We didn’t expect much. Obama spoke on Libya. He lived up to expectations.
Pre-empting ‘Jeopardy’ tonight, Obama served up the same vague, content-less platitudes that intoxicated his fans 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 tried to justify his 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)). Remember Obama fans 2006-08 declaring his stint as a brief contract lecturer made him ‘a constitutional scholar’? (We know personally something about who is entitled to that honorific). Today, it doesn’t matter. After all, his intentions are pure and prudent.
Tonight’s flawed fugal themes of intentions and prudence attempted to mask Obama’s strategic vacuity. He failed to offer any 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. That he ordered a war without constitutional authority is a mere coda.
Thus, we, his critics must be mute; his intentions, after all, are noble.
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 – he’s desperate;
(d) Cameron in London is inexperienced;
(e) other than Germany and Turkey walking away, NATO was signed, sealed, delivered;
(f) Americans watching Japan’s nuclear crisis are already on foreign crisis overload; and
(g) best of all, 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.
The above is, of course, ex-post facto rationalization. The truth is far uglier. You, Dear Reader, know that Obama simply pulled . . . an Obama. Pro-interventionists and those opposed left him in the Goldilocks middle.
It’s all of a piece. Libya is no different. There can be no Obama Doctrine because internal advocacy triage means 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. Stop mushroom clouds. 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 John McCain to the finish line). Every capital in the world has this PDF file by now.