Back To The Shores of Tripoli: US At War With Libya

Heading out the door to Brazil, President Obama paused for a moment to announce that, let me be clear, we are going to war against Libya. I don't think there are any more "what if George Bush did this" columns left to write

President Barack Obama demanded Friday that Moammar Gadhafi halt all military attacks on civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him.

But the president also stressed the United States "is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya."

In a brief appearance at the White House, Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would travel to Paris on Saturday to join allies in discussing next steps in Libya, where Gadhafi has pressed a brutal crackdown against rebels trying to end his 42-year reign.

Stressing that the United States was acting in concert with European allies and Arab nations, the president said, "Our goal is focused, our cause is just and our coalition is strong."

Obama's remarks came less than 24 hours after the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military action — including a "no-fly zone" over Libya — to prevent the killing of civilians by Gadhafi's forces.

The idea is that this will be a war to do nothing more than provide a no-fly zone for Libyan rebels, who will have to do the ground fighting. And, that's great, only it's about two weeks late. Two weeks ago the rebels had the momentum and were marching on Tripoli, while Qaddafi was issuing blood curdling promises to fight to the last man. Now, it's Qaddafi who is on the march. Indeed, he is at the gates of the last rebel stronghold. Yes, he's now declared a cease-fire and, yes, apparently the Egyptians are arming the rebels and the rebels now have their no-fly zone, but...the above is not a recipe for success. At best, it promises more bloodshed and even a stalemate.

Two weeks ago, Qaddafi was on the ropes and could have been quickly dispatched by the mere presence of US forces (such as an air craft floating off-shore). Now? We're going to be stuck providing a no-fly zone to rebels whose politics and motivations are largely unknown. Hillary Clinton has been meeting with Libyan rebels in Paris, and supposedly these guys are liberal democracy advocates. Could be. But, this would not be the first revolution that put forward liberal reformers as spokesmen and then dispatched those reformers as soon as the real rebel leadership took power.

There's a lot of scuttlebutt out there that many of the rebels are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, which would explain how street protests could morph into an armed insurrection that nearly toppled the dictatorship in a few weeks time. Sure would be nice if the President had some workable intelligence to help sort this out, but he and his ideological allies have spent decades neutering the CIA's ability to gather such intelligence. Surely it says something that the Secretary of Defense, whose department has had to set up its own intelligence shops after the CIA's failures in Iraq, was loud in his skepticism of prosecuting this war. Oddly, it's been the diplomats who have pushed Obama to war. Hope they know something we don't know.

And, speaking of the president's ideological allies, how do you suppose they will react? I mean, it's not like Libya attacked us, right? Doesn't Libya have a lot of oil? Wouldn't want to be seen as "stealing" it, right? The rationale for this war seems to be that Qaddafi must go because he's killing his own people, but that was never enough, by itself, to support removing Saddam Hussein, was it? Plus, I'm old enough to remember all of the "cowboy war monger" complaints when President Reagan sent in the air force to decapitate the Qaddafi regime*. And so on. I've read that there are fears Qaddafi might us mustard gas on the rebels. Wouldn't it be a hoot if somehow we found out that he didn't have any mustard gas, or other WMD's, but let the world think he did?

Conservatives are often accused of having a simple-minded view of the world, but I would hate to have to go through the mental contortions of having to adjust my political posture to support the left-wing alpha dog of the day. Here, for example, is Nancy Pelosi's obsequious message of support:
"I commend the president for his leadership and prudence on how our nation will proceed in regards to Libya and work in concert with European and Arab allies to address the crisis," she said in a written statement.
Lotta smart power in the air these days.

* oh, and Reagan gave an Oval Office address after he unleashed the military, ticked off the reasons why the attack was justified, and did not go jetting off to Rio immediately afterward. Also, when he signed off with "God bless America" you knew he meant it.

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