Barack Obama

Libya, End Zone Taunting, and the Success Curse


Tacking onto Nick Gillespie's post below about the Center for American Progress' end zone taunting and premature "Mission Accomplished!" declaration about Libya, here is something for the debased (but thankfully dwindling) political tribes to remember: There is a Success Curse in military intervention just as there is in natural resources.

Today's Team Blue dethroning of a tinpot dictator lowers the bar for tomorrow's Team Red assault on Iran, which of course will be confirmation that when it comes to the Constitution, President Perry (should he wrest the nomination from the more deserving Texan) is worse than Nixon and Hitler combined. Team Blue will once again regain the White House on an "anti-dumb war" campaign; a scattering of Republicans will then exhume their deference to the War Powers Act, and the U.S. share of global responsibility and military spending will continue its inexorable climb toward 100 percent. This is why some people refer to the bipartisan political class as "The War Party," and with plenty of justification.

Your Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill

Let us recall how Bill Clinton's Kosovo War laid the groundwork for George W. Bush's Iraq:

Like Gulf War II, the 78-day NATO air campaign in Kosovo was waged without the explicit authorization of the United Nations. (Of the two, the Iraq war had much more of a U.N. mandate, through Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq a "final opportunity"—one it did not take—to comply fully with all previous Security Council resolutions or else face "serious consequences.") Like Iraq, Yugoslavia was a sovereign country that was bombed into submission for essentially internal infractions. Both wars were expressions of American exasperation at European impotence in the face of dictatorial slaughter. Slobodan Milosevic, like Saddam Hussein, was described as a modern-day Adolf Hitler, eager to practice genocide against minority tribes while scrambling for horrible weapons to menace peaceful neighbors. Supporters of both wars frequently invoked the Munich Agreement of 1938, in which the West appeased Hitler rather than defend allied Czechoslovakia. Opponents of both wars warned that the target countries were colonially conceived multi-ethnic basket cases not conducive to postwar democratization. And the United States led the fight against both dictators despite urgent warnings from antiwar activists and multilateralism enthusiasts that each new bomb would lower the threshold for waging modern war.

I'm happy to see Qadaffi on the run, but I'd be happier still if A) it had been accomplished and owned by the oppressed people of Libya themselves (which would have been less than easy, to say the least), B) if the action didn't require breaking U.S. law and lowering the intervention bar even further; and C) if the trend line in U.S. foreign policy dominance and spending wasn't continuing to drive us toward imperial bankruptcy.

As for the sight of presumably post-pubescent adults having a policy conversation by yelling "SCORE-BOARD! SCORE-BOARD!", it's as good a reminder as any that few phenomena rot the brain more thoroughly than political tribalism.

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  1. If the mission was to set yet another precedent for government acting outside of its constitutional bounds, then yes, the mission was accomplished.

    1. If the mission was to set yet another precedent for government acting outside of its constitutional bounds

      Government still recognizes constitutional bounds?

      1. It’s kind of like a tiny thong on a hugely fat guy. The thong is still there, even if you can’t see it for all of the fat, slap and jiggle in the way.

        1. Technically not naked.

        2. I like to go with nice bright neon colors 😉

  2. Hollywood can add this onto the “Obama got Osama” hagiography they currently have in the works for release before the 2012 election.

    1. Hollywood’s problem is that they can’t propagandize unless the public is willing to pay them for it.

      1. Sure they can. They may not make money on the movie, but they’ve demonstrated they are willing to propagandize with a string of box office losers about the Iraq war.

  3. Oooh, boy. Let the murderous retributions begin.

    I just hope the daughter made it out intact…

    1. Let me be clear – NATO will not be responsible for any vicious bloody retribution or tribal cleansing. But Obama is responsible for achieving a quick, easy victory with no American casualties.

    2. When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no
      middle ground.

      1. Jeez, you could have prefaced that with a SPOILER ALERT.

  4. few phenomena rot the brain more thoroughly than political tribalism

    You don’t say. I’d also add that even more than brain-rotting, it rots integrity, principles, and anything else resembling intellectual honesty.

    1. The liver appears to be unaffected, however.

      1. What about spleen damage?

  5. “Like Gulf War II, the 78-day NATO air campaign in Kosovo was waged without the explicit authorization of the United Nations.”

    So now the US needs the permission of the UN to use its forces? Here’s a deal: the US should agree to that when Saudi Arabia agrees that it won’t stone women to death in public without UN approval and Iran won’t hang homosexuals without UN approval.

    Since Arab states seem to have a stranglehold on the UN (how many anti-Israeli resolutions do they pass each year?) that probably won’t save many lives but it’s worth considering nonetheless.

      1. Don’t be silly, Joos don’t care about life; don’t you know they drink Arab blood? Or something.

        1. It’s all in The Protocols of the Elders of JOOS.

          1. The JOOS! make biscuits from the ground-up bones of murdered Palestinians, you know.

    1. How many of those anti-Israeli resolutions actually mean anything? When we start bombing Israel to enforce the UN’s resolutions, come back and talk to me.

      1. True, since those Arab nations have no real power above whining they’re pretty harmless. All I’m saying is if the UN voted on allowing Saudi Arabia to conduct public stonings they’d have no trouble getting the vote through in the same way the US would if it voted to defend itself or Israel would if it claimed it has a right to exist.

        And since most of those anti-Israli resolutions are complete jokes I’m sorry to burst your bubble but we won’t be bombing them any time soon. Then again since we’re all being controlled by Teh Joos that’s no big surprise, is it?

        Those big bad Joos even don’t control the UN or have turned into suicidal masochists:……mitism.htm

    2. Saudi Arabia’s government and security forces are able to do the things they do because they are armed to the teeth by the United States. In the absence of such armaments the Saudis might still be bad people but they would do less damage. The Obama administration also gave the Saudis permission to invade Bahrain and massacre the democracy protesters there in return for Saudi diplomatic support for the Libya war. The fact that the United States has a large navy base in Bahrain also gave the U.S. government an interest in keeping the current rulers in power.

      As far as the U.N. is concerned, American presidential administrations use claims of U.N. approval for American military actions as a way of getting around the constitutional requirement that Congress approve any decision to go to war. However the U.S. also ignores the actual content of U.N. resolutions when it would be a hindrance to what the U.S. government would like to do. For example, none of the U.N. resolutions authorizing military force over Libya authorized NATO to engage in a six month long daily bombing campaign to bring about regime change. Ignoring Congress and the U.S. Constitution when it is convenient and ignoring the United Nations when it is convenient go hand in hand. On both counts there is complete disrespect for the rule of law.

  6. When you work for a Fortune 500 that has a division that sells stuff to the Feds, it always nice to see the executive branch driving up business — so “Go Team, Rah Rah”

    Now excuse while I go lie down until the nausea passes.

  7. I actually think the First Gulf War laid the groundwork for the invasion.

    It went so well with so few casualties that the American public believed it would just be more of the same.

    1. Bosnia had less US casualties and was pretty much just an air war with a few hollywood movies.

  8. Yeah, what happens now that the rebels don’t have an enemy to unite against…oh wait, we’ve seen this movie before…

    Did we forget somalia again already?


  9. Today’s Team Blue dethroning of a tinpot dictator lowers the bar for tomorrow’s Team Read assault on Iran

    And people think politics is a zero-sum game.

  10. Yeah, they (Team “color” politicians) win, we the people lose.

  11. Sorry, but this makes no sense. An unauthorized air campaign laid the groundwork for a full scale invasion and occupation that was fully authorized and funded throughout by Congress?

    And a Congressionally authorized invasion and occupation that was ultimately won, but at a much larger price than expected, laid the groundwork for another unauthorized, limited air campaign? Maybe it did, in the sense that we’ll think twice before using ground troops again – but I don’t think that was Matt’s point.

    1. Exactly. The Libya situation (and Kosovo) argues for an “opportunistic” foreign policy. In other words: when all or most of the following conditions are met, we can intervene:

      1. Ongoing or eminent slaughter
      2. Cross-regional/ethnic international coalition
      3. A lunatic dictator
      4. A democratic uprising
      5. The country has important resources
      6. The country has a history of killing Americans
      7. The country’s rebellion is part of a tide of democratization sweeping a region

      At any rate – we may never see a situation so perfect for intervention ever again. But if we do, we’ll take a look at these categories (and others) and will perhaps be a bit more careful about intervention in the future.

      It seems to me that the lesson of Libya is that the Iraq war was stupid. That’s the opposite of what Matt Welch is saying.

      Partisanship can be problematic, but so can blind ideology. Matt has attempted to clumsily fit the recent events into his own ideological framework (in favor of pacifism).

      I’ve dabbled in pacifism. Not in ‘nam, of course.

  12. tomorrow’s Team Read

    …Is that the one run by LeVar Burton? !*@#$&*#@ Team Read and their #@($@ Rainbow! !

    There’s been typos in every post I’ve red so far today. WTF? Is everyone recovering from a weekend in Vegas or something?

    …to tempt gullible humans into trusting “science” over the inerrant Bibie?

    I mean come on, did spellcheck miss that one cause it thought you were talking about Benjamin Netanyahu?

    in Libya will forever change America’s criteria for when it’s acceptable to war:

    America War you! War you bad!!

    On Akrasia… (which I originally thought was a rock band)

    researchers have discovered making decisioins is very, very tiring

    Spelling, also hard.

    1. Yes, but at least we got to learn about George Paraki’s presidential ambitions.

      Hey, it’s Monday.


  13. Hey Matt: Over at TNR, Jonathan Chait characterizes your position as “ideological fanaticism.”…..erventions

  14. it’s as good a reminder as any that few phenomena rot the brain more thoroughly than political tribalism.

    Hmm, actually I’ll take the contrary position, at least as regards war. Less political tribalism can actually mean more support for our latest military adventure, if only because less political tribalism would be balanced out by more nationalistic tribalism. You can’t ignore all the cross-party “politics stops at the water’s edge” pro-war coalitions, can you?

    I think that in general the loss of people who are pro-war only because their Team is for it would be counteracted by people who are anti-war only because their Team isn’t doing it flipping to hawks. Particularly since it would become a nationalistic thing.

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