The Case Against War

There must be a predisposition against war and we should only engage in just wars.

Since I have opposed every American use of force over the period of, roughly, the last 40 years, I think that my views might form a good counterpoint to those expressed by James earlier today. I believe that there must be a predisposition against war and that we should only engage in just wars.

The theory of a just war has been in place over approximately the period of the last 500 years in the West and I won’t attempt to rehash it in its entirety here. Among the general criteria of a just war is that there must be a just cause, a legitimate authority, it must be fought as a last resort and with the right intention, it must have just ends, and there must be a probability of success. In my view all of our military interventions over the last several decades have failed one or more of these tests.

The invasion of Grenada was unjust: it failed on grounds of legitimacy and it was not fought as a last resort. The intervention in Kosovo was unjust: it failed on grounds of legitimacy, morality, and probability of success. The measure of that failure is that there still isn’t a viable state in Kosovo. I considered the invasion of Iraq unjust. It could be justified on legal and moral grounds but I always believed that it failed on pragmatic grounds.

In general self-defense is always justified. Regime change as a sole objective is not. Humanitarian intervention may be just or unjust; the requirements for its justification are much more stringent. In my view in order for a humanitarian intervention to be just in addition to the criteria for a just war the act that are being punished or to be prevented must be gross, persistent, and unbearable.

In the case of Libya I believe the use of military force is an abuse of power and illegal (the United States has not been attacked by Libya and is not in imminent danger of attack) and the Congress has not given the use approval. I also believe that it is immoral. It is unclear to me whether it is a last resort.

Clearly, Qaddafi’s actions are gross and persistent; they are inhumane. Are his actions today worse than they were two months ago? Twenty years ago? Are they worse than the Mugabe’s actions in Zimbabwe, China’s actions in Tibet, Russia’s actions in Chechnya, or the king of Bahrain’s actions? I don’t believe so.

Is the prospect of success greater in Libya than they would be in Zimbabwe or in Bahrain? Or are our actions directed against a leader we despise and who has proved troublesome over the years?

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Military Affairs, World Politics, , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Jay Tea says:

    Dave, a thoughtful piece. But I gotta quibble with some things:

    Legally, I believe Obama is in the clear. The War Powers Act says he can act without Congressional approval for up to 90 days.

    As for the debate over the war… that ship done sailed. We’re waging war against Libya.

    But it’s certainly worth asking why Obama needed the approval of our allies and the UN to act, but not Congress, or made his case to the American people…

    J.

  2. Tony says:

    “Is the prospect of success greater in Libya than they would be in Zimbabwe…”

    Almost certainly yes, as Zimbabwe is landlocked and all its neighbours would oppose intervention and deny overflight rights and basing.

    Bahrain is another story, as is Yemen.

    Incidentally, I note that the Arab League is already condeming France, Britain and the USA. Apparently what is happening is not what they had in mind, even though what is happening is pretty obviously what was going to happen if an NFZ was to be instituted.

  3. While I am in agreement with some of the propositions put forth, here are a few notes.

    1. The perfect remains the enemy of the good. Just because we cannot solve every problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to solve any of them.

    2. In the complex world we live in, self defense can easily take on forms beyond an imminent attack.

    3. Your criteria for success can easily satisfy the question of why we don’t address, say, Tibet or Chechnya,

    4. Not sure I understand why the liberation of Iraq wasn’t pragmatic. Results were problematic but the end goals seem to be in sight, Would have been nice to have more general agreement, but Libya shows how hard and slow that is, which, of course, may be a feature rather than a bug.

    5. In general, since about WWII our biggest failure has been in not clearly defining what success meant and then doing what was necessary to obtain it. Unconditional surrender has a clarity that has been missing ever since we stopped using it. Anything less than that really does beg the question of is it worth it?

  4. john personna says:

    I know that many of us here are unhappy with the scale of US commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of you see Libya as a continuation of those commitments, and so make general arguments about the purposes of war.

    To parahrase Al Haig, if Iraq and Afghanistan are your problem, talk about those. Don’t fight that war elsewhere.

    Do not (help) concentrate on the distaction.

  5. john personna says:

    (If we were to grow an anti-war constituency at this point, I think it would be most useful if it was about I&A.)

  6. Kylopod says:

    >we should only engage in just wars

    I’m sorely tempted to make a snarky reply, but I’ll resist it. Let’s just say this statement is not very informative. Every war is just according to those who wage it. I found your piece unduly vague. I do agree that war should be avoided, and I think that most wars in US history have not been justified. (In my adult life, which is a lot shorter than yours, I supported the Afghanistan War with strong doubts, and I opposed the Iraq War.) In any discussion about when war is or isn’t just, you need to deal with the following questions:

    Should war only be fought if we’re directly attacked first? If there are other reasons, what are they? How about if there is information about an imminent attack? How about if there’s a possibility but not a certainty? How certain do we have to be? Are there any situations where you think we ought to go to war to “protect American interests” even if no attack on the U.S. is imminent? Are there any situations in which we ought to go to war to stop genocide in another country, even if the country poses no threat to the U.S.?

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m sorely tempted to make a snarky reply, but I’ll resist it. Let’s just say this statement is not very informative. Every war is just according to those who wage it. I found your piece unduly vague.

    Google is your friend. Just war theory has been written about at great length over a period of more than a millenium, beginning with Augustine of Hippo. It’s neither vague nor ambiguous. It’s just beyond the scope of this brief blog post.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    I think 500 year-old Roman Catholic moral theory can be useful and informative, but it may not mesh too well with modern reality.

    I don’t understand a concept of justice that would justify the inaction of the powerful in the face of a genocide they can stop. (Rwanda as the example.) It’s morally identical to watching a rape or murder take place and failing to intervene or call the police.

    Obviously there is a pragmatic issue: can it be done? Can it be done without making matters worse? In the case of Libya the answer is yes, of course it can. Gaddafi has tanks and materiel strung out on a line from Tripoli to Benghazi. In military terms that’s a gimme. Already it appears his air defense has been crippled or is on its way to being crippled. No re-supply is likely to occur.

    The alternative is to stand by while a madman with revenge on his mind takes a city of a million people. We discussed “things unseen” in another thread and on another topic. But here we need to keep in mind that the alternative to intervention is not peace, but a probable bloodbath.

    A bloodbath that incidentally would write the template for other states and militaries in the area: Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, possibly Egypt still.

    I think that as democracy spreads we will need to move toward some form of world police, a world government with limited powers. I realize the conservatives will cry apocalypse! at that. But in the modern interconnected world that is increasingly democratic, increasingly free market, and increasingly intolerant of Genghis Khan style slaughter, it’s an inevitable and welcome evolution. Part of what we’ve seen since WW2 has been that evolution — the UN, the UNSC, NATO, various coalitions. It’s fits and starts as great changes usually are, but I think that’s where we are heading.

  9. Kylopod says:

    >Just war theory has been written about at great length over a period of more than a millenium, beginning with Augustine of Hippo. It’s neither vague nor ambiguous.

    I never said it was. I said your post is unduly vague. Here is your paragraph attempting to summarize just war theory, with me bolding relevant portions:

    Among the general criteria of a just war is that there must be a just cause, a legitimate authority, it must be fought as a last resort and with the right intention, it must have just ends, and there must be a probability of success. In my view all of our military interventions over the last several decades have failed one or more of these tests.

    The problem is that much of this description is circular, because you keep coming back to justness, rightness, legitimacy, etc., as the criteria for judging the justness of wars. Yet in just about any war–particularly the ones fought by the U.S.–the people who waged them almost certainly believed they had just cause, legitimate authority, right intention, and just ends. (Or at least they claimed to believe these things.) You may believe otherwise, but you haven’t clearly outlined any fundamental philosophical differences. All you’ve explained is that you don’t think these wars are just, right, or legitimate, whereas others do.

    In contrast, here is the Catholic Catechism’s summation of just war, courtesy of Wikipedia:

    * the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
    * all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
    * there must be serious prospects of success;
    * the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

    This is still very general, but it leads to concrete boundaries, and it doesn’t fall back on the fallacy of using justness as the criteria for judging justness.

  10. mattb says:

    @Charles:

    Not sure I understand why the liberation of Iraq wasn’t pragmatic. Results were problematic but the end goals seem to be in sight

    Just out of curiosity, what do you consider the end goals for the Iraq war/occupation?

  11. mattb says:

    Complete side/commenting question – what’s the tag for quoting without ending up with bold/strong text?

  12. PD Shaw says:

    “In the case of Libya I believe the use of military force is an abuse of power and illegal (the United States has not been attacked by Libya and is not in imminent danger of attack) and the Congress has not given the use approval.”

    Dave, I believe the conventional view on these things (not mine) is that a Security Council resolution legitimizes the use of force pursuant to the U.N. charter, and that domestically, the President does not need Congressional approval when acting under international treaty (see, Korean Conflict). I think the latter is a particularly pernicious bit of internationalism.

    “I also believe that it is immoral. It is unclear to me whether it is a last resort.”

    Morality is in the eye of the beholder. To me, the big problem is the probability of a desirable end state. If the regime is changed in a significantly positive way, the outcome will be moral, but whether that can happen or even if that is the goal is unclear. Also, I don’t know the extent of war powers to be used by the U.S. or other countries. Proportionality is also consideration.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    PD:

    The end is always unclear. It can’t be otherwise since we are unable to outrun time and see the future, and because real life is not a mathematical equation where the end can be calculated based on available data, and because the “end” is an illusion. We still aren’t at the “end” of our own civil war.

  14. Jay Tea says:

    The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

    J.

  15. TG Chicago says:

    reynolds: “But here we need to keep in mind that the alternative to intervention is not peace, but a probable bloodbath.”

    So what happens when we empower the rebels, then they take over the Gaddafi-held regions and *they* engage in a bloodbath?

  16. anjin-san says:

    Is this action moral? In my mind, the Lockerbie bombing all by itself justifies action against Kadafi on our part. Hopefully, it will end in his death or arrest, followed by him answering for his actions both against Americans and his own people.

    Arabs have a lot of good reasons to be unhappy with us. We have supported various dictators in the middle east for decades to maintain the status quo and keep the oil flowing. Perhaps here we can take a step that will balance the books a bit and help these folks move towards a better form of government.

  17. Jay Tea says:

    Arabs have a lot of good reasons to be unhappy with us.

    And we have even more reasons to be unhappy with them.

    J.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Chicago:

    This is why we don’t have computers to run the world: it’s full of hard, life and death decisions, all based on insufficient data, the outcomes obscured, the risks only guessed at.

    This is why I am impatient with people who love grand unifying theories of politics or economics or human behavior. To one extent or another it’s always a craps shoot.

  19. TG Chicago says:

    @reynolds: “Obviously there is a pragmatic issue: can it be done? Can it be done without making matters worse? In the case of Libya the answer is yes, of course it can. Gaddafi has tanks and materiel strung out on a line from Tripoli to Benghazi. In military terms that’s a gimme. Already it appears his air defense has been crippled or is on its way to being crippled. No re-supply is likely to occur.”

    What here is substantially different than Iraq? We defeated Saddam’s proper military quite easily, but we still made matters worse.

    I’ll grant that in Iraq, we were upsetting a steady state while in Libya there is no equilibrium. The situation was in flux even before we got involved. That is a distinct difference, no doubt. But I take the Daniel Larison view that our involvement could easily be even more disruptive.

  20. anjin-san says:

    > And we have even more reasons to be unhappy with them.

    Really? How many of your relatives have been imprisoned, tortured or killed by a government they prop up?

    What reasons do we have to be unhappy with them – 9.11? The action of a very small group of people. Comparing that to the policies of the United States government is a raging false equivalence.

    > What here is substantially different than Iraq?

    The people in Libya rose up against Kadhafi, they are dying in the streets to oppose him. They have shown they are willing to put their lives on the line for freedom. You also have to put the situation in Libya within the context of recent events across the middle east which are unprecedented.

    What’s different? What isn’t different?

  21. john personna says:

    Jay Tea wrote:

    The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

    The sad thing is, that as long as Jay lives, he will not put 2+2 together, and understand why GWB had to gin-up intelligence to fit the policy.

  22. ponce says:

    The basic motivation for war is theft.

    America is populated by the descendants of thieves.

    We’ll always take the chance to go to war.

    It is in our blood.

  23. Stan says:

    I think the administration is trying to avoid a repeat of the bombing of Hama :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre

    To that extent, Obama is justified (I think).

  24. Jay Tea says:

    Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Personna. I forgot the quote marks.

    J.

  25. TG Chicago says:

    @anjin-san: “The people in Libya rose up against Kadhafi, they are dying in the streets to oppose him. They have shown they are willing to put their lives on the line for freedom. You also have to put the situation in Libya within the context of recent events across the middle east which are unprecedented.”

    This is all true, but I’m not seeing why any of these things indicate that we should get involved. How do we know that the people rising up against Gaddafi are in any way preferable to him? How do we keep this from being a protracted entanglement? What is our plan for leaving Libya a better place than we found it? These are the similarities to Iraq.

  26. anjin-san says:

    > The sad thing is, that as long as Jay lives, he will not put 2+2 together

    The really sad thing is that he will never understand why learning to add is a better thing than allowing yourself to be fed canned ideological conclusions like “arabs bad”, “Muslims scary”, “Obama sucks” “Palin rocks” and so on.

  27. anjin-san says:

    > How do we know that the people rising up against Gaddafi are in any way preferable to him? How do we keep this from being a protracted entanglement? What is our plan for leaving Libya a better place than we found it? These are the similarities to Iraq.

    All reasonable points. To me the a key differentiator, aside from what I have already mentioned, is our motivations. In the case of Iraq, we know that PNAC was hot for war with Iraq well before Bush even took office. If was a war waiting for an excuse, not something that had been driven by actual events. Hence the phony WMD threat. Our actions in Libya are being driven by real events, not a PR exercise.

    For me it just comes back to having more confidence in the motivations and competence of the Obama administration. Obama is a careful, intelligent man, Bush a reckless and stupid one. Time will tell if this confidence is justified.

  28. Jay Tea says:

    I’m sorry, Mr. Personna. I forgot to include the quotation marks.

    J.

  29. After Vietnam a group of military officers developed a highly restrictive set of criteria for deciding to go to War. Originally know as the Weinberger Doctrine, these criteria are in many ways close to the just war principles. Here is a link to my April 1991 article in Army magazine. As it turns out, the Weinberger (later the Powell) doctrine had little effect on succeeding administrations. As far as I can see, neither it, nor the just war principles have been consciously considered.

  30. Jay Tea says:

    On a completely non-snarky note, though, there are a couple of concepts here that we need to keep in mind: “sovereignty” and” reciprocity.”

    How would we have felt if other nations had wanted to intervene in, say, our own civil rights struggle? Or wanted to send in arbitrators for the 2000 presidential elections?

    As atrocious as what Qadaffi was/is doing, he was limiting himself to his own borders, and not threatening any other nations (a refreshing change from the days before GHWB scared him straight). There was no clear and present danger to the US, our interests, or our allies — at least, not one that could be applied even more strongly to other nations ahead of Libya.

    But hell, we’re in it now. We’re committed. Let’s back Obama until we win in Libya, which will be denoted by… er… something, I’m sure.

    THEN we can have our little chat with the administration about just what we will — and will not — tolerate being done in our name.

    For starters, why not take a page from the Wisconsin demonstrators and occupy the White House?

    J.

  31. john personna says:

    “But hell, we’re in it now. We’re committed. Let’s back Obama until we win in Libya, which will be denoted by… er… something, I’m sure.”

    That’s pretty silly. We aren’t committed to anything, and can walk away pretty easily right now. The same is true to much lesser extent of the leaders, France in particular. They are right there, right across the Med, prime target for retaliation.

  32. Jay Tea says:

    Mr. personna, we were committed the instant our Commander In Chief declared “Qadaffi has to go.” At that point, anything less is a failure.

    I don’t think he should have said it, but he did. So we gotta carry that out. Or we’ll have shown how we don’t really mean what we say and we should not be taken at our word.

    I only wish to Christ Obama learns from this — yes, he can speak quite eloquently. But that means jack squat when people notice that there’s virtually no substance behind his words — they’ll just start ignoring him. And that would be very, very bad.

    J.

  33. john personna says:

    So far we have done much less in 2011 than we did in 1986. Back then we risked overflight with our bombers, and risked losing airmen over Libyan territory.

    You age going to tell me we could walk away then, but not now, because the President made a verbal gambit?

  34. john personna says:

    Correction. We did lose US airmen when we bombed Libya in 1986:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_El_Dorado_Canyon#American

  35. michael reynolds says:

    Chicago:

    As I just wrote to you on the other thread, I don’t in any way want to minimize the chances that this thing goes pear-shaped.

    I don’t think it’s quite fair to say things are worse in Iraq. It’s not exactly free beer night, and we have a very mixed result to put it mildly, but I don’t know that it’s worse. Then again, the fact that I can’t really say that it’s better is rather telling, isn’t it?

    My guess, for what it’s worth, is that this will be better because we have the experience of Iraq, and because Obama is inherently cautious. I think it goes like this:

    1) We stop the advance on Benghazi and blow up a bunch of the Libyan military’s stuff.

    2) We arm the rebels through Egypt. Or “someone” does. This changes the balance of power.

    3) The Libyan military doesn’t like the odds of fighting a war with no hope of re-supply.

    4) Gaddafi accidentally shoots himself a dozen times using a gun held by an ambitious Colonel.

    5) Some other collection of slightly less obnoxious a**holes takes over, holds a single election, and begins looting the country.

    Guarantees? Um, no. Hopes.

  36. G.A.Phillips says:

    Obama is a careful, intelligent man, Bush a reckless and stupid one.

    Obama is a dumb a$$ progressive ideologue and a union puppet, W, well W was W…

  37. anjin-san says:

    > How would we have felt if other nations had wanted to intervene in, say, our own civil rights struggle? Or wanted to send in arbitrators for the 2000 presidential elections?

    They could want all they wish to. That’s an intention. The don’t have the capabilities to carry it out, and we do have the capability to defend ourselves. And you fancy yourself as someone who is savvy on military issues?

    How would we have felt? We would have been annoyed, and we would have told them to kiss our asses. That is a return we get on our considerable return on defense spending.

  38. anjin-san says:

    > But that means jack squat when people notice that there’s virtually no substance behind his words — they’ll just start ignoring him. And that would be very, very bad.

    You mean like this?

    Bush pledges to get bin Laden, dead or alive

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush pledged anew Friday that Osama bin Laden will be taken “dead or alive,” no matter how long it takes

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/sept11/2001/12/14/bush-binladen.htm

    Yea, I remember how the right held Bush accountable for this hollow promise.

  39. anjin-san says:

    > That is a return we get on our considerable return on investment in defense spending.

  40. Jay Tea says:

    anjin, your rebuttal boils down to “might makes right” — and not a trace of moral or ethical principle behind it.

    mr. personna (nothing intended by that; it’s the most distinctive part of your name), Reagan didn’t issue any kind of ultimatum or make it a moral crusade. Qadaffi hit us, we hit him back.

    And yes, words matter. Obama has a tendency to speak very well, but never fully thinks things through. He doesn’t believe he’ll ever be called upon to put any kind of substance behind his words, and seems to think that if he just says the right things, everything will be just fine.

    As I quoted before, Candidate Obama said “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Well, he just did that — based on “authorization” from NATO and the UN, nothing from Congress or the American people.

    He also proclaimed that “Qadaffi has to go.” Now he’s already walking that one back, saying that it might be OK if Qadaffi sticks around.

    Sorry, words have meaning. Especially words from the President of the United States. Qadaffi has to go. And I say that not out of any loyalty to Obama, but to the office he currently holds. Qadaffi has to go for the sake of not only Obama, but all future presidents.

    Like I said, I hope to hell he learns something from this — ‘cuz we’re stuck with him for about two more years.

    Unless, of course, the Democrats in the House talking about impeaching him actually do something…

    J.

  41. Jay Tea says:

    Oh, noes, anjin plays the Bush card! I am slain!

    anjin, Bin Laden never was a head of state. And for pretty much all intents and purposes, he is dead. He’s lost all his effectiveness.

    And didn’t Obama make that same pledge, even if he had to invade Pakistan?

    Going after an outlaw is NOT the same as declaring his intention to remove the head of state of a sovereign nation. The latter has far, far greater ramifications.

    J.

  42. john personna says:

    Obama said “Qadaffi has to go” at a specific point in time, when he was hoping to tip the outcome amongst protesters, and trigger a regime change without US involvement.

    That game is over. Obama has already left those 4 words in the dust. His new statement, on his actions under the UN agreement, doesn’t look anything like that.

    If Obama were as “stuck” on those words as you are Jay, then we might actually have a problem.

  43. anjin-san says:

    > anjin, your rebuttal boils down to “might makes right”

    Actually, I am saying “might makes might”, and there are advantages to being the top dog. It’s a card we need to be willing to play from time to time. Unless you are arguing we should cut defense spending and become a second tier power. China would like that. Of course we might have to let them send in observers some day.

    I already presented my moral case for intervention in Libya. Agree with me or not, it is covered ground.

    At any rate, if Obama had done nothing, you would be busy saying he is an empty suit, Carter 2.0, the world is laughing at us, etc. If Obama cured cancer and walked on water next week, you would find fault in it somewhere.

  44. anjin-san says:

    > But that means jack squat when people notice that there’s virtually no substance behind his words

    > Going after an outlaw is NOT the same as declaring his intention to remove the head of state of a sovereign nation. The latter has far, far greater ramifications.

    Really dude, you should get a job moving goalposts. It’s the only thing you have ever shown any talent for.

  45. Jay Tea says:

    At any rate, if Obama had done nothing, you would be busy saying he is an empty suit, Carter 2.0, the world is laughing at us, etc.

    Actually, I would be saying that for the simple reason that it’s true. And it would have nothing to do with Libya — there is no compelling argument for our actions. Do you have help constructing your little fantasy stereotypes, or is it all natural talent?

    You presented what you called your “moral argument.” We settled on Lockerbie (which killed the brother of a blogger I rather like, along with a lot of others) years ago. Case closed. I didn’t like it, but it was accepted. Your “moral argument” would apply even more strongly to North Korea and Iran, but they haven’t been bombed yet. Hell, we’re still technically at war with the Norks.

    But hell, we’re in. I’m not going to fight for this to end; I’m going to argue for us to win it. I WANT Obama to succeed here. At any point, did you ever push for Bush to succeed in Iraq or Afghanistan?

    J.

  46. anjin-san says:

    > At any point, did you ever push for Bush to succeed in Iraq or Afghanistan?

    If we are in, we should be in to win. I supported the action in Afghanistan from the first. We needed to crush Al-Qaeda there. Sadly Bush took his eye off the ball to go to Iraq. We have long since accomplished all we are going to there, and it is time to get out.

    I was totally against the Iraq war, but once we were in, of course I hoped for success. There never was any doubt of our ability to crush Saddam’s military, but poor planning compromised our ability to succeed overall. That does not mean that I did not want a good outcome. I ALWAYS hoped Bush would succeed, he was the President. But the reality is he rarely did. When he made an impressive late game course correction in the surge, I gave him full credit.

    I am not a ideolog. I badly want a vibrant, rational GOP as an alternative to the Democrats. I have voted for Republicans before, and I hope to again.

  47. Michael Reynolds says:

    Jay:

    How do I say this without violating the comments TOS?

    You lack the “curiosity” to comprehend what has happened. You’re a Labrador retriever watching a chess match.

  48. PD Shaw says:

    Dave, what about Reagan’s attacks on Libya in response to the bombing of the Berlin disco? Since we are using the proper terminology for “war” here, it does hold as evidence of limited warmaking that might be “proportionate” under just war theory. I think John Personna’s position here is that this is probably far more similar to that than WWII. (The counterpoint, also being made at times by JP, is that this is about the Europeans and the U.S. has signed on to support something without necessarily a firm grip on the reins)

  49. Jay Tea says:

    How do I say this without violating the comments TOS?

    Let me show you, oh enlightened one.

    Please take your condescension and shove it up your nose. This will involve bending over, as in order to reach your nasal cavity, you’ll have to reach quite far up your nether orifice, as you have one of the worst cases of cranio-colonic coincidence I have ever heard of. You have the most remarkable delusions of adequacy in history. You are a man of little modesty, which is exceptional, as you have so much to be modest about. Your snide, dismissive comments merely highlight your own outstanding shortcomings. The greatest service is in how you raise the collective IQs of so many blogs — by not commenting there.

    (bowing)

    And that, sir, is how you do it without violating the terms of service.

    J.

  50. michael reynolds says:

    1) Of course this is about regime change. We didn’t set it as a marker because we couldn’t get the UNSC to go along with that kind of language. We got everything just short of that. Obviously we’re hoping that supporting the rebels and cutting Gaddafi off at the knees will result in regime change. And it may well.

    2) No, this is not some France/UK play that we’re tagging along on. Look at the timelines, people. You think forces just magically appeared in place overnight? You think France and the UK got the neighbors to sign off? You think it was France and the UK that got tacit approval from the Soviets and Chinese? You think Hillary was just passing through NA because she likes a dry heat? Get in the game, people: of course this is a US play as well as our allies. But it was beautifully sotto voce which rather argues that we have a very smart president and SecState.

  51. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, AFP reports bombs just hit the Gaddafi residence. Which, if it turns out to be true, is going to make it look a wee bit like regime change.

  52. michael reynolds says:

    CNN confirms that. Believed 2 cruise missiles hit building within Gaddafi compound. Reporters are touring with Libyan officials.

    Not quite sure how much they pay reporters to go strolling through the Gaddafi compound in the middle of an air attack. KInd of think the hotel bar would be a bit safer.

  53. Jay Tea says:

    I’m starting to wonder if Obama has ever said ANYTHING that didn’t come with an expiration date.

    Actually, that’s being kind. The guy seems to not know how to tell the truth.

    First, Obama had to go.

    Then, when the no-fly zone was starting to be enforced, his removal wasn’t the goal and no longer mandatory.

    Then we said that we weren’t targeting him.

    Now we (possibly the British or French, but most likely us) just blew up his house.

    Toss in his 2008 statement about presidential war powers vs. what he just did with Libya, and you get the picture of a guy who says whatever the hell he thinks will benefit him at the time, and expects everyone else to forget what he said once it becomes inconvenient. I can write off the “no, we aren’t targeting him” as a polite fiction, but the rest? What kind of cognitive dissonance does he have?

    J.

  54. Jay Tea says:

    OK, Michael, let’s get serious.

    1) Regime change is the only winning outcome. Anything that leaves Q-Daffy (spelling stolen from Peter David, and I’m gonna keep it) in power will be seen — rightly — as failure. Statements to the contrary are polite fictions and plausible deniability.

    2) The denial of the US’ primary role is at best a “polite fiction.” But it also can be interpreted as a sign of weakness. We should be proud of our role.

    That said, it wouldn’t be that difficult for the British and French to get their forces (such as they are) in place. We are apparently using Sigonella on Sicily as a base, and if the Brits and French are cooperating, the British can just fly over France and hop on down to Sigonella. Further, both nations have very strong interests in the Med, and it shouldn’t take them long to get naval forces in place. Hell, the French Navy’s biggest base, at Toulon, is on the Mediterranean.

    I will grant you we have a very smart SecState, but apparently it took a lot of arm-twisting to get Obama on board.

    J.

  55. Jay Tea says:

    Apparently Turkey just vetoed NATO taking the lead in Libya.

    I eagerly await someone to explain how this is all according to the very brilliant plan from the Obama administration…

    J.

  56. anjin-san says:

    > I will grant you we have a very smart SecState, but apparently it took a lot of arm-twisting to get Obama on board.

    A President who does not rush blindly, foolishly into war? Who is not a sock puppet for his own staff? I know I am appalled. How will the Republic endure?

  57. Jay Tea says:

    I don’t understand how indecisiveness can be portrayed as a virtue.

    J.

  58. michael reynolds says:

    Jay:

    Why in f**k’s name would you think it was a good thing for us to publicly take all this on ourselves and beat our chests about it?

    Name the country anywhere that doesn’t know we are the world’s only existing superpower.

    We have a president who is a grown up. Why don’t you try it. You’re just a waste of my time.

  59. anjin-san says:

    You know what Jay, carry on about this all night, I seriously doubt you have anything better to do. But drop the pretense about hoping Obama succeeds, now that the battle is joined. You are so frigging desperate for him to fail they can smell the stink of it in Tripoli.

  60. Jay Tea says:

    What we have is a president who has never before in his life actually held a position of responsibility, where he had to make actual decisions with actual consequences, learning that the job he has striven for his entire life requires nothing but making decisions with huge consequences, and he doesn’t know how to handle it.

    So he dithers and flails and flip-flops, knowing that his sycophants will call it “thoughtful” and “mature” and “measured,” until he finally gives in to his staff, who realize he needs to have his hand held and be led to making decisions. Even wrong ones.

    One of the first lessons of leadership is that in most cases, a flawed decision made now is better than no decision, or the right decision made too late. And that’s a lesson Obama has never learned.

    Maybe he has now. God, I hope so.

    I think that this was a wrong decision. But it’s been made, and we have to live with it. We’re in, and we need to win it. As Obama said last week, “K-Daffy has to go.” If he doesn’t, we get a rerun of Saddam after the first Gulf War — and that’s something we can definitely do without.

    And that’s the best case scenario.

    J.

  61. Jay Tea says:

    Yeah, anjin. I want Obama to fail here. I am so eager to see him humbled, I want this to fail. I want US service members to get killed just so he can’t claim a victory. I want K-Daffy to remain in power. I want the US to be shown to be a paper tiger.

    That’s why I’m on record here and on my own blog hoping like hell he does pull this off, that he does get K-Daffy out of power, one way or another. ‘Cuz if that happens, I’m going to go and delete all traces of my saying so.

    Some day, try dealing with actual people, instead of your stereotypes and fantasies. Respond to what they say, not what you imagine they did. Take a little tourist trip to the real world.

    J.

  62. anjin-san says:

    > That’s why I’m on record here and on my own blog hoping like hell he does pull this off,

    Sorry pal, your obvious pathological hatred of Obama which is on display all though this thread gives lie to that claim. Sure you have to say it, real men are risking their asses as you type.

    > Respond to what they say, not what you imagine they did

    People say all kinds of things. I go by what they are about, and in your case, that was clear long ago. Pretty much everything you have ever said leads me to conclude that you are full of sh*t. Today you just put more manure on the pile.

    Look, rant about Obama some more. Then you can go on for a while about how evil and scary Muslims are. You are really leading a full life.

  63. michael reynolds says:

    So he dithers and flails and flip-flops, knowing that his sycophants will call it “thoughtful” and “mature” and “measured,” until he finally gives in to his staff, who realize he needs to have his hand held and be led to making decisions. Even wrong ones.

    Are you illiterate?

    Walk back through the timeline. Do that. I know you’re allergic to facts and can’t be bothered to look anything up but prefer to spew whatever imbecility comes to mind, but just this once, do a little work.

    Then come and make the case for “dithering.”

    Jesus Tapdancing Christ, it’s like trying to explain algebra to a house plant.

  64. michael reynolds says:

    Jay:

    Here, as an act of charity for you, because you’re actually capable of forming complete sentences unlike most people with your views, I’m pasting a comment from another thread:

    I don’t buy that this is a France/UK thing and we’re just tagging along. If that were true, what was Hillary doing on a tour through NA that just happened to precede the attack by a very few days?

    I don’t think France/UK has the diplomatic heft to get this past the Russians and the Chinese. I don’t think the Saudis signed off on the say-so of the French/Brits.

    And I very strongly suspect there are other deals that were made — for support through Egypt, for basing in Tunisia — that were not about French/UK diplomacy.

    Don’t forget that this operation must have been building for at least a week, more likely two. Look at the timing: the UNSC suddenly has a resolution passed and hours later things are blowing up in Libya? Military forces don’t move that quickly.

    I think this is our play as much as France/UK, but we’ve kept our hand better-concealed. I think it is really terrific that France and the UK and other allies have stepped up and taken a more equal stance, and I give them major props. But I think it’s naive to believe we were bystanders in the run-up or planning.

    This has now been CONFIRMED as to the military moves by the public statement that we will be handing over control to the French and Brits. Which means we had initial control. Right? Get that so far?

    Now, here’s your chance Jay: if all you do is come back with your usual fact-free, logic-free drivel, I’m personally done with you. Anjin may still talk to you because he’s a nicer person than I am. But you will have proven yourself impervious to reason or facts and as such below the threshold for conversation. Don’t mean to be rude and I’m sorry I implied you were an imbecile, but I spend a good part of my day Tweeting to 14 year-olds and they’re all better informed than you are.

  65. Jay Tea says:

    Michael, I dunno precisely how you define “diplomatic heft,” but in my book that’s one thing the British have in spades. And the French are no slouches, either.

    As I noted, the French and the UK have their own bases in the Med, at Toulon and Gibraltar, and overflight rights from other nations to get to Sigonella would not be necessary. As long as Italy is on board — and considering that Libya was an Italian colony for 40 years, they have a bit of interest and influence.

    But why isn’t your vaunted intellect at least curious why Obama sought cooperation and support from other nations and the approval of the United Nations, but couldn’t be troubled to consult with Congress and make his case to the American people?

    And the walkback from “K-Daffy has got to go” to “that’s not the goal of these strikes” — that’s just begging for a repeat of Iraq, 1991-2003, which turned out SO well.

    You “spend a good part of (your) day Tweeting to 14-year-olds” — that’s a rather peculiar habit for a grown man. And for someone who doesn’t mean to be rude, you’re remarkably good at it. Fortunately, I don’t expect better from you, so I just shrug it off.

    Finally, you keep talking about how it’s almost painful to debate me, then try and fail anyway — denial much, chump?

    Go back to chatting up adolescents, Michael. They’re young and naive enough to buy your BS and be impressed with your achievements. It’s been a long time since I willingly fell for that.

    J.

  66. wr says:

    Jay Tea — I’m fascinated by your theory that it’s better to make the wrong decision right now than the right one after some thought. Could you give me a couple of historical examples where this has worked out?

  67. Jay Tea says:

    Standard leadership doctrine, wr.

    Some new leaders think they have to go it alone. They believe that asking for advice or soliciting opinions makes them look weak in front of their team. Being unable to make a decision will certainly erode your credibility as a manager, but soliciting input from your team, your peers and your network to ensure that you make an informed decision will prevent you from having to change your mind as you uncover more information. With that said it’s important to set time boundaries for yourself on the information gathering process. The wrong decision right now is often better than the right decision too late.

    I feel the need to reiterate: I think Obama’s decision was the wrong one, and it was made well after it should have been made, but now that it’s on, we need to win this. He didn’t give us (either directly or through our representatives in Congress) a chance to debate it before, but there WILL be a discussion after — and I intend to speak quite bluntly at that point.

    But not while American troops are in harm’s way. I don’t do that. I would consider that giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

    And no, Obama is not “the enemy.” He’s not even my enemy. He’s my political opponent. And he’s my president — at least until January 2013.

    J.

  68. michael reynolds says:

    But why isn’t your vaunted intellect at least curious why Obama sought cooperation and support from other nations and the approval of the United Nations, but couldn’t be troubled to consult with Congress and make his case to the American people?

    Because it would have made secret diplomacy overt, thus undercutting the point of secret diplomacy.

    And the walkback from “K-Daffy has got to go” to “that’s not the goal of these strikes” — that’s just begging for a repeat of Iraq, 1991-2003, which turned out SO well.

    What walk-back? Do your own thinking, stop relying on neo-con propaganda. Again: look at the timeline.

    You “spend a good part of (your) day Tweeting to 14-year-olds” — that’s a rather peculiar habit for a grown man.

    It is rather peculiar. But since they are my customers I feel it’s useful.

    You’re a close-minded and thus uninteresting person. You have a narrative stuck in your head and nothing will alter it. I’m going to avoid wasting further time with you.

  69. mantis says:

    You have a narrative stuck in your head and nothing will alter it.

    Always. He will twist and turn in order to fit whatever square pegs he finds into the round holes of his narrative.

    Do you wonder how his opinion on Libya compares to that of Iraq? Consider this passage from one of his comments above:

    As atrocious as what Qadaffi was/is doing, he was limiting himself to his own borders, and not threatening any other nations (a refreshing change from the days before GHWB scared him straight). There was no clear and present danger to the US, our interests, or our allies — at least, not one that could be applied even more strongly to other nations ahead of Libya.

    Hmm. I think Jay Tea circa 2005 would like to have a conversation with this new Jay Tea about what does and does not represent a danger to the US.

  70. Jay Tea says:

    Saddam had violated numerous provisions of the 1993 cease-fire and had committed numeous acts of war against the US, including firing at our aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone. When you violate a cease-fire, the default is that the war that ceased comes back. I realize that might not be true in your fantasy world, mantis, but if you actually go read the AUMF, a bunch of them are spelled out.

    K-Daffy? We’d come to terms with him. He paid his reparations, gave up his WMD program, and was by and large making nice with the rest of the world. The SOB still ought to be taken out, but we’d pretty much given up on that when we accepted his concessions.

    J.

  71. mantis says:

    Saddam had violated numerous provisions of the 1993 cease-fire and had committed numeous acts of war against the US, including firing at our aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone. When you violate a cease-fire, the default is that the war that ceased comes back. I realize that might not be true in your fantasy world, mantis, but if you actually go read the AUMF, a bunch of them are spelled out.

    Actually, I live in the real world. You live in the wingnut fantasy world where this could not apply to Hussein/Iraq:

    As atrocious as what Qadaffi was/is doing, he was limiting himself to his own borders, and not threatening any other nations (a refreshing change from the days before GHWB scared him straight). There was no clear and present danger to the US, our interests, or our allies — at least, not one that could be applied even more strongly to other nations ahead of Libya.

    Was Hussein invading other countries? No, what he did after the first Gulf War was quite limited to his own borders. Was there a clear and present danger to the US, our interests, and our allies? No more than could be said for Libya, that’s for sure. Were there other countries that posed bigger threats than Iraq? You bet.

    By the same metrics you apply to Libya, the Iraq war was not a good decision. Don’t blame me for your own cognitive dissonance.

  72. anjin-san says:

    > Saddam had violated numerous provisions of the 1993 cease-fire and had committed numeous acts of war against the US, including firing at our aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone. When you violate a cease-fire, the default is that the war that ceased comes back.

    Except that’s not why we went to war. We went to war because Bush “knew” that Saddam had WMD and could deploy them against us in short order. “We know they have them, and we know where they are”.

    And how are things in your fantasy world, J-Taffy?

  73. Jay Tea says:

    mantis, anjin, I’m tired of trying to introduce you to reality. It’s the proverbial wrestling with a pig. Instead, I’ll just link to the text of the Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Iraq, and see if you can actually deal with facts instead of the elaborate, paranoid BS fantasy you’ve constructed.

    J.

  74. mantis says:

    Once again Jay fails to tell us how this would not have applied to Saddam Hussein:

    As atrocious as what Qadaffi was/is doing, he was limiting himself to his own borders, and not threatening any other nations (a refreshing change from the days before GHWB scared him straight). There was no clear and present danger to the US, our interests, or our allies — at least, not one that could be applied even more strongly to other nations ahead of Libya.

    Hilariously, he thinks avoiding the question is “introducing us to reality.” No, Jay, it’s just conceding the argument.

  75. Jay Tea says:

    mantis, don’t blame me if you can’t read the reasons for the invasion of Iraq listed in Congress’ authorization. Blame the unionized teachers that left you so sadly illiterate.

    You really need to find a way to properly channel your rage. I’m not the one who left you too ignorant to look at a very simply written measure, passed by Congress, and grasp it. And I gave up feeling pity for you a while ago.

    The reasons distinguishing Iraq from Libya are spelled out in very clear, very simple sentences. Even you should be able to grasp them, if you apply yourself.

    Maybe you can get wr or anjin to help you with the longer words, like “repatriate” and “assassinate” and “violation.”

    J.

  76. mannning says:

    @MR quote:

    “I think that as democracy spreads we will need to move toward some form of world police, a world government with limited powers. I realize the conservatives will cry apocalypse! at that. ”

    Yes, indeed, many conservatives would rise in opposition to this idea for a number of reasons:
    1) Few if any safeguards or “limited powers” can ultimately prevent such an international army from violating the sovereignty of any nation that has reaped the displeasure of the UN or any other international body. Of the 190-odd nations in the UN, a considerable majority are not favorable to the US, and any security committee composed of many hostile nations , such as could arise in the UN Security Council, can and do block actions the US would favor, or initiate actions the US would consider to be immoral.
    2) There would be no disinterested higher authority a violated nation could appeal to for timely justice.
    3) This amounts to relinquishing considerable sovereignty of the US to an international body that we neither can control nor be assured of decisions favorable to the US, or to the moral standards of free and democratic nations.
    4) Many of the nations of the world today, and for the foreseeable future, are immoral or amoral to begin with (communist, totalitarian, etc.), have a government that has no common ethical basis with the free world, or else have an economic or vengeful interest in a certain outcome, and their judgement or vote to use force would be highly suspect, if not immoral in itself.
    5) We have seen the problems of the UN and its SC up front and personal. To give such a collection of rascals the power to declare and execute war or “policing actions” on anyone using their own forces is an abomination. Korea was dubbed a “policing action”, for instance, by the UN.
    6) This One World kind of scheme will continue to have the fatal flaw of some or even a majority of foxes guarding the hen house, and the fatal flaw of irreconcilable moral convictions, until democracy and ethics are normalized sufficiently in the governments and the peoples of just about all nations. That will take forever to realize, which explodes the Utopian concept of One World-ism. In my opinion, federations of nations are possible, but a single, all powerful world government is either a chimera or a nightmare.
    7) The idea that participation in the UN or similar organization aids the introduction of that nation into greater democracy and freedom is simply not proven.

    Meanwhile, we should do our very best together with the free and democratic nations that are our friends and allies to keep things going in a constructive direction towards more freedom and liberty worldwide.

  77. mannning says:

    @MR quote:

    “I think that as democracy spreads we will need to move toward some form of world police, a world government with limited powers. I realize the conservatives will cry apocalypse! at that. ”

    Yes, indeed, many conservatives would rise in opposition to this idea for a number of reasons:
    1) Few if any safeguards or “limited powers” can ultimately prevent such an international army from violating the sovereignty of any nation that has reaped the displeasure of the UN or any other international body. Of the 190-odd nations in the UN, a considerable majority are not favorable to the US, and any security committee composed of many hostile nations , such as could arise in the UN Security Council, can and do block actions the US would favor, or initiate actions the US would consider to be immoral.
    2) There would be no disinterested higher authority a violated nation could appeal to for timely justice.
    3) This amounts to relinquishing considerable sovereignty of the US to an international body that we neither can control nor be assured of decisions favorable to the US, or to the moral standards of free and democratic nations.
    4) Many of the nations of the world today, and for the foreseeable future, are immoral or amoral to begin with (communist, totalitarian, etc.), have a government that has no common ethical basis with the free world, or else have an economic or vengeful interest in a certain outcome, and their judgement or vote to use force would be highly suspect, if not immoral in itself.
    5) We have seen the problems of the UN and its SC up front and personal. To give such a collection of rascals the power to declare and execute war or “policing actions” on anyone using their own forces is an abomination. Korea was dubbed a “policing action”, for instance, by the UN.
    6) This One World kind of scheme will continue to have the fatal flaw of some or even a majority of foxes guarding the hen house, and the fatal flaw of irreconcilable moral convictions, until democracy and ethics are normalized sufficiently in the governments and the peoples of just about all nations. That will take forever to realize, which explodes the Utopian concept of One World-ism. In my opinion, federations of nations are possible, but a single, all powerful world government is either a chimera or a nightmare.
    7) The idea that participation in the UN or similar organization aids the introduction of that nation into greater democracy and freedom is simply not proven.

    Meanwhile, we should do our very best together with the free and democratic nations that are our friends and allies to keep things going in a constructive direction towards more freedom and liberty worldwide.

  78. mannning says:

    Sorry for the double post. It was an accident.

  79. mantis says:

    Once again Jay fails to tell us how this would not have applied to Saddam Hussein:

    As atrocious as what Qadaffi was/is doing, he was limiting himself to his own borders, and not threatening any other nations (a refreshing change from the days before GHWB scared him straight). There was no clear and present danger to the US, our interests, or our allies — at least, not one that could be applied even more strongly to other nations ahead of Libya.

  80. Jay Tea says:

    And once again, mantis shows his dislike of me overwhelms all else.

    1) mantis asks me to distinguish the Libyan case for intervention from the Iraq one.

    2) I reply with a link to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force In Iraq, passed by Congress (with many Democrats supporting it, including Kerry, Clinton, and Biden), which listed several reasons that do not apply to Libya.

    3) mantis straps on his Clue-Sensitive Sunglasses, ignores the link, and accuses me of not answering.

    4) mantis also overlooks the metapolitical aspect of my answer: that there was a Congressional authorization for the invasion of Iraq for me refer to, unlike with Libya.

    5) mantis also overlooks the irony that, in challenging me, he has done far more to make the case to the American people for the strikes on Libya than Obama has.

    While it saddens me that you despise me now, mantis, the one thing that makes me feel guilty is that that resentment tends to overwhelm your rational mind and lead you to say some truly stupid things and to flail around in utterly incoherent, frothing fits. In most cases, I’d revel in that kind of power; with you, I actually feel pity — and a smidgen responsible.

    J.

  81. Jay Tea says:

    mannning, don’t sweat it too much. If any single comment was going to get double-posted, that was probably the most worthy of repeating.

    J.