No-Fly, Don't Bother Me

Earlier this week conservative Washington Post columnist George Will posed 16 skeptical questions to proponents of a no-fly zone over Libya (whose ranks now include former president Bill Clinton). Among Will's queries:

* Presumably we would coordinate aid with the leaders of the anti-Gaddafi forces. Who are they?

* Libya is a tribal society. What concerning our Iraq and Afghanistan experiences justifies confidence that we understand Libyan dynamics? [...]

* The Egyptian crowds watched and learned from the Tunisian crowds. But the Libyan government watched and learned from the fate of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments. It has decided to fight. Would not U.S. intervention in Libya encourage other restive peoples to expect U.S. military assistance?

In response, do-something conservative David Frum, who as I write this is arguing about regulation and limited-government hyperbole on Twitter, posed nine questions of his own. They include:

* If Muammar Qaddafi violently suppresses the Libya uprising while America stands by, will Arab and Muslim opinion really believe that we were "neutral"? Or will they believe that we tacitly support Qaddafi – as they believed through the 1990s that we tacitly supported Saddam Hussein? [...]

* Iran crushed its uprising in 2009, with impunity. Hezbollah has seized power in Beirut. Hamas holds Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood is rising in Egypt. Who looks like the ascendant power in the Middle East today? Iran or the United States? [...]

* If you are the president of Venezuela and you lose an election, how will you react when President Obama tells you that you "must" honor the election results?

The exchange, I think, is a revealing snapshot of both where conservatism (and America) has been, and where both are destined to go. It is my contention that we cannot literally afford a conception of U.S. foriegn policy, with the miliary might to back it up, that considers warmaking on a sovereign country that hasn't invaded another to be a prerequisite for maintaining credibility in the eyes of the next dictator who cancels elections. It's going to take a long and certainly messy period of unclenching to get used to the idea that Washington isn't omnipotent.

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  • Hugh Akston||

    If they admit that Washington isn't omnipotent WRT foreign affairs, it raises the distinct and nauseating possibility that they also aren't omnipotent domestically.

  • ||

    How about "impotent" domestically?

    Or 'neutered'?

  • Zimbabwe Bob||

    If they were impotent, at least it would slow down the ass-fucking of the American people. So I don't think thats the right word.

  • ||

    It's doesn't matter if they are omnipotent or not, there is a problem and the government is the solution.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Will is one of the better conservative pundits out there. I certainly don't always agree with him, but he definitely seems intellectually honest.

    I'd say the same about Mike Kinsley (and if I wanted to irritate John) Greenwald on the left.

  • ||

    But...but...Greenwald is TEAM BLUE so no matter how much sense he makes, he must be smeared! Don't you understand how this shit works, BP?

  • ||

    I have really enjoyed some of Will's stuff over the years, but he does have his moments where is either willfully ignorant due to ideology or, like the rest of us he his blind spots. The difference is that he will write reams of columns about how correct he is about his blind spots where you & I can justtalk about something else for a while. And he's a Cubs fan. Still really enjoy some of his stuff.

  • ||

    he does have his moments where is either willfully ignorant due to ideology or, like the rest of us he his blind spots.

    His piece on eliminating Birth Right Citizenship would be one of those blind spots in my honest opinion.

  • ||

    Will isn't bad, and he challenges TEAM RED frequently like Greenwald does TEAM BLUE, so he deserves credit for that.

  • prolefeed||

    Will's columns seem to either be spot-on or, more rarely, totally wrong (such as Birth Right Citizenship). No inbetween. But, he's not some TEAM RED partisan, and this is one of his good columns.

  • Really?||

    Greenwald, for all of his positive attributes, does trend to overwritten histrionics. He also tries to go outside of his bailiwick when he talks about economics (because he has a huge blind spot when it comes to economic liberty) and fails miserably.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yup, I disagree with Greenwald & Will often. As Episiarch pointed out, though, they refuse to be totally beholden to their "teams."

  • Gray Ghost||

    Agree with you on Kinsley. For me, Greenwald is a bit more hit or miss.

    This Libya article was surprisingly lucid and thoughtful from Will. No wonder people like Frum hated it.

  • ||

    1) Matt, would you mind adding a byline? Clicking through to your self-link is an awkward way to find out you wrote this.

    2)

    It is my contention that we cannot literally afford a conception of U.S. foriegn policy, with the miliary might to back it up, that considers warmaking on a sovereign country that hasn't invaded another to be a prerequisite for maintaining credibility in the eyes of the next dictator who cancels elections.

    Would you mind cleaning that up? I have no idea why you would want to "maintain credibility in the eyes of the next dictator who cancels elections."

  • Matt Welch||

    Thanks; server squirrels, etc.

    Not sure of your complaint about the latter formulation. Frum is talking about making sure Hugo Chavez knows we mean business before doing whatever terrible thing he does next.

  • ||

    If I parse it correctly, I believe you mean to say:

    "Having a hypertrophied military and being willing to use it without proper casis belli does not make us more credible."

  • Matt Welch||

    I'm more just pointing out the mindset that fetishizes "credibility" (and omnipotence), and the costs that that requires.

  • ||

    "cheese of war"?

  • ||

    When you camembert no more you gouda cream 'em.

  • ||

    I ee i am not hte only one who had a hard time reading that.

    Good to know Matt wrote it....so i probably don't need to know what he meant as i probably agree with him simply because he is Matt.

    =)

  • ||

    Goodness gracious, "a messy period of unclenching"??? That is not exactly a graceful image.

    I think that "intervention" is a pretty broad term, and that you might set too high a bar for it. If we can prevent an ongoing genocide by setting up a no-fly zone over a few hundred square miles, with support of the UN Security Council & NATO, that's something we should do.

    But yes, coming to terms with the fact that we're not omnipotent, and we can't put "An End to Evil," is something right wing in the US is still coming to terms with.

  • ||

    If we can prevent an ongoing genocide

    I thought genocide involved killing a specific people...like the US killing Indians or Germany killing Jews.

    When is simply killing poeple who oppose you not a genocide? Is it a quantity thing?

    What ever happened to good ol' mass murder?

  • ||

    If we can prevent an ongoing genocide by setting up a no-fly zone over a few hundred square miles, with support of the UN Security Council & NATO, that's something we should do.

    That sort of worked with the Kurds...but you do have to admit we have troops on the ground today in Iraq....so the historic factual on this sort of thing is that mission creep will set in.

  • ||

    In the neocon vocabulary, "genocide" refers to the killing of large numbers of innocent people by someone not allied with the US. When the US or its allies do it, it's called "collateral damage".

  • db||

    No, no, that's not quite right either. It's only genocide if you kill a bunch of people who look like each other but don't look like you. If you kill a bunch of people who disagree with you politically, that's an "internal affair" and none of the international community's business.

    (Note I am not in favor of U.S. intervention in Libya, except, perhaps, allowing any private citizens who would like to go help out the rebels, to do so.)

  • ||

    The elevation of "genocide" (which as Herr Corning points out, is not happening in this case) to some sort of ultimate crime is a very collectivist idea. From an individualist perspective, killing 5 million Jews is no worse than killing 5 million people of diverse ethnic origins.

  • prolefeed||

    The term "genocide" means "killing a buttload of people specifically because of their race".

    And, yes, killing the same number of innocent people for a different malign reason is just as despicable.

  • db||

    Kind of what I was trying to say above. But the international community seems to think it's just dandy for a dictator to violently suppress political opponents--i.e., it's OK to kill someone for their thoughts, but not their race.

  • ||

    The exchange, I think, is a revealing snapshot of both where conservatism (and America) has been, and where both are destined to go. It is my contention that we cannot literally afford a conception of U.S. foriegn policy, with the miliary might to back it up, that considers warmaking on a sovereign country that hasn't invaded another to be a prerequisite for maintaining credibility in the eyes of the next dictator who cancels elections. It's going to take a long and certainly messy period of unclenching to get used to the idea that Washington isn't omnipotent.

    What the fuck did you just say?

    Also who the hell are you?

    I mean that last question literally....i don't mean who the hell do you think you are...i mean who are you as i have no idea because you did not put your name on the article.

  • Matt Welch||

    It's on there now, no?

  • ||

    WOOT!

  • ||

    *raspberrys Matt*

    I see I'm not the only one who had trouble parsing that.

  • Matt Welch||

    Obviously, you're all reading too fast.

  • Hugh Akston||

    tl;dr

  • ||

    God created USA Today to damn the verbose and bless the terse!!!

  • prolefeed||

    Obviously, you're writing too fast, Matt. It was an excellent point, but clumsily written. It was confusing, and need not have been confusing.

  • ||

    When one person has trouble understanding you and others don't, the problem probably does not lie with you. When several people have trouble understanding you, chances are the problem lies somewhat closer to home.

  • ||

    It's going to take a long and certainly messy period of unclenching to get used to the idea that Washington isn't omnipotent.

    Yeah i have been following this on drudge. bla bla bla Hilary wants the someone else to lead...bla blabla Cameron and Sarkozy bla bla bla...

    And my first reaction was "Hurray we are going to free the Libyans!!!"....then I remembered i made the same mistake for Iraq and changed my mind.

    I would love the Libyans to be free of their resident tyrant, but we should sit this one out.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Iraq wasn't a mistake. The invasion was easy and put an end to over a decade of awkward No-Fly Zone BS. The Occupation on the other hand...

    Yeah we should sit this one out. I just wish I could donate money to the rebels. Or do anything.

  • zoltan||

    Iraq was a mistake, considering the occupation has been far longer than the attack.

  • Cytotoxic||

    You should try reading my entire comment. I implied that the occupation was a mistake, although I'm sure it would have been better if the US hadn't treated the insurgency with kid gloves.

  • ||

    I understood it easily enough.
    But it is a clumsy sentence.

  • Matt Welch||

    Tough crowd!

  • ||

    Come on Matt. You are a professional highly regarded editor-in-chief of a respected and prominent political magazine.

    Can you honestly say this sentence is not a beast to read?

    It is my contention that we cannot literally afford a conception of U.S. foriegn policy, with the miliary might to back it up, that considers warmaking on a sovereign country that hasn't invaded another to be a prerequisite for maintaining credibility in the eyes of the next dictator who cancels elections.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    to quote my favorite hmm comment

    I'm calling Cpt. America, that jingoistic motherfucker will take care of you evil bastards.

    Hey Matt, it aint easy bein' green

  • Cliché Bandit||

    And to be honest I didn't get it at first either but my mind is already at happy hour with a Blavenie Doublewood a Padron 64 Aniversario...

    Don't expect too much from me.

  • Tman||

    Can someone explain to me how you "literally afford a conception"?

    Because I think I have enough money for one but I don't want to get ripped off, you know. I can always see if they have it on Amazon cheaper.

  • ||

    Can someone explain to me how you "literally afford a conception"?

    Ask my ex-GF's paternity-suit lawyer.

  • ||

    And WE are your friends! ;P

  • ||

    Really, Matt, where did you learn to write? At the University of California or something? Ha ha h...oh wait.

  • Matt Welch||

    I attended "some college" at UCSB, as they say.

  • ||

    Don't let them harsh you. I understood it perfectly......just as soon as I got done diagramming it.

  • Mr Obama||

    I am happy to see my name mentioned only once in this article. Clearly, my policy is to support the situation and provide policy-making guidelines that will effect any future policies.

  • ||

    I am happy to see my name mentioned only once in this article. Clearly, my policy is to support the situation and provide policy-making guidelines that will effect any future policies.

    Hey what ever it takes to keep us out of another fucking war. Keep up the good work slime ball.

  • Woodrow||

    Whatever Obama says, the nutroots will support it when he does. They are probably ignoring Bill Clinton agreeing with teh evil John McCain.

  • ||

    Whatever Obama says, the nutroots will support it when he does. They are probably ignoring Bill Clinton agreeing with teh evil John McCain.

    The point is mute now.

    Sounds like Obama is going to jump into a war now:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/201.....s/us_obama

    His fumbling which translated into non-intervention was good while it lasted....to bad it did not last.

  • ||

    It's to be expected. The administration is randomly thrashing about like a sharkbitten seal these days, on pretty much every policy front (not just foreign affairs anymore).

  • Peace-Prize Obama||

    Clearly, I'm tightening the noose on Quaddafi. My Army Corps of Engineers is ready to erect gallows. A Muslim-lynching party and an invasion are imminent. We must restore American credibility in the region by not taking sides.

  • ||

    OK. So much for the Lit Crit.

    I agree with your points, Matt.

    Spending 50%+ of the World's total military spending when you have roughly 18% of the world gross income is not a good thing.

    [For the record, I do not agree it is because "The rest of the OECD countries don't pull their weight." It's because the USA spends too f*****g much on the military and has historically chosen to use that power as a first, rather than last, resort along with doesn't mind its own f*****g business.]

    Trying to force people to be good doesn't work very well. Often the very people you are attempting to help are worse off than if you'd stayed out of it. Even if they are better off, they generally resent the fact that you intervened in their business.

    While dictators like Saddam Hussein, Gadaffi and Chavez are oppressive twats whom nobody will mourn, offing them in the name of their people only makes other countries nervous and less inclined to trust you.

  • Hobie Hanson||

    If the French hadn't given us the 1700s equivalent of a no-fly zone, we'd be speaking British today.

  • Cytotoxic||

    And the indebtedness from that intervention led to the French Revolution. Great analogy!

  • Hobie Hanson||

    I wish we could have a French Revolution here. There's a lot of fatcats who need a good slicing.

  • sevo||

    Hobie Hanson|3.11.11 @ 7:21PM|#
    "I wish we could have a French Revolution here. There's a lot of fatcats who need a good slicing."

    You're obviously equally ignorant of the French Revolution.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Well what do we know we have a TP. That's our revolution.

  • Little Adolf Hansen||

    Nothing mass murder can't cure, right Hobie?

  • Little Adolf Hansen||

    Hey, it's one way to get rid of the opposition...ha ha ha.

  • sevo||

    Hobie Hanson|3.11.11 @ 6:56PM|#
    "If the French hadn't given us the 1700s equivalent of a no-fly zone, we'd be speaking British today.

    Nope, didn't happen:
    "...France insisted on basing its main fleet in the Caribbean in order to protect its interest in the West Indies." Ellis, "His Excellency".

  • ||

    If the French hadn't given us the 1700s equivalent of a no-fly zone, we'd be speaking British today.

    France and England were in a perpetual colonial war with one another at the time.

    Which colonial power are we trying to check by putting a no fly zone over Libya?

    And do we really want to be a colonial power trying to hamstring another colonial power in some fucked up game of world domination?

  • Gray Ghost||

    Not sure if anyone's reading this thread anymore, but could you make the argument, Joshua, that the "colonial power" the U.S. is trying to check would be radical Islam? IOW, doing nothing, while Al Qaeda/MB/bad guy of the month steps in and aids the rebels, who then win and set up a Taliban-esque gov't...would be a bad thing for the U.S. Pretty tenuous chain of events, but I can at least see the argument.

    Agree with all those stating that a no-fly zone won't occur in a vacuum, that it constitutes a state of war with the blockaded country. However, how deep is Khadafy's (screw it, this is fewer letters and I'm spelling it this way) support in Libya? If he met Mr. JDAM, would the Libyan government implode, or would one of his generals keep up the fighting? It doesn't seem like he'd be nearly as tough a target as Saddam was, but I'm probably wrong.

  • ||

    My argument is that France was not doing it for us and that the US is not France in 1776 and should not want to be France in 1776 and if it resembles France in 1776 it should move in the opposite direction.

    Another point i would like to add is that we would have won without France.

    I do not see any way England could have won. It might have lasted longer but England was to stretched out all over the world and the American rebels were to entrenched and losing meant being hung for treason.

    They had every reason to keep fighting and England had an ever growing excuse to quit fighting.

    A third point is that after we won without France would we hate France because they did not help us?

    Hell we were at war with England and they are now among our closest allies today.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Completely agree with all of your points, just floating the metaphor of Sharia as incipient colonial power. Agree that the fiscal similarities between 1776 France and modern U.S. are getting uncomfortable. In both cases, the bankers are getting ready to call an end to the party, one way or another.

    I don't think a Dunkirk-style evacuation for Cornwallis at Yorktown would really have been in the cards, given the naval technology of the time, and the size of the British fleet. So, they were losing much of his force anyways.

    I especially like your last point. In the Civil War, both France and England tried to play footsie with the Confederacy (at least until Antietam) and neither one suffered any harsh, lasting consequences for doing so.

    Bad things happen all over the world. That they do so is not necessarily the United States' problem.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Goods points but just because we had the lucidity not to hate the French if they hadn't helped us doesn't mean Kadaffi won't hate us for what he perceives as slights against him by The Wicked West. If he wins he might do something stupid afterwards.

  • SxCx||

    I don't know what it is: his face, his phrasing, his word choices -- everything about David Frum makes me think he's a pandering, witless hack. The fact he has any influence at all is inexplicable. I'm annoyed to even see him quoted here.

  • ||

    But he is a pandering witless hack who happened to be a WH speechwriter; he claims to have come up with the "Axix of Evil" catchphrase.

    Because he was in the WH, he is automatically granted attention-worthy status.

  • DNS||

    Because he was in the WH, he is automatically granted attention-worthy status.

    That recipe still works for Sick Morris.

  • ||

    Check out this nugget from Frum's twitter page:

    This overtorqued libertarianism seems especially strange to me in the wake of the Wall St financial disaster

    yeah it is libertarianism's fault that government sponsored entities Fanny and Freddy dumped 6 trillion dollars on shaky loans and guarantees on shaky loans. that makes a ship pot of sense.

    Frum can go fuck himself.

    I wonder if what i wrote is under the Titter letter limit?

  • ||

    Apparently, the utter failure of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars don't make Frum's steadfast hyperintervensionist beliefs strange.

  • Cytotoxic||

    It's bad enough that he's a partisan hack it's worse that he gives super-shitty political advice, like a War on Obesity to solve the GOP woes around 2005.

  • ||

    If people really want a No-Fly Zone enforced, why not have The Chocobots enforce it. Colonel Kataffy wouldn't stand a chance.

  • jasno||

    Maybe I'm cynical, but I think we'll be going into Libya eventually, but we need to wait for them to destroy lots of infrastructure and most of the resistance first. We'll then go in and reap profits without a strong nationalistic party to keep us in check.

  • ||

    So what if Gadaffi prevails and then proceeds to mass executions of dissidents, their families and friends? I'm not saying he will, just wondering how this philosophy works when real people are involved.

  • ||

    And what if we help push Gadaffi out and a revanchist regime takes his place and starts slaughtering anybody who ever came within 50 yards of Gadaffi? IOW, what if we replace the Shah with the Ayatollah?

    There is no good answer.

    MYOB is not a comfortable position, but it works a hell of a lot better than meddling.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's pretty far-fetched, Aresen. Since when has any US overseas military intervention produced negative consequences? Especially the ones with noble motives.

  • Nobel-Haloed Barry||

    Or "Nobel" motives.

  • ||

    If it all about "freedom", why don't the rebels hire Blackwater, et. al. to create a "no fly zone" (they have planes) in exchange for some of that oil? I'm betting this is more about getting some of that oil money that MoGad has squirreled away than silly crap like democracy. I keep seeing repellent former Libyan gov't douchebags getting quoted in the media with their "support for democracy" etc., which is so against their character as to be laughable. They sense a power vacuum, an aging, deranged dictator, and they want to get some of that jack.

    And they want us to help them do it. Neocons are so hopelessly naive.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The fly ran away in fear of the frog who ran from the cat who ran from the dog. The dog ran away in fear of the pig who ran from the cow, she was so big...

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