Some times it just doesn’t pay to procrastinate.
I’ve been meaning to write something about Libya all week, but just haven’t gotten around to it before circumstances made my ideas obsolete.
First, I wanted to discuss the problems of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. The logistics would be a huge challenge — we need to first take out most of Libya’s anti-air defenses, then keep our own fighters over their territory to shoot down any aircraft Qaddafi sends up. And that, in turn, requires significant support — tankers to keep the fighters fueled, AWACS to spot Libyan aircraft, and so on. Further, Libya wasn’t using its air power to a great degree — the main fighting was on the ground.
Next, I wanted to talk about the case against intervening. Yeah, Qadaffi’s ordered the deaths of a lot of Americans, and to me there’s no statute of limitations on that. And it’s quasi-personal for me — my fellow New Hampshirite and blog-buddy Giacomo lost his brother in Pan Am 103. But it’s been quite a few years since he’s acted against us, directly or indirectly. Hell, even now, he’s not going after any of his neighbors — the fighting is strictly an internal affair. The US should weigh very carefully getting involved in a matter that does not threaten us, our interests, or our allies. And on that scale, Libya fails.
That piece got tossed in the dumpster when the first cruise missiles went in. So I started on Plan C — talking about how Democratic presidents tend to think of such things as cruise missiles and drones as an extension of foreign policy, and not weapons of war. That’s fine and dandy — as long as you don’t look at things from the perspective of the target. If they’re getting their assets blown up and people killed, that’s an act of war to them — and in the eyes of international law.
So we’re waging war on Libya. We are, in fact, at war with Libya. That simply isn’t open to debate.
Nor is the legality. Under the War Powers Act, the president can engage in military action without Congressional approval. All he has to do is notify Congressional leadership within 48 hours after it begins — and he, presumably, did that. (Considering they’ve made it public almost instantly, I think that’s a safe presumption. For all the flaws of the Obama administration, one they do not have is a shortage of lawyers.) And he can carry out combat operations for up to 90 days without Congressional approval.
But that was all based on the theory that Obama was playing it safe with his attacks, and not directly putting American lives at risk. Apparently to liberals, it’s not “war-war” as long as we’re using unmanned weapons systems like cruise missiles and drones, and not putting real live Americans in harm’s way.
That piece bit the big one this morning, when it came out we’d also used Stealth bombers in the attacks. Real American warplanes, with real American pilots, invading Libyan airspace and dropping bombs on Libyan soil.
There are a lot of good arguments for why we shouldn’t be doing this. And I am quite prepared to make a lot of them, because I think it is a mistake. For one, I find it deeply troubling that Obama acted in response to the request of our allies and the sanction of the UN — but without the consent of Congress and making the case to the American people. His first duty is not to NATO or the UN, but the Constitution and our nation — and it looks like we got blown off on this matter.
But that ship has sailed. We’re at war with Libya.
So while I didn’t agree with this war, I’m now fully behind it. We’ve started it, we need to end it — and we need to win it. As Obama said about a week ago, Qadaffi’s got to go. And we need to do whatever is necessary to achieve that.
One of the most dangerous things an authority figure can do is to be caught bluffing. Once a threat is issued, it must be carried out — it can not be allowed to be shown to be empty.
I learned that a long time ago, on a much smaller scale, as an editor here. I have the responsibility to enforce the rules here, and the power to edit and delete comments — as well as ban commenters. I use that power very, very sparingly — but I do use it.
And once I threaten to use it, I have no choice but to carry it out if challenged. Because if I don’t, then I have forfeited my authority.
I’ve seen it at other blogs. At one, the owner repeatedly declared that he was sick and tired of his commenters engaging in personal attacks on each other, and would ban those who continued. (This was a liberal blog, so I — naturally — was usually hostile to the owner’s views.) Well, several of the commenters started getting personal with me. I noted it to the owner, and reminded him of his threat. He ignored it. So I started hitting back personally, and quite viciously. Nothing happened. So I figured I’d really push the envelope — I called him out for failing to enforce his rules, even on me, and publicly called him “a spineless, no-balled wimp.”
No one got banned, no comments got deleted, and he was revealed as an utterly worthless wimp. I haven’t commented there since. He bluffed, I called it, and he lost all authority over his own blog.
The same principle holds on the international stage. If you bluff, and you’re caught bluffing, you’ve lost credibility. A lot of credibility. And it takes a hell of a lot to get it back — if at all.
So Qadaffi’s got to go. By any means necessary.
Afterwards, though, we — the American people — need to have a little chat about our employee — Barack Obama — about his decision-making processes and priorities and loyalties…
But not now.