We Don't Need No Stinkin Badges
The newspapers are reporting that President Obama has signed a secret directive to overthrow Muhammer Khadaffi. Citing a government source, Reuters says:
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 ... 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. The CIA and the White House declined immediate comment.
Recently Donald Trump brought condemnation down on himself by wondering out loud about why anyone would shout out private events from a rooftop. "Someone takes an ad out in the paper announcing his birth days later? How many people do you know who take an ad out in the paper to announce a birth, and then won’t show anyone the birth certificate?" Who, well someone who'll sign a secret directive so it can be announced a few days later in the newspapers. Old habits die hard. But it all makes sense in a way. From a certain point of view secrets must signposted above all or else the intended people might not find them because they're so hard to locate. And then if they get lost you might be sued.
Some things just have to be spelled out.
Like "I didn't tell the truth when I said it was only going to be a No-Fly-Zone, but I want you to know, up front that I lied so that you don't accuse me of dishonesty." But don't worry. Everybody has already figured out some kind of bait and switch was going down in Libya. When President Obama said "the only people who don't want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide" everyone immediately understood that what he really meant is that "the only people who tell the truth are people too stupid to govern".
We're waiting for the other shoe to drop. And the other... and the other ...
But there's no impropriety involved. As David Wiegel in Slate explained, everything in government works on a wink and a nod. "Why Obama Doesn't Need to Ask Congress Before Attacking Libya? It's simple: Most of Washington doesn't want him to. To coin a phrase: If they want the president to do it, that means it's legal." Got that. If nobody in capital cares it's jake. The ruling class recursively justifies itself. That's why you want to enter the inner circle, be the right kind of people. So that the players will make sure that you are counted among those whose indifference matters. Time Magazine during Obama's campaign wrote about how big a deal "we" had become.
And yet there was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism — "We are the ones we've been waiting for" — of the Super Tuesday speech and the recent turn of the Obama campaign. ... Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.
The entire theme of the administration's Libyan policy is "we don't need no steenkin' badges". Not from the Congress, not even from the UN Security Council. For authority they can just write a little secret finding and as long as Washington insiders let him get away with it, it's a done deal. Hillary can reinterpret the UN arms embargo to whatever she wants it to mean. Things are infinitely elastic, which is to say, they can do anything they want. It marks the final emergence of an incipient aristocracy from the cocoon of a Republic. It has no obligations to anyone. Not even to tell the truth to itself.
There is probably nothing inherently wrong with the decision to remove the Duck of Death. But the process through which this decision was reached leaves much to be desired. We should be glad of it the way Dorothy was glad a tornado carried her to Oz. It could have carried her to hell. That it didn't -- well should we thank God or our betters? Dorothy remarked, "we're not in Kansas any more." True enough. Chicago is in Illinois.
"No Way In" print edition at Amazon