March 22, 2011

Some Long-View Considerations Regarding Libya

Carroll Andrew Morse

1. Some of the hawkish public affairs commentators could afford to calm down just a bit on the issue of Europe (France, in particular) leading the way on advocating for intervention in Libya, with the United States joining the effort later. You don't have to believe that the world should return to a rigid great-powers spheres-of-influence system, to believe that a primary role for Europe is appropriate regarding decisions about international action in North Africa.

2. American leaders need to be aware that an intervention strategy based predominately on air power is not without long-term risks. The perception of American weakness that helped to fuel the September 11 attacks was created, in part, by a belief that become common in the 1990s that the United States would not go beyond long range air-strikes when attacked. If Gadafi's regime survives a campaign that has incorporated US air power, and the US does nothing further, the credibility of the US deterrent shield takes the same kind of hit that it took in the 1990s.

3. It is almost tautological yet often forgotten that in nations where a leader basically is the government, the time when the leader is rapidly losing or has lost power is a time when major change will occur, whether it is designed or not. Those who fancy themselves to be "realists" need to understand that there is nothing "realistic" about a foreign policy that leaves the United States in a position unable to influence world events at the times and places where regimes are most susceptible to a broad range of influences on their future -- not all of them consistent with goals that are favorable to the US. This applies to Egypt as well.

4. President Obama should have obtained an authorization from Congress for the current action in Libya.

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As MacArthur said, the story of every defeat can be summed up in two words: "Too late". The milbloggers at Blackfive laid out the correct strategy over two weeks ago (take out Qaddafi's military swiftly and make sure that whichever rebels win out they recognize that America was their savior), but nothing was done and the delayed action may prove the man right once again.

On top of that, the definition of this mission is so confused, so contradictory from the various mouths of the regime at various times, that nobody can be certain what it is. This confusion is not to our advantage. The Russians and Chinese are openly mocking us with a brazenness they would not have ever considered during the Reagan era.

It used to be that we could not trust Europe to act like adults in strategic affairs. After all, it was America's protection that allowed them to enjoy a prolonged adolescence for decades. To think of them now as the rightful influencers in their sphere says less about them and more about the state of our weakness (both moral and strategic) since 2009.

It is astonishing how much damage one man can do in a mere two years.

Posted by: BobN at March 22, 2011 9:05 PM

Carroll Andrew Morse you said; “4. President Obama should have obtained an authorization from Congress for the current action in Libya.”

May I advise you there were authorized boots-on-the-ground over three weeks ago not U.S.A. Special Operations because they would have stood out like watermelons in a box of apples.

You don’t walk into the UN Security Council and get authorization to enact a no fly zone over a country in one day and you don’t commit U.S.A. military resources in a UN sanctioned action without congressional approval.

U.S.A. did what it needed to do with its military surgical weapons technology in support of the UN international coalition and is now stepping back relinquishing the command and control responsibilities to a more background supportive role as needed.

Posted by: Ken at March 23, 2011 1:00 AM

Look into the history of "to the shores of Tripoli" in the Marine Hymn. The Barbary Pirates were ravishing Mediterranean shipping. While Europeans were content to bribe the pirates with pay offs, it was the Americans that took matters in hand. Has human nature changed?

Poor Mr. Obama,it is not for naught that this is being called "Hillary's War".

As for "long range air strikes" "in the entire history of warfare, no one has ever surrendered to an airplane" - Curtis LeMay

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 23, 2011 8:36 AM

What is our objective in Libya?

My view is that we should generally avoid partisanship in foreign policy -- particularly when U.S. armed forces are directly in harm's way -- but I confess I don't know what Pres. Obama's policy is so I'm not sure what to think of it.

Seeking approval from Congress would have required an articulation of the mission's objective. That would have been prudent, if not legally required.

Unfortunately, we have an inexperienced President who doesn't have the option of voting "present."

Posted by: brassband at March 23, 2011 8:43 AM

C'mon man. The president is on spring break with the family and his buddy Jeff Immelt said someone else is in charge right now. So what if he wants to arm Al Qaeda, I mean rebels, to take over the town.

Where's Biden? How do the twitterers in tight jean get their guns?

Posted by: dave at March 23, 2011 9:01 AM

I couldn't help but skip over to RI only to find not one post from the left on Libya. Is that an anti-Obama protest over there or are they just speechless?

Posted by: Max Diesel at March 23, 2011 1:00 PM

Brassband you said; “What is our objective in Libya?”

The United States of America as a single entity per say does not have an objective in Libya. The United States of America as part of a UN international coalition is helping to enforce a UN Security Council resolution enforcing a No Fly Zone over Libya.

Brassband you said; “particularly when U.S. armed forces are directly in harm's way”.

Would you please explain to me what U.S. armed forces are directly in harm's way?

There were a group of B2 stealth bombers that drop their precision laser guided payload about 100 to 50 miles from the intended target. A USAF pilot and weapons officer of an F-15E that suffered mechanical problems bailed out over friendly territory. However the rescue helicopter crew got excited and shot 6 people including one young boy coming to help the pilot. Both of them are back in Italy safe and unhurt but the boy lost a leg and the other 5 wounded will survive.

Most of the bombing of Libya’s military infrastructure has been by cruise missiles. Unless a sailor is sitting on the missile I don’t see anyone in harm’s way. The boots-on-the-ground I mentioned are two teams of British SAS forces targeting and laser tagging military infrastructure sites.

The USAF has been flying sorties in support of the UN No Fly Zone and except for the one aircraft malfunction I mention above and that could have happened anywhere in the world.

As of today the United States no longer has any command and control responsibility of the UN No Fly Zone. That responsibility was handed off to Canada.

The United States is in a UN international coalition support role and has no direct command and control authority so to call this Obama’s war or Hillary’s war is trying to make something out of nothing.

Posted by: Ken at March 23, 2011 7:46 PM

"Where's Biden?"

Participating in spring training (the baseball kind).

The MSM would have been scathing if a Repub pres and VP had, while a military conflict was getting underway and American lives were at risk, engaged in the activities that Obama and Biden appear to be carrying out with impunity (at least from the MSM press corps).

"All the News That's Fit to Print!"

Posted by: Monique at March 23, 2011 9:58 PM

I was born a Leftist, I have remained one, I will always be one, and I have to say that only Congress can authorize sending troops to battle. No way do I support the President on this military venture.

Obama has disappointed me about many things, but I admired him for his insistence that Congress actually do its job and legislate, as in "Send me a bill for consideration". Why he shifted gears here is disheartening.

BobN said, “The Russians and Chinese are openly mocking us with a brazenness they would not have ever considered during the Reagan era.”

What poppycock! Oh yes, Reagan had the Russians scared to death when the Beirut barracks bombing (October 23, 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon) occurred during the Lebanese Civil War. Remember, when two truck bombs struck separate buildings housing United States and French military forces—members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon—killing 299 American and French servicemen, Reagan immediately withdrew our troops. That really frightened the Chinese and the Russians.

BobN has Goebbelized history again - Tell a lie big enough and long enough and people may believe it.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 23, 2011 10:25 PM

What does a Leftist liar do when cornered by the truth?

Calls his opponent a nazi.

The above is no exception.

Posted by: BobN at March 23, 2011 10:50 PM


Don't waste your time with the one who calls himself BobN. Check out the letters to the editor in the Projo

Chafee plan not way to boost economy
Governor Chafee’s plan to increase taxes on Rhode Islanders fails to recognize a simple fact: Rhode Island is a small state and many of its people can go outside the state to buy goods and services. The solution to our state’s problems is not to become less competitive, but to become more competitive.
The governor’s budget speech got me thinking about other small economies that I’ve visited. In particular, Hong Kong and Ireland resemble Rhode Island in many ways: small land area, well-situated for trade, not much in natural resources. Both countries created fast-growing, strong economies based on human capital (knowledge, skills, work ethic) by having low taxes, a high degree of economic freedom (i.e., businesses not held hostage to politicians and unions), and traditional systems of education rather than the counter-productive, faddish theories prevailing in Rhode Island schools today.
Isn’t a “knowledge economy” what Governor Chafee says he wants?
The problem is, the smart people who comprise the knowledge economy are smart enough to know a bad deal when they see one, and they will leave Rhode Island for more friendly states. If Chafee’s budget passes, I’ll be one of them.
Bob Newton Warren

How pathetic it is to keep threatening to leave after every election and every setback. Dismiss this fool for what he is.
I have a friend who was a Marine stationed in Lebanon in 1983 who is still to this day is having shrapnel removed from his legs. He shares your view of Reagan.

Posted by: Phil at March 24, 2011 12:13 AM

What truth? You said “The Russians and Chinese are openly mocking us with a brazenness they would not have ever considered during the Reagan era.” and I reminded you of how Reagan made the Russians and Chinese tremble by pulling the Marines from Lebanon.

Here's your chance, BobN. Did Reagan pull them out? How did it make the Russians tremble by withdrawing the Marines? Explain it to us. Or is the best you can do to continue to lie in the face of historical facts. Very Goebbels of you. The shoe fits you very well.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 24, 2011 12:19 AM

One of the great things about RI is that interstate 95 exists for those who wish to depart. So long. Farewell. Here's your hat what's your hurry.

Posted by: Phil at March 24, 2011 12:21 AM

Thanks Phil,
Bob Newton obviously doesn't care a fig for facts.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 24, 2011 12:22 AM

Phil and OTL, I know it's a trying time to be a leftist, betweeen the utter collapse of progressive finance theory on every front, and the fact that progressive leaders can't get elected saying the crazy things they actually believe, so when they say one thing and telegraph another during a campaign then do a third after being elected, it leaves their supporters disappointed and confused, but that doesn't mean you should be trying to shout down people you disagree with -- epecially one who is adding some thoughts that are very consistent with what we learned about large scale violence and international options in the 1990s. Two key events from that period were Serbia and Rwanda. In the case of Rwanda, the conventional wisdom today is that maybe 5,000 troops deployed from outside could have stopped the massacre of 850,000 people if they had been deployed before it was too late. I would have added, at the beginning of the week, a lesson from 1990s Serbia, that since a lack of moral support can create decision-making delays in a situation where time is critical, having the Euros be the first to seriously call for action regarding events in their backyard is a positive development that helps to keep options available. However, we seem to be learning as the week progresses that the Europeans don't have operational capabilities that anywhere match their aspirations.

A nation that is going to resort to force has responsibility to deploy it effectively, and not just to show the world look, we're doing something. It is proper to look at the Beirut massacre as a painful, costly lesson in this regard.

Posted by: Andrew at March 24, 2011 8:59 AM

I see that you are attempting to assert that Lebanon was the defining foreign-policy event in Reagan's presidency. You can't possibly expect people to believe that. Since your questions flow from this dishonest premise, they are meaningless and deserve no answer.

Posted by: BobN at March 24, 2011 9:26 AM


I think these are trying times for many of us. Your need to inject your politics detracts from your thoughtful observations, but you're right to steer the conversation back to where it started. Is this not a "no fly zone" authorized by the UN and backed by the Arab League? Is not removing the country's ability to use it's air force not essential to establishing a "no fly zone" as is the case currently. Were not anti government rebels and civilians in Benghazi asking to have a "no fly zone" established by international forces?

From the Guardian:

"Where are the air strikes? Why is the west waiting until it is too late?" asked Khalid el-Samad, a 27-year-old chemical engineer, who shook his finger in fury. "Sarkozy said it. Obama said it. Gaddafi must stop. So why do they do nothing? Is it just talk while we die?"

Posted by: Phil at March 24, 2011 12:34 PM

Phil, I don't see any point in your list of questions. What is your opinion of the administration's handling of the Libya situation?

Posted by: BobN at March 24, 2011 3:23 PM

Bob N-let me preface this by saying i was against every US military action since Vietnam except Grenada and the original campaign in Afghanistan post 9/11(I think we need to get out of there now).
This includes the Gulf War-f**k the Kuwaiti sheiks.
I think Phil prefers the UN to the US when it comes to making decisions.Maybe I'm wrong,but I consider the UN a cancer which should be removed from our territory and we should get out of it and let it crumble.
I am an isolationalist when it comes to using our military.I would really like to see them on our southern border,shutting it down and taking out the cartel operators,along with securing the area against the influx of ilegal aliens.Turning the latter back is sufficient-I don't advocate gunning down illegal border crossers,but neither do I believe in "due process" for them if they're caught trying to enter.Just turn 'em around.
Phil recently barked at us conservatives here on AR that Chafee was elected to GOVERN,not REPRESENT us.
Well,Phil,this scumbag has no right to govern anybody with 36% of the vote.
His desire to give instate tuition to illegals while shaking down the veterans in the Bristol Veterans'Home makes me agree with Mr.Hanrahan,a WW2 vet who said he hoped Chafee would die in office.
This state can afford to pay a piece of sh*t like Peter Asen $60,000 a year to be a "policy analyst" at the legislature and step on the necks of homeless veterans-Peter Asen,a left wing Brown University punk from the upper West Side of Manhattan-a spoiled rotten brat playing at being an agitator.
Or Jerzyk getting $100,000 year from the Taveras administration as some kind of political relations operative.What an obscenity. Meanwhile,the scum Chafee will balance the budget by denying a few hundred old veterans who put their lives on the line for this country a few extra bucks a month for maybe some cable tv or a pizza.Lincoln Chafee should rot in hell.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 24, 2011 4:10 PM


In the first place I disagree with your analysis of what's happening politically in this country. Time will bear one of us out, and I remain confident. You are entitled to your opinion, even when it's wrong.

I don't see how you linked me and Phil together on the President's use of the military without congressional approval. In case you missed it, I said that I think that the President should have gone to Congress to seek authorization to send U.S. troops into combat. I think that Phil disagrees with this. In your myopic manner you have somehow put me and Phil on the same side of this issue. I suppose that it is easier to deal with perceived stereotypes than actual reality, which, indeed, requires some thoughtful analysis. Go back and try again.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 24, 2011 5:25 PM

OTL-any of your points are drowned out by a pedantic "I'm going to school you son"manner so typical of leftists.
You've never once alluded to what you've done with your life aside from having served in the Army inthe 50's or maybe early 60's.What qualifies you to be so condescending?

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 24, 2011 5:35 PM

You have to do better than half-assed generalities. I like you, but you keep getting half way to the truth. Of course you know that at that rate you'll never reach it.

If you must know, after military service I worked for one of the largest corporations on the planet. I was one of their top salesmen, reached the FICA limit in April and decided that I'd rather keep my soul than the job. I walked away and never looked back. I do not define myself by my work or career. Since then I've lived by my wits and did okay by them.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot, I was originally recruited right out of college by the National Security Agency. Got inside the agency and despised the way they were making sausage, but that's another story. I just try to be my own man and hope for a collectivist society that may bring about social and economic justice.

I came from the underclass, and that is where my loyalties lie. I'm retired now and work a couple of days a week teaching English to immigrants. It keeps me in touch with my roots and honors my immigrant grandparents. Hope you are satisfied with this. If you need to know any more, let me know.

Yours for social justice, peace, harmony and universal brotherhood, and with luck, universal medical coverage.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 25, 2011 12:41 AM

OTL-I was just wondering,since you post here so often,what you'd been doing all these years.
I also come from a blue collar background,and financial security was a pipe dream when I was growing up.
Actually,I hate the idea of collectivism,and the term "social justice"has been badly misused.
You're not the only one with a conscience either,although you might not like what mine made me do.
I decided to retire if the Clintons(not a typo) were re-elected because my time and age made me just eligible.
I wouldn't serve that administration a day longer than I needed to get my pension.I still had 7 years' eligibility left and could've mde a lot more money,but I said the hell with it-I had enough to get along on,not being the type to piss money away in Vegas or needing a fancy car.
I hate the lucky sperms like Chafee and Whitehouse to the manor born,still living like coddled eggs.
Chafee's assault on the destitute veterans is criminal-he has no clue how people live.
Their lucky sperm peanut gallery like Segal,Ari Savitsky,Jerzyk,and Asen aren't quite scions of "old money",but they had pretty cushy lives.And they're going to tell us how to live.F**k 'em all.
I happen to believe you,and I doubt you can really have any regard for such people.
BTW my mom spent years teaching ESL at night school to immigrants and also Puerto Ricans newly arrived in NY.
She didn't get a pension either after 44 years of work because adult ed teachers were excluded from the teachers' union.
Back in those days I guess there were illegal aliens in NY but there couldn't have been very many because no one ever mentioned the subject.
Hey you old coot-they probably had the OSS when you were getting out of college,before the NSA existed-haha.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 25, 2011 2:33 AM

Right, Joe. OTL's sneering, condescension is really off-putting. If this were a real-life gathering rather than on-line, he'd be standing alone in a corner, talking to the plants.

Posted by: BobN at March 25, 2011 7:02 AM

You got half way there again. I have no opinion of Segal,Ari Savitsky,Jerzyk, and Asen. Don't know them at all, never met them.

You have a heart, and I respect that. Your convictions are another matter, but we can probably have a beer and talk each other blue.

I really don't give a fig for anything you have to say, but I won't let you rewrite history. You tell a big Goebbels lie, and I'll call you out on it, but your opinions are of no consequence to me.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 25, 2011 10:34 AM

Unless you can point to the exact untruth and prove that it was not true, you cannot assert that I have told any kind of a lie.

Posted by: BobN at March 25, 2011 12:28 PM

OTL-well,if you aren't really familiar with them,it isn't possible to have an opinion.I just thought you might have at least been knowledgeable about Jerzyk-he's been pretty high profile.
Segal has too,but mainly around Providence.
BobN-the all time champ of condescension and general puffery is one "klaus"over at kmareka.He's a househusband/home office guru who knows what's best for dimwits like us.Just ask him.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 25, 2011 1:28 PM

Thanks, Joe. But our little cell of leftist terrorist wannabes is despicable enough for me.

Posted by: BobN at March 25, 2011 1:30 PM
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