Sunday, October 25, 2020
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Weekly Address: The Military Mission in Libya

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The full transcript is here. A few key points:

*"the United States should not-and cannot-intervene every time there's a crisis somewhere in the world."
*"Our military mission in Libya is clear and focused.  Along with our allies and partners, we're enforcing the mandate of the United Nations Security Council.  We're protecting the Libyan people from Qaddafi's forces.  And we've put in place a no fly zone and other measures to prevent further atrocities."
*"This military effort is part of our larger strategy to support the Libyan people and hold the Qaddafi regime accountable."
*"...people in Libya and around the world are seeing that the United States of America stands with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny."

Jim Webb Critical of Libya Operation

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Jim Webb's key criticisms:

1. We have a military operation "but we do not have a clear diplomatic policy or a clear statement of foreign policy that is accompanying this military operation"
2. "We know we don't like the Qaddafi regime, but we do not have a clear picture of who the opposition movement really is"
3. "Yes, e got a vote from the U.N. Security Council in order to put this into play but we had five key abstentions in that vote - Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Germany - and we have not put this issue in front of the American people in any meaningful way."
4. According to Sen. Webb, we've been "sort of on autopilot for almost 10 years now in terms of presidential authority in conducting these type of military operations absent the meaningful participation of the Congress." According to Webb, "this isn't the way our system is supposed to work."
5. Sen. Webb says that "the President and the Secretary of State have a very clear obligation now to come forward to the American people and to the Congress and state clearly what they believe the end point of this should be; they haven't done that."
6. Finally, Webb believes "this issue is of much more economic importance to Britain and France...we don't have to get involved in every one of these [operations] quite frankly."

Washington’s White Thobed Thugs

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If there is reason to intervene in Libya, there are just as compelling reasons to intervene in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain's Sunni Emir rules a population vastly Shia. The Saudi monarchy uses a heavy boot to quash any Shia opposition. National interests? Here's your national interests at work.  

Every time I passed a former British outpost on Bahrain, I wondered if it would be an Iranian or Chinese officer who would one day have that same uneasy feeling passing a former American outpost. That day may be coming sooner than ever imagined. The subject of representative government in nations such as this always drew the ire of Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) officers when it arose in seminar discussions at the Joint Forces Staff College or at conferences in Tampa; never raised on host country terrain. Bahraini officers would rankle at the suggestion that the population was majority Shia (it is upwards of 80%; "but no "official" statistics are available," they would argue). I was there two years and lived across the road from third country nationals living in stables and down the street from Shia neighborhoods much larger and more Spartan than my Sunni area quarters.

In private, the Emir (today's Emir's father) scoffed at Shia affectations such as the "Tree of Life" out in the desert and joked about cutting it down. This widely held Sunni attitude left Shia connections to relatives and business partners in Iran as their most cordial. The dialect spoken in the streets was "Gulfy" rather than the more formal Saudi version and far from the Egyptian and Levantine. There was a nascent insurgency held at bay by a heavy handed hired gun; a retired British general, veteran of the Malay success. But there is so much time and just so many prison cells; they cannot contain all the disgruntled forever. And now, the disaffectation has spilled into the streets. Fine to turn a blind eye in Saudi and Bahrain, but not in Libya?

George Bush’s Legacy

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We are at a crossroads. Two unnecessary wars and irresponsible economic policy have stretched our resources to the breaking point. George Bush lit a fuse in the Middle East that is a catalyst for a loosely connected series of events responsible for this moment of inadequacy. History won't be kind.

Days ago the Pentagon realized that the paucity of American presence in the Mediterranean sent a signal for a power grab. The Mediterranean is becoming a Chinese lake filled with Iranian fish. The Chinese are at this instant establishing their hegemony with action in Libya. This moment became imminent the day Bush chose preemptive military action over posturing and leading from a position of strength. The entire United States naval force presence plan lays shattered.

The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. - Sun Tzu

The Republican frat boys whose strategic skills were honed during exam weeks playing all-night Risk and taking speed never learned from overextending their armies on the board. They were happy to defend Kamchatka successfully. But this is real and there are consequences. And they have been laid in President Obama's lap.

Libya vs. the Deficit

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There are two discussions going on in Washington right now, which by all appearances have nothing to do with one another.  One is about how our government is supposedly "broke" and thus we need to slash spending and make massive sacrifices to eliminate the deficit and start paying down the debt.

The other is about how we need to send our military to a distant land once again, to bomb a country we've barely ever had anything to do with, and probably start our third concurrent war in a Muslim land.

No, these discussions seem to have nothing to do with each other, and yet I'm starting to have a little cognitive dissonance here. If our budget situation is so dire that we have to lay off USDA meat inspectors, stop enforcing the Clean Air Act, eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public workers, kill Amtrak and public broadcasting, etc., etc. -- then tell me why it is we still have unlimited money to invade any country we choose, at will?