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War in Libya: Of Principle and Politics

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After a decade of U.S. war in the Middle East, it is easy to understand the trepidation, skepticism, even outright opposition, with which yet another military adventure in the region could be met. Indeed, in the days since combat operations began last weekend, voices across the political spectrum have emerged to raise legitimate questions and even objections to the endeavor.  These run from Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio on the left, to Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana on the right.

In the midst of such honest debate, however, too many of Barack Obama’s political foes have criticized the action simply to take shots at the president in an effort to score points. Most egregious of these has been Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House speaker and potential 2012 presidential candidate.  Only weeks ago, Gingrich criticized the president for failing to intervene in Libya, only to flip-flop against the operation and come out attacking Obama for it once it had commenced. 

Gingrich isn’t alone in the parade of disingenuousness. He’s quickly followed by another potential 2012 GOP rival, former Sen. Rick Santorum.  The former Pennsylvania senator mocked Obama, saying the president was merely “following the lead” of the French, when the truth was something very different, as progressive commentator and TV host Rachel Maddow correctly pointed out on her program this week, “President Obama wants the narrative to be something different. He very clearly did not want there to be another American military action in the Arab world,” Maddow says.

Clearly, opposition to the U.S. action in Libya isn’t unanimous, certainly on the left. That’s why the head of the prominent progressive group Democracy for America sent an email to supporters on Wednesday titled, “Where do you stand on Libya?” Jim Dean, brother of former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, wrote:

Last weekend, President Obama took decisive action and “authorized armed forces of the United States to begin military action in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians,” yet, many Democrats in Congress are expressing reservations or even outright opposing the decision, We’d like to hear from you. What do you think?

He’s clearly acknowledging a lack of clear consensus on the issue, even among progressives.

Personally, I’m torn. I see obvious benefit in preventing Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi from mowing down his own population merely for wanting to see him out of power, yet I freely acknowledge the host of issues, and potentially deep pitfalls that come with the endeavor.

Before being accused of hypocrisy myself, let me be clear about one thing: the operation in Libya does not equate to that which went on in Iraq.  George W. Bush only retroactively tried to justify the war in Iraq by the brutality of Saddam Hussein. His case for war was built on a web of lies regarding weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be entirely fictitious. When he launched his invasion of Iraq, the United Nations was against it and wanted more time to investigate the WMDs.

The broad international community today is demanding no such delay in acting against Gaddafi. That said though, President Obama has much to answer for in authorizing strikes against Libya. Senior members of his administration ought to be questioned in detail by members of Congress, If Obama’s Libya policy turns out to be wrong, so be it.

The honest and principled discussion, debate, even opposition, ought to continue. But it shouldn’t be clouded by the abhorent kind of politics practiced by the likes of Gingrich and Santorum.

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About Scott Nance

  • pablo

    I wonder why is it in all of these articles written about the Libyan war, no one seems to question the audacity of the current regime in washington to illegally enter into a war. Hell they used to “consult” congress, now they dont even bother to do that. No resolution, no consulatation, just fucking executive fiat, that is clearly unlawful.

    Oh thats right the UN sanctioned it, so hey we dont need a fuckin congress anymore.

    Do we see any noise about that here? Nope not a peep. How about in congress? With the exception of probably under 5 (zero senators), no one even raises an eyebrow.

    By the way if you look at the us constitution closely and with acuity, you will see that the prez is ONLY the commander in chief, WHEN called into action. Think about it. Called into action by whom? Himself??? What a fuckin farce of a government we live under today.

    Only congress has the power to declare war, police actions, no fly zones etc notwithstanding. Not to mention the fact that the current UN resolution concerning Libya is clearly a blatant violation of its own charter. Oh thats ok cuz Ghadaffi is a bad guy………hehehehe

  • pablo

    James Madison on war powers:

    “The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature.”

    My how far we have come, and nobody gives a shit.

  • Clavos

    Sadly, you’re right, Pablo. On all counts.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I read recently that all it took to get the Republicans to be anti-war was eight years of Bush and a Dem in the White House….

  • Enjoy waving that constitution around, Pablo. Nobody in your government seems to remember that such a thing even exists. The price of ignoring the legitimacy of its provisions is now coming home to roost.


    Enjoy yourselves, and the fall of your republic.

  • While you debate the legality of your government’s actions, enjoy this delightful tale of a woman accusing Qaddafi’s goons of gang-raping her. I cite it only because whatever régime replaces Qaddafi’s will be just as bad. So much for the Oreo Knight saving the day.

    Aren’t you Americans glad you are wearing the Oreo hat in this dispute?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    ‘Oreo Knight’

    Ruvy – more than anyone else on the planet, Jews should know the wrongness of racial prejudice.

  • Glenn,

    Obama is a white man culturally and educationally – and has black skin. That is the very definition black activists applied to people they viewed as traitors to their race – Oreos. I could care less whether Obama is a traitor to black people – that is not my problem. But I call it as I see it. The guy fits the definition to a tee. And read my link – and see the futility of your government’s actions in Libya. The scum who will come to power will be just as bad as the scum in power.

    I call it as I see it. Don’t assume YOU know what is my mind. You don’t.

  • zingzing

    and glenn calls it as he sees it. and it certainly does look like simple-ass racism. but you know, it’s cool, the blacks call each other that word, so you can obviously use it as well.

    “The scum who will come to power will be just as bad as the scum in power.”

    that’s a distinct possibility, and the easiest one to call for sure. but it’s far from the only possibility. they could be worse. or they could be better. and they may or may not be scum. but it might certainly be a waste of time. you’re not surprising anyone with this profound revelation, ruvy. it’s actually kind of lazily expected of you by now.

  • “The scum who will come to power will be just as bad as the scum in power.”

    I don’t know or care what you expect, zing – lazily or otherwise. The Libyan rebel commander admitted to al-Qaeda links according to this article in the Telegraph. I remembered reading this some days ago elsewhere and made my assertions accordingly.

    You see, if the dateline on a story says New Paltz, NY, you probably won’t care very much. But if it talks about the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, you are more likely to. That logic applies to me, also.

  • If you didn’t get what I told you, pull up a map of the State of New York. Find New Paltz, and then find Greenpoint. You’re a sharp boy. You’ll get the point….

  • zingzing

    got it the first time, old boy.

  • iball

    “enjoy this delightful tale of a woman accusing Qaddafi’s goons of gang-raping her.”

    She was dragged from the hotel before she could describe how the goons had eaten her baby. Turns out it was a dingo.

  • stephen michael slee

    I didnt know about Mr Al-Hasidi thanks for bringing it to my attention if he was handed over to the us and released well i must go along with it congress mustnt have considered him a threat and the english government know aswell thanks to the internet at least this information is passed down the line in its own way.

  • John Lake

    We’ve all seen the “alleged” attack of the woman, with a room full of men unable to prevent it, on the news, repeatedly. So, twas the dingo’s ate her baby!
    While I have our attention, Obama is a very intelligent, educated, and wise man. None that came before could respond to questions at new conferences as he does. Its stirring!

  • Boeke

    During the Bush years when my rightist friends were cheering the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, I pointed out to them that they would regret such views since, by their accounts,democrats are even more abusive of government power than Bush.

    And still they went ahead, cheering Bush excesses, justifying unleashed executive privilege through precedent.

    They aggressively scorned the ACLU.

    So, how does it feel, idiots? Are you finally coming to regret the abuses of power such as illegal invasions, torture, illegal detention, suspension of habeus corpus, Gitmo, etc.?
    Now that you’ve surrendered American constitutional rights what are you going to do? Do you really think you can gain them back with your precious little popguns?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Boeke –

    Don’t you know that as soon as they’ve a Republican president again, they’ll forget all about how much they scorned Obama for bombing Libya and they’ll be oh-so-patriotically cheering the next military adventure by the Great White GOP Hope in the White House?

    Their memories are that short, you know.

  • Clavos

    Then there are those of us who haven’t approved of an American president since Reagan…

    Come to think of it, even he was…doesn’t matter, he’s dead.