The First Focus Group Battalion

Jim Antle tries to unpack the president's arguments for war kinetic military action:

He offered no coherent argument for this intervention that wouldn't in principle commit us to intervening all over the world, yet at the same time suggested he would not even see this intervention through if it cost too much or took to long. He offered only boilerplate about the nature of the rebellion we are supporting but then refrained from committing to giving the rebels arms.

So which is it? The United States must intervene militarily to avert any humanitarian catastrophe anywhere in the world or else betray our values. But at the same time, we are not going to pursue regime change, we are not responsible for the forces that our interventions unleash and we are not going to stick around as long as that Bush guy did in Iraq. Obama tried to rally the country around the flag as if we are at war, yet continued to pretend we are not at war, refusing to even utter the word. Obama is trying to split the difference, as if war is something that can be handled by focus groups.

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  • rather||

    Conservatives are panicking-Obama's gamble may pay-off

  • Mike M.||

    Just about every conservative that I know hopes Ghadafi gets killed, and has wanted him dead for decades. Conservatives aren't like the left-wing scumbags who root for the enemy to win because the other team is in charge.

  • rather||

    I know they want him killed, and many of them aren't against the war too. I see a parallel with HC, if Obama succeeds here, conservatives will be bitching with the 'he should have used our dictator removal plan' meme

  • Mike M.||

    I think that what conservatives are irritated with more than anything right now is his decision to get us involved without even so much as making a pretense of seeking approval, and then waiting so long before offering an explanation to the country.

    Now that we are involved, I hope that Ghadafi is killed, resigns, and/or goes into exile and that Libya can transition into some kind of coalition government as quickly and with as little loss of life on all sides as possible. But let's be honest: just how likely is that to happen?

  • rather||

    that Libya can transition into some kind of coalition government as quickly and with as little loss of life on all sides as possible. But let's be honest: just how likely is that to happen?

    very low, and less than 20% chance but without US (and coalition intervention) exiguously for resignation, and/or goes into exile.

  • ||

    Well, I'm more libertarian than conservative, but I hope this all works out.

    My beef is with the process--something like this clearly requires Congressional authorization. I'm also not sure the administration clearly understands why Libya and why not many other places in the world.

  • rather||

    ProL, don't you think this sets a 'America will go after me ass for good no reason' precedent?

    If I were a dictator, I'd wonder if I'm next

  • ||

    The rest of the world already thinks we act in a random manner.

  • alan||

    Ah, the David Frum gambit! You are pretty fucking low on the species evolution list, rather, pulling a Frum like that.

  • Tony||

    No, he definitely made the case that intervening in one place does not oblige us to intervene everywhere there's a humanitarian crisis. And that because we can't fix the whole world is not an excuse not to intervene when we can and it's in our interests.

  • rather||

    It is also a lesson to others dictators-we don't need 'vital interests' to show-up

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Constitution, schmonstitution.

  • Constitution abridged||

    "general welfare... regulate commerce ... necessary and proper"

    Nope. Don't see anything in there that says there are limitations on what government may do.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    And this is in out interest how?

  • Matrix||

    This needs to be repeated until an answer is given.

  • ||

    And this is in out interest how?

  • Pres. Obama||

    Present!

  • ||

    And this is in our interests how?

  • Matrix||

    and yet, still no answer

  • Bee Tagger||

    Did he explain how Libya is in our interests?

    And is it disingenuous to say "our" when our elected representatives weren't even asked to use their rubber-stampin' fingers?

  • ||

    Its in our interests because an international coalition has agreed to a no-fly zone, and has appointed a committee to develop a plan for civilian protection.

    Seriously. That's what he said.

  • ||

    It wouldn't be in our interests if we were late to the cool kids party. Duh.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    No, he definitely made the case that intervening in one place does not oblige us to intervene everywhere there's a humanitarian crisis. And that because we can't fix the whole world is not an excuse not to intervene when we can and it's in our interests.

    Okay, so it's not about humanitarian crises at all, is it? It's about interests. If it's about humanitarian crises, why talk about interests as the limiting factor? Think this one through.

    Of course, that Obama should hang for his crimes on the same scaffold as Bush will never occur to you. Practiced, conditioned non-thinking is your oeuvre.

  • Tim||

    "They figured he was a lazy, time-wasting slacker. They were right."

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Big_Lebowski

  • ||

    Wait. So we went to war to prevent atrocities? But, but what about the folks in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen? So, we will only bomb you because you might commit atrocities? That you are,.....eh.

  • ||

    Hell, what about Cote d'Ivoire, which was getting nasty before Egypt suddenly erupted?

    Speaking of which, Gbagbo is starting to act with impunity now that he's sure no one else gives a damn.

  • sarcasmic||

    He offered no coherent argument for this intervention that wouldn't in principle commit us to intervening all over the world

    Why do you people keep acting like progressives have principles?

    They don't.

    Everything is a case by case bases judged by the people involved. No principles, only principals.

    That means Obama is immune from accusations of hypocrisy, because he has no principles to deviate from.

    Every case is different, even if in principle they are the same, because they have different principals.

  • ||

    No, he definitely made the case that intervening in one place does not oblige us to intervene everywhere there's a humanitarian crisis.

    Making an assertion is not the same as making the case.

    There was a vague gesture in the direction of cost/benefit, but how can you rest on that when you have an open-ended commitment (read: costs unknown) with an ill-defined goal (read: benefits unknown) is a mystery to me.

    And that because we can't fix the whole world is not an excuse not to intervene when we can and it's in our interests.

    What interests? The most amazing thing to me was the way he slid from saying its in our interests to talking about the coalition and the international community. Apparently, our interests are now defined by what the "international community" "wants".

    Gibberish, through and through.

    And, for psychological insight, nothing beats the statement that he's not waiting for bad press about massacres to act. Not that we won't wait for a massacre to occur, but that we won't get caught out by pictures of massacres on the evening news.

  • Tony||

    The stated interests were preventing destabilization in the region. I'm sure light, sweet crude has something to do with it too.

  • Diseased cock||

    Have you been cheating on me again?

  • ||

    The stated interests were preventing destabilization in the region.

    Overthrowing governments which are not destabilizing the region (Egypt, Libya, etc.) is how we pursue this interest, while stating that we will take no action to support rebellions against the regimes that are destabilizing the region (Iran, Syria)?

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    So blood for oil?

  • sarcasmic||

    It's not blood for oil if Obama does it.
    Only if Bush does it.
    Obama has a Piece Prize you know.

  • sarcasmic||

    Apparently, our interests are now defined by what the "international community" "wants".

    That's right. Just as an individual person's interests are defined by what the community wants, an individual nation's interests are defined by what the international community wants.

    Individuals don't matter. They are insignificant. Only the community's wants (as defined by individuals named politicians, but we won't talk about that) matter.

  • ||

    ^^THIS^^

  • kilroy||

    This whole thing boiled down to: "Our friends say it's right and they're coming too!".

  • cynical||

    Obama never had anyone to tell him "If France jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"

  • ||

    Yours is not to reason why...

  • ||

    Drink!

  • ||

    Making an assertion is not the same as making the case.

    If only he had said, "Jesus came to me in a dream, and told me to do this."

  • ||

    It is in our interest to not have Ghadaffi in power in Libya, ideally to have a friendly democratic republic there. Starting a rebellion is trouble we don't need, but lending the rebels some air support is cheap enough to be worth while.

  • ||

    It is in our interest to not have Ghadaffi in power in Libya

    Assuming that your statement is true (and I say it's a leap):

    1. When did it become our interest?

    2. If it was in our interest before the revolt, why didn't we act beforehand?

    3. If it just now became our interest, what changed about the situation, other than the internal unrest?

    We could play this game all day.

  • P B||

    Who are the rebel? What type of political system do they want? Will they respect the rights of women? Will they be any different than Ghadaffi? If the rebels turn out to be the same as Ghadaffi, are we then obligated to support the next wave of rebels or just shrug our shoulders and go home?

  • ||

    Ghadaffi is definitely a scum-bag, but the rebels may be something worse. Another Muslim Brotherhood? Another Iran? We may find out - good n' hard.

  • ||

    It is in our interest to not have a neutered Ghadaffi in power in Libya, ideally to have a only if he is replaced by a friendly democratic republic there.

    Getting Gaddafi out is step one. What replace Gaddafi could be worse for us if, for example, it is a radical Islamist regime allied with Iran.

    So, our interests at this point can only be served by "nation-building" in Libya, to ensure that the next regime is something that we want.

  • ||

    I am going to go out on a limb and say somebody, somewhere, in the State Department has an extremely good grasp of the situation in Libya (and Syria, and Bahrain, and Yemen....). I also am willing to bet the White House has no idea who this person might be, and doesn't care.

  • ||

    He's writing a book that will prove amazingly accurate, and historians will wonder why we didn't pay attention to him.

  • ||

    No matter what rationale he gives, the action taken is still unconstitutional.

    When will presidents learn that they ignore Article I Section 8 at their peril? Without a clear, constitutionally correct Declaration of War by Congress, the CIC in question takes the full brunt of public opinion if things don't go well.

    Truman: fought the Korean War without a declaration, didn't make a second term.

    LBJ: Fought the Vietnam War without a declaration, couldn't even get a renomination from his own party and withdrew.

    GHWB: Fought Gulf War I without a declaration, no second term.

    GWB: Fought Gulf War II and Afghanistan without a declaration, won a second term only because the Democrats couldn't scare up a decent opponent, ended up on the far left of the bell curve of popularity.

    Notice I called all of these conflicts Wars, because they were, regardless of whatever euphamism was used.

    By contrast, FDR sought and received a formal Declaration of War. Despite censoring Americans, throwing Japanese-Americans in internment camps, etc.; he was not questioned morally at the time. Congress gave him a constitutional greenlight to prosecute the War as he saw fit as CIC.

  • ||

    By seeking, and receiving a formal Declaration of War, BHO shifts the onus from "Obama's War" to "America's War".

    But he won't seek a declaration, for the same reasons that Truman, LBJ, Bush I, and Bush II didn't: because he's afraid that he will be rebuffed by Congress.

  • ||

    He should be. Like his predecessors who pulled similar crap.

    Major flaw in our system is that branches let other branches stomp all over their prerogatives. Not supposed to work like that.

  • ||

    The courts don't help, either, by not letting anyone have standing for these issues. Any citizen should be able to challenge a blatantly unconstitutional act of general application--like engaging in an undeclared (and otherwise impermissible) war.

  • ||

    But we can't have that, now, can we? Next thing you know, ordinary citizens will start thinking they have rights, or something.

  • ||

    By making it very difficult to stop unconstitutional acts by being too deferential to the other branches, the courts have helped things get so out of whack.

  • ||

    I was viscerally opposed to Iraq and they had two additional excuses for invasion that had more to do with our national interest than just getting an evil dictator out of power (supposed weapons of mass destruction and supposed al Qaeda/terrorist support by the Hussein regime.) Ignoring 30 year old actions by Qaddafi, neither of those excuses apply here, as Gates himself has said.

    At the time we were protesting Iraq, we weren't sure how good the intellegence was on either excuse, but proven authenticity of an imminent threat would have been the only compelling argument for our involvement. Since nothing indicated the threat was imminent at the time, the anti-war movement was able to mobilize tens of thousands decrying pre-emptive warfare and blood for oil, and later, poor intelligence, poor post-invasion planning and unclear objectives. While all of us hated Hussein, we warned that removing his stabilizing control without a solid plan would result in bloody chaos and massive soldier/civilian deaths, which it did for years - and the potential rise of a radical Iran-allied government, which might still happen once we leave.

    Obama's foreign policy is not different from Bush's in the slightest. The Libya "action" is even less justified than the Iraq War. Basically, Obama just laid out the argument for spending billions to either create a power vacuum if Qaddafi is killed or deposed, likely enabling the most brutal elements in a leaderless conglomeration of rebels to seize control - or to allow Qaddafi to remain in control in a slightly weakened state, enabling the genocide we're supposedly preventing to continue (if not using airplanes this time). There is seemingly almost no planning, beside bombing and splitting, and nobody seems to know who's backing the rebel movement we're helping and risking our lives for, and if they will be grateful for our assistance (like Afghanistan obviously was for our assistance in holding off the Soviet Union). Had we had the same military policy on Iraq, it's likely Iraq would now be known as Western Iran, and Kurdistan would be Southeastern Turkey. In Tunisia, we're already seeing increased social oppression by the "democracy forces" in control. Do we want the blood on our hands for assisting with the elevation of potentially an even worse regime than Qaddafi's, which at least wasn't a security threat to us?

  • ||

    Not Kurdistan. Kurdlahoma.

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