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Obama and the Dumb, Rash Wars He Supports

Supporters of destabilizing regime change can’t accept [1] responsibility for the chaos they help create:

Both Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continue to argue that it wasn’t the removal of Gaddafi that caused the chaos, but rather the failure to prop up a stable government in the days following. An ISIS affiliate has since gained a foothold in the country, and the U.S. has carried out airstrikes against “ISIS camps” as recently as February.

That’s a lesson I now apply when we’re asked to intervene militarily [bold mine-DL]. Do we have a plan for the day after?” Obama said in an interview with the BBC that aired two weeks ago.

Ed Krayewski responded [2] to this quote with the appropriate ridicule:

That ought to be a shocking statement. After all, U.S. history is littered with interventions that failed in their aftermath.

It’s not as if Obama needed the example of regime change in Libya to teach him that overthrowing a foreign government would produce instability and violence. Someone ought to ask him why he hadn’t already learned this lesson from the Iraq war or from any previous violent overthrow of a government. It’s the most obvious danger posed by violent regime change, and Libya shouldn’t have to have been plunged into chaos to teach it to him. Hawks often fault Obama for supposedly “overlearning” the lessons of Iraq, but in the case of Libya he somehow forgot some of the most important ones. Back when he was first speaking out [3] against the proposed invasion of Iraq, Obama liked to boast that he was against “rash” and “dumb” wars, but in Libya and now in Yemen with the Saudi-led war he has learned to make exceptions. If allies or clients want the U.S. to be involved in a dumb, rash war, Obama seems to have no problem with it.

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8 Comments To "Obama and the Dumb, Rash Wars He Supports"

#1 Comment By Kid Charlemagne On April 11, 2016 @ 2:33 pm

When is it going to become clear to Americans that the default position of the country (historically as well as in the modern post-WWII period) is military intervention? And this will be the case under a Trump or Sanders presidency as well.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 11, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

The bigger expose’ here is that it undercuts the contention that the reason for the intervention was humanitarian.

Clearly an admission that the executive and the Sec intended to remove the previous government.

#3 Comment By Chris Chuba On April 11, 2016 @ 3:21 pm

Nation building worked great with Germany / Japan but we also occupied both countries with 100,000 troops and it took about 10yrs for Democratic elections. Even after that it took a Marshal plan and then continued U.S. troop presence for a total of 40yrs plus to basically remain their de facto, defense force to re-assure neighoring states that the 4th Reich wouldn’t re-emerge.

So from these two very, very expensive success stories we got it into out heads that the U.S. was now expert at regime change and could now do it anywhere on the planet but with a fraction of the resources. We consider regime change the norm rather than something that we do as a last resort, massively expensive, and fraught with peril. We are imbeciles.

#4 Comment By icarusr On April 11, 2016 @ 4:39 pm

“If allies or clients want the U.S. to be involved in a dumb, rash war, Obama seems to have no problem with it.”

Well, you have been proven right about Libya, but this sentence is still too much.

As Tuchman would say, you need to look at the picture from the lens of its time, with the information that was available at the time, including what counsel was being given by all sides.

1. We know this as a matter of historical record that Obama himself was not inclined to intervene. Perhaps instincts are not enough, but his were in the right place. More to the point, this alone tells you that he did not “not have a problem” with the intervention. He did. They were overcome eventually, perhaps for the worst, but he did have problems with intervention.

2. What happened? Three things.

First, Italy, the UK and France threatened to intervene on their own. None has a particularly good record in North Africa, and the last time the UK and France got involved in the region, they had to be forced out. Well, yanked out. No pun intended. By the US. At great international cost to all. So the option at this point is not to simply so “do you own thing”, but look into the future and see the disaster ahead, and try to limit it. In this instance, the known unknown is the disaster that would have befalled the region if the trio had gone in, eventually with ground troops, and could not extricate themselves.

Seconrd, Obama listened to his advisers. You might question his choice of advisers; you might say that having a genocide expert as your UN ambassador shapes unnecessarily all your responses to disasters around the world. Fair enough. But he had experts and he listened to them. Of course, one could argue that that Gadhafi would not have delivered on his threat at the gates of Benghazi; but the facts tend to a different direction.

Third, he went to the UNSC. And he did get a mandate. Yes, the Chinese and the Russians complained afterwards – but I was reading cables coming in from the negotiations, and it was clear what was being negotiated and why. The UNSC worked. In this sense, it was a textbook case of R2P. That it was also a failure tells you about R2P’s limits, but the fact remains that you had a collective judgement about a particularly nasty situation, something needed to be done, something was done, and things went haywire anyway. Unlike Iraq 2003, no one can say with any certainty that what we have Libya we would not have had absent Western intervention; the only thing you can say is that in an unstable situation, trying to stabilise only one segment of a violent map will not necessarily yield the results you want.

3. The problem you identify – with the US supporting allies in their stupid adventures is the opposite of what Kissinger thought the French thought of their alliance with the US. In “Diplomacy”, he argues that France maintained its independent nuclear deterrernt after WWII only because it could not be certain that the US would sacrifice New York for Paris. As long as France could trigger WWIII on its own, it could be certain of continued US interest in Eurpean affairs. Kissinger being the cynic he is, has the measure of the French rather well; he never says whether in his view, the French were right, but there is no question that he considers them justified in so thinking.

All this to say that Libya is a micro replay of a larger game that the US and its allies play, and probably have to play. if Obama goes along, this does not indicate that he has no problem with it; only that he can be persuaded to change his mind. That, at any rate, is not a bad quality in a President.

#5 Comment By Daniel Larison On April 11, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

Obama was initially not inclined to intervene, but allowed himself to be pushed into doing it by the “do something” crowd. That doesn’t reflect well on him. That shows that he gets pressured into making bad decisions when it matters most. The British and French weren’t going to be able to pull off an intervention on their own and they knew that. That’s why they were so insistent on U.S. participation. The U.S. made the intervention possible by getting behind it. Obama could have withheld that support and prevented the intervention from taking place, but he didn’t. You say Obama listened to his advisers. Well, he listened to some of them. He ignored the advice of his VP and the Defense Secretary, who were correctly making the case that the U.S. didn’t need another war and national interests weren’t at stake. In other words, he had advisers telling him not to do the foolish thing he did, and he went against their advice. The mandate received from the Security Council was a limited one, which the U.S. and its allies opted to abuse almost immediately, and in so doing made a mockery of the pretensions to be acting in accordance with R2P doctrine. Whatever problem Obama had with intervening in Libya went away very quickly in a matter of days in March 2011, and so I think it’s perfectly fair to say he had no problem going along with what the British and French wanted to do.

#6 Comment By Ken Hoop On April 11, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

You had me until you slipped in the sophistry
“have to play.”
Of course you had already slipped in “allies”
so at least you were consistent in your Big Government Police State imperialism.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 11, 2016 @ 5:38 pm

Being able to make decisions other than the default military-industrial complex expansive militarism on auto-pilot is way above any elected official’ pay grade.

#8 Comment By Observer On April 12, 2016 @ 11:15 am

Nation building worked great with Germany / Japan but we also occupied both countries with 100,000 troops and it took about 10yrs for Democratic elections.

Even Germany and Japan aren’t examples of successful nation-building. Both of them had already had decades of experience with democratic institutions.

What we did was not so much nation-building as regime restoration. It’s much easier to restore a regime that already existed than to build one from scratch. For one thing, the new regime will already have an existing base of support!

How can we say that we built a nation in Germany when Italy and Austria both turned into democracies? Italy was officially classified as an ally, and Austria was occupied by the Soviet Union!