Monday, March 21, 2011

MIlitary Action in Libya Already Exceeds UNSC Resolution 1973: Control of Oil is Actual "End"

Libya’s Slippery Slope: We're going down it fast

by Justin Raimondo
March 21, 2011

Barely 24 hours after the first Allied air strikes, President Obama’s high-flying Libyan adventure is losing altitude. The smoke hadn’t cleared from the first air strikes when the head of the Arab League complained that “what happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives. What we want is civilians’ protection, not shelling more civilians.” Russia and China, who abstained at the Security Council, are already getting restless.
There’s trouble on the horizon.

Initially skeptical of intervention in Libya’s civil war, the President reportedly bowed to pressure from a triumvirate of women in his administration: Hillary Clinton, National Security Council director of “multilateral affairs” Samantha Power, and UN ambassador Susan Rice. Yet the President imposed some conditions, according to the New York Times:

“The president had a caveat, though. The American involvement in military action in Libya should be limited — no ground troops — and finite. ‘Days, not weeks,’ a senior White House official recalled him saying.”

Years, not weeks, is more like it – that’s how fast we’re sliding down the slippery slope into a full-bore campaign of “regime change” in Libya. And that will be just fine with the three Vengeful Valkyries of the US State Department.

Power is a former journalist who says she was “obsessed” with Bosnia during the run-up to the Balkan war, and whose “human rights” agenda is a perfect reflection of the liberal “humanitarian” interventionist mindset. She was briefly famous when, during the Democratic presidential primary, she decried Hillary Clinton as a “monster.” Well, it looks like she’s more than made her peace with the monster – and, indeed, become a bit of a monster herself, – as the two team up to push us into yet another Middle Eastern war.

Married to Cass “Let’s Infiltrate the Internet” Sunstein, a White House adviser, Power is indeed obsessed with dispensing “social justice” worldwide as an instrument of US foreign policy. If she had her way – and she may yet – US troops would be in Darfur, Rwanda, and any number of Third World hellholes, nation-building, handing out goodies, and getting shot at by the grateful populace.

Susan Rice, former Undersecretary of State for African Affairs during the Clinton administration, is yet another “humanitarian” in search of “genocides” to avenge. Like Power, she believes we ought to have intervened in Rwanda, and is part of a hard-liner clique, including her mentor Madeleine Albright and the late Richard Holbrooke, that holds the view the US must take a more interventionist stance in Africa, which, Rice avers, is undergoing its “first world war.” And she means for us to take sides in that war. When Ethiopia invaded Somalia, in 2007, Ms. Rice cheered the advance of the Ethiopian dictator Mele Zenawi’s armies as they rampaged through the country. Zenawi’s regime is now targeting neighboring Eritrea. Will the White House, under Rice’s tutelage, support that, too?

The leading member of this Amazonian triumvirate is, of course, our Secretary of State, whose support for US intervention in Libya was signaled early on when Bill Clinton said we ought to go in. Hillary’s key role in dragging us into Libya’s civil war hardly comes as a shock. During the presidential primary, she distinguished herself from Obama by assuming a “tough” foreign policy stance, famously running an attack ad that conjured a hapless President Obama getting a call on the red phone at three in the morning. Rather than rethink her position on Iraq, even after the disastrous consequences of the invasion began to roll in, she held her ground and refused to back off her support for the war. As I said at the time of her appointment:

“Remember the Clinton ad about the phone call at three in the morning? Well, now it looks like it’ll be Hillary making that call, if and when it has to be made – a clever bit of political jiu-jitsu on Obama’s part that has generally gone unremarked amid the praise for the alleged smartness of the Clinton appointment. What’s not so smart, however, is that he’s essentially conceding the realm of foreign affairs to the Clintons.

What we’ll have, in effect, is a co-presidency, with Obama taking the lead on domestic matters … The Clintons, on the other hand, will be put in charge of shoring up the Empire and reassuring our allies that the only ‘change’ will be a regression: don’t worry, we’re just going back to the 1990s.”

Which is where we are today. President Clinton set a new record as far as the sheer number of times he intervened abroad: Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo – this last, you’ll recall, at Hillary’s persistent urging. The “humanitarian” wing of the War Party is in the saddle, and they are just as ideological, just as bellicose, and just as self-deluded as their neoconservative counterparts on the right.

Gadhafi has promised “a long war.” Is the US prepared for that? For – make no mistake – it is the Americans who will be asked to take up the main burden of what is bound to degenerate into an extended “peacekeeping” operation. Our European allies just don’t have the military capacity, and none of the Arab countries, for all their bluster, are up to the job, either.

Gadhafi may come on as a madman, and may indeed actually be a madman, but there is a definite method to his madness, and it has served him well so far. For over 40 years, he’s managed to stay in power in a very rough neighborhood, surviving the bombing of his palace by Ronald Reagan and crushing every sign of internal rebellion up until now. He also has a significant base of support in the western provinces, and from some tribal leaders in the south.

I see that the US and its allies are now backing off the “regime change” rhetoric, but that won’t be so easy. Having taken that first step into the Libyan quagmire, we’re fated to slide down the increasingly slippery slope of Libya’s complicated internal politics, until we land smack dab in the middle of a godawful mess.

Our too-smart-for-their-own-good policy wonks in the State Department are convinced they’re getting ahead of the Arab Awakening and that the US will be greeted as a liberator by pro-democracy forces everywhere. Except, of course, in Yemen, where we’re backing another President-for-life who just murdered peaceful protesters: oh yes, and also except for Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, where peaceful protesters are being killed and jailed by pro-US monarchs. But that is really the least of our worries: after all, a global hegemon doesn’t have to answer to anybody, and so calling out our inconsistencies has little impact in Washington.

No, our real problem is going to be the Libyan opposition. Having adopted them, we are stuck with them – and subject to their further demands. And first and foremost among those demands is going to be regime change. Rather than stay in Cyrenaica, the eastern part of the country which has its own historical identity and separatist aspirations, the rebels are determined to march on Tripoli – and they will be wanting (nay, demanding) air cover, arms, “advisers,” and other forms of aid, which they are sure to get.

There are no half measures in war. Sooner rather than later, the President is going to have to decide if the US wants to commit US forces to Libya in a big way. “Days, not weeks,” is a fantasy. The Libyan rebels have now been placed under our protection: we are the champions of their cause. From protecting Benghazi, we are already well on our way to establishing yet another American protectorate in the Middle East. The empire expands, even as the economy shrinks, and one has to wonder: how long can this go on?

Americans, in voting for Barack Obama, voted for less intervention, fewer wars, and the prospect of real change in our foreign policy of global intervention. They didn’t sign on to a “team of equals,” and nobody asked them if they wanted American foreign policy turned over to the Clintons.

The President will live to regret the day he allowed himself to be nagged into ordering US military intervention in the Libyan civil war. Gadhafi is not just a clown, he’s a dangerous and sinister clown: to get in the ring with this madman is a mistake. Gadhafi will goad and lure him and his Amazons ever deeper into the Libyan quicksand, until there is no hope of early extrication. Now that the US and its allies are involved, the Libyan despot can play the anti-Western, anti-imperialist card with some credibility: this will shore up his previously waning support in the west and the south.

It is indeed going to be a long war, one that will cost us much more than we can ever hope to gain.


Interventionists Struggle to Reconcile Libyan Action with Repression Across Arab World

By: David Dayen
Sunday March 20, 2011 9:25 am

So I picked the wrong day to be stuck without Internet access, I guess. It was March 19, eight years to the day after the invasion of Iraq, the US lobbed Tomahawk missiles into Libya, attempting to take out air defenses in preparation for enforcing a no-fly zone.

We’re on day two of this, still operating without Congressional approval – much to the indifference of the Congress, if the Senators on the Sunday shows are to be believed – and I don’t have the first clue what the ultimate objective is. Some officials in France and Britain and the US say the goal is to rid Libya of Gadhafi. Others stress that the military objective is limited to protecting civilians in Benghazi and other Libyan cities. But the endgame, under that military mandate, is destined for an uncertain limbo:

“There was this premature triumphalism about the passage of the UN resolution but what is the plan for dealing with this entity called Libya?” says Brian Katulis at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think-tank.

There is a very awkward phase emerging where Gaddafi is entrenched while there’s a rump state in eastern Libya and some but not all states in the Arab world work to isolate the regime.”

Conversely, what if the injection of western airpower is massively successful and Gaddafi’s regime collapses. That doesn’t mean an automatic transition to a new stable state. Does the “Pottery Barn Rule” apply if a chaotic scenario develops?

The fact that you can watch US officials on television saying that they have to “learn more” about the Libyan opposition while military aircraft are in the air facilitating their entry into power should be pretty distressing. And the answer here is pretty clear: the people who argued for attacks on Libya aren’t going to be satisfied with a detente, with Gadhafi in Tripoli and a Free Benghazi. This cannot help but escalate. And America tends to have their feet trapped in molasses when they set foot in a foreign land.

And then there’s the massive hypocrisy of selective interventionism here. Yemen fired live ammo on its own citizens and killed at least 45 just a day before this bombing of Libya. Bahrain tore down the Pearl Monument and rounded up opposition Shiites on the same day. And you can name dozens of other countries where intervention under the standard used in Libya would be at least as warranted. It’s not a reason to deny aid to the Libyan opposition, but it’s a reason to seriously doubt the so-called “freedom agenda” of the interventionists.

But all this context is relevant as an indictment of the elite leadership class of the United States of America. If everyone cares as much about the political rights of Arabs as Libya interventionists say, then what on earth are they doing in Bahrain and Yemen and Palestine? If everyone cares as much about the loss of innocent African life as Libya interventionists say, then what on earth are they doing ponying up so little in foreign aid and doing so little to dismantle ruinous cotton subsidies? These aren’t really points about Libya. And why should they be? What do I know about Libya? What does Chait know about Libya? These are points about the United States of America and the various elites who run the country and shape the discourse. Exactly the kinds of subjects that frequent participants in American political debates know and care about. I see no particular reason to think that Libya will have any impact on malaria funding, but I do think the level of malaria funding is impacted over the long term by the existence of a substantial number of people (of which Chait is one) who seem to advocate for humanitarian goals in Africa if and only if those goals can be advanced through the use of military force to kill other Africans.

So I hope this Libya policy works out. I have my doubts, but who knows. The world is full of surprises. I do know, however, that providing more bed nets to prevent malaria would be cheap and logistically simple compared to deposing Gaddafi and that the easiest step America could take to deal a blow to Arab autocracy would be to stop selling weapons to Arab autocrats that they turn around and fire on their people.

But you don’t understand the genius of this Matt, when we have to destroy the weapons systems that we sell to Arab autocrats, we know precisely how to disable them! It’s very efficient.

A sampling of the Sunday shows this morning shows a real bankruptcy of arguments to explain this. Admiral Mike Mullen wisely didn’t bother to justify it, limiting his comments to the circumstances in Libya. Lindsey Graham tried this weird bank shot where he claimed that rulers in Yemen and Bahrain were only emboldened to strike at their civilians because of Obama’s indecisiveness on striking Libya. So then now that resolve has been shown the repression will stop, right? Wrong. Jack Reed said we have a dialogue with Bahrain and Yemen, unlike in Libya, and so we can talk to those leaders. A lot of good that’s done.

But John Kerry, who has shown himself as basically the spokesman for this kind of humanitarian intervention, gave away the game here. He first intimated that the Bahraini opposition had the aid of Iran and Hezbollah, mirroring Secretary of State Clinton on this point. But he then said this on Meet the Press: the difference between Libya and the other countries was that the Arab League sanctioned this conduct and asked for help from the international community to install a no-fly zone.

The international community has spoken with one voice about Ivory Coast and Congo as well, so this still doesn’t get Kerry out of the woods. But my main point is this: how does that standard not indemnify every member state in the Arab League, allowing them to repress their citizens as long as they withhold support for an international response? Here are the member states of the Arab League. Do you recognize some of the names? Algeria. Bahrain. Iraq. Oman. Saudi Arabia. Sudan. Syria. Yemen. All countries which have repressed and killed their own citizens in response to protests. As I read it, all of the Arab League member states can merely block resolutions for international help for protesters in those areas, and save themselves from any action. Sure, they could suspend a member state, like they did with Libya in February, but basically, the international community then is at the whim of internal Arab League politics to muster a response to slaughter. What kind of standard is that?

The point is that there is no standard. It’s just a hypocritical, self-justifying way to use military force on a selective basis when hydrocarbon sources are threatened to be withheld.  (Editor's bold emphasis throughout)

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