Great Style, Little Substance

Well, I heard most of President Obama’s speech last night, but fortunately there were transcripts posted almost immediately that I could access. And as I listened, I remembered something I read over at Ace Of Spades, in the comments. Apparently Rush Limbaugh’s latest insight is that Obama is a good speaker, but a bad communicator.

Coming from someone who I respect as a hell of a communicator (even if I don’t care for his style), that’s a superb insight. Because Obama’s speech, stripped of his voice and delivery, was very lacking in actual content.

Before he spoke, I posted a baker’s dozen list of questions I wanted answered. And I’m still left wondering about most of them.

1) What vital interest of the United States was threatened to justify ignoring the War Powers Act?

Well, we had citizens in Libya, but we promptly evacuated most of them when all this started. So there goes the Grenada precedent. Apart from that, it seems that Obama was worried about the “stain on the conscience” that would be caused by not intervening in a civil war.

2) What differentiates the situation in Libya from that in Syria or Yemen now, Iran in 2009, or Iraq in 2003?

Apparently this time Europe (which buys a LOT of oil from Libya) wanted us to intervene, and the Arab League kinda sorta said they’d like us to do it, too. At one point. So “doing dirty work for the Europeans and Arab League wants done, but isn’t willing to take on themselves, by themselves” is the major difference here.

The UN and other nations have veto power over American foreign policy. Conversely, Congress and the American people have little to no say.

3) Why did Obama seek the approval of our allies and the UN before — more accurately, in place of — the approval of Congress and the American people?

It seems because “they asked,” and Congress and we didn’t.

4) What exactly differentiates a war from a “kinetic military action?” More specifically, from the perspective of the people being blown up?

Because Republican presidents are war-mongers, while Democratic presidents are humanitarians. Bombs dropped on Republican orders kill people, bombs dropped on Democratic orders save people. People killed by Republican bombs are innocent until proven guilty; people killed by Democratic bombs are guilty unless proven innocent — and then are unavoidable casualties who died in a noble cause.

5) If there was such a rush to action that Congress and the American people couldn’t be consulted, why did it take several weeks to start moving?

Because we had to try diplomacy first. We had to talk to other nations and the UN and K-Daffy himself in the hopes that, for once in his life, he’d respond to reason and appeals to his humanity and compassion and stop slaughtering his people. But once we were certain that our allies were behind us — er, ahead of us — and that K-Daffy was going to act pretty much like he had for 40 years, then we had to strike now, strike fast, and strike hard — and there was no time to talk to Congress and the American people. Besides, what do they really count for, anyway? Obama already knew what they’d say.

6) Wouldn’t it have been more effective to intervene when the rebels were winning, and not when they were on the verge of defeat?

The diplomatic phase was still going strong at that point. Hell, it even got K-Daffy to to agree to a ceasefire. Which he didn’t bother to honor for a single second, but his saying he would was accepting it, so that was something.

7) Are there any other civil wars or purely internal conflicts that we are considering getting involved in?

Absolutely not. Unless we are, in which case only our allies and the UN are aware of it. Domestically, we’ll have it explained to us in due time — roughly a week or so after the Obama administration acts.

8)  If this crisis is so important, why does no one want to take responsibility for leading it?

Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan. No one wants their fingerprints on this until it’s clear that it will succeed. And “leadership” is a tough thing. It involves such icky concepts as “responsibility” and “accountability” and “judgment” and “decisions.” The Community Organizer In Chief is far more used to simply bitching about situations and calling for vague “actions,” then taking credit when others do the heavy lifting. That is a perfect model for this operation — he “organized the international community” to address the problem, but isn’t going to put his own status in jeopardy by doing anything substantive.

9) Is K-Daffy’s removal still a requirement, as President Obama declared on March 21?

We’re not targeting him, we’re not demanding his ouster, but gosh darn it, wouldn’t it be nifty if he happened to be under a bomb (purely by accident of course) or one of his people takes him out or he resigns? Not that we’re trying to arrange that, of course — that would be icky — but we would be less than heartbroken if her were to leave office in some way or another.

10/11) What do we know about the people on whose behalf we are intervening? More specifically, how certain are we that they will be better than K-Daffy?

We’re meeting with them,  and they seem like really nice fellas. Except for those that fought against us in Iraq, of course. And considering how bad K-Daffy is, how could they be worse? (Comparisons to Russia after World War I, Iran after the fall of the Shah, and South Vietnam not welcome.)

12) What, precisely, did you mean when you said the American military “was volunteered” for this action? Please address this in the context of your role as their commander-in-chief. Did you volunteer them? If not, who did?

They were apparently “volunteered” by the international community, and the fierce moral imperative to do something to stop the slaughter of civilians. Whether or not this would actually do any good, short-term or long-term, is an impertinent question. We are doing something, and that good intention is all that matters.

13) In December of 2003, Libya surrendered its entire WMD program. Later, it paid reparations for its terrorist acts and moved towards being a member of the international community. (Towards, I said.) The implicit quo for that quid was that we wouldn’t invade and would let slide those offenses we’d been punishing them over for decades. With this current round of actions, how should other countries with illicit WMD programs (say, North Korea or Iran) act? Should they accept our word that if they start playing nice, we’ll let them off the hook.

Because that was done under Bush, and Obama is not bound by any commitments — implicit and explicit — that Bush made. And even if he was, all Obama promises have an expiration date. The pledge that the United States made to stop treating K-Daffy like a major enemy went under the bus the instant it became inconvenient to keep that pledge, and there was some gain to be had by resuming the pre-2003 policies. “Opportunistic” is such an ugly word; we prefer “flexible” or “adaptable.”

All in all, Obama’s address was very inspiring, very eloquent, and filled with lofty ideals and platitudes and principles. But we’ve learned the hard way — there is very little substance behind his words. He seems to honestly believe that if he just shows up and gives a good speech, that’s all that’s needed to resolve problems.

Up until now, it’s worked pretty well. His career path (prior to January 2009) was nothing but jobs and positions where all he had to do was talk the talk, never having to walk the walk. He would become a gr
eat president through on-the-job training.

So far, he’s failing at all the training.

And not only are we all paying the price for that, his “probationary period” has almost two years left in it.

Of "The One" and his Straw Men
AP fact checks Obama's Libya speech