It is tempting and certainly very easy to point out that Obama's war (or Obama's "kinetic military action," or "time-limited, scope-limited military action," or whatever the latest ever more preposterous evasion is) is at odds with everything candidate Obama said about U.S. military action before his election. And certainly every attempt the president makes to explain his Libyan adventure is either cringe-makingly stupid ("I'm accustomed to this contradiction of being both a commander-in-chief but also somebody who aspires to peace") or alarmingly revealing of a very peculiar worldview:
"That's why building this international coalition has been so important," he said the other day. "It is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions that are important not only to us, but are important internationally."
That's great news. Who doesn't enjoy volunteering other people? The Arab League, for reasons best known to itself, decided that Col. Gadhafi had outlived his sell-by date. Granted that the region's squalid polities haven't had a decent military commander since King Hussein fired General Sir John Glubb half-a-century back, how difficult could it be even for Arab armies to knock off a psychotic transvestite guarded by Austin Powers fembots? But no: Instead, the Arab League decided to volunteer the U.S. military.
Likewise, the French and the British. Libya's special forces are trained by Britain's SAS. Four years ago, President Sarkozy hosted a state visit for Col. Gadhafi, his personal security detail of 30 virgins, his favorite camel and a 400-strong entourage that helped pitch his tent in the heart of Paris. Given that London and Paris have the third- and fourth-biggest military budgets on the planet and that between them they know everything about Gadhafi's elite troops, sleeping arrangements, guard-babes and dromedaries, why couldn't they take him out? But no: They, too, decided to volunteer the U.S. military.
But, as I said, it's easy to mock the smartest, most articulate man ever to occupy the Oval Office. Instead, in a nonpartisan spirit, let us consider why it is that the United States no longer wins wars. OK, it doesn't exactly lose (most of) them, but nor does it have much to show for a now-60-year old pattern of inconclusive outcomes. American forces have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan for a decade: Doesn't that seem like a long time for a noncolonial power to be spending hacking its way through the worthless terrain of a Third World dump? If the object is to kill terrorists, might there not be some slicker way of doing it? And, if the object is something else entirely, mightn't it be nice to know what it is?
I use the word "noncolonial" intentionally. I am by temperament and upbringing an old-school imperialist: There are arguments to be made for being on the other side of the world for decades on end if you're claiming it as sovereign territory and rebuilding it in your image, as the British did in India, Belize, Mauritius, the Solomon Islands, you name it. Likewise, there are arguments to be made for saying, sorry, we're a constitutional republic, we don't do empire. But there's not a lot to be said for forswearing imperialism and even modest cultural assertiveness, and still spending 10 years getting shot up in Afghanistan helping to create, bankroll and protect a so-called justice system that puts a man on death row for converting to Christianity.Read the rest.