Cannons From the Left: Liberals at War

The rapidly changing rationales of the Libyan Air War have come too quick for me to comment fast enough to be current. Victor Davis Hanson, however, does a good job summarizing the amazing contradictions and flip-flopping that have marked Obama's move to war, which was - at once - both too fast and too late.

This is a Potemkin coalition, far smaller than the one that fought in either Afghanistan or Iraq, notwithstanding loud proclamations to the contrary. We are not even done with the first week of bombing, and yet no one seems in charge: What body/country/alliance determines targets, issues communiques, or coordinates diplomacy? The U.K. goes after Qaddafi, and we plead “They did it, not us”? Again, fairly or not, the impression is that Obama dressed up preponderant American intervention under a multicultural fig leaf, earning the downsides of both. A loud multilateral effort could be wise diplomacy, but not if it translates into a desire to subordinate American options and profile to European and international players that are not commensurately shouldering the burden — and not if all this is cynically used to advance a welcomed new unexceptional American profile.

When we talk of “European leadership,” we mean the U.K. and France, not Germany, Italy, or most of the EU. When we talk of the “Arab League,” we mean essentially zero military assets. And when we talk of the “U.N.,” we mean zero blue-helmeted troops. So, like it or not, there is a level of understandable cynicism that suspects Obama’s new paradigm of multilateral, international action is simply the same-old, same-old, albeit without the advantages that accrue when America is unapologetic about its leadership role, weathers the criticism, and insists on the options and prerogatives that a superpower must demand in war by virtue of its power and sacrifice.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Technically, I support this effort to the extent it is focused on ridding the world of Qaddafi, but...uh, they keep saying they're not trying to kill Qaddafi, or even depose him! They just want to keep him from killing his own citizens. A worthy goal, but one that promises a much longer commitment than the Obami are speaking of now. Fact is, the time to act was two weeks ago when Qaddafi was on the ropes. Now, he has nearly stamped out the rebellion. He's not going anywhere, unless he decides to go on vacation.

Much has been made of Obama having been dragged into war by the women on his national security team. Whatever. The bigger problem is that all of his actions have communicated for all to see that he has absolutely no good instincts in matters of war and foreign affairs. Want to pass an unconstitutional health care "reform" law by hook or by crook? Obama can get it done! Rid the world of an odious dictator who has killed hundreds of Americans? Forget it. Not only was his timing off, his method of announcing we were at war - a quick presser on the way to the airport - telegraphed how little he cares, and how little he realizes how dangerous it is that he doesn't care.

A bigger theoretical problem receiving only glancing attention: Obama's enthusiasm for waging a war only arose after France, the UN and the Arab League had demanded action. Coalitions are swell, but since when does the United States take orders from France and the UN? Feverish libertarians are already issuing dire warnings about how this is bringing us closer to one-world government. Ben Stein has noted that Obama hasn't even pretended to consult Congress, a constitutionally dubious precedent. Even Mickey Kaus is uneasy about the idea of intervening in a country purely on the UN's say-so.

The Libyan Air War didn't have to last long, but Obama's deliberations and the confusion about the war's goals means it could go on much longer than we realize.

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