American presidents have a very steep learning curve when it comes to
sending our young men and women into harms way thousands of miles from
home. It appears they simply cannot resist the urge to prove how tough
So, now we have Libya to add to the growing list of places we just
absolutely, positively had to go and bomb.
President Obama hung in there longer than most, resisting the
temptation to blow up some stuff as long as he could. Its not as if
he didnt get plenty of flak from all sides while making up his mind.
Some on the right excoriated him for delaying his decision. Others on
the right criticized him for having done anything at all. Those on the
left were similarly critical and for the same reasons should have
acted sooner or shouldnt have acted at all.
In the end, we have a kind of nascent Obama Doctrine. If civilians are
at risk from their own government and the country or region is of vital
strategic importance to us (or, one presumes, our omnipotent
corporations) then were likely to stick our noses into whatever
problems they might be having. And, of course, there has to be some
kind of multi-country coalition allowing us to pretend it isnt just us
doing the heavy lifting.
In Libya, according to our leaders, were not so much trying to get rid
of their dictator, Muamar Gaddafi (Kaddhafi? Kaddafi? Qaddafi?
Gaddhafi?). No, not at all. Were not interested in regime change.
On the other hand, wed very much like him to leave and havent been
afraid to say so. But were not out to get him.
No, were just protecting civilians from what, were told, would have
been a bloodbath carried out by Libyan security forces, imported
mercenaries and elements of the Libyan military.
Libya, tucked in between Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and the Mediterranean
Sea, became a kind of peripheral player in the quick revolutions that
took place in Egypt and Tunisia. When the demonstrations started in
Tripoli and elsewhere Gaddafi had a less gentle response than quietly
One other thing Libya has more oil than any other African country.
So, we cobbled together a coalition of NATO countries and unleashed our
Tomahawk missiles and smart bombs and commenced with the destruction.
The problems here are fairly obvious. Were already mired in
Afghanistan, the longest military engagement in U.S. history and were
still mired in Iraq, the second longest military engagement in U.S.
history. With nearly 6,000 deaths, and counting, and about $1 trillion
spent, and counting, were already waist deep in that quicksand with no
rescue in sight.
Even the briefest foray into Libya creates additional billions in costs
and stretches our actual combat capabilities perilously thin. Were
now told our combat role has ended, that our NATO coalition is in
charge and weve taken support roles. The president has not ruled out
helping arm the rebels though were not taking sides, mind you. Just
leveling the playing field.
And we absolutely, positively will not be sending combat ground troops.
No boots on the ground on President Obamas and Secretary of Defense
Gates watches. One then supposes the CIA operatives weve already sent
and are currently on the ground in Libya are wearing Italian loafers or
flip-flops or something other than boots.
This is pretty close to insanity. The rebels, who we may or may not
support depending on the day of the week and the hour of the day, have
no command and control structure, no identifiable leaders, no funding
source, no training capabilities. They dont even know how to use the
weapons they already have and would have not the least clue how to use
modern weapons supplied by us or other NATO countries. Training them
would means lots of boots on the ground for a long time.
Worse still, weve absolutely no clue of an outcome even if the rebels
win and He Whose Name Cannot Be Spelled goes skittering off with his
purloined billions. Were not even sure who the good guys might be
and there are plenty of groups willing to fill a Libyan leadership void
who wed likely consider the bad guys.
If the so-called Obama doctrine leads us to prevent civilian massacres
in areas of strategic interest then where the hell have we been in the
civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Why isnt a country
with Africas richest natural resources, nearly all of which are
completely unexploited, considered of strategic interest to us? The
Congo death toll is now nearing a staggering 5.5 million, the vast
majority of whom were civilians. Its the worst such blood bath since
World War II and we and the U.N. and everybody else have stood idly by
as the horrendous carnage goes on day after day. Where are our
humanitarian instincts there?
For that matter, what about Bahrain or Qatar or Yemen or the Ivory
Coast or any of the couple of dozen other countries currently engaged
in some kind of civil war or genocide or other form of evil? If
strategic importance and humanitarian considerations are our primary
objectives then why, oh why, do we continue to coddle the repressive
and murderous thugs from the House of Saud currently running Saudi
Were engaged in folly; a belief we can somehow alter the outcome of
what are essentially centuries old tribal civil wars in the Middle
East. We rationalize our ongoing involvement by emphasizing the evils
of the leaders whose countries we attack and the horrors they have
perpetrated on their own people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of
leaders who fit that description. So far, weve inserted ourselves
into situations in which we can neither predict nor control the
The sad fact is we could win every battle and still lose every war.
Thats not a doctrine. Its a coin-flip with a two-headed coin and we
call tails every time.