Foreign Policy

How Libya Fails the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine

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Great Cato Institute video asks whether Obama's decision to go to war with Libya is consistent with what's been known as the Weinberger-Powell doctrine, a five-point set of concerns that should guide military engagements.

At best, concludes Cato's Chris Preble, Obama bats one for five.

More here.

Last week, I talked about "Obama's War That Isn't a War":

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  1. libya passes the “stop another massacre” & “support our allies” doctrines.

    1. Stop it by killing bunches of people on our own? And, for that matter, Iraq may have been more for Europe than anything else. We certainly haven’t been getting much of our oil from there. So that’s okay?

    2. Are you ready for kinetic action in Ivory Coast?

      1. Lots of things are kinetic. Like sex. Is that what we’re talking about?

        1. No, HIV is a killer. We would be crazy to send our men in there!

        2. Pres. Obama’s newspeak for war.

          1. I know. I kid because, well, because I kid.

  2. Obama, The Mendoza Line President.

  3. The US is in a war with Libya?

    I guess a drunken Cheney shooting his pal in the face met someone’s criteria for a war too.

    1. shrike

      While it’s silly for folks on the other side to constantly equate what is going on in Libya with Iraq (why not equate it with WWII while you’re at it?) it’s just as silly to minimize it as you do. Quibbling over what constitutes a war can get pedantic, it’s a pretty significant military intervention.

      1. Dropping bombs on foreign armed services is an act of war — but understand how some people think it’s not really rape rape.

        1. See, this is the type of pedantic nonsense I was talking about. Everything that is a technical act of war=WWII or something.

          1. See, this is the type of pedantic nonsense I was talking about. Everything that is a technical act of war=WWII or something.

            So, give us a definition of “act of war”. For pedantic acceptance purposes, I suggest a definition that (a) does not require invasion by infantry and (b) does not include the systematic bombing of armed forces and the nation’s capitol.

            Go!

          2. I didn’t say “an act of war” equals “war”, but we’ve already been at this longer than the 6-day war.

          3. OED:

            Hostile contention by means of armed forces, carried on between nations, states, or rulers, or between parties in the same nation or state; the employment of armed forces against a foreign power, or against an opposing party in the state.

            joe thought he was smarter than the OED as well.

            1. Well, I know that I’m smarter than the OED now, because I don’t think “LOL” is a word.

              1. It doesn’t bother me. Initials often transform into words, “scuba” for example.

                1. Sometimes it’s okay. This time, it’s silly.

          4. Please, you were going on for a week stating that this was comparable or analagous to the no fly zones in Iraq.

            If you want to reduce pedantic nonsense, stop contributing to it.

      2. Fine, but applying the Powell Doctrine to it is purely pedantic.

        This is an attempt at false equivalence – much like claiming Obama is like Bush/Cheney on detention/torture just because GITMO is still open. Well, no he isn’t – he halted the torture programs.

        1. So if a foreign country decided to start dropping bombs on LA, say, during the Rodney King riots, it wouldn’t be war just because the foreign power doing the bombing said it wasn’t?

          1. Only if Obama were their leader.

          2. Don’t most real wars begin with an act of provocation?

            As MNG noted this gets pedantic real fast.

            1. So because Libya didn’t provoke us, it’s OK to bomb the shit out of them?

              I hope this is a spoof. Otherwise shrike has had a stroke or something.

              1. Not exactly OK since but much better than the Iraq Disaster.

                I’m more Ron Paul here than Obama but appreciate Obama is not a hothead like McCain/Cheney.

            2. Let’s see; Ron Reagan dropped bombs on Libya (an act of war) in response to a provocation of some sort or other; he then told Gaddafy not to do that again. I don’t think anyone believes this was “war” per se.

              Obama has dropped bombs on Libya, continues to drop bombs on Libya, and says he will continue to drop bombs on Libya and may even start sending weapons to “resistance” fighters in Libya if Gaddafy does not just walk away.

              So I think there is a fundamental difference between the two situations and that Obama has initiated a “war” without the necessary congressional approvals.

            3. So the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan wasn’t a “real war” because Afghanistan didn’t provoke them? So the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait wasn’t a “real war” because Kuwait didn’t provoke them? So the Norse invasion of England wasn’t a “real war” because the English didn’t provoke them? So the (uh oh…here comes) the German invasion of Poland wasn’t a “real war” because the Poles didn’t provoke them?

              The commonality of all the so-called non-real wars I cited above was a desire for either power or resources (or both). So if the reason behind [kinetic!!11!!1!] military action is anything other than a neener-nenner provocation, it ain’t no war?

        2. BushPig Obama says he stopped the torture programs and you believe him. What a fucking tool.

      3. Nobody here seriously believes that Libya is the same as Iraq. This is nothing but a strawman you keep erecting yourself so that you can then knock it down as a way to try to deflect any criticism of the actions taken by your little personal Messiah.

    2. Blowing people’s shit up is war, yes. Maybe not a war to us, sitting comfy, but likely a one to those on the other side.

      Also, many wars start small.

    3. Atta girl, shrikie, I know I can always count on your unwavering support.

  4. 1. Compelling mission: I’m hearing/reading reports of native Libyans/former mujaheddin among the rebels in Libya praising our efforts. Rather than finding that alarming, I can’t imagine a more compelling…

    “What if the extremist elements in North Africa start seeing the U.S. as an ally in their fight for freedom?! On noes!”

    …is that what I’m supposed to say?!

    2. In regards to public support, I see two problems with the argument above.

    a) It equates congressional authorization with public support, and as ObamaCare and TARP both show, congressional support and public support aren’t the same thing.

    b) If Obama went to congress for an authorization, between his own party and the Boehner Brigade (who rubber stamped everything Bush the Impaler wanted to do), I don’t see much reason to assume Obama wouldn’t get a congressional authorization for Libya if he wanted one.

    And if that is indeed the case, then seeking an authorization would most likely escalate (rather than deescalate) our commitment to Libya.

    I think we should discourage escalating our commitment to Libya. No authorization for the president. No troops on the ground.

    3. The costs of this limited engagement compared to Iraq is inconsequential. You can find $1 billion for this mission in change under the cushions in the Pentagon’s sofa.

    4. The military mission is ambiguous. No doubt.

    5. The involvement of UN is a stroke of genius. Not getting a UN authorization was such an incompetent move by the Bush Administration–even the retards in the Obama Administration were smarter than that!

    6. I think they left off one of the most important aspect of the Powell Doctrine.

    “Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?”

    I think the answer to that is yes–a few times over. We can leave NATO to deal with this if Gaddafi stays; we have the support of the UN in the event that Gaddafi goes. Furthermore, because we haven’t committed any ground troops, our investment is highly limited.

    …”bugging out” entails little but withdrawing some planes and air traffic control.

    Because we have contributed so very little on the ground, the exit strategy of taking our bat and ball and going home whenever we want is as plausible as plausible can be.

    I’d like to add that it’s refreshing to see libertarians argue this war on its merits–rather than on whether it’s legal.

    …but then that’s typical Gillespie–always smart.

    1. Just because you say “well, we haven’t committed too much to this so we could just up and leave with no harm done”, doesn’t mean this Administration actually has any plan written down and in place to just up and leave. That’s what that section of the doctrine means – actually thinking it up and writing down how it will actualoly, logistically, be accomplished. Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean that’s what’s been planned for.

      1. Plausible exit strategy. We’ve plausibly exited all kinds of things from Panama to Lebanon to Somalia.

        I haven’t seen any indication that Obama wants to put troops on the ground or escalate this beyond where we are right now. Actually, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that he wants to dial down our level of involvement from where it is right now.

        No exit strategy is what Bush the Impaler did in Iraq. Remember when Cortez scuttled his ships in the New World so his men wouldn’t have any option but to follow him? That was Bush’s lack of an exit strategy in Iraq. He tried to make not having an exit strategy a virtue somehow!

        The only way out of Iraq is if Iraq becomes a heart and soul democracy with tolerance and good will towards men…? Up yours President Bush!

        That’s the lack of an exit strategy. Even in Somalia when we had troops on the ground, our exit strategy consisted of the ol’ Carman, “Screw you guys–I’m goin’ home.”

        That exit strategy is still wide open.

    2. Having Congress votes puts each and every one of them on record. This way, they can pussyfoot around and many claim they were on whatever side comes out smelling like a rose.

      1. I’m sorry, but if escalating the war in Libya is a stupid thing to do?

        It’s stupid even if it puts our representatives on the record.

        Would you rather not have ObamaCare? Would you rather not have TARP?

        Or would rather suffer both with whatever self-satisfied feeling you get knowing that it was our own elected representative who screwed us?

        Stupid wars are like stupid laws. They’re stupid regardless of whether Congress approves them, and smart wars are smart even if they’re illegal…

        So let’s talk about the merits, m-kay? …if that’s all it comes down to anyway.

        We’re libertarians. If that means anything, it means we think that stupid laws should be overturned and that stupid behavior isn’t smart for being perfectly legal.

        1. It’s not just whether something’s right or wrong. It’s whether the process is right, too. A benevolent dictator could rule in a perfect manner and do wonderful things. Yet we don’t want even a benevolent dictator.

          1. If the president sought an authorization, I think he’d get it.

            I think seeking an authorization would open the door to committing ground troops. I think that would be an easy way to get sucked into this thing deeper than we want to be.

            I think that’s one of the reasons Obama hasn’t sought an authorization–because having one would open the door to getting sucked into this thing deeper and he doesn’t want that.

            1. It’s not his decision to make. Tough if it’s complicated. Our system is designed to be.

              What if the country were Canada, and the president were George Takei? Since he hates Shatner, he decides to bomb Montreal. Without authorization. Okay?

              1. Different situations shouldn’t be treated all the same.

                If declaring war on a Muslim nation is to our detriment, I don’t think we should declare war just to satisfy the Constitution.

                If the president getting an authorization for Libya ends up being an authorization to bog into some quagmire for generations?

                Then no, I don’t really care whether our stupid decision is constitutional. I’m not willing to suffer the consequences of stupid choices if those choices were made just to satisfy the Constitution.

                If congress wants to remove the president because he didn’t get an authorization, then there’s a constitutional procedure for that.

                How’s that for constitutional?

            2. If the president sought an authorization, I think he’d get it.

              He’d have to deal with GOP members desperate to oppose him on everything in the House, and Dems who made their names opposing Iraq in both houses, who will be more than a bit uncomfortable supporting another AUMF. Your gut feeling is not convincing me, nothing personal.

            3. I think seeking an authorization would open the door to committing ground troops.

              The AUMF could easily be worded to exclude this possibility, so that’s a red herring.

              I think that’s one of the reasons Obama hasn’t sought an authorization–because having one would open the door to getting sucked into this thing deeper and he doesn’t want that.

              The battered wife syndrome is strong in this one.

    3. I’m hearing/reading reports of native Libyans/former mujaheddin among the rebels in Libya praising our efforts. Rather than finding that alarming, I can’t imagine a more compelling [reason][?]…

      Because, man, that’s never bitten us on the ass before.

      1. We won the Cold War–partially–with that strategy.

        If getting some of our former and future enemies off our backs only costs us $1 billion? We’d be stupid not to look at that as an opportunity.

        Compared to some of the other poor choices we’ve made–that inflamed the same people against us in the past?

        I’ve heard former mujahedin in Libya say this through interpreters. We may do more good for the security of the U.S. with this $1 billion in Libya than we’ve done with $700 billion and counting in Iraq.

        1. I’ve heard former mujahedin in Libya say this through interpreters.

          I had a girlfriend once who said she’d love me forever if I bought her a diamond ring. I bought it for her, but as it turns out she didn’t love me forever, and there’s not much reason to believe the former mujahedin will either.

          1. We actively supported dictators who abused and oppressed the ummah for way too long. And there were and are consequences for that.

            If we become identified as being on the side of the ummah against the vicious dictators who oppress them?

            There will be consequences for that too.

            1. You’re leaving out several steps of how this identifies us as being on the side of the ummah.

              For all the talk during our discussion of the rule of law, on how you’re such a hard-nosed pragmatist surrounded by naive idealists, you seem to be giddily optimistic about the potential of military action to win hearts and minds.

            2. You also seem not to have gotten the point of the ring story: doing nice things for people is not guaranteed to make them like you, and people who want something from you will often make promises of friendship that they have no intention of keeping.

              You don’t seem to have an answer for that bitter piece of pragmatism yet.

    4. We can leave NATO to deal with this if Gaddafi stays

      Because NATO is an organization that operates and is funded mostly independently of the United States, right?

      1. Because the British and the French (especially) wanted this more than we did.

        Things are still heating up in Algeria next door. The French want to be on the right side of this very, very badly. They’ve got Algeria to think about, and they have their own sizable minority populations at home to think about too.

        If they didn’t want to take over NATO as we bowed out? That wouldn’t be our problem. Anyway, that was a mistake we made already. When France wanted to take over this mission rather than NATO? We should have let them.

        I don’t think anything’s changed that much though in the last week. If we bow out tomorrow, I think they’ll be happy to take the slack.

    5. “What if the extremist elements in North Africa start seeing the U.S. as an ally in their fight for freedom?!

      They won’t. They’re already predisposed to mistrust the US, so it will be very easy for them to say that the US is only temporarily helping them because we don’t like Qadhafi and we want Libya’s oil, just like we helped Muslims fight the USSR in Afghanistan and then turned on them as soon as the Cold War was over and they weren’t useful anymore. Given our silence and inaction over what’s going on in Bahrain, it won’t be much of a stretch for them to think we have ulterior motives.

      a) It equates congressional authorization with public support, and as ObamaCare and TARP both show, congressional support and public support aren’t the same thing.

      You’re just wishing away the question here; can you produce polls that show public support for military action in Libya? In any case, Congressional support is the proxy for public support that the Constitution requires. The examples you give of Congress going against public opinion both involve Congress authorizing government action, rather than failing to do so; the bar should be higher for authorizing govt action than it is for not doing so.

      b) If Obama went to congress for an authorization, between his own party and the Boehner Brigade (who rubber stamped everything Bush the Impaler wanted to do), I don’t see much reason to assume Obama wouldn’t get a congressional authorization for Libya if he wanted one.

      And if that is indeed the case, then seeking an authorization would most likely escalate (rather than deescalate) our commitment to Libya.

      I think we should discourage escalating our commitment to Libya. No authorization for the president. No troops on the ground.

      If you don’t require Congressional authorization, then the president is de facto authorized. You’re invoking some sort of pretzel logic here, claiming that the way to keep the president from partaking in military action is to allow him to do it without authorization.

      I’d like to add that it’s refreshing to see libertarians argue this war on its merits–rather than on whether it’s legal.

      You’re arguing that government action that is forbidden by law should be accepted if it passes a cost-benefit analysis (according to someone). You don’t see how dangerous this attitude is?

      1. I’m not saying they’re about to turn into middle-class Americans, but everywhere I hear or read what the fighting-Islamists in Libya are saying about us, I’m hearing and reading stuff like this:

        Libyan Rebels Led by “Former-Mujahedeen” from Guantanamo Bay

        “Our perception is changing in the United States,” said Hasady. “If we hated the Americans 100%, today it is less than 50%. They started to redeem themselves from their past mistakes by helping us to keep the blood of our children.”

        “Mr. Hasady also offers a review of its approach to the past. “There is no Islamic revolution has succeeded. Only when the entire population was included we succeeded, which means a more inclusive ideology.”

        http://www.zimbio.com/Libya/ar…..Guantanamo

        Unless you imagine that we’re somehow going to chase down and kill every single Islamist in every corner of the globe everywhere, then if we’re ever going to go back to something like normal used to be, it’s gonna have to be with a strategy that makes former mujahedin say stuff like that!

        Our only hope. And it looks like it might come cheap! Let’s not throw that away.

        1. That’s exactly what I would say if I needed help from someone I detested. And I’d delight doubly from the fact that I got them to bleed and pay for my cause, for nothing in return, like the poor kid who gives away his lunch to people thinking that will make them his friends.

  5. We can leave NATO to deal with this if Gaddafi stays;

    That would be the NATO under the permanent command of an American officer, yes? The NATO that is incapable of sustained operations without US support? That’s your strategy for disentanglement?

    And if that is indeed the case, then seeking an authorization would most likely escalate (rather than deescalate) our commitment to Libya.

    Ah, the President should be free to fight all the little wars that he wants? Is that it?

    And are you seriously arguing that helping AQ overthrow a government is going to make them our friends?

    1. “That would be the NATO under the permanent command of an American officer, yes? The NATO that is incapable of sustained operations without US support?”

      I would have given it to the French when they were insisting we give it to them. I think the French are perfectly capable of enforcing a UN mandate.

      In fact, I prefer it that way!

      “Ah, the President should be free to fight all the little wars that he wants? Is that it?”

      In practice, the president is free to fight little wars like this. No one’s really about to impeach the president over trying to save the people of Libya.

      So let’s get serious.

      The president is restricted in the little wars he fights by public opinion to some extent, and he’s also restricted so long as he doesn’t have an authorization from congress.

      I think withholding an authorization in this instance is probably more restrictive than putting an authorization up to a vote. How’s that?

      1. I think the French are perfectly capable of enforcing a UN mandate.

        Are you kidding? They can’t even keep the peace in the Ivory Coast.

        In practice, the president is free to fight little wars like this. No one’s really about to impeach the president over trying to save the people of Libya.

        Yes, in practice. That doesn’t mean we have to roll over and accept it, or in your case, go out and praise him for it.

        1. I have no qualms about suggesting that laws that prohibit smart behavior should be overturned.

          If you can’t argue against something on its merits, be it the Drug War or the War in Libya, then you don’t have a very good argument.

          Do you have any idea how self-contradictory it is to hear libertarians argue that people shouldn’t be allowed to do something smart if it’s illegal?

          The only thing that comes close is libertarians arguing that Obama should seek an authorization from congress because that will somehow restrict his options?!

          Even if you’re against this whole thing–you’re way better off arguing on the merits.

          People get confused between the words on the paper and the real thing. You know, I don’t care whether the Second Amendment protects my right to own a gun–I have a right to own a gun whether the Second Amendment says so or not!

          Legality is rarely of more than secondary importance–are you clear on that? ’cause it seems to me that you’ve got the tail waggin’ the dog.

          1. I just don’t get this. If the president can just do what the heck he wants this time, why not every other time? Why not nuke Mecca? Why not declare Iraq a U.S. state?

            The big problem with what you’re advocating is the lack of a check on presidential power. No constitutional limits, no Congressional checks.

            1. I say this a lot, and I’m really serious about it.

              There’s the way the world should be, and there’s the way it is. I’m not talking about the way the world should be.

              I think the way the world really is? Is that the president is more limited by not having an authorization in this situation.

              I think there are degrees of involvement. I can’t break them down cut and dry; like most things in the real world, they’re situational.

              But there’s an obvious degree mark at deploying ground troops. I think it would be really hard to send in thousands of troops without an authorization from congress. And that is as it should be.

              Right now, I’m not convinced any of our troops are in much of any danger at all!

              Our forefathers, despite their infinite wisdom, may not have appreciated that in the future we would be targeting Gaddafi’s anti-air batteries with missiles fired from American nuclear submarines a hundred miles out to sea–and yet there’s an important distinction to be made between firing missiles from, say, a drone and committing thousands of ground troops to an invasion and occupation.

              Isn’t that an important distinction?

              If North Korea targeted our troops with a missile this afternoon, would the president need congressional authorization to return fire? Is an authorization required anytime the military might fire live rounds? Does the President need congressional authorization just to provide air traffic control over Libya?

              Where do you draw the line?

              1. I think it would be really hard to send in thousands of troops without an authorization from congress.

                Hard in what sense? You said before that the president practically has the power to do anything he wants so long as he doesn’t get impeached for it. You think he would be impeached for sending in ground troops?

                No offense, Ken, but you seem to be positing your gut feelings as fact many times in your arguments. Your audience does not have access to your gut, so this is not a good way to convince people.

                1. I think it would be massively unpopular for the president to send in thousands of ground troops without a congressional authorization.

                  There’s nothing about noting the obvious difference between sending in thousands of ground troops and not really sending in any troops at all that comes from my gut.

              2. If North Korea targeted our troops with a missile this afternoon, would the president need congressional authorization to return fire?

                Now this is just silly. The president can obviously launch an immediate response to an attack on US troops overseas or an invasion of the US with no Congressional approval. That’s written into the Constitution.

                For everything else, it boils down to a question of whether Congress has had time to authorize military action or not. Are there going to be grey areas? Sure. But this action in Libya does not fall anywhere near such a grey area.

          2. I have no qualms about suggesting that laws that prohibit smart behavior should be overturned.

            There are plenty of single-instances of murder, kidnapping, extortion, and theft that would be “smart” from a certain person’s point of view, and probably even from the point of view of pretty much everyone except the victim. Do you think laws that prohibit these activities should be struck down?

            In short, I’m asking you whether you believe in the rule of law or not.

            1. In short, I think that’s a false choice.

              Is it possible in your world of the way things should be for people to be against stupid laws and in favor of the rule of law?

              1. In short, I think that’s a false choice.

                You’re wrong. Those instances exist, though for obvious reasons I’m not going to specify who I think would be good to murder or steal from or kidnap.

        2. Why would any person who claims to be a libertarian buy the totalitarian claptrap that Gaddaffi is slaughtering people? Where is the incontrovertible evidence that MoG has engaged in the type of mass murder authored by the likes of Jackson, Linocln, Sherman, Sheridan, Pershing, Roosevelt the Chubby, Roosevelt the Cripple, Truman the two-bit Pendergast thug, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama?

          1. We didn’t think he had WMDs so that was the next-best excuse.

  6. Why can’t we just help the rebels evacuate to Italy? Europeans have an ideal state to support refugees en masse. Surely they are willing to take on the Libyans. Why else would they offer such and extensive social safety net?

  7. I wonder what this looks like from the White House.

    Were they hoping for a bump in the President’s polls? They didn’t get one. Were they hoping that this would cement him as a competent foreign policy guy? I don’t think that happened either, between the dithering and the “I’m not in charge.”

    I suspect they are resigned to Gaddafi staying, and trying to figure out how to turn that into votes. I don’t think there’s any way – there’s no way you can spin it as victory, and I think the ship has already sailed in terms of voter enthusiasm for a new Obama/Powers Doctrine of bombing murderous dictators, but not too much.

    By next summer, I predict Libya will be a minor talking point for his opponents, and talk of “humanitarian/kinetic military scope-limited/time-limited intervention” will fade quickly from the teleprompter.

    1. I suspect they are resigned to Gaddafi staying, and trying to figure out how to turn that into votes.

      You could copy and paste that into any issue this president faces. In spite of Mr Shultz’ oft-cited “cost-benefits analysis” that is apparently the new determinant for when it’s OK to kill people, the reality is that the only costs and benefits Obama and company care about is votes. It’s almost enough to make one nostalgic for the Bush years, when you at least knew that the prez really believed in the idiotic policies he was pursuing.

  8. This fluid situation has been a victory for my administration and my foreign policy approach.

    1. “V” Remember, Obama 2012!

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