Foreign Policy

"Mission Accomplished" in Libya?

The Obama Doctrine is nothing to celebrate.


Editor's Note: This column is reprinted with permission of the Washington Examiner. Click here to read it at that site.

Mission accomplished! As Libyan rebels took Tripoli last week, liberals practically draped that banner across the nation's op-ed pages. Now was the time for all good men to come together and praise a famous victory.

In Newsweek, liberal columnist Michael Tomasky pronounced Libya "completely the right thing to do," President Obama was on his way to becoming "a great foreign policy president."

"Give Obama credit on Libya," The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne insisted, quoting former Bush official L. Paul Bremer on the wisdom of Obama's Libya policy: "It worked."

Bremer, you may recall, was head of Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority from 2003 to 2004, famous for botching the occupation and helping stoke a civil war by disbanding the Iraqi army.

For his next trick, maybe Dionne can consult Ray Nagin, New Orleans' feckless mayor during Katrina, on best practices for hurricane preparation.

Let's hold off on the ticker-tape parade for Libya just now, shall we? (Do you even get ticker-tape parades for something the administration insists wasn't a war, but a "kinetic military action"?)

With Libyan rebels apparently engaged in reprisal attacks against Gadhafi loyalists—"the worst treatment," The Washington Post reported Friday, "appeared to be reserved for anyone with black skin"—we can't be assured of a clear-cut victory even by the dubious terms of "humanitarian war."

It's not clear what we've "won" in Libya. But it is clear what we've lost: Whatever's left of the quaint notions that America should wage war only in defense of our vital interests and that presidential uses of military force can and should be constrained by law.

Last week brought some Twitter triumphalism from the Center for American Progress, with the liberal think tank's @ThinkProgress feed linking to House Speaker John' Boehner's June complaint that the president had violated the War Powers Act.

CAP demanded: "Does John Boehner still believe U.S. military operations in Libya are illegal?"

Why shouldn't he? After all, that's what the president's own attorney general believes. Obama's Office of Legal Counsel, backed by Attorney General Eric Holder, told Obama in May that under the War Powers Resolution, he needed congressional authorization to continue bombing Libya after the WPR's time limit expired.

That wasn't what the president wanted to hear, so he got a second opinion from Harold Koh, the servile State Department legal adviser, who argued that we weren't engaged in "hostilities" under the WPR because Gadhafi couldn't effectively return fire.

It was a law professor's version of a "Jedi mind trick": "These are not the 'hostilities' you're thinking of." It didn't convince anyone, but, hey, at least Obama doesn't "swagger."

Has it occurred to anyone in Obama's cheering section that the Koh precedent will be available for use by future presidents? And that they might come to rue embracing the argument that it's perfectly legal for the president to, Zeus-like, rain down destruction from on high wherever he chooses, without so much as a by-your-leave to Congress?

Yet it was a centrist, not a liberal, who provided the most appalling case for Obama's alleged foreign policy wisdom. Last Tuesday at, Fareed Zakaria wrote that "Defense Secretary Robert Gates was very clear and he was right: Libya is not vital to our national interest. The point, however, was that … if we could be helpful, it would be of great benefit to Libya and to America."

Never mind the law, never mind our "vital interests"—if we think we can be "helpful," let the Tomahawks fly. If that's the Obama Doctrine, it's hardly worth cheering.

Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and author of The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power (Cato 2008). He is a columnist at the Washington Examiner, where this article originally appeared. Click here to read it at that site.

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  1. Is it legally a war in which only our machines take the field?
    One can envision a future where robots fight our wars exclusively.

    1. skynet online

    2. Bots on the ground.

      1. Sorry for the threadjack, but check out this happening-now slander at

        “Why libertarians apologize for autocracy” by Michael Lind

        1. The article is spot-on, but, these days, Milton Freidman would be called a Zimbabwean Socialist around here, just based on being amenable to paper currency and a negative income tax.

    3. Read the War Powers Resolution. Providing materaial support, advisors, resources to combatants involved in a war is also prohibited. There is no need whatsoever to have “boots on the ground” in combat zones, in order to trigger the WPR constraints.

  2. it is in our national interest to stop another rwanda.

    1. “Vital” is the keyword. Libertarians concede a vital national interest only when bombs are actually raining down on American cities. But only grudgingly.

      1. because libertarians, like paleocons, are isolationists.

        1. Or we’d just rather make money selling them shit than spend money dropping bombs.

          1. teach a man to fish…& you can sell ’em bait n tackle. remember jay-sus was a jooo

          2. You mean “non-interventionists”, though Freeper types pretend it’s the same thing as isolationism.

        2. Or we realize that America is overextended, has a ton of debt, and our “humanitarian war” could possibly be helping people who are no better than the last guy: http://community.seattletimes……016027572&

          But hey who cares about that sort of stuff when you can just cheer for Team Blue. AMERICA FUCK YEAH!!!

    2. [it is in our national interest to stop another rwanda]


      1. because our allies asked the US to stop the bengazi genocide & the US is the leader of the free world.

        1. The US did not agree to bomb Iraq until the Arab League supported it. But the Arab League is made up of dictatorships so how are they part of the “free world”? We have the ridiculous sight of the dictatorship of Qatar bombing Libya in the name of freedom.

          1. remember france, the UK, & NATO?

            1. Saddam Hussein had been trying his hardest for a long time to genocide the Kurds living in Iraq. I sure hope you supported that war as well, because gee, it would be downright hypocritical to support Libya intervention and not Iraq intervention…

              1. team blue not team red asshole derp

                1. i served in and supported gulf 1.

                  1. wasnt that team red?

        2. because our allies asked the US to stop the bengazi genocide & the US is the leader of the free world.

          Actually, our allies argued that there “might” be a genocide if the US didn’t step in. Furthermore, if the original intent was to “protect civilians,” why aren’t we bombing Syria as well?

          1. getting there

      2. Our national interest is not defined by our allies.

        Try again.

        1. part of our national interest certainly is

          1. And that’s exactly what George Washington warned against in his farewell address.

            1. well ‘cept for the french military assistance eh?

    3. So why aren’t we bombing Syria yet?

      1. shhhhh! We don’t need a 5th war.

      2. we’re getting there. hang on

      3. The Arab League and the UN hasn’t given us permission to do that. Remember it was when the Arab League and UN agreed to support the “no fly zone” that the US started bombing Libya.

      4. I pity such small thinkers as yourself.

        THANKS, Clinton/Bush/Obama! Standing on the shoulders of such great men will make me the greatest eva.

      5. ’cause the Syrians can shoot back and that would make it a war which would involve lots of that messy legal, constitutioney stuff

    4. if preventing another Rwanda is in our national interest, how about Syria, North Korea, most of the African sub-continent, ad infinitum?

    5. Hard to say, since the more democratic part of government was never asked for its opinion.

  3. America should wage war

    Wage or assist? There’s a difference.

    1. Mention that to the casualties.

    2. When your planes are doing the bombing, you’re waging, not assisting.

      1. NO! Technically you’re just “assisting” the bomb to its destination! /obamalogic.

        1. All I did was open the door at the bottom of the plane. It’s not my fault a bunch of bombs fell out and killed people.

  4. Ghadaffi was a bad fellow without doubt but he was not willy nilly killing people. There was no danger of another Rwanda.

    If the rebels start killing, will the US interfere to stop them? I predict they will be worse.

    Obama did this to show how to interfere in the right way, as opposed to Iraq which he thinks was wrong. If the rebels turn out to be our enemy (which seems likely) it will have been a waste, though less costly than Iraq.

    1. gaddafi ordered his army to exterminate the bengazi rats. ~750,000 people live there.

      1. And that affects me … how?

        1. it never was a question of “me”…rather “we”

          1. And that affects you … how?

            I imagine it would suck to not have the balls to fight for your own freedom.

            1. genocide is abhorent to liberal democracies who have the ability to intervene & stop it.

              1. Well, we’re far from liberal, and not a democracy.

                Aside from your pathetic attempt to appeal to my morality though, your statement is far from fact. There’s nothing inherit in liberalism that proposes murdering individuals of a foreign government for any reason. Quite simply, the laws a foreign country chooses to live by are none of our business. By dictating what our standards are to a foreign society, we’re merely replacing the dictator that’s being removed with ourselves, and destroying massive amounts of capital along the way.

                1. Just in case I didn’t make my point clear enough, dictating how any society lives aside from our own is not consistent with the core principals of liberalism.

                  1. classic liberalism advocates spreading democracy thru military intervention…or the sun never sets on the [EMPIRE].

                    1. I really hope you don’t believe that. Mostly because it’s wrong, but partly because I think I’ve just lost faith in humanity.

                    2. im not incorrect. the british [EMPIRE] was classicly liberal…the sun never sets

                    3. wasnt tony blair the LABOUR PM?

                    4. Your version of history is delusional. The mere existence of a monarchy precludes the existence of a classic liberal society.

                    5. unless the monarch is also a classic liberal like boosch & tony blair

                    6. You’re making it too obvious you’re a troll. A for effort though.

              2. then, shouldn’t we be in Syria? And, shouldn’t we bomb Iran immediately since A-jad keeps talking about wiping out Israel?

                1. diff nation, diff tactics.

            2. nothing different at all. Genocide – your word – is genocide.

              1. diff nation requires diff tactics. turkey & the AU are in the lead & they’ve not requested military intervention…yet

      2. Wow, all it takes is some two-bit dictator to order his men to exterminate rats and I can send US fighters to attack his arse?? I’m loving your logic more by the hour. Any idea how I can insert some rats into Iran’s mullahs’ houses??

        1. diff tactics for iran

      3. Considering that Gaddafi did not commit mass attrocities on all the other rebel cities he had captured, imagining that he would have treated Bengazi radically harsher is a bit of a stretch.

        1. its was the rebel capital & the dominate tribes were hostile to gaddafi anyway.

      4. People like Kathaffiy are addicted to hyperbole. If you really believe that 750,000 people were going to be exterminated because Kathaffiy said so . . . .

    2. In what way does Obama think Iraq is wrong? Perhaps when he was an up-and-coming Senator, but since he’s been President, he’s neither said nor done anything to indicate that anything is wrong with our involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan.

      In fact, he’s one of the most warmongering Presidents we’ve ever had. I’d put him right up there with Kennedy and Johnson.

      1. did u miss obama pulling combat forces outta iraq?

        1. Obama did not pull combat forces out of Iraq, he just relabeled them. They are still there and they are still combat forces.

          1. r u saying troop strength in iraq never changed?

            1. Troop levels were reduced, but pretty much on the timeline already determined by Bush. So the most credit you can give Obama is that he is no more aggressive than Bush on the Iraq issue.

              1. of course the withdrawal was on the timetable bush negoiated w iraq. nevertheless, the drawdown is fact.

        2. Did you miss this?:…

          1. ‘Brigade Combat Team’ sounds so violent and combatty. But ‘Advise and Assist Brigade’ is much gentler. Exactly the same mix of guns, men with guns, armored vehicles with boom sticks and kinetic doohickies but kinder and fluffier.

            God Bless you Unicorn Man.

        3. did u miss obama pulling combat forces outta iraq?

          Obama has not pulled forces out of Iraq as fast as Bush promised in the treaty with Iraq. He also plans to keep forces in Iraq after the deadline for full withdrawal.

        4. Did you miss Obama sending combat forces into Afghanistan?

  5. In Libertarian land, nothing fails like success.

    1. Cause you see how well we “export liberty.”

      1. Welcomes its newest Islamic member.
        Just think, Iranian rockets will make such a pretty sight flying over Europe!

        1. CIA have said over and over Iran is not even close to getting nuclear weapons yet you believe mainstream media like the weapons of mass destruction crap that led us into war in 2004.

  6. Stock photo overuse fail

  7. “Because we can” is never an insufficient principle in Statist-Land.

  8. There was a perfect justification for this intervention at the beginning.

    He could’ve simply said, “Ghaddafi is an enemy of the United States and the world. He ordered attacks that killed American servicemen in Germany and the bombing of an American airliner in Scotland. We are now presented with a grand opportunity to remove a dictator who has been a thorn in the side of the world for decades. He is a common enemy we share with the rebels, and we will support them militarily to remove him.”

    1. if Germany and Lockerbie are the justifications, we should have gone in long ago. Please. By this calculus, we should have attacked the Soviets in the 80s for shooting down a Korean airliner that had Americans aboard.

      1. Keep your memory long, and strike your enemy when he is weak.

        Only fools deliberately miss the opportunity to take advantage of an enemy’s moment of weakness.

        1. Of course for it to be “legitimate”, that window needs to coincide with a Team BLUE administration, right?

          1. If Bush had pulled off the Libya campaign instead of the debacle in Iraq, John McCain would be president right now.

            1. got that shit right

      2. if Germany and Lockerbie are the justifications, we should have gone in long ago.

        Reagan attempted to do something by a short bombing campaign that killed one of Ghaddafi’s sons, and while he quieted down, Ghaddafi was still a threat.

        we should have attacked the Soviets in the 80s for shooting down a Korean airliner that had Americans aboard

        Unlike the Pan Am bombing, that attack wasn’t deliberate. The Soviets were grossly and maliciously negligent, but they didn’t track that flight from its origin with the intent to take it out.

        1. not according to the birchers

        2. Exactly, and we made the exact same error with an Iranian airliner.

          1. id be very hesitant to jump on the side of birchers

  9. My nephew died in Afghanistan. What the fuck are we still policing the world for? How many more Americans have to die before the tyrants are shaken awake by some semblance of righteous scorn and resistance?

    1. righteous scorn and resistance? from the residents of their country? sorry for your loss, but are you paying attention to who is filling the gap after the tyrants go…

      1. The entire problem with the middle east has to do with the greed of western corporatism for the abundance of oil. We are in Libya due to oil; and most things about Gaddafi are lies

  10. The President thumbed his nose at Congress; Congress did not take him to task. There’s a lot of blame to go around for the Libyan misadventure, but the real question is, will the people ever slap the perpetrators? Or will we keep re-electing these constitution-flouting bozos? If you want the President to be an unaccountable monarch, then just keep on not disciplining him when he oversteps, or rewarding Congress for not imposing that discipline in your name. You’ll get the monarch you deserve. I’m just sorry that I’LL get the monarch YOU deserve. How messed up is THAT?

  11. Lets get some of our facts straight.
    1. There was no attack upon civilians by the Libya Army, there was only a protest march that was peaceful on both sides until some rebel rats in the march attacked a police station an a military outpost.
    2. The UN resolution UNSC 1970 and 1973 (2011) forbids ANY weapons, aid, troops, or support of aggression which the US and NATO have violated International law and committed many war crimes.
    3. Libya is a Republic like no other in the world as the people rule the country through peoples congresses (read the green book).
    4. Libya has the highest standard of living in the middle east and Africa.
    5. Education, medical and dental care are free for every LIbyan and if the best care is not available the person and their family are flown to a place it is available and all expense it paid by LIbya.
    6. Every Libyan family is given a free home.
    7. The National Bank offers loans at zero % interest (usury is illegal in Libya).
    8. When a couple are married they receive $50,000.00 free to start their lives.
    9. Electric and water are free.
    10. If a person wants to farm they are given free land use, equipment, seed, live stock and operating capital.
    11. When a Libyan buys a car the government pays 50% of the cost.
    12. Every Libyan is armed with an automatic weapon Men women young and old and are trained to use them.
    13. Laws and rules are from the people congresses and everyone has to agree before it is made a law (much like our jury trials require all to agree before judgment veridic can be made).
    14. In June 75% of the people in Libya marched in support of their Republic Gaddafi and against NATO.
    15. The Main Stream Media Lies about everything in Libya INFO war where propaganda is used in an attempt to steal the country from its people. This will not happen as the LIbyan people have too much to lose.
    16. Libya is a peaceful country and owns the largest reserves of the highest quality of oil in the world.
    17. Libya has developed the Great Man Made River Project and has vast amounts of clean water enough to last 200 years and turn Libya into the Food basket of Africa.
    18. Libya owns over 40 tons of Gold and was going on the gold standard.
    19. Gaddafi and Libya were instrumental in ending apartheid in South Africa.
    20. The DOJ paid $3M to a Malta shop keeper and his brother who were the only key witnesses to implicate and testify against the Libyan accused in the Lockerbee Trial and under questioning from Scottish Police their testimony was deemed unreliable and inaccurate.
    21. Gaddafi is loved by his people yet he holds not official office in the government but he is life long leader of the (Jamahiriya) or peoples revolution republic.
    22. US/NATO has murdered, killed and bombed over 15,000 Libyans civilians in 9183 Sorties, 3489 Combat Missions past months in order to protect civilians and have used attack helicopters to gun down unarmed civilians in the streets and squares.
    23. Every company in Libya is an employee owned company and shares in the profits.
    24. Libya uses e-education throughout Libya and has the highest literacy rate in the Middle east and Africa which is 92.4% for women and 76.2% for the population.
    25. The Gaddafi’s Peoples Republic Congresses recognizes that Western USA, UK, EU etc. parliamentary two party systems form of so called democracy is really dictatorships as all of the people are not represented and a very small minority rules the country over the objections of the people i.e, (bank bailouts), (patriot act, TSA, Homeland Security), illegal wire taps, illegal wars so political parties are unlawful in Libya.
    26. The idea of creating the African Union was revived in the mid-1990s under the leadership of Libyan head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi to prevent the raping of small African countries from the Imperialist bankers.
    27. Adequate health care and subsidized foodstuffs have sharply reduced infant morality, from 105 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to 20 per 1,000 live births in 1998.
    So now do you think the Libyan people are mistreated by their government?
    28. Between 1911 and 1931, more than 750,000 Libyans had been killed resisting Italy’s occupation.
    29. September 1, 1969, bloodless revolution in which the Free Unionist Officers under the command of Qadhafi took power. A few days later the new government announced it would not renew the foreign base agreements and that 51% of foreign banks would be nationalised. In 1973, Libya nationalised 51% of all oil companies, including the subsidiaries of Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, Socal and Shell. It also doubled the price of its crude oil. In 1974, it nationalised three US oil companies and announced an oil embargo of the US.
    30. Libya is one Arab country in which the population as a whole has benefited from oil revenue. The US, France and Britain have never forgiven Qadhafi for kicking them out, and until he is replaced by another King Idris, Teng argues, there will be no let-up to the anti-Libya campaign.

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