U.S. Attacks Libya – Blind And Broke, Shambling Into The Unknown

What precisely is exercise of U.S. power regarding Libya seeking to achieve? Removing Khaddaffi?

Khaddaffi the man is perhaps a necessary component of an unarticulated U.S. policy, but not sufficient in and of itself. We all know removing the man alone can not be the U.S. policy. After all, the Bush Administration happily worked with Khaddaffi after 2003, opening the door to economic and political collaboration.

The former ruling regime’s crimes are too obvious now. Its time over. Yet who is the ‘opposition’ embraced so fulsomely? No one knows. We don’t refer to the rote tribal breakdown of the Eastern and Western regions; this recital is no answer. Simply wanting Khaddafi out is apparently enough. So again we ask, what is the U.S. policy to be supported by exercise of U.S. power? And who, if any, in the opposition plausibly is a part of that?

Old imperial habits die hard. Reflexively, policy makers reach for comfortable trappings of a slipping era: carrier battle groups, special forces, no fly zones, the NATO fig leaf etc. Libya presents a chance to be seen doing/talking about something in contrast to political paralysis before domestic fiscal and social collapse. American leadership apparently still hasn’t learned that such Middle East exertions are ephemeral and self-defeating. Ironically, perhaps only the final dissipation of American power may allow that reality to sink in.


  1. DrLeoStrauss says

    Dewey would be better off getting together with Herb Meyer, lighting up the 420 and passing the koutchie to college drop out stoners. The kids could fabricate intel reports and sell them to CENTCOM and OSD. Dewey and Meyer then wander to some La Jolla restaurant, surprised they are suddenly so ravenous.

  2. Comment says

    @Dr Leo Strauss Were we Obama we’d just kick the can down the road – Imply we may do something – we for fashions to change, etc. They surely will – Maybe a discrete chance to get Ghaddafi will emerge. The neocons surely will come up with typical ruses. But the whole region is in flux and they’ll change their mind. Something else will come up. etc

    IMO erring on the side of peace is better than erring on the side of war – The insiders in media and DC have no real connection to the policies they mouth. Do you think Ann-Marie Slaughter really has any idea or really cares about the thousands and thousands of wounded soldiers? Sure, she probably cares – But it’s a total abstraction.

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Give the Neocons six months and they will fabricate and try to pass off a Libyan freedom fighter ala Chalabi and push a Libyan Liberation Act. Like Joe Gibbs’ favorite play, the Counter Trey, we bet they can’t resist going back to the well.

  4. Dr Leo Strauss says

    “Be as bold as the French and you can never go wrong.”

    Senator Lindsay Graham (March 2011)

  5. Comment says

    We hope Obama stays out – We’d be impressed if he does. Don’t really care too much if he hinted “it would not stand” – Bush Sr. had many such moments re East Europe/Kiev/Romania etc. What counts is resisting foolish action.

    Turn on the TV and you see vacuous Princetonian Ann-Marie Slaughter casually expressing her shame at “us” for not doing God knows what. The cocktail party kommandos are all suiting up.

    “We have perhaps missed a chance to restore the balance.” – Juppe

    That’s some call for action – “Perhaps”

  6. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Amusing to compare the right’s contempt for Graham with Democrats fawning over him. ‘Even Lindsay Graham says . . .’ should be a drinking game.

  7. Comment says

    re Clapper – Graham is whiner himself. He should just keep quiet until McCain runs for President again.

  8. Comment says

    @anxiousmodernman Btw – if you’re chopping an onion, then you are lost cause to the right wing. They have their onions chopped for them at Burger King factory before they are placed on top of their Triple Whoppers.

    Btw – years before we heard right wing radio complain about liberal beltway non profits cracking down on junk food and movie popcorn, we heard all about from people we knew who worked at NPR.

  9. Comment says

    @anxiousmodernman Similarly we know what you mean about cultural stereotypes. It alienates right wingers more than the actual politics – Right wingers feel marginalized and talked down to. NPR sounds anthropological when they try to explain rural people or conservatives. It sounds like like Margaret Mead’s ghost trying to explain Sarah Palin and Paul Broun to her friends in Morningside Heights.

    You are spot on with the latte-lib stereotypes too – We recall going to an NPR filled party in the mid 90s and it was just filled with that.

  10. Comment says

    Exactly – that ineffectualness is what we were referring to. They convey weakness and in doing so symbolize a soft political core.

    We also listen to NPR (not big fans of Keilor or some of the other shows though) – because they often have great interviews – Especially on Fresh Air. They cover a lot of books and they have the best general news coverage for domestic.

    Also – right wing radio can be very depressing – A constant stream of hate and invective from hosts with serious personal problems. This endless mean-spirited race baiting code word mouth breathing has its limits.

  11. DrLeoStrauss says

    Graham’s demand that Clapper resign for expressing an unwelcome opinion is another sign we’re regressing back to the 2001-2006 irrational political culture. Fragile narratives compel lashing out against deviationism.


    If we read Clapper aright, he’d wager Khaddafi outlasts Sheen. Clapper can take some solace. McCain thinks he’s doing a fine job.

  12. sglover says

    In 2010 I went on two long drives across America, one Detroit->Phoenix, the other Detroit->Pensacola->New Orleans. So I got a bit of a sample of public radio away from the East Coast. Many of those stations have terrific locally produced music shows — real jewels, especially against a landscape of corporate bland and Christian lunacy. But when their news shows come on, it’s all the same syndicated NPR crap. It’s like having the WaPo op-ed section piped into your ears. Ugh.

  13. anxiousmodernman says

    @Comment, you’re right, but I can’t stop listening!

    Been thinking a lot about my love of the radio format. In many ways, it’s not that great. For transfer of information puporses, it’s linear and lacks memory capacity, unlike, say, a newspaper or a book that you can come back to, jump around in. Paper also have much higher information “density” to borrow an Edward Tufte phrase.

    Also, without fail, every album review on NPR is a self-parody of enlightened latte-liberalism. The album is always the perfect soundtrack to a hybrid powered drive through the Napa wine country, or tapping away on facebook while stealing glances at the hottie barista (guilty). So culturally they embody stereotypes and it’s their own damn fault. I’ve known several employees, and it’s obviously built into the institution of NPR HQ. Can’t speak re: the local affiliates.

    Their politics are coming under serious attack, but I have a harder time finding fault. Their liberalism is of the generic, ineffectual type we often criticize in this forum, but it’s hard to know exactly what to do. They’re as utterly beholden to their funders as any other media outlet, they’ve just captured a different part of the market.

    I flip it on at dinner because CSPAN is usually still running a nearly unbearable hearing, and my housemates become justifiably irritated. The soothing rhythm of an NPR voice, and general lack of hysteria on the network, is just what I want while chopping an onion.

    The CEO’s gaffe is embarrassing, but it was only a matter of time. Every non-profit liberal institution in America needs to be put on notice that they are targets of Movement media-shaming tactics. Every last one. NPR should have known better. But the beltway-centric liberals do not understand what is happening to them.

  14. Comment says

    jamie rubin sort of rolled his eyes when he said “yes, we should not rush in to things, but …” as he advocates attacking Libya (while denying that’s what he wants to do)

  15. Tbilisi says

    @Dr Leo Strauss
    Alas, you are right.

    Perhaps my sentimentality is just an attempt to imagine an ember of possibility in the obvious delusion of the Libya crisis: namely an America that is at the same time pathologically incapable of even the relatively modest military, diplomatic, and domestic political investment a favorable resolution would require, while also still imagining itself as exceptional and imperial. I guess the true argument is “Since we’re deluding ourselves, might as well help some Libyans out.” Not very compelling, I admit.

    Roman analogies are tiresome, but I accept that an intervention in Libya would be at least allegorical to Valens’ agreement to let the Goths take refuge across the Danube, despite a weakened Rome being obviously incapable of either feeding/assimilating the Goths or decapitating/subduing them. As they say, an empire (superpower) falls not on the battlefield but simply when everyone looks around and finally notices that it died decades before. The Libyan crisis has only illuminated once again that Americans are usually the last to find out that matter much less to others than they think.

  16. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Tblilisi, agree reprising Afghanistan Fall 2001 could easily topple Khaddafi. Should the U.S. unwisely get involved with Libya, better that way than with half-measures like a no-fly zone. Both, however, would be mistakes.

    U.S. involvement presents challenges beyond tainting an ‘organic’ revolution or optics of a U.S. invasion of a third Muslim country. The most pressing question becomes ‘Then what?’

    It’s not enough to overthrow Khaddafi. The U.S. would become responsible for what came after, including actions (or inactions) of the so-called ‘Opposition’/the new government. Politically, as mid-wife , the U.S could not expect to evade re-construction and state building demands. We know little of Libyan culture or tribal histories.

    Should the U.S bug out after removing Khaddafi the repercussions would follow. Some counsel that allies can step in after ‘victory’ to stabilize matters. One option floated is other African states. We don’t see it. The Egyptians and Tunisians are engrossed in domestic turmoil. Sub-Sharan Africa is falling apart. Further afield, the Saudis and others lack ability. None are keen to be seen cooperating with the U.S.

    NATO as a post conflict stabilization force is tricky. NATO was to contribute divisions after Saddam’s fall in Franks’ war plan. U.S. combat units were to withdraw in April 2003. NATO as we know didn’t show. Budget cuts make expeditionary deployments without U.S. logistical support problematic even with will to do it. On the plus side, Libya is adjacent.

    Beyond capability, what U.S. interests are served by a sustained U.S. political commitment to Libya? Yes, there is the notch in the ‘win’ column as you note. We try to do ‘the right thing.’

    Can the U.S afford this distraction of bandwidth and resources? Where does Libya rank among other strategic priorities? Along the Pacific Rim? India and Pakistan? Mexico? Seen through this prism, Libya’s plight is a sentimental and yes moral favorite. Intervention, is not, however, a strategic imperative. There was a time the U.S. could afford such luxuries. They’re past.

  17. Tbilisi says

    Good Doctor, well said and points taken. That said, I still believe that a well executed UW mission by (and only by) a few ODAs, backed up by just enough air power to scare the f*ck out of Qaddafi’s forces could achieve the objective of putting an end to his rule once and for all. In other words, the objective is regime change and it really could be done pretty easily and anything more than a few dozen Green Berets and probably one aircraft carrier. What is the US interest in doing such a thing? IMO it’s an relatively low-risk, low cost opportunity a) to get rid of Qaddafi (he’s a bastard and, neocon naivety notwithstanding, he’s never been and will never be our bastard), and b) for America to show that we actually stand by the principles we constantly shove down people’s throats, and even do when it involves brown people/Muzzlims. These aren’t major strategic interests by any means, but on balance they would nevertheless be a couple marks in the win column.

    However, and as implied in your post and sglover’s comments on the previous thread, such logic is predicated on the (faulty) notions that the US is not on the brink of imperial collapse and that its foreign policy is actually a reflection of national interests rather than an amorphous hodgepodge of old habits, corporate interests, and the half-baked, self-serving whims of ruling court.

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