Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain….

Every once in a while, an off the cuff remark will give the rest of us a behind the curtains peek at what makes the policymakers tick — good or bad.  One of Obama’s closest security advisors recently gave us that glance on Libya and what is guiding the decision making. From the AP

Obama still faces questions about why Libya and not Yemen, or not Syria. One of his closest national security advisers, Denis McDonough, told reporters Monday that the administration doesn’t “get very hung up on this question of precedent.”

“We don’t make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent,” McDonough said.

And what I personally hate is when something I said or have written comes back to bite me…..

In his pre-presidential book “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama said the U.S. will lack international legitimacy if it intervenes militarily “without a well-articulated strategy that the public supports and the world understands.”

He questioned: “Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?”


I’ll ask National Security Analyst Frank Gaffney about it when I interview him for this week’s “The Facts.”

37 Replies to “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain….”

  1. mhs

    For once, Troy and I disagree. I may be an un-reformed imperialist, but, I see intervening in Libya as a very different situation from the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq. 1. Libya doesn’t need nation-building, the Brits and French saw to that for the 250 years before NutJob took over. It’s a fairly westernized, modern country, unlike Afghanistan, that can probably look after itself. 2. There is an active revolutionary force in place to step in to power when he leaves, Iraq had a complete power vacuum after Saddam fell, which allowed the extremists and ethnic blocks to flourish and create the quagmire. 3. Perhaps most important, it is a low-risk, low-intensity conflict for the US. We don’t need to invade, we just need to give him a push.

    I will hedge my opinion with the following end-game mistakes we made in Iraq that cannot be repeated if we’re going to be successful. 1. Ignore established borders. We should have partitioned Iraq immediately, who cares about borders the Brits drew at random barely 100 years ago. Even the Balkans have stabilized since the Serbs were put down, much as we are with Kaddiiiffyy (since the MSM can’t decide how to spell his name, I made up my own) right now. 2. Allow some political chaos for awhile. We put idiots in charge initially in both Afghanistan and Iraq (not to mention Iran with Khomeni, oops) and it made things worse. Allow some time for the Libyians to choose somebody they’ll follow. 3. Let NATO lead. The French and British are far less dainty and far better at this nation building thing, let them do it.

    1. duggersd

      Someone to step in to fill the power vacuum? Interesting idea. Who? I was just reading that some of the people fighting are people with links to Al Qaeda. (
      I am not so sure we know who we are supporting here. And I am not convinced the new government will be all that friendly towards the US. And we still do not know what success is. I am not so sure President Obama knows what success is.

    2. Jeff J.

      mhs, I just read your entire comment and am wondering where you get any of those “facts”. 1. The Brits did nation-building in Iraq for decades before Saddam took over, much like you say with Libya. It still needed nation-building after the war. To paraphrase Reagan, it only takes one generation to lose freedom. That’s what happened there. The people who will likely take over may have a little understanding of the concept of democracy, but none have ever practiced it. 2. There is no identified leader in the rebels. They are a misfit group of people attempting to work together – and badly at that. Your assumption that a strong leader or group will come out of it is hopeful at best. 3. We could have argued “low-intensity, low-risk” at the beginning of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and any number of other military interventions. Which of those three actually turned out that way? Well, Somalia I guess, because we just gave up and left. How’d that work out?

      My point is, nothing in your comment is backed by the reality of the situation.

  2. 73*

    Wars just aren’t fought like wars anymore. I’m not sure the modern war is worth fighting because I’m not sure winning is ever the sole objective.

    I like the Powell doctrine of overwhelming force. I don’t think we’ve ever established dominance in Afganistan or Iraq.

  3. THC

    He posseses just as much principle as the guy who left Afghanistan unfinished the first time around to pursue 1) a quest for oil, goaded by his dyspeptic number two and, 2) the opportunity to upstage the daddy who never held him in very high regard.
    Our zany military adventures have proven, and will likely prove in the future, to be a waste of time, treasure (which includes people) and moral authority.

    1. Troy Jones

      While I disagreed with Bush, he never claimed not to be a pro-active interventionist. In fact he said he believed it was a moral obligation of the US.

      And, on this point, I agreed with Obama who in explaining why he was against Iraq and for the Afghan surge talked about vital American interests and security. He further said he believed the initiation of hostilities or engagement when we weren’t attacked or under imminent threat required Congressional approval.

      Last night, Obama’s most cogent rationale was essentially hyper-interventionism is our national interest objective, proposed no need for Congressional advice and consent. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve read at least 20 articles from liberals and conservatives trying to justify this action and none make sense to me.

      I can’t even grasp the rationale when I ask the question to myself: How is the different than Rwanda, the Sudan, Vietnam, the Congo, and a host of other countries? Or, what do we expect to gain since it isn’t to follow through all the way to regime change? If it was about regime change, I would still disagree but I get the rationale.

      I’m left with two potential answers:

      1) Obama said Qadafy had to go and when it became evident he was going to stay, Obama decided to make it happen (despite his claim it isn’t his motive). Sounds eerily familiar to the charge Bush did Iraq because Saddam wasn’t going anywhere.

      2) Is it because Libya has oil? Rwanda, the Sudan, the Congo and Vietnam don’t. Again, what distinquishes Libya. Can’t be the human carnage since it was and is worse in those nations.

      The partisan in me does say though: If Obama’s intransigence on Obamacare, the out of control spending/deficit/debt, and economy doesn’t get him and the Dems running in 2012, the mismanagement of Egypt and Libya will.

      I wonder what liberals/Democrats will say about Obama and this nonsense when the end result is the following Senate seats switch in 2012 resulting in a 59 GOP, 40 Dem. and 1 Independent Senate and we have a GOP Congress and White House:

      Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

      Plus Hagen, Warner, Pryor and Landreau who seem to rhetorically supporting the GOP on budget issues and potentially health care?

      1. Veritas

        But wouldn’t it be nice if we did? I’m fine with going to war over natural resources. Sadly, we’re pissing away our own economy in a vain effort to build nations; even if we succeed, what have we won?

  4. feasant

    He surrounds himself with incompetent people so he can feel smart. We got what we voted for, Change. It is just not the type of change most of us wanted.

  5. Jeff J.

    73*, I may have to agree. All the way up through the civil war, wars were fought to an end. There was a clear winner and a clear loser. Lincoln and Grant required “unconditional surrender” on the part of the Confederacy, or else they were just going to keep on pounding. Tuck your tail between your legs, apologize, go home, and don’t even attempt to stick your head out again. That got the job done. Since then, to varying degrees, the “peace” at the end of wars never let us resolve the issues, and left enough of an enemy intact to cause trouble again later. Look at WWI. The Treaty of Versailles (sp?) essentially caused WWII. WWII was finished, but that may be the only example. How’d that end? Two atomic bombs… Korea – still at war; Vietnam – no victory; Iraq I – we had to go back; Afghanistan and Iraq II – still there; and this will be the same thing.

    It may not be politically correct, but once we’ve decided to go to war, we have to completely decimate the enemy to the point where no one will ever contemplate coming back at us again. Try to avoid civilian casualties, but also understand that that’s part of war and will never be completely avoided. The point is to win! That’s why we fight on their ground and not ours. If civilians are going to have to die, better theirs than ours.

    I’m as much for peace as the next guy, but once we get to the last resort of war, let’s make sure we win and win permanently.

      1. insomniac

        Overview of Powell Doctrine:
        Essentially, the Doctrine expresses that military action should be used only as a last resort and only if there is a clear risk to national security by the intended target; the force, when used, should be overwhelming and disproportionate to the force used by the enemy; there must be strong support for the campaign by the general public; and there must be a clear exit strategy from the conflict in which the military is engaged.

        We have no exit strategy because we are waiting for the ideal situation.

  6. anon

    War is horrible. I don’t think there is an easy answer. It is too bad the military family’s must continue to essentially bare this burdon alone.

  7. anon

    I don’t blame Bush for Iraq or Afganistan. Because as a president he didn’t want to see June 9th or March 3rd or any other random date become another 9/11 and a National day of morning. As president they have to do what they believe is right and will keep the country safe. But if they committ to war they need to have an exit strategy.

  8. Troy Jones

    Great point on Resolution 85. Let’s see how this compares to Iraq

    Congress (both houses) urges UN Security Resolutions to insist on access to Iraq on potential WMD development. UN approved such resolutions which authorized US enforcement of resolutions. Bush asked for specfic congressional authoriization to enforce UN resolution which was granted before we engaged the Iraq military.

    Senate urges UN Security action which might include a no-fly zone. UN Security authorizes use of no fly zone. Obama engages Libya military.

    Difference: Obama didn’t come back to Congress.

    1. Bill Fleming

      Suppose you know that tens of thousands of people are going to die tomorrow and that you can stop it if you act today. If you wait until the day after tomorrow it will be too late. What to you do, Troy?

      1. duggersd

        That is an interesting question, Bill. But the situation in Libya was not unknown before President Obama actually got around to taking military action. It was pretty much accepted that without a no fly zone, the rebels would be in a blood bath. So, if it was such an emergency, why the dithering for over a week?
        We have another problem with this action. I am not so sure the people we are backing are going to be friendly towards the US if and when they finally defeat Ghadaffi. There have also been reports that the rebels have been killing unarmed loyalists. So who are the good guys?
        We still do not know what the objectives are here. According to Obama’s speech, we are only protecting innocent life and not regime change. However it seems Obama is considering supplying the rebels. Isn’t that seeking regime change?
        If there was an insurrection in several large cities in the US and the military was brought in to put it down and used air power to do this, would it be appropriate for Russia, China, France and England to enforce a no fly zone upon us?

  9. Bill Fleming

    From what I can glean from the news stories, Obama didn’t act unilaterally, or independent of the advice and consent of congress. Nor is he trying to establish a doctrine. he made a situation based decision and is willing to defend his position. I look at the whole affair as an example of failed diplomacy and submit that’s what all wars (or military actions if you prefer) are. That said, it looks to me as though the administration is trying to move the chess piece back to the strategic, diplomatic side of the board as quickly as possible, recognizing that we cannot afford -nor should we want- to engage ourselves in an occupation of Libya.

    Do you see it much differently, Troy? If so, how?

  10. Bill Fleming

    P.s. Troy, this is an interesting issue to me because of the life and death nature of it, and also, because for once, it is not a partisan issue. Both parties are split as to their position here, as are the Tea Party folks. Rand Paul for example voted for Resolution 85 advocating for the establishment of a no-fly zone and the ‘dethroning’ of Kadaffi, and in the same breath is arguing against his own position. Interesting. I can only conclude that this is not a black and white issue, and is thus an essential topic of open minded discussion. it would wrong to characterize my thoughts here as ‘debate.’ I could effectively argue either side.

    1. Les

      How long has there been genocide in those areas Bill? Something new here? What triggered a response that should have happened decades ago if it is about humanitarian issues?

  11. Troy Jones


    “If he had gone to Congress?” We’d have had a national debate. Instead the imperial President just did it.

    “Obama didn?t act unilaterally, or independent of the advice and consent of congress.” SR 85 is a far cry from the Iraq authorization and you know it. He might have acted in concert with the UN but not with the consent of the American people or its representatives.

    “back to the strategic, diplomatic side of the board as quickly as possible” Bill, this is a civil war. In a civil war, we have the choice to broker a resolution (given up when he called for regime change), pick a side and live with whatever it takes (Hell, we don’t even know who the other side is), or stay out of it. He is a moron if he thinks there is a middle ground. His interview I saw this morning on CBS scared the bejezus out of me. He vacillated and contradicted his own speech from the other night.

    “interesting issue to me because of the life and death nature of it” Well, Bill, I guess that means you think we should never have left Vietnam, Clinton should have fled the Sudan, and we should have done something in Rwanda. Might as well get directly involved in the Mexican drug war as well. All of these resulted in a lots more deaths than Libya. Get some perspective.

    “not a partisan issue” Going to war isn’t a partisan issue in my mind.

    I’d like to just read one good article justifying what we are doing here from one of the following perspectives and not from the empty “people are dying” argument. They are dying around the world in bigger numbers and where are we?

    1) National Interest
    2) Long-term goal and expectations to come from it.

    If you know of one, I’d love to read it.

    The outcome is now one of three scenarios:

    1) We overthrow Qadaffi and we don’t even know whether the alternative will be better.
    2) We commit take on Libya as another nation-building enterprise and spend $200 Billion we don’t have.
    3) We walk away leaving Qadaffi in power with greater resolve to exterminate his opposition.

  12. Duh

    Bill: WOW. You stated: “Suppose you know that tens of thousands of people are going to die tomorrow and that you can stop it if you act today. If you wait until the day after tomorrow it will be too late. What to you do, Troy?”

    I have been around on this blog long enough to have read things you repeatedly wrote ad nauseum which are completely opposite of this when Bush was President acting just like the big O (outside of getting Congressional approval). Unbelievable.

    1. Veritas

      Why? We have no national interests in these countries. We cannot, nor should we try to, stop all human suffering; we will destroy our nation in any attempt to do so. You, Sir, and the fools like you, are a grave threat to this nation.

  13. Bill Fleming

    p.s. Troy, those are not the only possible outcomes. You guys make me think of this quote from Benjamin Franklin:

    “That people so often believe themselves to be right is no proof that they are; the only difference between the Church of Rome and the Church of England is that the former is infallible while the latter is never wrong.”

    Always in search of the absolute. We’ll boys, what if there ain’t one?


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