Foreign Policy

The U.S. & Odyssey Dawn: Whether We're Leading it or Not, We're Supplying Very Special Capabilities


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Operation Odyssey Dawn:

"We did not lead this," she said flatly of the coalition currently attacking Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.  "We did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Gaddafi is unfortunately doing so now."

But Clinton said something else that was more revealing of the true U.S. role.  "America has unique capabilities and we will bring them to bear," she said at one point.  "We have unique capabilities to bring to the international efforts," she said at another point.  And at still another moment, she said, "We think that the most important step for us to take now is to assist in every way that is unique to American capabilities with the enforcement of [UN Security Council Resolution] 1973…"…

Here's Pentagon's Vice Admiral Bill Gortney:

"In these early days, the operation will be under the operational command of General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command," Gortney told reporters at the Pentagon.  "And the commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, which is the name of this operation, is Admiral Sam Locklear, who is embarked on board USS Mount Whitney in the Mediterranean."

The United States, Gortney stressed, is in full charge of the Libya operation.  Although Gortney said there would be an "eventual transition of leadership to a coalition commander in the coming days," he also added: "That said, the U.S. military has and will continue to use our unique capabilities to create the conditions from which we and our partners can best enforce the full measure of the U.N. mandate."…

Later, a reporter asked Gortney, "To be clear, this is a U.S.-led operation, but in the hours leading up today there's communications or talk to try to talk that down?"

"We are on the leading edge of coalition operations where the United States under General Ham in Africa Command is in charge," Gortney responded.  "He's in command of this at this point.  And in the coming days we intend to transition it to a coalition command."

This comes from Byron York at the Washington Examiner.

York asks, "few Americans would want U.S. forces to go into combat under anything other than U.S. command.  But why would the Secretary of State step onto the world stage and announce, 'We did not lead this'?"

He's being Socratic here, I imagine. There's any number of reasons why the Obama administration would say we're not leading. The operation is unpopular with Americans, for one. And with the Arab League (and, presumably, many actual Arabs). Or she might be pissed that, according to many internal reports, Obama took so long to jump on the bomb-Libya band wagon.

Or it might be that the U.S. is not in fact leading, even if we're supplying most or all of the hardware.

Whatever the truth of all that, there seems to be little doubt that this is simply the latest in a decade-long (at least) string of poorly thought-through military actions. Not even the government has its story straight on why we're doing this and what we hope to accomplish, other than that it will all be over very quickly, so don't sweat it (where have we heard that before?).

Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama are all presidents that seem incapable of conducting a serious yet desperately needed discussion about foreign policy and America's place in a post-Cold War world. Until something like that happens, the result will be a fully ad hoc set of actions that make little sense and accomplish even less in the long-term. These guys are politicians first and foremost and they know that however non-interventionist the American people may be at any given moment, all will be forgiven if you can even vaguely claim success in kicking some Third World dictatorship's ass.

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  1. According to Andrew Sullivan, this is all Hillary and McCain’s fault.

    SULLIVAN: I mean, when you think about it. And I think it, I’m just, I’m just, I don’t know why anybody voted for Obama in the primaries. I mean this is a, this, this initiative, this, this, this no-fly zone, this war essentially, is, is a Hillary-McCain concept.…

  2. Operation Odyssey Dawn. Good to know the Pentagon finally got that new Random Operation Name Generator they wanted.

    1. “A random name for a random operation”, we always say.

    2. Operation O.D.? It’s a cry for help.

  3. Radley Balko has a post on his page about James O’Keefe not allowing cameras into an event. Well since I saw this on, and I was “not sure about the source”, I checked it out on a more honest site and found out that O’Keefe is being sued by a bunch of state workers and ACORN types because he taped them without them knowing. O’Keefe is also challenging the constitutionality of a law in Calif. that makes it a crime to tape people. Radley Balko goes on and on about how it should be OK to do just the sort of thing that O’Keefe is being sued for. But since O’Keefe is coming from the right, and since he is blowing all the supposedly real journalists away because he is doing the job they won’t or can’t Radley Balko writes hit pieces on O’Keefe. Mr. Balko loves liberal bloggers, he links to them all the time.

    1. Balko just wants to keep his lefty street creed so that he can some day get a better paying job and go Weigel.

      1. I also hear he criticizes authority figures and wants us to stop fighting for the freedom not to use drugs. He’ll never be a good soldier of the right with that attitude.

        1. Who said he was? He will never get a journalism job being a good soldier to the right.

      2. But if Radley leaves, who’s going to let us all know that the temperature went up or down two tenths of a degree the previous month?

        1. Never mind, I was confusing Balko with Ron Bailey.

          1. I think there’s only one person beingat Reason (The Jacket), and it writes under pseudonyms to keep us happy.

            Balko/Bailey, Suderman/Sullem…The Jacket…

      3. So Patty Kakes has got to be a cop, right? (And not one of the “99%” of the good ones.) That would explain a lot.
        And John, I’m surprised you’d be throwing in with our special friend Pat K., considering some of the grotesqueries he’s posted.

    2. Yeah, damn those liberals like Balko and Glen Beck picking on O’Keefe.

  4. Odyssey Dawn


  5. Obama has now crushed the dreams of a generation of lefties. But he does have his bad points. Just want to point that out.…..f-lefties/

  6. @ Miss Libya: Style swiper!!

    1. I think you meant:

      “Bitch stole my look”

  7. I saw reports on this all weekend between basketball games and I thought it was funny how much the administration officials an reporters were bending over backwards to say this was one of those good military interventions, nothing at all like the republican led wars. I mean, there’s a coalition, or something.

    No, not funny, sad.

    1. Yes, it’s good because the Arab League is leading. For 99% of the population, the “Arab League” could be something the government made up for all the difference it makes.

    2. The interruptions were the worst time events. Less than a minute left in a tie game? I refuse to believe Obama knows anything about sports or worse, sports fans.

    3. mean, there’s a coalition, or something.

      Is this coalition…willing?

  8. At least Michael Moore has principles…or maybe they are now regrets?…..ver-libya-

    1. It made me feel dirty agreeing with Moore.

      But stopped clock, and all that…

  9. (Channeling Homer Simpson)

    USA! USA! USA! Woo Hoo!

  10. Wow, thats actually kinda crazy when you think about it.

  11. But we’re the “peaceful sex”!

    1. You tell ’em, girls!

    2. That’s right – we’re all just sweet, little ladies who would never hurt a fly.

  12. Although Gortney said there would be an “eventual transition of leadership to a coalition commander in the coming days,”

    This means either (1) A US commander will be given overall control, and we will be leading, or (2) US troops will be under the command of a foreign government.

    Has (2) ever happened before? I thought we were always careful in these coalition deals to avoid that.

    1. Sure (2) has happened before, if I’m interpreting your question correctly (see Boxer Rebellion and Krautwars I and II).

      On the larger issue, I haven’t seen anything to alter my opinion that we’ve been deliberately suckered into this involvement (by the Arab League and the UN among others) in order to add stress and strain to an already overstretched economy and military.

      But in the meantime Obama gets to outshine Bush. Bush had only one poodle, but Obama has Cameron and Sarkozy–conservatives in their contexts–and they’re out front yapping up a storm.

      1. Couldn’t say about WWI and the Boxer Rebellion, but I thought in WWII the Allied Chain of Command always had an American at the top. Eisenhower was the supreme allied commander, no?

        1. In 1918 the supreme allied (and associated powers) commander was the Frenchman Foch.

          In WWII, Ike was Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. The Supreme Allied Commander in SE Asia was Louie Mountbatten. He would have had some US forces under his command. McArthur was SAC for the SW Pacific, and his counterpart in Pacific Ocean Area was Nimitz (Halsey?). Anyway, “US forces have never served under foreign command” is one of those myths that never seems to die.

          1. Anyway, “US forces have never served under foreign command” is one of those myths that never seems to die.

            Yeah but we don’t have to like it.

  13. I heard they were gonna go with “Red Dawn”, but that was already taken.

  14. “The US has unique capabilities”

    Translation: The US has a military that can expect to beat the crap out of a third world country with minimal losses.

    That’s why we keep going places with it we shouldn’t.

  15. Really, bombing Libya is unpopular with Americans? Americans weren’t supporting the rebels were they?

    1. Any polls to support Nick’s assertion?

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