Monday, August 22, 2011

The Fantastic Four

Remember during the 2008 presidential campaign when Republicans, as well as the media, were so intent on getting the Democrats to admit that President Bush's "surge" strategy in Iraq had finally worked? On the one hand, you had a horribly inept, absurdly expensive, and possibly unnecessary war against a country that turned out to pose much less of a threat to anyone than was advertised. On the other hand, you had to admire President Bush for doubling down in Iraq, when many advised him just to negotiate a way out. And so I guess it was at least a fair question to ask candidate Obama whether he would acknowledge that President Bush had finally found a way to snatch a measure of victory from the jaws of a hopeless quagmire in which we were immersed in Iraq.

Now it's 2011, and President Obama has found a new way of dealing with dangerous dictators. Encourage popular uprisings, emphasize respect for human rights and the rule of law, and provide some carefully-calibrated military assistance, in partnership with our European allies. That strategy has been heavily criticized--from the right, for being too weak, and from the left, for being too warlike--but lo and behold, it seems to be working out rather well. So of course you would expect that Republicans like Senator McCain, as well as the Republican presidential hopefuls, would all be willing to admit that President Obama deserves some credit for the success of his strategy in Libya. Hmm. . . . .  So far I'm coming up pretty empty on finding congratulatory messages from Republicans, or even some acknowledgement that the United States played a positive role in helping Libyans fight for their freedom. The closest I have seen to such a message from Republicans was from David Gergen, who tweeted “#Gadhafi seems finished! If so, #Obama/alliance approach vindicated. Critics (including me, Neo-cons,GOP, etc.) shd give credit.”  But does David Gergen even count as a Republican? He seems almost neutral nowadays, if not suspiciously pro-Obama.

My challenge: If anyone can find a prominent Republican, presidential candidate or not, who has expressed praise for President Obama's seemingly successful Libya strategy, please let me know, and I will be happy to acknowledge the integrity of that person.

In the meantime, at least the Libyans seem to understand whom they should thank for help in their struggle. (It's interesting that they include US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice along with Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama, in their pantheon of the Fantastic Four. I wonder how many Americans even know who she is.)

(AP photo, from ThinkProgress)


  1. I think it's a little early for Republicans or Democrats to be celebrating the "outcome" in Libya! Your question is a valid one - just six to twelve months early. I agree, Obama should get due credit for his/our role when that outcome is clear.

  2. Not too early for the Libyans to celebrate however, judging from these pictures!

  3. No doubt. They look tickled pink! So did the crowd in Egypt. Ask CBS news reporter Lara Logan how that turned out last February. Time will tell what the pictures look like next month and in six months.

    I sincerely hope the UK and France got it right by recently inserting their special forces on the ground and speeding the ouster of the mad man. There is no way the rebels could have done this so quickly on their own.

    I am very pleased we don't appear to be the leading player in what both the far left and far right are calling an illegal war.

  4. As far as international law goes, it is not an illegal war. This military action was approved by the United Nations. And that may be why Susan Rice is on the poster. Because the Libyans understand what a huge, huge deal it was that the US was able to persuade the Russians not to veto the Security Council resolution approving the use of force in Libya. Obama's team deserves enormous credit for that.

    The only charge of illegality that can be made is the Constitutional and statutory question of whether the President was required to have a vote taken in Congress to approve US action in Libya. As a matter of international law, US internal procedures for approving military action are completely irrelevant. But as a matter of US law, the law professors and historians will be able to debate this question for the next hundred years. And when they compare US action in Libya to the Mexican War, or the Vietnam War, and a few other wars, the idea that the President did anything illegal here is just not going to hold up.

  5. We agree on your comments concerning international law and the war. Things have gone well to date. I am pleased to say I am not part of the far left or far right. I hope I have made that absolutely clear. I am not out to make Obama look bad at every turn, nor am I an apologist for him. Both those crowds have lost credibility in my mind. I still think it is a bit early to celebrate.

  6. This briliant article by Chris Hedges posted at TuthDig highlights why I said it was too early to celebrate:

  7. It's surprising that a moderate such as yourself would be quoting a bomb thrower like Chris Hedges, who basically advocates anarchy and revolution in the US. As for Libya, it's not clear at all what he is suggesting. "They will hate us the way we deserve to be hated?" Why? Because we are going to buy oil from them? Does he think the new Libyan government is going to sell oil to us at some kind of discount? We can't even get Texas to sell us oil at less than the exorbitant OPEC price. Why would Libya make a better deal?

    Sure Libya is going to go through some ugly times. So did France after their revolution, and it took France more than 50 years to sort things out and become a stable republic. (Even now, we still have to wonder about France sometimes.) So give Libya a break if things get nasty. Qaddafi made sure that no civic institutions would be built that he did not control. So most likely the country is in for some chaos and violence. Libyans are still for the most part happy to be rid of the old regime.