Monday, March 21, 2011

Libya: War By UN Diktat

As you probably know by now, President Obama decided to commit the US to what amounts to a third war in Libya.

In response to a UN resolution ( UNSCR 1973) authorizing 'all means necessary' to 'protect Libya's civilians', President Obama committed our military to launch attacks against Libya, in conjunction with Britain and France.

This has a number of troubling elements.

The military intervention that might have been effective a few weeks ago does nothing but ensure a stalemate, given conditions on the ground. So even the rationale of removing Khaddaffi from power is non-existent right now, and the president and other officials in the administration like SecDef Robert Gates have been quite vocal that regime change isn't one of our goals here.Although that seems to change from hour to hour, depending on whom you talk to.

In fact, the whole idea of goals when it comes to Libya is downright fuzzy. We are intervening in what amounts to a civil war without even a clear idea of whom we're helping. And there's not even the rationale that intervening in Libya is vital to US security - because it isn't. Nor is it even the oil - we import virtually nothing from Libya, although the British and French have multi-billion dollar investments in the form of contracts to protect.

We don't really have any clear objectives there except a vague one 'to protect civilians' if a tomahawk missile is going to discriminate!

So, why did the president change his mind and go to war with Libya? He had his reasons.

Obama desperately needed something to distract from the budget battles at home, show himself as a decisive leader and improve his approval he wanted to wag the dog, if you get my meaning. Khaddaffi, whom most Americans rightly despise was tailor-made for the role of villain.

Obama also very much wanted it done under UN auspices, for reasons I'll get to shortly.

Oddly enough, what may have finally decided this president was the backing of the Arab League for a no fly zone, which they of course wanted the West to do for them, rather than using their own planes. Once they were committed, the Obama Administration knew that getting a UN resolution wold be relatively easy. Of course, once the West implemented a no fly zone, the Arabs balked and began criticizing the West for doing what they were too timid to do for themselves. This way, of course, they have it both ways with the Arab public. The Russians and Chinese likewise simply abstained and let Obama make an ass of himself...after which they, like the Arab league, condemned the western intervention as 'colonialism'.

Obama even faced criticism from domestic allies like Dennis Kucinich and Louis Farrakhan.

"Brother, who the hell do you think you are?" I think a lot of Americans have been wondering the same thing for some time.

Our president has just committed us to a war which could ultimately cost the United States several billion dollars -- and could require the Pentagon to ask for emergency funding from Congress to pay for it. And it was done without any debate in Congress, let alone a resolution to use force. Nothing but that UN resolution. Even George W. Bush, LBJ and Clinton didn't have the hubris to do that. President Obama did neither, he simply relied on the UN resolution.

Even some Lefties in Congress were honest enough to howl over this one. And can you imagine the outcry if a Republican president had done something this autocratic?

The United States has never gone to war before or committed its armed forces in this manner based strictly on a UN diktat. Candidate Obama had a great deal to say about President Bush's 'illegal war' in Iraq, but President Obama has gone far beyond anything Bush did. The fact remains that before going into Iraq, President Bush allowed lengthy debate in Congress and received an authorization to use force. President Clinton at least allowed debate before bombing the Serbs in Bosnia. President Obama appears to feel he needn't bother with such niceties..sign a few orders and then it's off the South America on yet another road trip.

Another disturbing thing, and in my opinion an important key to the whole matter - what kind of future precedent does this set? About a year ago, the Obama Administration touted a UN doctrine adopted about a year ago known as Responsibility to Protect - R2P for short. It basically mandates the UN to intervene whenever civilians are endangered or there is a risk of 'genocide'. Admirable I'm sure, but as you can imagine very selectively applied by the UN, as the people of Iran, Syria or Darfur could tell you. Yet that was the major basis behind the UN Resolution on Libya, and it lays the ground for its use in the future.

For example, what if India and Pakistan get into another shooting war, the Muslim dominated UN votes a resolution based on R2P and Obama decides to intervene on the side of Pakistan without bothering to get the permission of Congress?

Or even more likely, let's say the Israelis decide at some point that they're sick and tired of Hamas or Hezbollah lobbing missiles at them and send the IDF in to stop it. Is President Obama looking to set up a scenario where there's an anti-Israel UN resolution based on R2P and he bypasses Congress and orders the US military to intervene against Israel to enforce a UN resolution to 'protect civilians' and impose a 'Palestinian' state ? Even if it means killing a lot of Jewish civilians to 'protect' Arab ones?

Implausible? Obama's UN Ambassador Dr. Susan Rice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama's NSC Assistant Samantha Power are hardly friends of Israel, and Power has even advocated invading Israel to establish a 'Palestinian' state. It's not at all a far-fetched scenario. And a precedent is now in place.

President Obama wouldn't even necessarily have to pit US forces against the Israelis directly. He could simply implement an arms embargo, freeze assets and implement trade sanctions 'in support of the UN resolution' while other UN members - say, Britain, France, Turkey and a few other players - did the fighting, with the US providing them with arms and support.

When an American president makes the US military subordinate to 'the international community' to serve his own personal whims and cheerfully violates the Constitution in order to do so, we are on very dangerous ground indeed. Particularly with this president.

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louielouie said...

i'm curious about something.
this precedent that is being set.
when oklahoma secedes from the union, and hussein invades, does this mean oklahoma may count on UN, NATO, and libyan, providing kadaffy survivies, assistance, by bombing deecee?
will the french assist?
i bet they've been itching to bomb deecee since the napoleonic wars.
maybe hussein will be in some far off country playing some other sport, and won't even know/care we left.

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