I am extremely angry about the war with Libya. Perhaps I am a peacenik and am simply opposed to all war, but I am also worried about the state of my own country and wondering how on earth we can afford this when we, ostensibly, cannot afford to pay for the education, healthcare, retirement and enlightenment of our own citizens. I can be a selfish person too. The bombing breaks my heart, makes me so sick that after turning on, and immediately off, the CREEPTASTIC American news this morning, I did yoga. I usually never am able to do yoga in the morning, but I needed some type of psychic shower after about 5 minutes of CBS. I felt that rage bubbling up inside me, the same rage I felt about the Iraq war, same helplessness and frustration and moral disgust. It is true, I am morally disgusted by just about everything these days. I don’t know how much more I can handle, so I am making an effort not to pay close attention to what is going on, which would normally be impossible for a news fiend like myself, but depression-induced apathy appears to be an asset at the moment.
However, I have found a few articles of note. Articles my regular readers have probably already seen a dozen times, so no breaking news here. Just gobs of interestingness.
Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy has been hammering out one gem after another:
Or, why the FUCK is President Obama acting on the advice of his notoriously bone-headed Russia advisor and not that of Congress or the Department of Defense when choosing whether or not to bomb Libya?
“This is the greatest opportunity to realign our interests and our values,” a senior administration official said at the meeting, telling the experts this sentence came from Obama himself. The president was referring to the broader change going on in the Middle East and the need to rebalance U.S. foreign policy toward a greater focus on democracy and human rights.
But Obama’s stance in Libya differs significantly from his strategy regarding the other Arab revolutions. In Egypt and Tunisia, Obama chose to rebalance the American stance gradually backing away from support for President Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and allowing the popular movements to run their course. In Yemen and Bahrain, where the uprisings have turned violent, Obama has not even uttered a word in support of armed intervention – instead pressing those regimes to embrace reform on their own. But in deciding to attack Libya, Obama has charted an entirely new strategy, relying on U.S. hard power and the use of force to influence the outcome of Arab events.
“In the case of Libya, they just threw out their playbook,” said Steve Clemons, the foreign policy chief at the New America Foundation. “The fact that Obama pivoted on a dime shows that the White House is flying without a strategy and that we have a reactive presidency right now and not a strategic one.”
Inside the administration, senior officials were lined up on both sides. Pushing for military intervention was a group of NSC staffers including Samantha Power, NSC senior director for multilateral engagement; Gayle Smith, NSC senior director for global development; and Mike McFaul, NSC senior director for Russia.
I am beginning to wonder if every bad foreign policy decision made by Obama might be traced back to Mike. Or is it just coincidence?
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also said on Thursday that the justification for the use of force was based on humanitarian grounds, and referred to the principle known as Responsibility to Protect (R2P), “a new international security and human rights norm to address the international community’s failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
“Resolution 1973 affirms, clearly and unequivocally, the international community’s determination to fulfill its responsibility to protect civilians from violence perpetrated upon them by their own government,” he said.
Inside the NSC, Power, Smith, and McFaul have been trying to figure out how the administration could implement R2P and what doing so would require of the White House going forward. Donilon and McDonough are charged with keeping America’s core national interests more in mind. Obama ultimately sided with Clinton and those pushing R2P — over the objections of Donilon and Gates.
II. Inside the White House-Congress meeting on Libya (also by Rogin)
President Barack Obama hosted 18 senior lawmakers at the White House on Friday afternoon to “consult” with them about the new plan to intervene in Libya, exactly 90 minutes before Obama announced that plan to the world and one day after his administration successfully pushed for authorization of military force at the United Nations.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) complained on Thursday that the administration had not properly consulted Congress before deciding to support military intervention in Libya, and called for a formal declaration of war by Congress before military action is taken. Inside the White House meeting, several lawmakers had questions about the mission but only Lugar outwardly expressed clear opposition to the intervention, one lawmaker inside the meeting told The Cable. [...]
Rogers, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also told The Cable in an exclusive interview on Friday that the White House clearly emphasized the U.S. role would be limited.
“We are going to play a very supportive role. France and Great Britain and others are going to lead the way along with our Arab League allies; there may be four or five Arab countries participating,” he said.
Rogers said that the administration had been in contact with lawmakers and had kept him up to date, but the communications had been mostly one way.
“I wouldn’t call it consultation as much as laying it out,” he said.
Oh look, there is a Dick Lugar being sensible again. At this point if he ran for President I might even vote Republican. Not that I can see any discernible difference between the Democrats’ and Republicans’ foreign policy strategy. Or any strategy at all, to be honest.
This last article from the Moscow Times is in response to a question recently posed to me by an Inforum reader wanting to know why I liked that Prime Minister Putin fellow so damned much:
VOTKINSK, Udmurtia Republic – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin likened the call for armed intervention in Libya to the medieval crusades on Monday in the first major remarks from Russia since a Western coalition began airstrikes.
In some of his harshest criticism of the United States since President Barack Obama began a campaign to improve ties, Putin also compared the intervention to the George W. Bush-era invasion of Iraq and said it showed Russia is right to boost its military.
Putin, whose country opted not to block the UN resolution last week leading to the strikes, said that Moammar Gadhafi’s government was undemocratic but emphasized that did not justify military intervention.
“The resolution is defective and flawed. It allows everything,” Putin told workers at a ballistic missile factory in the city of Votkinsk. “It resembles medieval calls for crusades.”
Russia, a veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council member, abstained from the vote on Thursday in which the council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians against Gadhafi’s forces.
“What troubles me is not the fact of military intervention itself — I am concerned by the ease with which decisions to use force are taken in international affairs,” Putin said. “This is becoming a persistent tendency in U.S. policy.
“During the Clinton era they bombed Belgrade, Bush sent forces into Afghanistan, then under an invented, false pretext they sent forces into Iraq, liquidated the entire Iraqi leadership — even children in Saddam Hussein’s family died.
“Now it is Libya’s turn, under the pretext of protecting the peaceful population,” Putin said. “But in bomb strikes it is precisely the civilian population that gets killed. Where is the logic and the conscience?” [...]
“The Libyan regime does not meet any of the criteria of a democratic state but that does not mean that someone is allowed to interfere in internal political conflicts to defend one of the sides,” Putin said.
U.S.-Russian relations have improved in the past two years under Obama’s “reset,” capped by the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty that took effect last month.
During that period, Putin toned down the anti-Western rhetoric he often employed as president.
Apparently Dima and Vova are in quite a little row about this now… You might say he’s simply covering his ass in reference to Chechnya. You might be right. But in this case acting in his self interest and being bloody right as hell in his assessment of the situation do not appear to be mutually exclusive possibilities. Medvedev may be trying to be a team player with the West, but the world will always need people unafraid to call it like they see it, even if it means losing friends, or rather, realizing that foreign policy has nothing to do with being friends. This isn’t middle school, people.