The PJ Tatler

Should we stop the 'schadenfreude' on Libya?

The demand is made over at Patterico’s blog, though not by Patterico. And I’m gonna have to say no.

And there’s nothing logically invalid about this.  From the beginning, even when talking to the club for dictators known as the U.N., President Bush (II) depicted the impending war with Iraq as being at least in part about liberation.  And today the only justification offered is that Libya is committing atrocities.  If that justifies military action in Libya, how does it not in Iraq?  And of course there is a far more compelling argument that if Qdaffy* survives this, we can expect him to disavow every agreement with the west, including the one forswearing WMDs.  But then again, the argument that even if Qdaffy doesn’t currently have WMDs, he might get them in the future as a justification for war…  would be very hypocritical if offered by an opponent of the Iraq War.

But before we hammer the President too hard, ask yourself a simple question.  Is he right, right now?  Forget what he said when he represented one of the most liberal jurisdictions in America, but is he right, right now?  If he is, then we have, to a degree, a patriotic duty to put those criticisms aside.  Maybe the President is too small to admit it, but either 1) he was full of it when opposing the Iraq War, or 2) he has changed his mind.  And if you think he is making the right decision, we shouldn’t make it too difficult, politically, to do the right thing, or else he might stop doing the right thing.  In other words, please lay off.

If Obama has changed his mind from his anti-Iraq stance, a stance he rode directly to the White House, then he should explain it. He owes as much both to his disappointed supporters, to the Nobel committee that handed him a prize he only earned based on Not Being Bush, and to those of us he maligned for years, especially his predecessor. Man up and say you’re sorry, Brackets.

And if Obama was full of it back then but hasn’t changed his mind, he’s still full of it now, because he hasn’t changed his mind. He’s just come up with some new rationale for using military force, one which he hasn’t adequately explained to the American people. And he probably hasn’t explained it because he doesn’t quite get it himself.

As for whether Obama’s right on Libya, right now, I confess a great deal of ambivalence. Gaddafi is among the world’s worst, no question about that. But we’re not omnipotent and we don’t have an unlimited treasury. We don’t have a strong handle on who his opposition is or what they want. We have to pick our battles with some wisdom, and then we have to see them through, taking care not to set unintentional and possibly dangerous precedents along the way. I’m very dubious, for instance, about enforcing the UN’s “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine on a global scale. Might the time come when Israel faces a UN R2P action for taking out terrorist bases in the Palestinian territories or southern Lebanon? I don’t know, but I do know that this R2P doctrine needs some very careful consideration and serious debate. There’s not much evidence that either has taken place.

Obama himself said today that on the one hand it is US policy to that Gaddafi “should go,” but on the other hand we’re not going to use our military to make that happen. Why? The military is the quickest way to make that policy stick (and given our experience in Iraq with boots on the ground, even that may not be all that quick). And Obama said this, while we’re spending about $80 million per day flying planes, dropping bombs and launching expensive missiles at Libyan forces. Those forces are run by Gaddafi. We’re basically fighting someone else’s war with one hand tied behind our backs because that’s what the UN and the Arab League will allow.

Sorry, that’s just nothing that gets me to stand up and cheer.

Meanwhile, a more malevolent enemy, one that’s very much in the Iranian orbit, is also shooting its own people. That enemy would be Syria, and Michael Ledeen is just about the only writer covering that war. CNN isn’t there, they’re too busy giving us loops of green-grainy footage of tracer rounds ineffectually rising up over Tripoli.

And we’re not doing anything about Syria, even though it’s easy to make the case that our national interests right now are better served by hammering them than by hammering Libya — or undermining either or both by other means. As usual, a liberal’s tendency to use American force seems to be meted out in inverse proportion to the US national interests at stake.

Anyway, right now it’s hilarious to note that very unserious people like Michael Moore and very malevolent people like Louis Farrakhan are disappointed in Obama because, faced with a crisis and a lot of pressure inside his administration, he’s resorting to military force. It’s hilarious to note that Ralph Nader wants Obama impeached. It’s hilarious to see Dennis Kucinich parade his elfen silliness around denouncing the president he supported.

What we’re doing in Libya is very serious, and now that we’re in I hope we succeed (however we’re defining success). It’s not wrong to note that Obama’s allies are turning on him precisely because they’re unserious and, frankly in some cases, either ignorant or outright hostile to American interests. He was too happy to have their support in 2008, and everyone knows they’ll come around and support him again in 2012, but we have this little window here in which reality has intruded on their fantasy lives and turned their messiah into a mere mortal and frankly, it’s comedy. Who knows, this turn of events might even give Obama a slightly greater respect for the president he recklessly slandered.

I’m not holding my breath on that, of course.