Posts Tagged ‘war’

Obama speechless on Libya

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Obama avoiding major Libya address

That’s not to say the president won’t talk about Libya over the next few days, aides say, but he’s not likely to succumb to pressure to deliver a long, explanatory address to outline his elusive endgame to the nation until the path ahead becomes clearer.

Clearer, you say?

This is rather extraordinary, from the New York Times this morning:

From the start, the administration insisted that it was acting to avert the imminent slaughter of civilians in Benghazi and other rebel-held cities, and that the goal of the military operations was clearly spelled out in the United Nations Security Council resolution.

Mr. Obama’s administration, however, has clearly tried to avoid the debate over a strategy beyond that by shifting the burden of enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force on to France, Britain and other allies, including Arab nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which on Thursday said that it would contribute warplanes to the effort. In other words, the American exit strategy is not necessarily the coalition’s exit strategy.

“We didn’t want to get sucked into an operation with uncertainty at the end,” the senior administration official said. “In some ways, how it turns out is not on our shoulders.”

Not too extraordinary, to those who think things are OK if they look good on paper,

In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation — a dismaying expression of Obama’s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to … what? Save Third World people from massacre?

Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarrelling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still can’t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.

This confusion is purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely “one of the partners among many,” he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him. Even the Clinton administration spoke of America as the indispensable nation. And it remains so. Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead — no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources — America is led by a man determined that it should not.

A man who dithers over parchment. Who starts a war from which he wants out right away. Good God. If you go to take Vienna, take Vienna. If you’re not prepared to do so, better then to stay home and do nothing.

Where Gaddafi to remain in power (h/t Gerard),

Civilian planes will likely start failing out the sky, as did the one over Lockerbie; assassination attempts will multiply, like the attempted Libyan-backed murder of the Saudi king in 2003; al-Qaeda and affiliates might be aided and abetted to do Lord-knows-what to the Italians, the French, the British and, of course, to us. With nothing to lose, and way beyond the threshold of worrying about sanctions and such, Qaddafi could well become more dangerous than ever. If I were Silvio Berlusconi, in particular, I’d pick my future whorehouses with extreme care.

The Hard Truths on Libya amount to this:

A ruler like Qaddafi is part Milosevic, part Saddam, part Noriega, and part Kim Jong Il. They stay in power for years through killing and more killing (to paraphrase Dirty Harry, “They like it”), and they do not leave, ever, unless the U.S. military either bombs them to smithereens or physically goes into their countries and yanks them out of their palaces. Period. They most certainly do not care much for the concern of the Arab League, the U.N., or a contingent from Europe, or a grand verbal televised threat from a U.S. president — again, even if his name is Barack Hussein Obama and he is not George Bush.

Sorry, but that is where we are and where we’ve always been, so we can either quit, as in Lebanon and Somalia; send in the Marines to take charge of postwar stabilization, as in Afghanistan and Iraq; target Qaddafi and bomb him incessantly until he is broken, as in Clinton’s Balkan air campaign; or schedule a multiyear, Iraq-style no-fly zone, with ample latitude to bomb now and then to carve out sanctuaries within Libya. Those are the options, and one will be chosen one way or another, even if the president thinks he can once again vote present on all of them.

In the meantime, the Libya farce goes to 11.


Blood in his hands

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

WikiLeaks Reportedly Outs 100s of Afghan Informants

Hundreds of Afghan civilians who worked as informants for the U.S. military have been put at risk by WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 90,000 classified intelligence reports which name and in many cases locate the individuals, The Times newspaper reported Wednesday.

Click here to see The Times article, but note, it’s behind a subscription firewall.

The article says, in spite of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claim that sensitive information had been removed from the leaked documents, that reporters scanning the reports for just a couple hours found hundreds of Afghan names mentioned as aiding the U.S.-led war effort.

Richard Fernandez is eloquent in his outrage:

The news came as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange expressed fears he could be arrested. The Telegraph says he “has been warned by ‘inside sources in the White House’ not to return to the US as he could be arrested.”

He’s had more warning than the individuals in Afghanistan who will more than likely be identified by al-Qaeda support cells in Western Europe or the Middle East who will pore through the Wikileaks documents. The names of the traitors to radical Islam will be duly transmitted to the avengers who will then go out severally into the night to on their missions of revenge. Recently Radio Netherlands described what Afghans who are suspected by the Taliban can expect to endure. The Taliban have cut off the hands of construction workers who build government-funded projects; sent a suicide car bomb against a district chief believed to have been working with US special forces.  Death in many forms will be their lot. One informant Radio Netherlands described “holds a thick yellow sheet tightly around his face”  to preserve his anonymity. Now it turns out he shouldn’t have bothered. If the London Times is right, his name might be one of the several hundred the British reporter has found in just a few hours.

Yet the dead are the lucky ones. The more unfortunate may wind up in a torture chamber similar to one found by Coldstream Guards. It features such amenties as chains to hang prisoners from walls. Not that the inmates would want to walk on the floor: that features broken glass. And there is limb amputation, kneecapping with an electric drill, eye gouging, bone-breaking or ritual rape to smash the will. Where the offender is not himself available punishment will be visited on his relatives.

When Julian Assange released these documents he assured the public that it had been carefully reviewed to avoid putting people at risk.  He said it with the greatest apparent confidence. Now it emerges that either he didn’t know how to avoid putting innocents in the line of fire or didn’t care to. But competence is not required to sit in judgment of others. Not today.  All it really takes is enough self-righteousness to impose your amateurish viewpoint on the world because on the theory that nobody else has ever been as clever as you. We are always the people we’ve been waiting for.

Yet Assange can be forgiven for thinking that viewpoint and style were the sum total of qualification needed to engage in the life and death business of publshing secrets in time of war. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, explaining that the White House didn’t try to stop the publication said he met with reporters from the New York Times and sent a message through its reporters to Assange asking that he redact information in the documents that could harm US military personnel. As for the Afghans? Well what about them? Wikileaks made its pathetic effort to sanitize the data didn’t they? And if it was good for the Times and Gibbs, why shouldn’t Assange have concluded it was good enough period?

One or more of those connected with this story may in the next few weeks, under questioning from critics, express their sincerest and most heartfelt regret at the death or danger which their leak has exposed men,  women and children to. But poise your finger on the pause button; watch for it carefully before it flashes past to the standard peroration on the noble purposes of showing the “true nature” of war. Because the regret may last all of five seconds, though for those who will lose a loved one to Taliban reprisal the pain will last much longer. But the wretched of the earth will endure, as only those who have accustomed themselves to being the moral guinea pigs and butt of jokes of the great and good can endure.

Assange will sleep safely hiding behind the skirts of the Swedish government, which allows Assange to publish classified material with no consequences.

Elsewhere, people will die for Wikileaks’ Nobel Prize.

Gerard lets it rip on Assange, and on traitor Pfc. Bradley Manning, and it’s NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK.

I just remembered, traitors earned a place in Dante’s ninth circle of hell. While Liberals may applaud Manning and Assange, betraying the Afghans who risked their lives in a futile hope for a better life has earned Manning and Assange places in the 9th circle.

Post updated with photo


The runaway story on The Runaway General

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

McChrystal offers to resign

The Rolling Stone article, The Runaway General, on Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is certainly THE news story of the day. The content of the article was shown to McChrystal before it was released to the public.

Hardly surprising, McChrystal Called to Washington to Explain Remarks

The article, in the magazine’s latest edition, quotes the general and his aides as criticizing Vice President Joseph Biden, special envoy for Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, and U.S. Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry.

As the top U.S. civilian and military officials in Afghanistan, Eikenberry and McChrystal are required to jointly implement U.S. policy in the country.

The Rolling Stone profile, titled “The Runaway General,” mentions the first meeting that McChrystal had with President Barack Obama the week after he took office. They met with a dozen senior military officials in a Pentagon room known as The Tank. The reporter of the article cites a source familiar with the meeting saying that McChrystal thought Obama appeared “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the room filled with military brass.

‘Photo Op’

The article also describes the first one-on-one meeting McChrystal had with Obama in the Oval Office four months later, which an adviser to McChrystal called “a 10-minute photo op.”

McChrystal is described by an aide as “disappointed” in this first meeting with the president. While McChrystal voted for Obama, the two didn’t connect from the start, the article says.

The thing is, McChrystal is in charge of 142,000 troops in Afghanistan from the U.S. and 45 partner nations, which he understands to be his personal responsibility. Personal responsibility: a concept probably beyond the reach of a president who could spare all of 20 minutes – if that – for this:

Right now (emphasis added),

McChrystal is executing a strategy which took the White House months to approve. The approach involves adding 30,000 U.S. troops to carry out a counter-insurgency, which includes convincing Afghans to resist the Taliban’s takeover of parts of the country. The general said recently that this would take more time than expected.

The Obama administration dithered on a strategy and insists on a July 2011 withdrawal date – which tells the Afghans their lives are not worth helping the US since the US is scheduled to leave anyway, and then what?

So what it may come down to is, Obama Should Probably Fire McChrystal, but He Can’t

McChrystal is a big boy, and after a tenure that saw the leak of his bleak strategic review and the fallout from his London speech calling for an Afghan troop surge, I have a lot of trouble buying that McChrystal would make another goof of this magnitude.

Which makes me wonder whether we are witnessing McChrystal falling on his sword to get the word out on the Obama administration’s folly in Afghanistan. I’m not 100 percent convinced of it, but it is a real possibility.

I also very much agree with Rich that the president would be well within his rights to dismiss McChrystal over this. I just don’t think he can. The fact is that McChrystal has more credibility onAfghanistan than Obama does. And to the extent that Obama has credibility there at all (and higher approval ratings for his Afghanistan policy than his presidency generally), it is credibility imported from McChrystal. As such, I figure that firing the general would be disastrous forObama , not just on substance but politically. Fairly or unfairly, it would make his administration look petty and prideful, willing to let an (admittedly serious) breach in decorum set back our best chance for success in the longest war in American history.

Don’t blame McChrystal, blame Obama

The real trouble is that Obama never resolved the dispute within his administration over Afghanistan strategy. With the backing of Gates and the Pentagon’s top generals, McChrystal sought to apply to Afghanistan the counterinsurgency approach that succeeded over the last three years in Iraq, an option requiring the deployment of tens of thousands more troops. Biden opposed sending most of the reinforcements and argued for a “counterterrorism plus” strategy centered on preventing al-Qaeda from establishing another refuge.

In the end, Obama adopted what is beginning to look like a bad compromise. He approved most of the additional troops that McChrystal sought, but attached the July, 2011 deadline for beginning withdrawals. Since then both sides have been arguing their cases, in private and in public, to the press and to members of Congress.

McChrystal may be at fault for expressing his frustrations to Rolling Stone. He is not at fault for the lack of coherence in the Afghan campaign or the continued feuding over strategy. That is Obama’s responsibility.

We’ll see what happens next.

(Post re-edited to include omitted link & text)

ShrinkWrapped looks at How a new meme takes shape


What we can learn from Pompey

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

That is, Pompey the general, not the city.

Victor Davis Hanson writes about The Art of Seaborne Humiliation

Over 1,000 pirates operate off the Somali coast. In 2009 they attempted 214 attacks on private shipping, well over twice the number tried in 2008. They remind ocean-goers that the world’s great navies cannot ensure safe passage through the Gulf of Aden. And they count on Western publics’ contextualizing their criminality — by adducing poverty, past exploitation, or lack of Western humanitarian aid — rather than demanding punishment for it.

Of course, the classical way of ending piracy — as Pompey demonstrated with the Cilician outlaws — is to combine naval interception with assaults against the criminals’ home ports. But again, given the asymmetry involved in piracy — wealthy Western ship- or boat-owners versus desperate “others” — who wants to risk killing poor Third World civilians just to hit the pirates who live among them? The final scenes of Black Hawk Down give us a taste of what the shooting might look like on CNN.

Many other such incidents could be cited — think of the 1968 capture of the Pueblo by North Korea or the 1975 taking of the Mayaguez by the Khmer Rouge. While the details differ, the general playbook remains the same: Some sort of incident is staged at sea, where witnesses and boundaries are often nonexistent, in order to provoke a response that will work to the provoker’s benefit.

In each of these cases, the instigator dares a powerful Western nation to retaliate and thereby stupidly endanger its collective good life over a small matter of 19th-century-style national pride. And if violence follows, the props almost always ensure that the Western nation is transmogrified in the blink of an eye into a bully, pushing around the Other where it has no business being in the first place. No wonder that the Western nation usually instead sends diplomats to work out some sort of restrained apology, which gives the provocateur stature and pours more humiliation upon the provoked — another milestone on a long road of weakening Western stature and influence.

What might change the rules of seaborne humiliation?

Go read the rest, but the answer has to do with growing a spine.


John Hawkins interviews John Yoo

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

An Interview With “Torture Memo” Author, John Yoo

JH: Let me ask you a related question about the Geneva Convention. Since we do apply it in practice to groups like Al Qaeda and since no one seems to apply it to the United States, isn’t the treaty basically pointless?

JY: The most important thing, I think, for the treaties like the Geneva Conventions, is that they govern when we fight wars against other countries. Though as you say, when we have fought wars against other countries, they have habitually violated the Geneva Conventions and abused our men and women in uniform.

We saw that in the Iraq wars. We’ve seen it in Afghanistan and saw it in Vietnam and Korea. So one very important point you bring up is there are people who say, “Oh we need to follow the Geneva Conventions because otherwise when we fight, the other side won’t follow them either.” A very important point you make is that we have fought a lot of wars governed by the Geneva Conventions and our enemies don’t follow it anyway.

Go read the rest.