The Libyan Affair continues to evolve. I believe it to be an historic precedent in warfare, but whether for good or bad is yet unclear. But whatever the outcome I am resigned that here in the continuing nuclear age some kind of limited warfare like this is inevitable. It’s just a matter of who does it and how.
By suspending judgement on the administration’s actions so far some may think I am being partisan on the matter of the Powell Doctrine. But from my view I am not. I am simply waiting until all the facts are known. I assure you, gentle reader, that my belief in the Powell Doctrine is unwavering.
I see by today’s headlines that the US has indeed transitioned control of the “no-fly zone” to NATO as promised. The fact that ground functions are still up in the air bothers me. The concept of “limited war” bothers me greatly. It is a repulsive term in itself because it violates all that I feel and all that I was taught about how to do “war”. As Powell himself said, you only do war as a last result and then you pull out all the stops and do it right, and that includes clear lines of command and control. I believe in that and it appears that president Obama has compromised that principle to some degree in order to gain the international respectability of a coalition. On the other hand, I must admit that the United States took charge of the whole mess pretty darned effectively at the outset, wiping out Gadhafi’s entire air force and air defenses without losing a single man. That’s not exactly military incompetence.
Now, the plan appears to be to make the EU and the Arab League responsible in the court of world opinion for the eventual outcome of the affair. I don’t recall any US president achieving such a thing before. In Vietnam we took full charge and full responsibility (with only token support) and look where that got us. If Obama pulls this off, it will be an interesting first, to say the least.
So far as I can tell the vital national interest of the US here is stability of the Middle East and hence, the oil supply. If you don’t believe that, bring up the subject of gasoline prices anywhere in the country. (The humanitarian part of the mission is, IMO, a fig leaf. If we were inclined to go to war simply for that, we would now be mired in Somalia as well.) The other big driver was, and is, politics. It is apparent that the GOP was taking big and effective swipes at the administration for NOT taking action, making Obama appear indecisive and ineffective. As soon as we entered the fray the sniping took the other direction, criticizing the weakness and unpredictability of the Coalition. Now, GOP partisan Dick Morris, on the outside looking in, has been emboldened to chastise the administration on failing the Powell Doctrine.
Knowing what I know, and admitting that I don’t yet know all that Obama knew, I would have held off despite the sniping and let the Libyan situation play itself out. But I have to admit of the possibility that Obama might have known more than I do. (I hope the CIA has improved but I suspect it is even worse now, with 5,000 additional bureaucrats in charge. Shall we have a meeting? What’s for lunch?) Maybe Morris is right, but I think that one week into the thing is a tad early to be drawing firm conclusions.
I hope they let Bob Woodward in to interview. I’ve got my pencil and my check-list ready.