The democracy promoters get their way

When I last commented on Libya, which was last evening, I thought that despite the Security Council vote the U.S. would still not get involved, because the Congress would not approve of any U.S. military action. It seems I was wrong. President Obama has issued an ultimatum to Kaddafi that he must stop fighting the rebels or else. Obama is not looking for any Congressional authority. He is acting as though he holds in his hands the sole power to order U.S. military attacks against a country that has done nothing to ours and that does not threaten our country or our citizens in any way. And apparently the Congress is not protesting Obama’s seizure of warmaking power.

There have of course been many instances in history when the U.S. president, without the authorization of Congress, has ordered American military forces to take action in a foreign country or against a foreign government. But in each of those cases there was some concrete American interest involved, such as American businessmen or students whose safety had been put at risk in that foreign country. Here, as far as I know, there is not a scintilla of a U.S. interest at stake and no one has claimed that there is, unless making John McCain, William Kristol and the boys of NR feel good is a U.S. national interest.

The only precedent I can think of is the Clinton/NATO war against Serbia, a completely unjustified action and one of the worst things America ever did.

When the commander in chief on his own authority orders military action against a foreign government for a purpose having nothing to do with any legitimate U.S. interest, then he truly is the alien in chief.

There is one silver lining. The fact that it is a coalition of nations acting in Libya, and that the U.S. is not even taking the lead in this coalition, makes it less likely that this will be an Iraq- or Afghanistan-type involvement for the U.S. However, it is likely to be more of a Bosnia-type involvement. American and NATO troops are still sitting in Bosnia guarding the peace, sixteen years after the Dayton peace accords under which the troops were supposed to be there for one year.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON—President Obama on Friday ordered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to carry out an immediate cease-fire, withdraw his forces from rebel-held cities and stop all attacks on Libyan civilians or face military action from the United States and its allies in Europe and the Arab world.

“Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable,” Mr. Obama said from the East Room of the White House. Those terms, particularly lifting the siege of opposition-held territories, would give the rebels a reprieve, if not a military advantage.

Libya had pledged a cease-fire hours before. But reports from rebel-held territory indicated that the attacks by Qaddafi militias continued unabated in the east and west.

Government forces continued to advance on Benghazi, the rebel’s capital in the east, and people fleeing nearby Ajdabiya said troops were bombing and conducting assaults in the afternoon. The western city of Misurata was under siege, its electricity and water cut by the government, and doctors reported that at least 25 people were killed, including 16 unarmed civilians. In Tripoli, the repression of peaceful protests continued, and gunfire was heard late in the evening.

President Obama said he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to a meeting in Paris on Saturday to consult with France, Britain and members of the Arab League on further action. An allied military strike on Libya did not appear imminent on Friday night.

Mr. Obama spoke 18 hours after the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Colonel Qaddafi, and as violence raged across the Middle East. In Yemen, security forces and government supporters shot and killed at least 40 protesters. In Bahrain, the government tore down the monument adopted by the country’s rebel movement, the pearl in the middle of Pearl Square in Manama. In Syria, a police state where protest is rare, large demonstrations broke out in four cities.

In contrast to the military intervention in Libya, the administration has restricted itself in those countries to statements condemning the violence and urging restraint.

Mr. Obama used tough language that was at times reminiscent of President George W. Bush before the war in Iraq.

“If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action,” Mr. Obama said, laying out a policy decision made after several weeks in which the administration sent conflicting signals about its willingness to use force to aid the rebels at a time of upheaval throughout the Arab world.

But unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama cast the United States in a supporting, almost reluctant role, reflecting the clear desire of the Pentagon, which has been strongly resistant to another American war in the Middle East. He said that Britain, France and Arab nations would take the lead, and that United States ground forces would not enter Libya.

The White House and the Pentagon offered no other details on what the precise role of the United States military would be in any strikes against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces, but an administration official said late Friday that the United States might take the lead in an attempt to destroy Libya’s air defenses at the beginning of operations.

“We may do the shaping on the front end,” the administration official said. The official was referring to the ability of American forces, greater than that of the allies, to strike targets precisely from long distances, whether by missiles launched from submarines, surface warships or attack jets.

The official said that the goal was to limit American military involvement to the initial stages of any action, and that it was the administration’s expectation that the allies could control the skies over Libya once Colonel Qaddafi’s air defenses are destroyed.

Mr. Obama’s remarks at the White House capped a day of diplomacy mixed with military threats in Washington, London and Paris, where the allies forged a united front against Colonel Qaddafi. Britain, France and then the United States responded with almost identically worded skepticism after Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister, announced a cease-fire, his hands shaking, and European officials indicated that they were prepared to move quickly if a decision was made to take military action.

“We will judge him by his actions, not his words,” Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain told the BBC in London. [cont.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 18, 2011 11:06 PM | Send

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