I still don’t believe there is such a thing as “limited war”. You are either at war or you or not and you either fight to win or you don’t, and in the case of the latter you likely lose, or at the least end up with a stalemate that is not satisfying to the American psyche. That is why we play or watch football where there are winners and losers, not soccer where you can tie 0 to 0.
The Obama Doctrine as I can make it out takes me a lot of words to explain: it seems to be we cannot act everywhere where there is terrible wrong, but we can sometimes if there is a real interest there and if the conditions are right and if we can get the backing and/or support of enough people, and if we do not have the bear the total responsibility and if we can back out of it at any time and we can make ultimatums such as Gaddafi must go because he lost the support of his people and because he is a mad man who would butcher his own people, but we will not put boots on the ground or actually enforce regime change to back up those words.
President Obama said somewhat over 24 hours now as I write this that those bombing sorties and missile strikes done by the U.S. and France and other members of the coalition had done the trick and the rebel forces had turned the tide (we‘re supporting the “rebels“ even though we do not know what they are really up to or whether in the end they will just open the way for Al Qaeda). But as far as the rebels beating back the Gaddafi forces, that is not what I am reading in news dispatches from the front as I am writing this (it is a fluid situation I am sure).
You would think with all the power arrayed against Gaddafi and all of it that is available, he and his forces could be wiped out pronto (then again that is not often the case, but there was that first Iraq war where we wiped out that nation‘s air force in a day or so and within weeks had his vaunted army surrendering to TV cameramen (ahh those were the days). Even then some people just could not stand to win, so we failed to march into Baghdad and hang Hussein at the time.
So even if there is enough pressure on Gaddafi to make him flee will there be a force to restore order or will it just be a new problem?
And just how does one take and secure territory without boots on the ground? Maybe the ragtag rebels can do it with air support from the coalition, but it does not seem likely since they are up against armed professional soldiers and mercenaries.
But if the rebels do prevail, what will they bring? Will they be co-opted by Al Qaeda if they are not just Al Qaeda in disguise already?
And where is Obama getting the money to pay for all of this, this war without congressional authorization?
How is it that we are nearly brought to our knees by trillions of dollars of national debt, but we can afford to pay for a war of choice, not defense? (We always can afford a war of defense — we have to afford that or we will not continue to exist.)
It is nice to have the support of the Arab world, such as it is, with all of its qualifications and equivocations, but why not let the Arab League sort it out?
Obama is not the first president to use the military as a tool of international relations. There is a long tradition in that. Teddy Roosevelt used gunboat diplomacy.
But I think the world has changed and gotten more complex and the military may be needed to be reserved more for defense.
Being a superpower may not be what it used to be. On the other hand that does not mean we have to let our own military be subjugated to the dictates of other nations or a world government.
Obama may well be trying to respond in a moral way to a crisis in which a dictator threatens to murder en masse his own people over rebellion, but without creating a mess like we did in a similar situation in Iraq, something that has not been totally resolved yet, although Saddam Hussein won‘t be bothering anyone anymore, thanks thousands of lives, to include thousands of Americans, and the hangman‘s rope.
Now if Obama can figure out a way to get at Gaddafi and hang him now and spare all the rest of the bloodshed, that would be good. But he seems unclear on whether Gaddafi can or should be forced to go.
But at the hour I write this Gaddafi forces seem to have taken the upper hand.
What is Obama and the rest of the coalition waiting for?
Either you know what or get off the pot, I’d say.
Ever since the 60s I have heard those debates ringing in my ears about whether to fight wars and if you do how to stop from “escalating” them, as if they were on some kind of dial you could turn up or down at will.
Yeah, I’m getting tiring and repeating myself, but come on, you either fight or not (and there is a decision to be made on that account). But if you fight, you fight to win — give it all you’ve got. This is football, not soccer.
And now, thanks to the New York Times, which I may be pay walled out of reading soon (I guess it’s only fair), I read that there is now a debate within the Obama administration and within the Pentagon over whether to arm the rebels. Well let’s see, we wanted one side to win in the Vietnam War and President Johnson vowed at one point he would not send American boys in to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing for themselves and 50,000 Americans dead and thousands wounded later we gave up — he did send them because the job was not getting done and if America is backing something it kind of has to be in charge. Oh, and I also read that the administration is trying to get all the intelligence it can on who exactly these rebels are. That’s comforting.