Well, Friday came and went without President Obama seeking Congressional approval for his little UnWar in Libya. So we are left wondering what will happen next — if anything.
And as I think about the past few months, I — like most folks — find myself second-guessing the decisions President Obama made all along the way. And I think he got every single one of them wrong.
I would not have intervened militarily in Libya. One of the less-mentioned benefits of our invasion of Iraq was the message that went out around the world — cause us enough headaches, and we’ll take you out. That message was heard loud and clear in Tripoli, as it caused K-Daffy to not only admit to having a WMD program far more advanced than anyone suspected, but to surrender the whole thing, lock stock and barrel, to the US.
The full details were never publicly released, but from observation we can deduce the rough terms of the deal. K-Daffy surrenders the WMDs, owns up and makes amends for a lot of the crap he’s pulled over the years, gives up intelligence on terrorists he’s supported, and stops being a pain in the ass, and the US accepts his apologies, allows them to start rejoining the civilized world, and forgives a lot of our grievances. Not the best deal, but a healthy dose of realpolitik and probably the best we could hope for without using force.
And then Obama threw that deal out the window. Now, I don’t mind our breaking our word to K-Daffy, and I certainly won’t miss him when he’s gone, but it gives a very bad message to other states we have disagreements with: we won’t keep our word. Especially in the field of WMDs — we had been saying “get rid of them, and we won’t go after you,” now it’s “lose the WMDs, and we’ll take you out as soon as is convenient for us.” Compare Libya with North Korea. The incentive should be to get these rogue nations to give up their WMDs and programs, not make them embrace them tighter.
Once the decision was made to attack Libya, I would have involved the Congressional leadership. The president is the commander in chief, but he’s only one-third of the government. Congress has certain prerogatives in these kinds of matters, and that should be respected. A quiet heads-up to Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Nancy Pelosi, telling them what was going on before it started. They might not have signed on to the plan, but it might have disarmed some resistance before it started.
Once the decision was made to attack Libya, I would have made a public address outlining the vital US interests. Obama’s after-the-fact rationalization was insulting, doubly so when one considers that he did first get the approval of NATO and the UN before checking with any Americans.
Once the decision was made to attack Libya, I would have given the Pentagon a clear directive — “get rid of K-Daffy” — and had them carry it out as best they believed they should. When one starts a war (even if you call it a “kinetic military action,”) you best be in it to win it, or not even start. “When you strike against a king, be sure to kill him.” This half-assed “we’re not really waging war” bullshit and incremental ratcheting up of force without a clear objective is reminding me way, way too much of how we got into that whole Viet Nam mess — even to the point of our getting involved as a favor to France.
Once the fighting started, I would abide by the requirements of the War Powers Act. I would follow the example of other presidents and refuse to acknowledge the Act’s authority, but would still act in agreement with its tenets. I would make certain Congress was notified on time, give them reports, and seek Congressional approval. The Constitutionality of its mandate is debatable, but the plain common sense of it is not. Actions as significant as war ought to have wide, bipartisan support within the government and the American people, and a Congressional mandate is a solid way of getting that kind of “buy-in.”
Each of these decisions don’t require a great deal of thought or knowledge or intelligence or experience. They are all simple, common-sense choices.
And common sense seems to be something critically lacking in this administration.