Monday, March 28, 2011

Obama’s Libya speech: We are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges


Obama gave a televised speech about Libya at the National Defense University.

AND BY “ADVOCATE” HE MEANS, “DO AS WE SAY, NOT AS WE DO”: “For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom.”


IT’S TRUE; WE’RE KNOWN FOR OUR NATURAL RELUCTANCE: “we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges.” Technically, this is half true: we haven’t been reluctant to use force, but it is true that we haven’t solved the world’s many challenges with that force.

“But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act.”

GOD CREATED WAR TO TEACH AMERICANS GEOGRAPHY: “Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt”.

LEGITIMACY: “For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant - Moammar Gaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world...” And then there was the uprising and “I made it clear that Gaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.” So he was a tyrant who denied his people freedom etc, but he lost the legitimacy to do so last month. Someone really has to ask Obama to define “legitimacy.” I’d also be curious about his methodology in determining that Qaddafi a) had the confidence of his people, and b) lost the confidence of his people.”

(From a White House statement statement on a video-conference earlier today between Obama, Sarkozy, Merkel and Cameron: “They agreed that Qadhafi had lost any legitimacy to rule and should leave power, and that the Libyan people should have the political space to determine their own future.”)

WAS THAT BEFORE OR AFTER HE LOST THE CONFIDENCE OF HIS PEOPLE AND THE LEGITIMACY TO LEAD: “In the past, we had seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day.”


Benghazi – which is nearly the size of Charlotte, Obama helpfully informs us – was at risk of massacre. “It was not in our national interest to let that happen.” I must have missed where he specified what national interest that was.

PHEW: “And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.”

He pronounces Qatar “Cutter.”

HE WANTS TO BE CLEAR: “So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do.”

THE BROADER GOAL: “while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.”

WELL, HE EXPLAINED THAT LIBYA IS BETWEEN TUNISIA AND EGYPT, SO THAT ANSWERS ONE OF THEM: “I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya.”

NOW, IS THAT A LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT LIKE QADDAFI’S WAS UNTIL A MONTH AGO? “The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task.”


“In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya.” Oh, and we know how Obama hates false choices. That false choice is either 1) between doing nothing and intervening anywhere in the world bad things are happening, or 2) between doing nothing and “do[ing] whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi.” Thanks to bad speech-writing, I can’t tell which is the false choice. It doesn’t really matter; Obama just likes saying there are false choices so he can portray himself as a reasonable non-ideologue.

Evidently, “In this particular country -– Libya - at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.” So the Obama Doctrine is based on the horrificness scale (which is measured in tiananmens).

Speaking of bad speech-writing, note the colon in the official version of this sentence: “We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.” When I watched the speech, I thought that colon was a comma, since he’s been talking about the US’s “unique abilities” in the military field from the start. But that colon, which obviously could not be heard when he was speaking, because he is not Victor Borge, changed the whole meaning of that phrase. Just bad writing.

THE UNITED STATES IS DIFFERENT: “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.” Because we’re usually causing them, or at least selling arms to the people who are.

Evidently we have “an important strategic interest in preventing Qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him.” Can you guess what it is? Given that it took a month for him to bring it up, I guess neither could he, but “A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.” (Again I have to say, define “peaceful.”)

Another important strategic interest: “The writ of the United Nations Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling that institution’s future credibility to uphold global peace and security.” And crippling the UN’s credibility to uphold global peace and security is our job.

If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi militarily, the coalition would splinter and “We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air.” And if there’s one thing Obama hates, it’s risking killing many civilians from the air. Just ask the people of... oh, you know the list.

OH NO YOU DINNT: “To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq.”

OBAMA DOCTRINE! OBAMA DOCTRINE! OBAMA DOCTRINE! “Let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of America’s military power, and America’s broader leadership in the world, under my presidency.”

“There will be times... though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are.” Our interests and values, that’s really specific. Earlier in the speech, he said we had a national interest in there not being a massacre in Benghazi.

And what’ll we do when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are? “As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action.” I’m assuming Fox News is condemning this even as I speak.

WHAT AMERICAN LEADERSHIP IS: “Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well”. And “That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in Libya.” If he does say so himself.

“Those risks were realized when one of our planes malfunctioned over Libya. Yet when one of our airmen parachuted to the ground, in a country whose leader has so often demonized the United States –- in a region that has such a difficult history with our country –- this American did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him. One young Libyan who came to his aid said, ‘We are your friends. We are so grateful to those men who are protecting the skies.’” A little less grateful that they shot up the Libyans who tried to embrace the pilot, but Obama left that party of the story out. Funny, that.

Really, if you kill a bunch of non-hostile, unarmed civilians, you don’t get to turn it into a heart-warming anecdote, especially without acknowledging how it went hideously wrong.

It’s a war speech, Biden, use the somber face, not the “Oh boy, ice cream!” face

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