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.