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The United States Still Must Lead from the Front

by Keith Koffler on October 21, 2011, 11:03 am

I don’t understand this new military doctrine: Leading with your Behind.

It’s extraordinarily – sorry, can’t resist – half assed.

Obama’s light touch in Libya prolonged the war and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths that likely would not have occurred had more decisive action been taken. The unnecessarily long duration of the fighting likely gave Islamists time, before order could be established, to organize within Libya on their own and with help from abroad by our enemies. And our failure to lend a strong hand will reduce our influence in the crucial aftermath, as Islamists attempt to seize the revolution.

And yet the White House is celebrating. Here is portion of the song Obama offered during his victory dance Thursday in the Rose Garden.

Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end . . . Working in Libya with friends and allies, we’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.

Vice President Biden and senior administration officials are suggesting this is a new bloodless paradigm for fighting that focuses mainly on, well, not fighting: hitting targets from the air, encouraging the locals to achieve our objectives, and getting our inept allies to do as much as possible of the dirty work that still needs to be done.

Said Biden:

NATO got it right. This is more the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward.

Even the Wall Street Journal chimed in with a rapturous piece about the new era of antiseptic warfare.

Sorry, you don’t get something for nothing.

The stated reason for Obama’s intervention into Libya was to protect Libyan civilians, not to overthrow Qaddafi. But it’s arguable that many more civilians died as a result of his actions than would have if the United States and NATO stayed on the sidelines. It is inarguable that total casualties – including those killed fighting on both sides – were far, far greater than if we had done nothing.

Do young men fighting for freedom not count? Ask their mothers.

The main thing we actually achieved here is that we killed Qaddafi.

In early September, the interim Libyan health minister estimated that at least 30,000 Libyans had been killed since the start of fighting in February. Most of these lives presumably ended after U.S. began to intervene in March. 

And the 30,000 estimate is probably very low. It doesn’t include thousands others who were missing or who were killed during the past six weeks. Nor does include some 50,000 who were injured and all the homes and property destroyed and lives wrecked.

This is success?

The United States has once again crapped all over another country without seriously assessing the fallout. Obama did the right thing by intervening, but he did it in such an inept way that he completely undermined his own rationale.

The light and inefficient touch of a NATO bombing campaign in place of forceful leadership from the United States allowed this conflict to continue for months more than it had to, at an unconscionable price in deaths, maimed bodies, and ruined property and lives. And we’re more likely to be facing a new cadre of hostile Mullahcrats.

Obama destroyed the village in order to save it. Rings a bell.

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{ 35 comments }

srdem65 October 21, 2011 at 11:48 am

This wasn’t our fight. We shouldn’t have interferred with what was a civil war in Libya between the tyrannical Muslims and the radical Muslims.

MrO’s military plan was the equivalent of a gangbanger’s drive-by shooting with the same results.; cowardly, deadly and with collateral damage (innocent lives lost). Like the cowardly bully, he rounds up others to actual damage and all the fighting. America isn’t celebrating Kadaffi’s alleged death even though our Prez and Sec of State seem to be giddy with delight.

Susan October 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Totally agree with your comment srdem.

Keith Koffler October 21, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Totally agree with the second paragraph! But I am sympathetic to your thoughts in the first.

Death Ray October 21, 2011 at 11:48 am

Keith, honestly. I just do not know if you conservatives are trying to pull our collective leg or you really, truly do not see the hypocrisy here. But I WANT to know, Keith. I NEED some clarity on what exactly your thought patterns are.

How can the politcal right, the beating heart of our ten year-old dual clusterfucks in Iraq and Afghanistan, possibly be upset by what has been accomplished in Libya? Or to put it another way, if you ARE upset by it, how can you possibly ignore Iraq and Afghanistan in an article condemning our actions?

I am being sincere, Keith. I really need you to explain the Cthulian logic that enables you to keep these military adventures distinct. Was it not a short time ago that conservatives were enraged that the Lockerbie bomber was returned to Libya? Where are the confetti and streamers now that the REAL terrorist is dead? You once wrote:

“Obama’s vacillation and failure to act earlier in this crisis is a problem of Carteresque proportions for him. Even a firm decision not to intervene – while I would disagree with it – would show a consistency and strength of leadership.”

Ooopsie. Khadaffi is history with no American lives lost. Leaving the shooting to the locals while reducing Khadaffi’s military from the air turned out to be the right play. Add on the successful elimination of Osama bin Laden and it looks like a certain someone might just be qualified to be Commander-In-Chief after all.

Meanwhile, let’s check in on the toilet stew that the conservatives brought us: Afghanistan is just waiting for us to withdraw so it can go right back to being Afghanistan, while the destabilizing effects of the war on Pakistan are setting the stage for our next crisis. A whole lot of war for a whole lot of nothing.

Iraq? I guess when you factor out the deception that took us to war there, the enormous cost in civilian deaths (I’m glad to see that you are finally counting the dead, Keith) and of course, the apocalyptic price tag, you can put a smiley face sticker on that one. But then there’s that nagging doubt.

You know the nagging doubt I mean, don’t you Keith? The suspicion that if we’d kept our fingers out of Iraq, that the Arab Spring would have spread there as well, and that we could have played a two-fisted Libyan-style support role and let the Iraqis bring democracy to themselves.

There are reasons to hate the Libyan adventure, but you can’t articulate them, because it went right. Obama may be a lot of things, but he’s no Carter.

Star October 21, 2011 at 11:55 am

Keith can answer for himself if he wants. But I consider all this bloody intervention stuff to be CRAP! Powell with his fake anthrax, waving it around. Cheney murmuring away about the WMD, the Zeitgeist, the I don’t even know anymore. We cannot prevail in countries far from us where the enemy lives there–the enemy will continue to live there and we will have to leave at some point. It’s just the laws of physics. Impossible.

And you know what, Death? Terms like “toilet stew” do not amuse me! Hmpf.

Death Ray October 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

If another term is applicable, Star, I assure you I cannot find it.

Susan October 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I thought you leftists said Afghanistan was the “good war”. Now you’re going to blame Bush for the mess your guy made of it? Bush made a lot of mistakes, but he would have never sent our troops into war with their hands tied behind their back like Obama has done with his rules of engagement.

Death Ray October 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

No leftist you can name has ever called Afghanistan as “the good war”. People sometimes refer to Afghanistan that way because, in contrast to Iraq, at least we have some idea why we are there.

Are you really going to try to float the idea that Obama “made a mess” of Afghanistan? Were we on the cusp of some kind of victory under Bush? All I hear now is the same old “they stand up/we stand down” line of crap we’ve gotten from Day One. Guess what? It’s been ten years. They aren’t gonna stand up.

As for the rules of engagement, that is just some idea you pulled out of thin air. But you know what? Let’s have it your way. Bring back Operation Rolling Thunder. Drown them in oceans of their own blood. Keith will even forget that civilian casualties are upsetting to him now and support you. I’m sure it will work just as well now as it did in Vietnam.

Star October 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Can you hold two seemingly contradictory tenets in your mind–these wars are losers, whether Bush or Obama started them. Some of us feel this way… It is possible to heartily dislike both presidents. I believe Obama did indeed call Afghanistan the good war. I know Keith does not feel exactly this way–I am speaking for me.

Shofar October 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm

DR –

Vietnam was Johnson’s war, a Democrat, so I suppose another Dem would follow his lead.

You seem to be, to borrow from Churchill, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” You write about your opposition to war, yet when Obama starts a military action you support it. You constantly pillory conservatives, yet when called to justify your comments with facts you either disappear or resort to high schoolesque language (ie profanity) in an attempt to get your point across.

Do you not realize that you are more apt to be listened to if you can present cohesive, coherent arguments and refrain from the profanity? We are not only judged by the company we keep, but also by the language we use to convey our thoughts and arguments.

To quote from SG Tallentyre regarding Voltaire’s philosophy, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It is frustrating that you, and by extension the left, seem to have forgotten that civil discourse and debate are essentials in any free society. Your dismissive attitude towards those that disagree with you, and your pejorative comments only diminish any argument you might make.

You would be well served my young friend to read Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and then come back to these pages to present your thoughts without the incessant profanity, and gutter language.

If you truly believe in the things you wax prosaic about, then you will be willing to educate yourself about the history of all humanity, the proper use of debate, and refrain from the tirades of the uneducated (profanity).

Death Ray October 21, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Good Sir-

It is a fine thing to see that so many conservatives here have finally grown sick of the wars! Perhaps there is the possibility that this “civil discourse” you speak of may not be out of arm’s reach after all! (Though I hope you will forgive my brutish tongue this one last time when I say that the cheek you, a Tory, display in demanding the Marquis de Queensbury rules at last be enforced is enough to make me shit out of my nose.)

You will not find in my previous missive a declaration of support for our recent adventure in the desert, No No! Only an eyebrow stringently arched at you and your peers for your seeming ability to rebuke war-as-statecraft ONLY when it is conducted by a President of the wrong political persuasion.

I must also take exception, Dear Fellow, with your claims that I vanish when asked to present facts to back up my arguments. Research any comment I have ever posted and you will find that I have nought once shirked from substantiating my assertions with such tangible proofs as were available.

This discourse has been most agreeable, and I look forward to our next correspondence, especially now that the Hated Moor of Pennsylvania Avenue is withdrawing our lads from the sands of Iraq. I can only wonder how you will find fault with THAT, old chap!

Fecaly Yours,

Death Ray

Star October 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Fecally has two “L’s.” He meant intelligent, not stilted and Robin Hoody.

Knothead October 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm

One day does make history for OblameBush’s military superiority. Time will tell what a truly sad road we are going down..

Hey Death Ray, that is a real good name for a devil worshiper.
How much money do you make spewing hatred from your pie hole?

Death Ray October 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

It’s tough squeezing the hatred out past all that delicious pie.

Keith Koffler October 21, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Knothead, I’ve asked DR not to flame, and so he shouldn’t be flamed either. He makes lots of good arguments in this comment thread and shows ample restraint, in my view.

Keith Koffler October 21, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Death Ray,

I understand your sense that I’m merely looking to Obamabash and am inconsistent in my war cheerleading. But your own criticism presupposes knowledge of my views on Iraq and Afghanistan that you assume you have, but don’t.

But I am being consistent. Both Bush and Obama made the right decisions to go to war, in my view, and both fought them poorly, for the most part.

I supported all three of these wars: Afghanistan to remove the Taliban and al Qaeda, direct threats to U.S. national security; Iraq because of the unified view of the world’s intelligence agencies that Saddam was cooking up a wonderful stew of WMD for us; and Libya because I felt that, though I did not want to expend precious American resources, the United States could not sit back and watch a wholesale massacre be committed by a man who by the way had much American blood on his hands.

All three presidents made the right decision to go to war, and all three fought the wars ineptly. Did you think I believed Bush Winston Churchill? Actually, Churchill made plenty of mistakes himself.

The lesson of Vietnam, once known as the Powell Doctrine, is that if the U.S. goes to war, it gets in it massively and to win. Bush did that neither in Afghanistan nor Iraq. He listened instead to Rumsfeld, a minimalist who felt technology could obviate the need for manpower. When Bush finally got smart and fired Rumsfeld and added the surge troops to Iraq, he got the result he was looking for. It was a great moment, but only after years of resistance.

Obama tried the same thing in Afghanistan but in a way that vastly reduced the odds of success – signaling he really wanted to get out and even telling the Taliban how long it had to hang in there by setting a withdrawal date. He has also removed the troops from Iraq too soon. I’ll talk about that tomorrow. My views on how poorly he conducted the Libya war you have above.

Death Ray October 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Your points are well made, although your whole concept of Libya has me scratching my head. For the record, I was not in favor of interfering in Libya, simply for the fact that it appeared to be yet another military intervention on our part for less than forthright reasons. Enforcing a no-fly zone seemed to have legitimacy, but as it became clear that NATO was obviously out to overthrow the regime, it became just another Iraq cock-and-bull story in my eyes. I just get tired of the bullshit, and don’t agree with being told nobel lies.

That said, I don’t see how you can disagree with the outcome. If you were in favor of the intervention in the first place, it seems illogical to complain about it’s overwhelming success. You claim that we should have followed the Powell Doctrine into Libya. Why? Overwhelming force refers to full scale land wars. By your theory, we should be conducting 24/7 bombing runs over Waziristan and Somalia, not drone strikes. (And by the way, the fact that we are de facto “in theater” in so many countries ought to remind you of the price tag associated with additional military burdens these days).

So for once, the US was not in command of someone else’s war. Why is that bad? The ones we have taken the lead on have become total quagmires. Like it or not, a light touch on our part (if you can call the collective air power of the US and Europe a light touch) was the right call. The Libyans shed their own blood,as they should, and a Syrian style massacre was prevented.

I do not think you can reasonably say that fewer people would have died had we done nothing, and still less explain why that would have been GOOD, especially considering your pro-Iraq stance, which has a body count in the hundreds of thousands.

Star October 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm

If you were in favor of the intervention in the first place, it seems illogical to complain about it’s overwhelming success.

Hundreds of millions of US and allied dollars, displacement, refugees, thousands of stolen small and bigger arms, clinics of young able men shot to giblets, chaos, people’s businesses ruined or blown apart, and a vacuum for heaven knows which opportunists to fill–this is not overwhelming success to me. If you meant the killing of a tyrant–yes, he was slaughtered.

Keith Koffler October 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

See, I try to respond to you and get accused of not caring about people dying. Pedestrian and not unexpected. Just goes to show you . . .

Sharon Slayton October 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm

If Gadhafi was killed, and that’s a big If in my mind because of the conflicting stories and pics, the actions on the part of NATO (and the U.S.) are inexcusable. Thousands of civilians were killed unnecessarily, many by fuel explosive devices or chemical warfare. These crimes should be and are being investigated, as is the so-called death of Gadhafi. So far, there is no proof other than photoshop videos. Obama used military force, encouraged by Hillary C, and spared no lives or villages in the bombing and destruction. We have no guarantee that this provisional government can lead the country, where tribes and officials are already fighting among themselves. I don’t applaud Obama’s handling of the mission or his intervention in the first place. We have no money and very few friends, yet he and his gang are intent upon gaining more power and more oil, which is really what it’s all about. There was nothing humanitarian about Libya, or Egypt, as has been proven, and no one should praise his misguided leadership.

Death Ray October 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Bring the troops home, Sharon? Bring the troops home?? ohpleasepleasemakethelogicalconnection….

MT for re-redistribution October 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm

It just doesn’t matter a damn bit WHAT we do in the mideast, they are still going to hate us, they are still going to incubate extremist groups that terrorize, they are still going to go straight to hell the moment we turn our back on them.

We need to:
1) Get every US citizen out of the armpit of the world, except maybe a few hundred spies
2) Get our economic well-being out by implementing a SERIOUS plan to break our dependence on islamic energy sources. (that’s what the fed gov’t is supposed to do for us)
3) Watch as they melt down after getting what they want (US out of their bidness)

Susan October 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Carter created the Department of Energy in 1977, so that nothing like the Arab oil embargo would happen again. Here we are 34 years later and we are as dependent on foreign oil as we have ever been. Not to mention the fact that the DOE is now using taxpayer money as a slush fund for politicians to play venture capitalist and payoffs to campaign supporters. Whoever the next president turns out to be, I’m hoping they will appoint Sarah Palin as the Secretary of the Department of Energy so she can clean it up and shut it down.

MT for re-redistribution October 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I always thought Carter screwed the pooch when he failed to set a path out of the mideast after the oil crisis. If the federal government has ANY primary purpose for it’s existence, it should be to reduce our dependence on outside resources. In Bible terms, for those so inclined, it’s called “paying tribute”.

Susan October 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm

He did call Afghanistan the “good war” and a quick internet search will come up with plenty of proof. Not that it matters, it was just another lie to get the ‘war hawk’ vote in 2008. I want all our troops home from the Middle East now. Obama’s rules of engagement have caused a record number of troop deaths in Afghanistan. He is more concerned about civilian casualties than he is about the lives of the men and women under his command. Not that you can tell the difference between civilians and the ‘enemy’ because they don’t wear a uniform and they have no compunction about sacrificing their families. They are soldiers for Allah.

One example of his rules of engagement… A group of soldiers are pinned down and call for backup, they were refused because of a new rule about no air power.
http://floppingaces.net/2009/09/09/obamas-rules-of-engagement-in-afghanistan-costing-our-troops-lives/

Susan October 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm

This was meant to be a reply to DR.

Death Ray October 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I haven’t found anything online that quotes Obama calling Afghanistan “the good war” in the context which you are suggesting, i.e., without using it to indicate that Iraq, at least, was a fraud. But I am glad to hear that you want the troops home. You sound more like a leftist every day.

Susan October 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Any reaction to the rules of engagement article I linked to? Does the name Dakota Meyer ring a bell?

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Death Ray October 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I did read that bit on rules of engagement, and frankly, that’s war for you. I cannot parse the happenings of that day, and of course it is terrible if the soldiers were actually hung out to dry, but I suspect that someone didn’t have their head screwed on straight in the planning stages of the operation.

If your point is that Barack Obama is Lt. Gorman, sending his soldiers unarmed into a nest of demons, you are going to have to offer more than one anecdote… especially when it is the generals that make the final call in ground operations like that one.

Susan October 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm

If he takes the credit for the successes of our military, he must accept responsibility for the failures of the commanders he put in charge. As commander-in-chief, he is responsible for the welfare of every soldier under his command. Must be challenging to be the defender of such a loathsome liar. It must pay well…

Death Ray October 23, 2011 at 10:36 am

I think you are just being picayune.

Susan October 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Transference much?

Sharon Slayton March 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Your last statement death ray is an interesting one. It is true that the generals are supposed to make the final call, simply because they have military strategy and experience in this arena. Therein lies the problem, Obama listens to no one, not military, not civilian, not Congress, and not his staff. That is why Egypt and Libya are in total chaos, with no real government in place. Fighting continues, and just because Obama or Hillary won’t admit it, the so-called intervention proved nothing. Yet, Obama continues on his merry way, demanding and threatening, but not admitting he has no clue. Cowards do seem to talk in circles, taking one step forward, then 5 steps back. Time out to sing a few songs, throw a few parties, and make another boring speech. He rides upon the coat tails of arrogance and a false sense of superiority. You wonder if we should bring the troops home…now that’s amusing…the troops should never have been sent there in the first place. Obama has started or instigated a number of wars, but in reality, won none.

Mark Fisher December 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I will “unfriend” anyone who refers my email to the dweeb.

Death Ray October 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm

JE-

I’m sorry, I did not make it past “last days”.