi really “must” go or not. And it’ll all be over in a few days or maybe weeks, presumably regardless of the outcome
Does that mean Libya’s civilians will no longer be deserving of our protection at the end of an arbitrary and as-yet-unannounced deadline? Will the Coalition (of the willing!) pick up our slack? If so, how without American command and control and logistics? Or will we continue to provide those even after we cease combat operations? If our partners can’t keep up the pressure, will we step in?
Roger made a good case last weekend for American intervention (although that jab about “extremist libertarians” hurt a little, boss!), reminding us that “we’re all in this together,” and that “good is what we are supposed to do.” But this Administration is so feckless in the pursuit of its unidentifiable goals, that I honestly don’t see what good we’re supposed to do here.
I guess it’s all just too smart for me.
Artichokes seem to be back in season already. Ribeyes never left.
Back in journalism class — high school journalism — Capt. Scott Spangler taught us about this mysterious item known by journalistic professionals as “the lede.” A tricky thing, this lede. It’s supposed to convey everything a reader needs to understand the gist of the story — and all in the very first sentence! Highly-trained journalistic professionals have sometimes even claimed it must explain the “WWWWH,” or the “Five Double-yous.” That’s the “Who, What, When, Where and hoW” for you non-highly trained journalistic professionals.
With that in mind, let us look now at the “lede” of story making a big splash on the top right corner of the Washington Post:
A Pentagon audit has found that the federal government overpaid a billionaire oilman by as much as $200 million on several military contracts worth nearly $2.7 billion.
Golly. Sounds like quite a scandal. But who is this billionaire oilman? The only billionaire oilman I’ve read about recently in the Post is that sneaky Koch guy — or were there two of them — who give all those millions to racists Tea Party members and union-busting Republican governors. It must be him. Or them. Maybe the next graf (that’s what highly-trained journalistic professional call a “paragraph”) offers a clue to the identity of the robbing oil baron.
The audit by the Defense Department’s inspector general, which was posted on the Pentagon’s Web site this week, estimated that the department paid the oilman “$160 [million] to $204 million more for fuel than could be supported by price or cost analysis.” The study also reported that the three contracts were awarded under conditions that effectively eliminated the other bidders.
Well there’s that word “oilman” again — but still no names have been named. But, really, I know what’s going on. An oilman — probably from Texas — has been robbing us blind. Maybe there’s even collusion between Mr. Koch (and his brother!) and that Pentagon the Republicans love so much. And then the typical reader might go on to the next snappy “lede.”
But we’re made of sturdier stuff. Let us continue:
Harry Sargeant III, a well-connected Florida businessman and once-prominent Republican donor, first faced scrutiny over his defense work in October 2008, when he was accused in a congressional probe of using his close relationship with Jordan’s royal family to secure exclusive rights over supply routes to U.S. bases in western Iraq.
Ah-hah! It wasn’t actually a Koch (or Kochs!), but some other nasty Republican billionaire oilman. Good thing we read three whole “grafs” into the story, unlike many casual readers, or we might have gotten the wrong impression there.
Funny though, you’d think highly-trained journalistic professionals like Penn Bullock and Kimberly Kindy would know to put important information, like the billionaire oilman’s name, right up there in the lede. Anyway, that’s what they taught me in high school.
Shorter Obama Address: “We have very high aims, but will not provide the means and lack the will to achieve them.”
I miss anything?
Sorry, I shouldn’t have led with that. Presidents, secretaries of State — they don’t get wars. America gets wars and now we’re in a third one. We got into this one without a strategy I can discern. A couple weeks ago, the president said Gaddafi “must” go, but then worked behind the scenes to prevent a British-led no-fly zone. And doing nothing seemed to be the preferred method of putting some muscle behind the “must,” right up until it wasn’t.
According to The Daily, Clinton led the effort to get the UN resolution, even though there was zero enthusiasm for action in the White House. There wasn’t any enthusiasm to stay out, either — just a dithering president being led around by his secretary of State.
The UN Resolution “demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians.” But apparently Gaddafi didn’t get that message, what with the 25 dead civilians after a bombing run earlier today. A no-fly zone might do a good job of preventing more attacks like that one, but it won’t stop the fighting — only boots on the ground can do that. There’s just one little problem:
The Arab League chief told Reuters on Friday that the U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya was aimed at protecting civilians without backing any invasion, and said he did not want any side “to go too far”.
Last week, the Arab League provided us with the political cover necessary to impose the NFZ. But now the League doesn’t want anyone going “too far.” However, that doesn’t exactly square with the Resolution’s promise to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians. Of course, the Resolution doesn’t square with itself because that very same sentence finishes by forbidding any “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”
Is an “occupation force” different from a “we’re only here for a little while” force? Will the Arab League back that up? Or will the League do what it usually does, and turn and snarl at the West as soon as anything turns sour?
If you read Austin Bay’s column this morning, it painted a bleak picture for the Libyan rebels. If Gaddafi takes Tobruk, it’s all over but the mass reprisals — and there’s little reason to think Gaddafi won’t take Tobruk.
We’ll have a pariah state with nothing to lose and lots of anger to vent against the US. But it didn’t have to be quite that way.
Normally, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Libya is small and mostly inept and thoroughly corrupt. But two things stand out. First, Gaddafi has a history of terror attacks against American and European targets. Second, President Obama demanded that Gaddafi step down, but then proved feckless when it came to taking any concrete steps to either mortally wound the regime or to materially aid the rebels.
Obama has, through his strong words and weak actions, enraged and emboldened an unstable terrorist sitting on top of vast oil wealth.
It was easy to laugh at Gaddafi’s comic-opera madness, back when we used the occasional airstrikes to keep him in line, and when he was busy taking the example set by initial Iraq invasion very earnestly.
Now, I remain opposed to American involvement in the Libyan Civil War, after some early and short-lived hoo-rah impulses. What happens in Libya does not effect US interests. But if we aren’t concerned, then it is incumbent on the President — follow me closely here — to act as though we are not concerned. If you strike at the king, you must kill him. Well, Obama struck. Weakly, briefly and hesitantly. And the king of Libya still lives.
The counter-argument is that Obama used strong words in public for domestic (and limited international) consumption, but behind the scenes worked against any strong measures — precisely because he agrees with the non-intervention position. This would be with Gaddafi’s tacit understanding that we mean him no harm, and that we should therefore expect no reprisals. And I suppose that’s fine, so far as it goes.
But others will certainly take note that, yet again, this President talks big, acts small, and can’t help himself but pee in everyone’s soup.
The inescapable conclusion is that this is a tiny man in a big office. The only comfort I can find is that the conclusion was already reached around the world long ago, and that the President’s Libya “policy” is just another confirmation of it.
Crack Tobruk, and the Libyan rebels have three choices: surrender, seek asylum in Egypt or head for the deep southern desert and wage a longshot guerrilla war. Surrender is defeat, followed by mass executions and mass gravesites. Asylum is defeat — as the rebels hole up in Cairo, Gadhafi will launch bloody reprisals against Cyrenaica’s people. As for a guerrilla war waged from the Sahara? Gadhafi will have an air-power advantage. The coastal cities will also provide him with thousands of hostages (the guerrillas’ relatives) to torture and kill.
Read the whole thing.
Politico: “President Obama’s only event at the White House that isn’t closed to the press on Wednesday is a ceremony in which he’ll accept an award for being open to the press.”
I’m hoping that the writers at Saturday Night Live will dispel my conviction that we now have a President beyond parody or satire.
PJTV has a good roundtable discussion with Glenn Reynolds and Reason‘s Brian Doherty and Tim Cavanaugh — a couple guys I’ve been reading for what seems like ever. And Glenn’s at the PJ mothership in LA for the first time, which is always a nice improvement from the single-cam, tiny home studio environment.
The question they address is: Is Libertarianism a New Trend or a Passing Fad? Interesting answers all around, but I think the major point might have been missed. Libertarianism is about to become a grim necessity, as we’re simply out of money. We have nothing left to feed the behemoth.
But Brian did get the next part right, and that is we still have the opportunity to wind Washington down in an orderly fashion, rather than waiting for a general economic collapse.
It’s a brief moment, however — and where are the leaders to take us through it?
I haven’t even clicked on the link yet, but the headline reads, “Confidence in U.S. Government Hits 35-Year Low.” So let’s do the math.
Mid-Seventies? Watergate, the fall of South Vietnam, inflation, wage and price controls, a newly-all volunteer military with a serious drug problem, the first oil shock, the Soviets mucking around all over Africa and Central America, and the swift rise of a unknown and incompetent Georgia governor to the White House.
Yep. Sounds about right.
Microsoft, facing grim reality, has cancelled the Zune. It will not be missed by consumers, although my Akismet spam-catcher is going to find oodles of new free time. Anyway, here’s the word from Dan Frommer:
After years of mediocrity and weak sales, Microsoft is finally killing off its Zune media player, Bloomberg reports.
This is the right move. Microsoft should be focusing all of its portable-gadget efforts on Windows Phone 7, to try and compete with Apple and Google there.
Don’t worry — Microsoft is hard at work on a brand new music service, and they’re dead certain it will do better than Zune. And better than Plays-for-Sure. It certainly couldn’t do any worse.
The Gulf War gave us President Clinton. People forget that, but it’s true. By the summer of 1992, President Bush had alienated his base (and become something of a joke to the middle) to the point where most any politically-competent Democrat could beat him.
But why was that Democrat a relatively unknown governor from a small southern state?
Because the year before, in the wake of the Gulf War, Bush’s popularity soared to 91% — and all the Brand Name Democrats said “no thanks” to running against him.
Today something similar might be going on. President Obama looked weak after the midterms, but he has very quickly reestablished his “relevance” in Washington. From here, the 2012 electoral math looks daunting — which might well be why the GOP field is notable for its emptiness. Newt Gingrich put a toe in the water last week, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Gingrich will never be President, not even if he ran against the decayed corpse of Andrew Johnson.
But next year there might also be a similar dynamic to 1992 at work. I doubt Obama will ever alienate his base — for the same reason that eight-year-old girls never fall out of love with unicorns: They’re magical! But without significant improvement (or at least the expectation of improvement) in the jobs picture and with continued flaccidity on the international scene, America could sour on the President, and quickly, too.
That said, the current Brand Name Republicans are almost all dismally unappealing, each uniquely so. So the idea of the party producing its own Clinton next year might be its best idea in ages.
UPDATE: Mark Sanford for President!