Obama’s Soggy, Expedient Mush

We didn’t expect much. He lived up to that.

Fugal Fatigue

Pre-empting ‘Jeopardy’ tonight, Obama served up the same vague, content-less platitudes that intoxicated his enablers in 2008. He spoke almost Bach-like, leaving the audience to deliver the counter-fugue. “We are not a nation that stands by when tragedy happens.” Except when we do. Clinging to the humanitarian theme, Obama underscored regime change is *not* an American objective. Yet it is; he’s demanded Khaddafi go several times already, etc.

Obama spent most of his energies justifying why he unilaterally declared war on Libya. (Even Dick Cheney for God’s sake went through the motions to observe form. Bush secured two Authorizations to Use Military Force (2001 and 2002)). We can only offer a sad smile to the chuckleheads running around 2007-2008 declaring Obama ‘a constitutional scholar’ (We know personally something about who is entitled to that honorific). It doesn’t matter. His intentions are pure and prudent.

His fugal theme of intentions and prudence tried to cover a strategic vacuity. He developed no harmonic themes defining success, concrete objectives or why he believes he can choose sides in a civil war without cost. His chordal progressions avoided any program or agenda. Just pure, prudent intentions.

Thus, his critics must be mute; his intentions, after all, are noble.

The Clouseau School Of Pretending You Intended To Do That

Obama claimed his one-man war on Libya is born of unique circumstances:

(a) the UN agrees (meaning China and Russia abstained);
(b) the Arab League gave a fig leaf;
(c) Sarkozy is about to be crushed in French elections and cut off by his wife – he’s desperate;
(d) Cameron in London is unusually dunder-headed and clueless;
(e) other than the Germans and Turks fussing about, NATO was signed, sealed, delivered;
(f) Americans watching Japan are already on ferrin neyooz overload; and
(g) best of all, because no one really knows what the hell is going on over there, Americans generally will be down with bombing brown people provided some smile on CNN. (Americans love people who thank the U.S. for dropping bombs on their country).

Most (all?) of the above is, of course, ex-post facto rationalization. The truth is far uglier. You, Dear Reader, know that Obama simply pulled . . . an Obama.

It’s all of a piece. Libya is no different than his collusion and subsequent 9 month abdication on health care reform. Same with his absence from securing meaningful FinReg. The BP episode? Escalating in Afghanistan while promising to leave? Letting banks walk on foreclosure fraud? His embrace of Addington’s Unitary Executive? Silent disengagement from the Movement 2009-11 at State and Federal levels? Yup, yup, yup, yup. . . yup. And so on.

The Arab League is delighted to divert American frustration to Libya. Bomb him, go to town, do your thing. And shut up about protestors shot in the streets. London and Paris need a foreign diversion. Need to roll out freedom again? By all means. Having some trouble with your virility? Take 112 Tomahawks and call in the morning. There can be no Obama Doctrine because expediency is one word.

Pure intentions are always used to cajole Americans. War to end all wars. War to make Democracy safe. No more Munichs in the Mekong blah blah blah. Works every time initially. Sentiment, however, blinds all to the opportunity costs. People have only so much bandwidth. A burn and churn maw in Libya will divert focus from matters of genuine strategic import. There’s a reason Beijing abstained. For the record history will note Libya worse than a crime, a mistake.

When a man stands for nothing he can always cobble together a narrative to justify where the wind blew him. But like tonight’s speech that narrative can’t tell us where he wants to go and how he intends to get there.

More than that, it’s obvious to anyone Obama isn’t a fighter. He’s never drawn a line personally, taken bloody, pulverizing punches. He’s never been rocked back, fallen down, stood up and retaken ground. (2008 isn’t a valid comparison. His first major challenge was the self-destructing HRC campaign. His second was riding Bush, global economic catastrophe and oh, John McCain to the finish line). Every capital in the world has this PDF file by now.

As we wrote before, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Half-assed is as half-assed does.” And like Gump, Obama may saunter to an objectively undeserved second term. Who here thinks Newt, Barbour, Tpaw, Romney et. al will force Obama to at least shuffle, if not dance, floating like a butterfly? Thought so.


  1. Comment says

    France will benefit from the Libyan war – Not clear US will. Gotta stop being mercenaries for wealty Europe.

  2. DrLeoStrauss says

    If Misrata is ‘Libya’s Stalingrad’, who precisely is playing the 6th Army? Who should we root for? Weird how the Brits get tripped up on this stuff.

    We erased a DVR’d Brit war porn program today on ‘Kursk’ 25 seconds into a sycophantic, Brit major general metaphysically [beeped] *von* Manstein ‘who came from the bluest Prussian blood’. Ignored? The significant fact that Manstein was adopted; his real family name was Lewinsky. Which makes Manstein’s knowledge of and cooperation with eliminationist atrocities (Wehrmacht and SS) on the Eastern Front even *more* unforgivable. (The list of famous Brits defending Manstein immediately after the war against charges begins with Winston, Monty and on down . . . ).

    Thus Brits began another bogus meme: the ‘honorable Wehrmacht’ and the evil ‘SS’. A dichotomy lapped up by post-war Germans. Painfully rejected after 20 years of research and deep soul searching around 2000. The Bundeswehr named a base after a soldier who refused to obey atrocity orders rather than the expected WW II general. Point made.

    The Brit whitewash has long roots, Dear Reader. The Brits have made a fine export business controlling the WW II narratives. Started via Liddell Hart and others they sanitized ardent Nazis like Guderian, the culpable like Manstein, and moreover endorsed falsified German General Staff diaries. The British are mostly responsible for the decades old false narrative of competent German generals at the mercy of a lunatic. The real General Staff diaries, war conference records and other German archives show a different reality. (The late John Erickson’s works the exception in the mid 1970s).

    Now they do these sanitized middle brow cable war porn series. American war porn is different. With American’s, usually it’s all about the money shots. Boom! We used to be acquainted years ago with one of the people behind ‘Firepower!’ and other mid-1990s stuff. Technically a walking hardware encyclopedia. And let’s face it — we have more stuff that goes boom and use it more often.

    But if you grew up with a black & white TV, the Brits bamboozled the non-Warsaw Pact world for decades. Their ‘meme’? WWII started at Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, then North Africa (against 2 !! whole German divisions — 150 were on the Eastern Front). Letting the Americans tag along, up then to Italy and finally Normandy. The Sovs had a bit of a dust up. And the Americans tussled with the Japanese. But back to Dunkirk . . .

    Who here remembers when Enigma was declassified? Remember Brits then? Jolly good show, Bletchley Park. Sophisticated Athens to the loutish Roman cousins, quite. Even into the ’80s.

    Too bad the *Poles* broke Enigma years earlier in the 1930s. And finally let the British and French in on it summer 1939. (I say, inconvenient history, wot? More Pimms?)

    Yes, it would be churlish to dwell on beginning with Greece in 1947, NATO, Suez, Skybolt, then East of Suez. Bad form to recall the Balfour Declaration/Arab Revolt of 1916 double promises that along with French eagerness to gnaw on the Ottoman carcass gave the world today’s Middle East. So skip that. Special relationship and all.

    Oh, but what to do about India and Pakistan? Mountbatten bugged out. Over a 10 million refugees suddenly found themselves in another country. Anywhere up to a million died. Oh. And there was that other war in 1971. Most Americans vaguely think of an uneven George Harrison concert album for . . . that other partition place.

    So what if Pakistan needs the Taliban and Afghanistan as strategic depth against India more than helping transient Americans. Skirmishing in the Kashmir? Detonating nukes after India? Where could that come from in history? Two points if a cucumber sandwich and punting come to mind.

    Cold War with Sovs aside, one way of looking at the the latter half of the 20th century is clean up. Perhaps you think the Stiftung unkind.

    True, we blundered into Vietnam foolishly trying to clean up a *French* mess. Completely misunderstood the Chinese Soviet relationship for years on our own. And Brits continue to argue but for their expert handling of Gordievsky, nuclear war. Haig’s backstabbing aside, we stood by them for the Falklands, much to the junta’s surprise.

    But what about 2001-2008? No doubt they hung in there even as the U.S. Army in particular screwed the pooch. So some things even out.

    Still, we think the ledger tilts yet again. Another House of Windsor (talk about unclean hands with that whole Corporal thing) cotton candy wedding juggernaut. Exporting Simon Cowell *and* Piers Morgan can only lead to the Hague, eventually.

    Meanwhile, here’s the Misrata/Stalingrad link. Maybe the author saw that middling movie years back. With hot Soviet snipers. In this article Khaddafi is the Corporal? Stalin? Is Stalingrad now just a catch all phrase for ugly urban warfare? But with Cameron and Sarkozy both laying down the law, we can be sure there’s new Brit memes coming. And most assuredly, a new series of cable milporn.


  3. says

    “pulling an Obama”

    Did you see this in IOZ’s comments? It seems his law school classmates got his number decades ago

    >>mistah charley, ph.d. said…


    Matt points us to Kevin Drum’s recent penultimate paragraph, which reads, in part: if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust his judgment, and I still do.

    This reminded me of something I read yesterday at HuffPost, which was published in 2008. The author played bass in Joan Jett’s first band and also went to Harvard Law School with Obama. She finds them similar in that each aspired to greatness and consciously adopted the mannerisms associated with same. She knew Joan Jett before and after; Obama, when she first met him, had already made this decision. A quote:

    One of our classmates once famously noted that you could judge just how pretentious someone’s remarks in class were by how high they ranked on the “Obamanometer,” a term that lasted far longer than our time at law school. Obama didn’t just share in class – he pontificated. He knew better than everyone else in the room, including the teachers. Or maybe even he knew he didn’t know, but knew that the leader of the free world had to be able to convince others that he did.


    As the Who song “Eminence Front” said, “It’s a put on.”

  4. Dr Leo Strauss says

    “He didn’t come to me for help, of course. I’m not going to acknowledge that. He came to me to make sure I was supporting his sound policies. Of course, since his sound policies are more like the policies people like me have been advocating for quite a while, I’m happy to support them. He’s a born-again neo-con . . .

    What’s the joke – they told me if I voted for McCain, we’d be going to war in a third Muslim country? I voted for McCain and we’re doing it.”

    Bill Kristol, on being invited by Obama to consult on Libyan bombing (March 2011)

  5. DrLeoStrauss says

    @Jacque , @ Red, @ Freddy
    Red and Jacque, it would be nice to be surprised. *That* would be our shared hope over experience.

    Freddy, perhaps the next leg on the story is how everyone involved in the F-15 crash ‘friended’ each other. Diane Sawyer might do an hour special with that.

  6. Jacque says

    Indeed, Obama seems to be the polar opposite of George W. Bush in every external measure: Bush was a dumb, white, privileged cowboy while Obama is an intelligent, black, up-from-the-streets academic. They could not be more different, or appeal primarily to a more disparate demographic.

    And yet they are exactly the same in everything that matters. Foreign policy, national security, secrecy/transparency (in fact, if not in lip service), etc. etc. etc. Everything real action Obama takes is the same action Bush would have taken, but it’s more palatable to liberals this time, whereas last time it was more palatable to conservatives. He’s normalizing this kind of presidency, this kind of government, in the minds of the second half of the population, after Bush normalized it in the minds of the first half.

  7. Redhand says

    It’s all of a piece. Libya is no different than his collusion and subsequent 9 month abdication on health care reform. Same with his absence from securing meaningful FinReg. The BP episode? Escalating in Afghanistan while promising to leave? Letting banks walk on foreclosure fraud? His embrace of Addington’s Unitary Executive? Silent disengagement from the Movement 2009-11 at State and Federal levels? Yup, yup, yup, yup. . . yup. And so on.

    This is a spot-on summary of the Obama Presidency to date. As for the speech, a quip my father used to make comes to mind: “He’s like a baby robin: all mouth and no ass.”

  8. DrLeoStrauss says

    His record after 3 years indicates you’re right. Obama’s real historical role is normalizing Bush’s America.

  9. sglover says

    I was thrilled to the marrow to hear that we are upholding the timeless principles of civil liberties and the universal norms of international law — because this time it’s relatively convenient to do so.

    I was slightly surprised at the wrap-up, with the extra sloppy heaping helping of totally empty bromides. This guy really does make Bush the Lesser look (almost) nonreprehensible…..

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