Sunday, March 20, 2011

Libya, a Jolly Short War

By Alan Caruba

There’s nothing like a war to either make or break a President. There’s a reason the writers of the Constitution also made the President the Commander-in-Chief because war needs a centralized authority to direct the military. A goodly number of the nation’s presidents were former leaders in war, starting with General George Washington, progressing forward to General Ike Eisenhower.

Few nations have the record of its people being extraordinarily resistant to engaging in combat unless provoked than America. Woodrow Wilson was elected with the slogan “He kept us out of the war” and then, after the Germans had the bad judgment to sink the ocean liner Lusitania, America sent “Black Jack” Pershing to put a finish to World War One.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, having made a thorough botch of the Great Depression, was propelled into war by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Until then, Americans wanted nothing to do with another “European war” or the one being waged in Asia. FDR had the good luck to be guided by Gen. George C. Marshall.

Time and time again, U.S. Presidents have had to engage in war and almost always under circumstances that involved a large part of the population being opposed to it. There is something about “modern” wars that means we end up staying on far too long after we’ve dropped the bombs, let lose the artillery, and sent in the Marines and infantry.

Like the Romans of old, Americans do not like protracted wars and, worse, they tend to weaken a nation or an empire. The irony for the Romans is that, as often as not, they were invited by the host nation to keep the peace. Indeed, that’s how the term “Pax Romana” came about. And just as often the locals got tired of the Romans and revolted against them.

It is common knowledge that it’s easy to get into a war, but hard to end one. We are in Afghanistan, not because we started a war with Osama bin Laden, but because he had declared war against the U.S. in 1996, tried to blow up the Twin Towers in 1993, and then waited until 2001 to do it again. George Bush’s response was to bomb the hell out of Tora Bora in Afghanistan and, initially, to drive the Taliban out of there.

Then, on the theory that democracy could be exported to Iraq and because Saddam Hussein was going to make trouble so long as he drew breath, Bush junior decided to invade, perhaps having drawn the lesson from Bush senior’s decision to leave Saddam in power after the first Gulf War, one he later regretted.

In Afghanistan, “mission creep” set in and Bush stayed on. Now President Obama has stayed on. The United States of America has been an occupying force in Afghanistan longer than the former Soviet Union. That does not suggest a good outcome to me because one of the taunts of the Pashtun tribal members is “You have the watches, but we have the time.”

So let it be said, Obama has probably made the one and only really good decision of his presidency. He has made it clear that no American troops will be among the “boots on the ground” when it comes to ridding Libya of Gaddafi. At a time when the U.S. military is in Afghanistan and Iraq, albeit with timetables to leave, we can quite literally ill afford a third war in the Middle East.

If we have to defend the Saudi oil fields—which we may have to do—the Saudis can afford to pick up the bill and had better be handed one. Meanwhile, their military are busy helping put down protests in nearby Bahrain. The prospect that there will be all manner of protests throughout the Arab region of the world is now guaranteed.

The one in Egypt ended remarkably well with a bare minimum of dead Egyptians. The Tunisian overthrow of its dictator went swiftly and smoothly. Dare I remind the reader that both nations were led by men who were U.S. allies? Things are a tad shaky for another longtime ally, King Abdullah of Jordan, who has the evil Syrians as neighbors and a huge Palestinian population.

Flying well under the radar of U.S. media, on March 15, Israeli commandos intercepted a ship from the Turkish port of Mercin that was headed to Egypt’s Alexandria, loaded with weapons for Hamas in the Gaza. The ship had initially departed from Syria en route to a stop at a Turkish port. Turkey used to be an ally of Israel. (See YouTube IDF video) Formerly Egypt would never have allowed Hamas to get weapons. Also under-reported were the estimated fifty rockets fired into Israel from Gaza on March 19. The Israelis responded with a quick, lethal air strike.

You don’t have to be a CIA analyst to conclude the weapons were all made in Iran or at least transferred from there initially. Or that Israel will face another war at some point. If they nuke targets in Iran, it should be over fairly quickly, but they will still be facing Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south.

Like the Romans, the U.S. needs to extricate itself as much as possible from the Middle East unless its vital interests are threatened there. By which I mean, unless we have to defend Iraq’s, Saudi Arabia’s, Bahrain’s, Kuwait’s, and the United Arab Emirates’ oil fields. Defending the region’s only Western democracy, Israel, is also a good idea.

For the same reason that President Obama elected to let the British and French take the lead in Libya, we have ample firepower from the skies and from offshore naval forces to do much of the damage that may be required in what is likely to be a jolly good, but limited military operation in Libya and likely future conflicts.

There isn’t a single military figure among any of the potential candidates in the next election. What we need in the years immediately ahead may well be a President Petraeus.

© Alan Caruba, 2011


TexasFred said...

Barack Hussein Obama, having neither real world nor practical military experience, is guiding the *WAR* from a secure location under a beach umbrella in Brazil...

"Shady" said...

Very well said Alan, what is bothersome somewhat is Obama has stressed we will not have boots on the ground at any point. He also said United States aircraft would not be dropping ordnance or engaging other aircraft. We would only be providing logistiacal support, etc. We were to knock out command and control assets by use of cruise missile, which I agree. With that said why are we using our B-2's? I was under impression France and the U.K were going to being the majority of the CAP (combat air Patrol). In addition where are the Abrab nations who were going to assisting. Are we going to be left holding the bag on this? It was also said that Gaddafi was not a target, he is part of command and control and should be a target. I think we need to offer him a ride on the first cruise missle out of the area.
I do not mind using our assets, so long as we do not get stiffed, my rather would be that France and the U.k. do the heavy lifting, we have enough on our plate and a leader who is totally lost.

Thanks Alan

Alan Caruba said...

Come on, Shady, do you still believe ANYTHING Obama says?

We will do the damage required to allow the French and British to go in if necessary. As for the Arabs, they are already running away.

ck said...

Obamas buddies in Iran and the muslim brotherhood were losing. What else could he do?

Ronbo said...

Petraeus as President?

I think not.

Only someone like President "Ronbo" Barbour can fight a civil war at home, WW III with Islam overseas and hold together our battered economy.

But unfortunately, I won't be elected or even on the ballot, since I would refuse to accept a penny from anyone, or kiss babies to get elected.

This is the problem with American politics - the hardcore alpha people with intelligence, good ideas and awesome patriotism can't get elected because they don't look "pretty" and "talk soft" and try to be liked by kissing the voters' butt.

Instead the weak stupid beta collectivist males and females like Obama and Hillary Clinton steer the ship of state...
into the iceberg.

Joanna said...

great post Mr Caruba,
it is my opinion....
that obama's "good" choice has a tail end to it...
it is like watching a chess game with surprising moves...
none to our advantage , I am affraid...

Anonymous said...

The Big O has seized the opportunity to prove his machismo. The new White House slogan: "Ballsy as Bush!"

joetote said...

Another great post Alan! Man, I really enjoy your stuff. And J.D.Longstreet also has a great one today.

ck mentioned in his comment "Obamas buddies in Iran and the muslim brotherhood were losing. What else could he do?" As such, I pose the following question:

Just who is going to take over there if Qadafi is tossed out? I haven’t seen much yet other than one blurb somewhere that the main resistance is a hard core Radical Islamic Sect. Again I repeat, I haven’t seen much more than that, so at this time one cannot make an informed decision. With the history of the guy in D.C. and his leanings (One only had to read his book as it was there in his own words! (Quote from Obama’s book: Audacity of Hope: ‘I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.’), one has to assume the worse could happen in this case. (BTW: As I’ve said more than once. One’s words and actions equal guilt by association, etc.

Seriously, I really have not seen anyone ask this question! In theory, this guy dithered while Iran, and other countries shot their own people, yet he’s acting here (after having to be pushed into it I might add). Something just doesn’t add up in my mind here. As I stated earlier, thousands of people have already died there BEFORE the U.N. and POTUS decided to act. After sitting on their hands for 4 weeks, I’m supposed to be impressed? Like I said, something isn’t right here and I sure as hell don’t want some diplomatic B.S. answer. What are the facts and who is it this President is really backing in Libya? Like I said, I have my feelings, but that’s not enough.

Dave's Daily Day Dream said...

Why do we allow this man to run over our Constitution?

Again, where is the sense of the Congress?

This is not good, a pattern of treachery has developed. Sigh, another dot to be connected.

Alan Caruba said...

@Ronbo: It's good to know that America's babies are safe! :-)

LarryOldtimer said...

Only good thing???? Good only if it is an endless war you are in want of.

There is no possible way that the US is going to regain hegemony in that area of the planet anytime soon.

Welcome, Vietnam II. Hmmmm . . . only military advisers in Vietnam until LBJ got elected.

Alan Caruba said...

@Larry: I think the West, led well or fitfully, by the US is going to be putting out fires in the Middle East for a long time to come.

I don't think Vietnam is a good model because it occurred during the Cold War and was a further extention of Communism at that time. That guided most of LBJs decisions, although US presidents had long be advised to fighting a war in Asia.

The fact that a missile was targeted at Gadaffi's compound tells you what the true objective of this military operation is all about. Kill him. Replace him. Get the oil flowing again.

Unknown said...

The biggest problem with this is that the Obama crowd didn't discuss this action with Congress. He went to the UN to get Authorization! If I'm not mistaken he has three options to use any military force, Declaration of War, specific statutory authorization, or emergency we or our armed forces are under attack. Bush had congressional approval to take action against Iraq and Afgan, then went to the UN looking for authorization!
Obama side stepped and went to the UN. Congress has to step up and tell Obama he"s breaking the law, that the democrats push threw, with a veto override of Nixon!

Guy in Ohio said...

Great Post Alan ...

It brought to mind a heated discussion I just had with a liberal acquaintance who calls himself a Libertarian. Like so many liberals, he's too ashamed of being a liberal to admit it, so he hides behind the Libertarian label, but from the things he says, it's always been obvious to me that he's a serious leftist, so I usually avoid discussing politics with him.

However, last Thursday evening, I made the mistake of mentioning that I thought Obama's attack on Libya, without Congressional discussion or approval, was rather disturbing. He proceeded to tell me that what Obama was doing was perfectly OK, because George Bush never consulted Congress before he went into Iraq. Of course, I immediately challenged that statement, and told him that it was complete crap. I detailed the months of discussion and planning that occurred before we went in to Iraq, including the fact that Congress voted almost unanimously for the action, but he wouldn't hear of it. He insisted that Operation Iraqi Freedom was never voted on, or even discussed in Congress!

It's amazing how these progressive bastards in the media are re-writing history, and how quickly their lies get legs. I see these progressive lies, and the medias' willingness to propagate them, as one of the greatest threats to America's future. How can a country ever hope to develop responsibly and maintain the freedom we have when half of our population is so ignorant and uneducated? They're making their political, economic, and philosophical decisions based on falsified history and blatant, agenda-driven lies without the first thought about the accuracy of what they're being told.

No good can ever come of that ...