Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Obama's Libya (non-)War speech pleased Bill Kristol

This is a video of President Obama to the nation on the Libya War of 03/28/2011, although he is careful not to call it "war."

The transcript of the prepared text is available from McClatchy and PBS.

The only place the word "war" appears in the text is when he says, referring to the revolutionary ferment in the Middle East and North Africa, "The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns addressed." Since we are supporting militarily supporting the rebels in Libya, that means this war is an antiwar war, I suppose. Makes about as much sense as "humanitarian war."

The speech itself shows a disconnect between the obvious political aim of ousting Muammar Qaddafi and his regime and the stated military mission. I don't support Republicans like the bold Maverich McCain who demand escalation to immediately oust Qaddafi. But the political goals and military goals need to be consistent. One of the risks of having them diverge as they do now - according to what the President said - is that the pressure will be to escalate gradually toward more and more military involvement. That's neither a good idea in itself, nor necessarily the best way to achieve the political aim of ousting Qaddafi.

This section of the speech encapsulates that mismatch:

Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will go to London, where she will meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than thirty nations. These discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Gaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve. Because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.

Despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Gaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous. Moreover, even after Gaddafi does leave power, forty years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community, and – more importantly – a task for the Libyan people themselves.
It's a hell of a lot easier to get into a war than to get out of one. The good news is that since Obama hasn't committed the military mission to regime change, he still has room to back off from that as an immediate political objective.

Bottom line: it's not a good sign when Bill Kristol, professional warmonger, praises your war (You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby 03/28/2011): "The president was unapologetic, freedom-agenda-embracing, and didn’t shrink from defending the use of force or from appealing to American values and interests. Furthermore, the president seems to understand we have to win in Libya. I think we will." All we need know is for Obama to adopt neocon jargon and say that critics of the Libya War are "objectively pro-Qaddafi." (That particular twist is one the neocons passed down from the Trotskyist roots in the 1930s.)

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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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