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Libyan War Coalition One Of The Smallest In Decades


Over at Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin demolishes a meme that Ive seen popping up in recent days by pointing out that the international coalition that President Obama has gathered to support the mission in Libya is one of the smallest in decades:

President Barack Obama has touted his emphasis on multilateralism in the U.S. military intervention in Libya, but, for political, operational, and legal reasons, Obama’s “coalition of the willing” is smaller than any major multilateral operation since the end of the Cold War.

The Cablecompiled a chart listing all the countries that contributed at least some military assets to the five major military operations in which the United States participated in a coalition during the last 20 years: the 1991 Gulf War (32 countries participating), the 1995 Bosnia mission (24 countries), the 1999 Kosovo mission (19 countries), the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan (48 countries), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq (40 countries), at the height of the size of each coalition. As of today, only 15 countries, including the United States, have committed to providing a military contribution to the Libya war.

Experts quickly point out that all of these military interventions happened in different contexts. However, they added that the reason Obama’s Libya war coalition has less international involvement than all the others was also due to his administration’s behavior in the lead-up to the war, its approach to multilateralism, the speed with which it was put together, and the justifications for the war itself.

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that the administration’s effort to build the coalition was hampered by its stated desire to hand off the leadership of the Libya intervention to NATO.

“[I]f you [focus on the handoff], you don’t deserve a lot of credit for leadership,” he said. “Obama in his deference to [getting out of the lead] has not only wanted other countries to do as much as they could, he has essentially forgone his responsibility to build the coalition.”

The Libyan engagement is, of course, smaller in scale than Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Persian Gulf War, at least for the time being. However, the notion that this all came about due to some kind of stellar behind the scenes negotiating aimed at building a massive international coalition simply doesn’t square with reality. Instead, it’s rather clear that, much like the planning for the engagement itself, this coalition is fairly slop-shod and sloppy.

That’s why it isn’t surprising that the supposed allies can’t even seem to agree on what we’re there to do:

WASHINGTON — Having largely succeeded in stopping a rout of Libya’s rebels, the inchoate coalition attacking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces remains divided over the ultimate goal — and exit strategy — of what officials acknowledged Thursday would be a military campaign that could last for weeks.

The United States has all but called for Colonel Qaddafi’s overthrow from within — with American commanders on Thursday openly calling on the Libyan military to stop following orders — even as administration officials insist that is not the explicit objective of the bombing, and that their immediate goal is more narrowly defined.

France has gone further, recognizing the Libyan rebels as the country’s legitimate representatives, but other allies, even those opposed to Colonel Qaddafi’s erratic and authoritarian rule, have balked. That has complicated the planning and execution of the military campaign and left its objective ill defined for now.

Only on Thursday, the sixth day of air and missile strikes, did the allies reach an agreement to give command of the “no-fly” operation to NATO after days of public quarreling that exposed the divisions among the alliance’s members.

“From the start, President Obama has stated that the role of the U.S. military would be limited in time and scope,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday evening in announcing the plan.

But even that agreement — brokered by Mrs. Clinton and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Turkey — frayed almost immediately over how far the military campaign should go in trying to erode the remaining pillars of Colonel Qaddafi’s power by striking his forces on the ground and those devoted to protecting him. It was salvaged, one diplomat said, only by papering over the differences concerning the crucial question of who actually controls military strikes on Libya’s ground forces.

“There were differences in the scope of what NATO would do and what would remain with the national militaries,” a senior administration official said, expressing hope that the agreement on NATO command would be a step toward resolving them.

The questions swirling around the operation’s command mirrored the larger strategic divisions over how exactly the coalition will bring it to an end — or even what the end might look like, and whether it might even conceivably include a Libya with Colonel Qaddafi remaining in some capacity. While few countries have openly sided with the Libyan leader, officials said on Thursday that most of the allies expected that the use of military force would lead to talks between the government and the rebels.

“I don’t think anyone is ruling out some kind of negotiated settlement,” the official said. Colonel Qaddafi has responded defiantly, making the likelihood of his negotiated departure seem exceedingly remote.

Let’s see. Badly articulated message? Check. Incoherent communications strategy with both the public and Congress? Check. Flimsy coalition  built around a goal that contradicts the very policy you say your Administration holds? Check. Yea, Mr. President you’ve done quite a job here.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    President Barack Obama has touted his emphasis on multilateralism in the U.S. military intervention in Libya, but, for political, operational, and legal reasons, Obama’s “coalition of the willing” is smaller than any major multilateral operation since the end of the Cold War

    .

    Stupid.

    Why?

    Because we aren’t planning a ground invasion. The number of nations with tanks and men is larger than the number of nations with assets capable of safely degrading air defenses.

    Should we have had Ukrainian planes blundering around in the skies?

    Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that the administration’s effort to build the coalition was hampered by its stated desire to hand off the leadership of the Libya intervention to NATO.

    Dishonest.

    Why?

    Because I seem to recall only days ago critics were accusing us of being led around by the French. I appreciate that the idiocy of that has apparently been accepted. But what reason is there to believe that we’d have more assets we don’t need if only we’d announced our intention to bigfoot another war in a Muslim nation?

    Instead, it’s rather clear that, much like the planning for the engagement itself, this coalition is fairly slop-shod and sloppy.

    Both stupid and dishonest.

    Do you want it fast, Doug, or do you want it perfected? Because I seem to recall a lot of people whining that this should have been done sooner. In other words, in days, not even in two weeks.

    WASHINGTON — Having largely succeeded in stopping a rout of Libya’s rebels, the inchoate coalition attacking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces remains divided over the ultimate goal — and exit strategy — of what officials acknowledged Thursday would be a military campaign that could last for weeks.

    The United States has all but called for Colonel Qaddafi’s overthrow from within — with American commanders on Thursday openly calling on the Libyan military to stop following orders — even as administration officials insist that is not the explicit objective of the bombing, and that their immediate goal is more narrowly defined.

    France has gone further, recognizing the Libyan rebels as the country’s legitimate representatives, but other allies, even those opposed to Colonel Qaddafi’s erratic and authoritarian rule, have balked. That has complicated the planning and execution of the military campaign and left its objective ill defined for now.

    Mmmm, that’s a big stinking pile of it.

    We say we want Gaddafi out. The French say they want Gaddafi out. And unnamed “other allies” have balked. And that’s your evidence. We and the other two major powers agree that we want Gaddafi out, although for diplomatic reasons (The UNSC resolution) we don’t set it as an explicit goal, and that’s what, is it disarray or is a quagmire?

    And how has it complicated planning and execution? Given that in five days we killed the Libyan AF, killed it’s AA defensive systems, stopped the advance of his forces, and did it without a single US or allied casualty?

    Let’s see. Badly articulated message? Check. Incoherent communications strategy with both the public and Congress? Check. Flimsy coalition built around a goal that contradicts the very policy you say your Administration holds? Check. Yea, Mr. President you’ve done quite a job here.

    Yeah, I don’t think so. Despite the many adjectives, I think what we have here is a blogger embarrassed by his own repeated inability to analyze the situation, now grasping at straws to try and prove he was right all along.

    He wasn’t, Doug.

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  2. Michael,

    You know fully well that I have been opposed to the very idea of getting involved in Libya from the start, and I oppose it now.

    As I sit here on the sidelines, though, I see a badly executed plan with a incoherent goal that is likely to either leave a dictator in charge or divide the nation and lead to years of civil war. The same outcome that was likely before we intervened, except this time we are going to be responsible for the political future of Libya.

    Your comment that ground troops aren’t being used is rather amusing, though, because that is exactly where we’re headed. And, oh yea, it’s pretty clear that we already have troops on the ground in Libya in the form of Special Forces units. It’s called reconnaissance.

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    Your comment that ground troops aren’t being used is rather amusing, though, because that is exactly where we’re headed. And, oh yea, it’s pretty clear that we already have troops on the ground in Libya in the form of Special Forces units. It’s called reconnaissance.

    Assumptions. You assume.

    Ground forces are used as spotters for certain types of smart bomb. We may indeed have them on the ground. But that’s not “ground forces” in the sense of what we had in the other situations cited.

    We use the force we need. The French and the Brits can barely keep up on the technological level, so the notion that this is a failure because we don’t have a bunch of technologically backward “allies” racing around in the skies over Libya, dropping dumb bombs on poorly-identified targets, is contradictory on its face. It’s not evidence of failure, it’s evidence of simple military common sense.

    You want a threat to the coalition? It’s in Cote D’Ivoire where all hell is breaking loose and the French may feel they need to intervene.

    I’ve said from the start that this was a US deal. I was right and now apparently that’s accepted wisdom.

    I said from the start that this was a diplomatic coup of major proportions. It was. And despite what others argued, yes, it was our diplomacy.

    I’ve said from the start I had doubts about the actual policy, that I saw many ways it could go wrong, and that I thought it was 60/40 in our favor.

    I’ll stand by all three of those analyses. Your attacks on the issue of competence in assembling this coalition, in getting the UN resolution, in getting Hillary to NA and securing the evident (by their silence) approval of Libya’s neighbors, positioning forces, obliterating the Libyan AF all beginning around the 10th of this month is nuts.

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  4. michael reynolds says:

    I think the Right’s obsession with proving Obama weak, incompetent, unready and the rest of that nonsense is terribly important to the Right. And the obvious competence and ability behind this action -setting aside the policy itself — is threatening to a vital Right wing narrative.

    There’s nothing more terrifying to the libertarian wing of the GOP than governmental competence.

    Unfortunately for you, that’s what we have: a rather good chess player in the White House. And by the way a damned good Secretary of State.

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  5. Ben Wolf says:

    We are probably safe in assuming SFs are on the ground in Libya because JSOC has grown tremendously over the last decade, both in size and in political influence. It has to justify its budget, so there’s little doubt it began lobbying for inclusion in Oddyssey Dawn the moment planning began.

    If our ground involvment ended there it might not be so bad, but it probably won’t. The moment one or more of those SF teams comes under direct enemy fire there will be tremendous pressure to escalate our involvment.

    I sincerely hope our military committment will remain limited and of short duration. Unfortunately our history over the last five decades suggests the odds are not in our favor.

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  6. john personna says:

    That this is the smallest new war/coalition in decades – that is actually the reason I am not too worried.

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  7. Wiley Stoner says:

    Reynold, when they rescued the downed F-15 pilots, I will be willing to bet you any amount we had boots on the ground. Further, please explain the presence of the 2200 Marines on board the assault vessel? Sorry, forgot you are unable to explain anything with a modicum of coherence. Bush had twice as many in his coalition as Obama has in his but we all heard the lying howl of idiots like Reynolds who said Bush was going it alone. Not only is the left not capable of rational thought or act, they are incapable of honesty. Reynolds is a prime example just like his master, Barack Insane Obama

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  8. michael reynolds says:

    I’m going to go over the timeline here again, since I know the Obama haters hate the timeline even more.

    February 21: Libyan diplomats are deserting and rebel forces appear to be doing well.

    February 22: Gaddafi orders counter-attack.

    This is the very first point at which it would have made any sense at all to begin planning for a no-fly zone or intervention. Up until this point it looked as if Gaddafi might collapse. Certainly his own diplomats thought so.

    March 19: We and our allies are blowing things up.

    From February 22 to March 19 is 25 days.

    In those 25 days we :

    1) Passed an open-ended UN resolution after securing Chinese and Russian acquiescence.
    2) Secured the support of neighboring countries.
    3) Assembled a military alliance.
    4) Worked out temporary command structures.
    5) Moved forces into place.
    6) Identified targets.

    In the 5 days following that we:

    1) Obliterated the Libyan Air Force.
    2) Imposed a blockade.
    3) Eliminated Libyan air defenses.
    4) Obtained NATO agreement to take over the no-fly zone.

    Cost in allied or US lives so far: 0

    30 days from the point where we first began to suspect that the rebels would lose. And you want to cast this as incompetence and mismanagement?

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  9. Steve Verdon says:

    Bush had twice as many in his coalition as Obama has in his but we all heard the lying howl of idiots like Reynolds who said Bush was going it alone.

    Well…I don’t think I read anything by Michael back then so lets be fair and not put words in his virtual mouth, so to speak. He may very well have had those views but we don’t know for sure.

    Michael,

    There’s nothing more terrifying to the libertarian wing of the GOP than governmental competence.

    Actually this is where most libertarians consider the role of government to valid and proper. So I’m not sure this style of criticism holds when it comes to this specific issue.

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  10. Steve Verdon says:

    Michael I think your time line glosses over things a bit. Like this:

    Nato to take full control of Libya mission

    NATO deal leaves U.S. still commanding Libya strikes

    Does look like things are a bit…confused?

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  11. michael reynolds says:

    Steve:

    You are correct as to my past position.

    In fact, I was 100% in favor of Afghanistan and didn’t give a damn whether we had even a single ally. And I was generally in favor of Iraq. I never howled about “going it alone,” I howled about not bringing enough men to the party. The line I repeated to the great annoyance of many was that “Occupation 101 says that you start by placing boot firmly on neck.” My frustration came from our refusal to impose a genuine occupation and a democratic government on Iraq in the Japan 1945 style.

    I’ve come to have doubts about all that. But that was my position.

    As for libertarians, I’m referring more to the tangential damage done to libertarian Republicans by any conclusion that Obama was actually (gasp!) good at his job. If Obama suddenly emerges as a capable president, there goes the GOP agenda.

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  12. michael reynolds says:

    There’s a difference between confusion and smokescreen. Or let’s call it diplomatic ambiguity.

    To the surprise of no one the US basically is NATO. But NATO is a useful mask to wear since it allows a degree a separation, however much it may fool no one. If stuff is getting blowed up real good, we’re mostly going to be the ones doing it. The key thing is that now we can say we have a Muslim country — Turkey — involved.

    I said this from the start, back when many were arguing that we were humiliatingly following the UK and France. It’s a US deal.

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  13. Steve Verdon says:

    I’ve come to have doubts about all that. But that was my position.

    Yeah, my view as well. While going in and putting a good hurt on Al Qaida and the Taliban were, IMO, justified, staying for overly long not a good plan, and I have major regrets about my initial position on Iraq.

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  14. steve says:

    Doug- You need to read some military history. If you had, you would realize that squabbles amongst allies is the norm. While I opposed this no-fly zone, I find it really odd to say that it was handled incompetently. By international standards, things moved fairly quickly. Once the no-fly zone was approved, they attacked within 24 hours IIRC. Get James to recommend some good war books.

    Steve

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  15. Ignacio says:

    The difference between Libya and Iran is that Iran has been coming along since ever and everyone knows that it’s important to keep nuclear technology out of the hands of Iran. Libya’s threats have seemed more in line with their surface-to-air missiles and potential of terrorism, and to constrain Libya’s potential from the using of the oil money.

    More and more skeptics want to know about France’s role leading up to the current Libyan crisis.

    But like WikiLeaks and Fukushima have shown, “leaking the details” is not really expected.

    Let’s see what kind of coalition will one day attack Iran, or attack the next Middle Eastern oil-rich country.

    Anyhow, if anyone is happy with the outcome so far of Libya it must be France. To France the size of the coalition is all right. Here’s an article about France’s early involvement: http://www.voltairenet.org/article169069.html

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  16. Pug says:

    Personally, I hope they drop a Tomahawk right on top of Khaddafy. Some of us are old enough to remember he murdered 268 civilians, mostly American, over the skies of Lockerbie, Scotland.

    Perhaps there is now a statute of limitations on murder, but I’m not aware of it. I support taking out Khaddafy and believe it should have been done at least twenty years ago. If the rest of you clutch your pearls and get the vapors, that’s fine.

    BTW, I don’t remember folks having such delicate sensibilities when Saint Ronald fired a few cruise missles in Khaddafy’s direction and, really, it must be a little embarassing when Hillary Clinton and the UN have bigger balls than you do.

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  17. ponce says:

    “I think the Right’s obsession with proving Obama weak, incompetent, unready and the rest of that nonsense is terribly important to the Right.”

    To be fair, the Left tried (and succeeded?) to make Bush out to be a monster because of his wars.

    You can’t blame the Republicans for trying to do the same to Obama, can you?

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  18. superdestroyer says:

    I remember the time that liberals were criticizing the right for supporting the Bush Administration while the Bush Administration was making dumb decisions that had no basis in conservative politics.

    Now that the Democrats control the government, those same liberals keep make one excuse after another for the bad decisions and failures of the Obama Administration. I guess the left has forgotten what it said that the right carrying water for President Bush just like the left has forgotten how much it hated the Bush deficits.

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  19. G.A.Phillips says:
  20. michael reynolds says:

    You can’t blame the Republicans for trying to do the same to Obama, can you?

    Actually, I do in this case. I waited until Bush had f**ked up before I started attacking him.

    For the record I never thought Bush was a bad guy — I thought his Veep was a bad guy and his SecDef was a criminally stupid guy and there were other members of the admin with which I had serious issues. And I certainly said some harsh things about them all, including Mr. Bush. But I waited until they’d actually screwed up.

    The Right hasn’t waited for an actual screw-up. The fringes attacked him instantly for the crime of being black. He was attacked as un-American, Muslim, communist, weak, criminal, etc… from day one. His actions were never the issue: he was attacked for what he was, not what he did.

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  21. Kevin Smith says:

    Anyone who thinks this looks like a well planned and executed political strategy is kidding themselves. Over 60% of americans oppose our involvement. The Whitehouse has changed it’s story more than once on the end goal of the mission. We got the UN to approve a no fly zone and then imediately proceeded to start nailing ground targets with no AA capability (that ain’t air superiority) making it pretty clear we’ve exceeded the UN resolutions mandate. We’re supporting a group of rebels when we have no real idea what, if any, plansfor the direction they’d take the country if placed in power (which the Whitehouse’s latest version of the end goal leads one to believe we’ll be trying to accomplish).

    PS – Reynolds might want to review his sense of awe in that timeline of his, at least at the end there. The US Military has had a constantly updated list of prime targets for softening up Libya through air assualt since the early 80’s. We could have sent them back to the stone age on 24 hours notice at any time since.

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  22. Jay Tea says:

    The fringes attacked him instantly for the crime of being black. He was attacked as un-American, Muslim, communist, weak, criminal, etc… from day one. His actions were never the issue: he was attacked for what he was, not what he did.

    There is a fringe of truth here, but only accidentally. Michael is right — Obama was attacked for things he never did.

    Like, well… anything.

    The guy had no record of leadership, management, or executive experiences whatsoever, no string of accomplishments, no legislative feats, no bold stances, just a long record of using every single job and position he had as a stepping stone up the ladder, never showing any interest in doing anything beyond the bare minimum to keep that present position.

    Well, now he’s in a position where there is no promotion, he actually has to do the work, make decisions, take actions, and run things… and astonishingly enough, he generally sucks at it.

    The “race card” expired a while ago, Michael. Nobody will honor it. Just because you call people racists doesn’t make them racists, and no longer has its long-standing power to get people to shut up or go into a frenzy to refute it. It now mainly serves to identify chumps who are too lazy to make real arguments, and in some circles being called a “RAAAAACIST!” is a mark of pride.

    I checked that off my list years ago, and was insufferably smug about it for almost a week.

    (For the record wasn’t “hey, I’m a racist and I’m proud” kind of smug, but the “hey, I got a liberal so cranked up they dropped the R-bomb on me!” kind.)

    Feel free to call me a racist, too, Michael. As a pro-choice (squishily), pro-gay-marriage (fiercely), self-proclaimed agnostic, I could use the street cred with the right wing.

    J.

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  23. ponce says:

    “The fringes attacked him instantly for the crime of being black.”

    Yeah, and what is sad is the wingnuts don’t realize if they complain about every.single.thing a Obama does, normal Americans stop listening.

    See Faux News falling ratings.

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  24. michael reynolds says:

    Anyone who thinks this looks like a well planned and executed political strategy is kidding themselves. Over 60% of americans oppose our involvement.

    Non sequitur.

    We got the UN to approve a no fly zone and then imediately proceeded to start nailing ground targets with no AA capability (that ain’t air superiority) making it pretty clear we’ve exceeded the UN resolutions mandate.

    False. Read the resolution.

    The US Military has had a constantly updated list of prime targets for softening up Libya through air assualt since the early 80′s. We could have sent them back to the stone age on 24 hours notice at any time since.

    Silly and ill-informed. Targets are not names in a book. Since we are desperate to avoid civilian casualties targeting is taken to a much higher degree of precision when we move to an actual attack.

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  25. michael reynolds says:

    The “race card” expired a while ago, Michael.

    Not to racists. It’s still very much in use.

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  26. Kevin Smith says:

    And back to that impressive diplomatic feat Reynolds was so proud of, direct from the UN Resolution’s text:

    “authorizes member states to act as required to prevent harm to Libyan civilians, authorizes the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libyan air space, strengthens the arms embargo against Libya, and strengthens the freeze on Libyan assets in foreign banks. It does not authorize member states to support rebels, defend armed insurgent groups, remove Qaddafi from office, or take steps to prevent Qaddafi’s use of mercenaries.”

    And yet now we say the goal is “regime change”. Sounds like we’re making comments directly in opposition to the text of the UN resolution we’re claiming is the justification for our action. It also specifies that automatic weapon armed rebels aren’t “civilians”, so Reynold’s claim we got them to pass a resolution to support the rebels is kinda out, right?

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  27. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, Jay: you seem to have a very hard time responding to questions. Still waiting for you to:

    1) explain what programs you’d cut to balance the budget.
    2) make sense of your “weeks late” remark re Libya given the timeline.

    But you don’t really have answers, do you? Just lip.

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  28. Kevin Smith says:

    So reynolds. If a white president took this action and we disagreed with it, would we still be racists? Or are you claiming those of us who feel this was either a bad idea or doesn’t make sense in the bigger picture would be A-OK with it if a white man had done it?

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  29. Kevin Smith says:

    Reynolds you might wanna have a slightly better idea who your talking to before you start trying to tell somebody how the targeting of military assets for air assualt is conducted. You also might wanna know how it actually works. The GPS coordinates for fixed military installations have been locked since the military GPS system came online. Satelite, aerial, and ground observations have tracked any movement or changes in postion. So when I say we could hit em and forget em, I kow for what I speak.

    As for the lack of support from the general public being a “Non sequitur”, you apparently aren’t aware that a large part f politics (at least in a democracy) is communication with the population you lead. Slamming “F” on the one.

    Any other silly attempts to debunk my points?

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  30. Scott says:
  31. Jay Tea says:

    Michael, I told you about the budget thing; I’m no expert, and I have other things I prefer to spend my time on than a major study of the entire budget and budget process. You want me to spend that much time and effort for something that doesn’t hold as much fascination to me as, say, the comparative differences between a North Carolina-class and a South Dakota-class battleship, or the difficulties of translating comic books to movies (which also ties in to the fundamental differences between TV and movies, and how TV is far closer to the comics model), or any of dozens of other topics, then make me an offer.

    As far as your carefully-constructed timeline, and your marveling at how it all worked out, it reminds me of the classic truism: “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”

    When the Libyan rebels were actually seriously threatening K-Daffy, Obama was talking with the UN and European allies, but couldn’t find the time to consult with the Congressional leadership or tell the American people what he was doing in their name, with their armed forces. And only when they were cornered and on the verge of being utterly crushed, then — and only then — did he act. But only after lining up others to take the fall should it fail. And he’s done a pretty good job of arranging that.

    His “smart diplomacy” put together a coalition half the size Bush did for Iraq, and it’s nearly fallen apart quite publicly and messily several times. And he can’t even bring himself to describe military attacks against a sovereign state, destroying property and killing citizens, as acts of war, but has to invent euphemisms and meaningless rhetoric to protect himself from… well, being the Commander In Chief and Chief Executive.

    I don’t understand what prompts you to carry water for this guy, but it’s overwhelming anything resembling reason or common sense.

    J.

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  32. michael reynolds says:

    The GPS coordinates for fixed military installations have been locked since the military GPS system came online. Satelite, aerial, and ground observations have tracked any movement or changes in postion. So when I say we could hit em and forget em, I kow for what I

    speak.

    No. You don’t.

    A missile battery at position XYZ. Has someone built a shack across the street from it? Has the school bus route changed to pass right by it? Has Gaddafi decided to place civilians there as human shields? Has a building gone up that might block the path of a cruise missile? These are the kinds of little details that avoid civilian casualties, and these are the kinds of things that have to be checked before we fire.

    And that’s just the fixed facilities. How about mobile batteries? How about armored vehicles? They don’t just plug in a GPS co-ordinate and squeeze a trigger. That’s one of the reasons we put men in there to aim lasers or to make last minute observations and why we fly satellites and recon aircraft and monitor radio traffic and perhaps even use human intelligence assets: so we don’t just go squeezing the trigger on baby milk factories based on dated targeting information.

    So reynolds. If a white president took this action and we disagreed with it, would we still be racists? Or are you claiming those of us who feel this was either a bad idea or doesn’t make sense in the bigger picture would be A-OK with it if a white man had done it?

    I made no statement about your racial views. Read what I said. In fact I said the opposite of what you seem to believe.

    And yet now we say the goal is “regime change”

    At risk of repeating myself, yes, as I mentioned to Verdon above, we employed some diplomatic ambiguity. It’s necessary in many cases.

    But your point was that we were violating the resolution. Not really. It was not a no-fly zone. It was quite open-ended. But it doesn’t endorse regime change, and if we’d demanded language that did, we’d never have gotten the resolution.

    Sorry if this is complicated for you. But diplomacy isn’t tic-tac-toe.

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  33. anjin-san says:

    > Like, well… anything.

    RIght. It’s not as if Obama took office in the middle of a crisis of historic proportions and led us out of the weeds.

    The fact that the economy started to improve almost exactly when he took office and has been slowly but steadily improving since? Just an amazing, cosmic coincidence. Venus and Mars are in alignment, and magic ponies roam the range.

    Go back to the 57 states thing Jay, you will have more luck with that. Really, it is all you have.

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  34. anjin-san says:

    Oh, and Jay – still waiting for you to substantiate this remark you made the other day:

    > (OK, wr and anjin) value an opportunity to express their hatred of Michelle Malkin

    So kindly show where I have ever expressed “hatred” for Michelle Malkin.

    Or are you just going to bitch out, like you did the last time you lied about my record commenting here?

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  35. Jay Tea says:

    anjin, and as far as Obama rescuing the economy… how’s unemployment gone since he came in? How’s the deficit? How’s the debt? Hell, where’s this year’s budget. And as far as the rest, once again I deploy the Dogbert Dismissive Wave: “Feh.”

    Michael: it’s a long-standing principle under the laws of war that if civilians or civilian structures are placed near a legitimate military target, any harm that befalls those civilians when that target is attacked is the responsibility of the owner of that target. Any other approach is simply begging the use of hostages and human shields.

    Also, nice attempt at diversion there — Kevin specifically talked about fixed targets, and you introduced the mobile ones. We all know about how tough those can be — I remember the “Scud-hunting” efforts we had to make in 1991. But that’s another issue.

    J.

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  36. Kevin Smith says:

    Reynolds, for lack of a better term, I’d say what’s coming outof you is bovine excrement. I clearly stated that the target list was constantly updated throughout the past several decades. Without getting into too great a detail (which would be illegal) I DO KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, you quite obviously do not. Libya’s air defense assets that are anything beyond shoulder launched SAM’s could’ve been toasted on 24 hours notice. End of that part of discussion.

    As for whether we have exceeded the mandate of the UN resolution, didyou read the part of the resolution I quoted? Seems pretty specific, doesn’t it?

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  37. steve says:

    ““authorizes member states to act as required to prevent harm to Libyan civilians, ”

    If you were really in the military, you would recognize this as being a fairly broad statement (the comma is important). It would justify attacking targets on the ground. Also, in order to take out all of Libya’s assets we would need to have the correct assets in place. That takes more than 24 hours.

    Steve

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  38. Fog says:

    All of this carping (including the original post) is just a distraction from the larger point. A dictator (and murderer) has been thwarted. Civilian lives have been saved. No Americans have died (yet). This is exactly the kind of intervention we can live with.
    Reagan got a lot of credit for the fall of the Soviet Union, based primarily on a powerful speech he gave in Berlin that gave the right push in the right direction at the right time.
    George W. Bush decided to forego the wussy speechifying and tried to install democracy at the point of a gun. 100’s of thousands died, Iraq remains unstable, and the Iranians were handed domination of the Persian Gulf on a platter.
    Obama gave a speech in Cairo on democracy, and within a year, popular revolts shatter the old Middle East.
    Am I seeing a pattern?

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  39. Jay Tea says:

    All of this carping (including the original post) is just a distraction from the larger point. A dictator (and murderer) has been thwarted. Civilian lives have been saved. No Americans have died (yet). This is exactly the kind of intervention we can live with.

    Yup, Fog. Unless, of course, you happen to remember that it ain’t over. The dictator has NOT been thwarted, those lives can still be lost.

    Iraq was NEVER a threat to Iranian interests in the Gulf. They had one major port and no significant naval forces. Iran still has the most powerful local navy in the Gulf.

    Which is one of the main reasons we keep a major presence there.

    J.

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  40. anjin-san says:

    > And as far as the rest, once again I deploy the Dogbert Dismissive Wave: “Feh.”

    Ah, so you are a liar and a coward. Got it. But that makes you the Pointy-haired boss, not Dogbert.

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  41. michael reynolds says:

    Those easily-dismissed rebels just took back Ajdabiyah and Brega — two of not many towns between them and western Libya. Gaddafi’s boys seem to be retreating through the desert.

    Kind of amazing given that they were a laughable 1000 guys armed only with plastic guns as of yesterday’s right-wing line.

    Todays all new right-wing line: they’re Al Qaeda.

    I think we need legislation requiring Republicans to stick with their b.s. for at least 48 hours before launching off on a whole new and contradictory line. You need to let that b.s. age a little. That way it acquires character.

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  42. mattt says:

    @Doug, OP: Weak.

    There was a run-up of over a year to Iraq, which the Bushies used mostly to lie and spin Saddam into a WMD-spitting antichrist while lining up “allies” like Macedonia, Armenia, and Tonga for window dressing. There’s lots to complain about in Libya, but the timeline was much more compressed and driven by actual aggression on the ground.

    Should Obama have waited until Saddam had overrun Benghazi, if it allowed time to get Azerbijan, Iceland, and the Philippines on board?

    In Libya they should start talking about a coalition of the willing and able.

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  43. michael reynolds says:

    Here, just because I’m a nice guy, I’ll give everyone a free shot at me by making a Daring Prediction. It is this: Within 3 days Gaddafi’s forces will be out of Eastern Libya.

    When you look at the map you see a whole bunch of desert between Brega (Burayqah) and the next city. And then even more after that before they can hide in a serious urban area. Driving a tank through the desert is a really bad idea when there are American planes overhead. So I think they’ll run for it and maybe even leave their armor behind.

    Fearless prediction. Easily falsifiable. I bare my throat.

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  44. anjin-san says:

    Michael – you have to remember some of these cats were standing shoulder to shoulder with Murbarek just a short time ago.

    This has to be a hard time for conservatives. For a decade they have been telling us (over and over and over…) that these folks are terrible, scary Muslims who live only to kill Americans and destroy freedom. Now the people they have been stereotyping and trashing all these years are fighting and dying — for freedom.

    Then there is the truly terrifying prospect that Obama might succeed in deposing or killing Kadaffi, and do it with a minimum of involvement on our part. Of course this addresses the murder of Americans in the Lockerbie bombing as well, and they certainly dread seeing Obama talk care of that piece of business.

    So it’s no longer a matter of moving the goalposts. They are always in motion, ever responsive to one of the driving forces of today’s conservative movement. The expedience of the moment.

    BTW, if you say “I DO KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT” in all caps, it automatically makes it true. It is an interesting feature of the internets.

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  45. michael reynolds says:

    anjin:

    Maybe you and I just don’t get it.

    Maybe we’re too linear to understand that the rebels are simultaneously brave freedom fighters, and a laughable little rag-tag bunch of losers with no gun and no chance, and fearsome Al Qaeda.

    That they must be saved right now this instant and also never.

    That Obama is simultaneously dithering and reckless, following far behind and yet racing too far ahead, wasting too much time with allies and not wasting enough time with Republicans.

    See, you and I just don’t have the intellect for GOP reasoning.

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  46. Kevin Smith says:

    Gee Steve, maybe I already knew the assets were in place? Since we have air bases in single mid-air refeuling range and carriers always in or near the Med. Plus if you were paying attention you’d know that the majority of the initial strikes were cruise missles from frigates and subs already in place in the Med (at their normal stations). We didn’t reposition anything for the initial strikes.

    As for the protecting civilians clause in the resolution, it also has specific language to say that DOES NOT include the revels (rocket and automatic weapon armed individuals).

    And Anjin-San, Puhleeeezzzz. Some folks are having an issue with the politics of the rebels, the last thing we want is to see a nation fall into the hands of a group like the Taliban. Just because people are trying to overthrow the Khadaffy regime does not mean they’re automaticlly fighting for freedom. My issue with this is that so far it looks even less well planned than the post-Saddam occupation of Iraq was (I think we all can agree it was not so well thought out). MY beef with reynolds is he is siting things as evidence of extended planning on the current administrations part as evidence of brilliance when it was in place and ready to go at a moments notice (literally) since before most of the folks he’s giving credit for it to got out of high school.

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  47. Kevin Smith says:

    See reynolds, here’s what you don’t get:
    1) You just laid out arguements being made by 10-20 different people as if they all came from one single individual. That’s utterly illogical and nothing more than sophistry (not very good sophistry either).
    2) everyone who disagrees with the Obama administration’s postions is not automaticlly a member of the GOP. In fact some of the arguements you just sited are coming from Democrats. Personally I’ve been registered Independent all my life and have voted for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in every election I’ve voted in.

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  48. anjin-san says:

    > Just because people are trying to overthrow the Khadaffy regime does not mean they’re automaticlly fighting for freedom.

    And the fact that them are Muslims does not automatically make them terrorists. Or are you saying that the uprisings against dictators across the middle east this year is simply the Taliban on the march? The Tunisians, the Egyptians, Yemenis, Syrians and so on?

    > Some folks are having an issue with the politics of the rebels

    Which folks? Former Bush admin officials who work for conservative think tanks now? Fox News “analysts”? Let’s see some credible analysis from people who do not have a vested interest in attacking Obama.

    > siting things as evidence of extended planning on the current administrations part as evidence of brilliance when it was in place and ready to go at a moments notice (literally) since before most of the folks he’s giving credit for it to got out of high school.

    So the US/Anglo/Franco coalition in Libya has been in place for decades? Interesting. Especially considering all the turbulence we have experienced over the years with France. An unbiased observer might say that brining France in on this successfully is a major coup.

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  49. Kevin Smith says:
  50. Kevin Smith says:

    “So the US/Anglo/Franco coalition in Libya has been in place for decades?”

    No, and I never said it had. I said that US assets have had the Libyan Air Defense system mapped and targeted since the early 80’s. Given their lesss than stellar air recon capablility one would expect the limited French involvement in the initial strikes to have been essentially drawn from US targeting.

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  51. ponce says:

    “Kind of amazing given that they were a laughable 1000 guys armed only with plastic guns as of yesterday’s right-wing line.”

    Our puppets had great success at the start of the Afghanistan war with B-52s bombing the crap out of whoever they were attacking.

    But in the long run, the high tech military assault from America forged the Taliban into a force that can easily hold off the U.S. military despite our 1000:1 funding advantage and 10:1 manpower advantage over the them.

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  52. Kevin Smith says:

    We actually put quite a few US trops on the ground right of the bat in Afghanistan. And I’m not sure the Taliban’s falling back into the Pakistani tribal areas to hide in caves quite counts as “Holding off”. But it is true an irregular force of ligtly armed individuals can present serious challenges in the long run to any campaign that doesn’t involve heavy coomitments of ground troops. Ari superiority is limited in effect once the enemy disperses and starts operating as guerillas. One of the concerns in the Libya campaigns is that it could degenerate into irregualr warfare with Khadaffy supporters acting as guerillas.

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  53. ponce says:

    “One of the concerns in the Libya campaigns is that it could degenerate into irregualr warfare with Khadaffy supporters acting as guerillas.”

    Yep.

    With the added bonus of USS Cole and Somali pirate style attacks on US and allied shipping in the Mediterranean and Suez canal..

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  54. anjin-san says:

    So Kevin, if we accept that there are some Al Qaeda involved – and it appears the level of involvement is pretty trivial, what is your plan? Support and or a hands-off policy towards brutal dictators in the middle east simply because their removal creates the possibility that radicals MIGHT gain power?

    Yea, radicals might gain power. Or, Muslim nations might move towards democracy. What are we about as a nation? Cravenly supporting dictators because it might make us a little safer? Then consider that by virtue of our support for folks like Mubarek and the house of Saud, Al Qaeda is a beast we helped create.

    Do we want to end up in an endless conflict with Muslims? Well, defense contractors might like this. Personally, I think we should roll the dice and try and alter the dynamic in the middle east. We have been helping dictators to fvck the people in the middle east for a long time. Perhaps if we change our approach we can short circuit the rather nasty status quo that has developed since 9.11.

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  55. ponce says:

    “we can short circuit the rather nasty status quo that has developed since 9.11.”

    Neither of the hand picked puppets we put in place in Iraq and Afghanistan have stepped down since we put them them in charge of those countries.

    Are Hamid Karzai and Nouri al-Maliki really a change from previous dictators who stay in power using phony elections?

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  56. anjin-san says:

    Ponce – I am referring to the situation that has developed this year. I have hopes for real movement towards democracy. The situation we have now is being driven by the folks who live in these countries. That is a little different then the US driven nation building that went on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I have always maintained that there would be no real freedom in Muslim countries until Muslims were willing to die for it. It is not something we can hand to them. We appear to be at this threshold.

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  57. ponce says:

    “I have always maintained that there would be no real freedom in Muslim countries until Muslims were willing to die for it. ”

    I think the more important thing is whether a dictator’s supporters are willing to kill to keep them in power.

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  58. anjin-san says:

    > I think the more important thing is whether a dictator’s supporters are willing to kill to keep them in power.

    Clearly, in the case of Libya, they are. But once a homegrown force of freedom fighters exists, wester democracies can help to negate the firepower advantage of the government. With luck, we end up with a better government in place in Libya and real movement towards democracy. And the people in Libya might see the west in a different light if we help them get there.

    Of course it could go south in many different ways. Such is life.

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  59. ponce says:

    “With luck, we end up with a better government in place in Libya ”

    So America is willing to kill for a roll of the dice?

    I can’t tell you how much that disgusts me.

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  60. michael reynolds says:

    Are Hamid Karzai and Nouri al-Maliki really a change from previous dictators who stay in power using phony elections?

    Do you mean are they an improvement over the Taliban and Saddam Hussein? Is that intended to be funny?

    Yes, God yes, and hell yes they are an improvement.

    Are they in any way perfect or even good? No. But very definitely an improvement.

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  61. michael reynolds says:

    So America is willing to kill for a roll of the dice?

    I can’t tell you how much that disgusts me.

    How’s the view from up there atop your high horse?

    Everything is a roll of the dice. Everything. Every single thing anyone ever does. Ever.

    So wipe the smug off and deal with reality. You and I are free today in large part because FDR made common cause with one of history’s great monsters, Stalin, to enable to him to destroy a greater monster, Hitler. Was that a “roll of the dice?” Yeah, just a wee bit. We could have lost. Or we could have driven Stalin and Hitler together. Or Stalin could have ended up running all of Europe, not just the east.

    It’s always a gamble. And getting huffy about it and wallowing in a sense of moral superiority because you’ve figured it out is the kind of breakthrough that belongs in a sophomore’s dorm. And not at one of the better colleges.

    There is no way to eliminate risk. Ever. What you need to understand though is that inaction is action. A decision not to do something is every bit as potentially fatal as a decision to do something. So sitting on our hands and refusing to get involved in Libya has just as many potential effects downstream as our choosing not to.

    Passivity and pacifism are active choices that may also result in terrible things. There’s no escape from choice and no escape from risk, and no escape from the possibility of doing something wrong.

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  62. Ben Wolf says:

    The best that can be said about Karzai and al-Maliki is that they are for the moment moderately more in tune with the White House’s interests than their predecessors. Keep in mind we once sang the praises of Saddam Hussein and the mujaheddin.

    And just as with those previous examples, when our current “allies” no longer fall into line, our media and political elites will shrug their shoulders and wail, “Hoocouldanode!”

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  63. anjin-san says:

    So America is willing to kill for a roll of the dice?

    I can’t tell you how much that disgusts me

    .

    Does it disgust you more than the support we have been lending to brutal dictators in the middle east to maintain the status quo there for decades? Make no mistake, we have been propping up brutal regimes to keep the oil flowing and try to maintain regional stability in the pursuit of our own goals. Do a little reading on Murbarek’s torture chambers. Captured terrorists starting spilling their guts when we told them the alternative was a plane ticket to Egypt.

    How do you hope to change this (or anything) without risk? If you are aware of a slam dunk, sure thing way of getting it done, do share.

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  64. michael reynolds says:

    The best that can be said about Karzai and al-Maliki is that they are for the moment moderately more in tune with the White House’s interests than their predecessors.

    The Taliban and Saddam were evil. The Taliban spent their time systematically obliterating any and all forms of human freedom, particularly singling out women. Saddam was a monster, a real life, no b.s. monster.

    These two d-bags we have in Iraq and Afghanistan are slimy and crooked respectively, and both unreliable, and Maliki may be half in bed with Iran, and neither will hesitate to do bad things, and they are neither of them named Washington, but they are not Saddam or the Taliban. Neither Maliki or Karzai is likely to sanction a mission to fly airplanes into American cities, and so far neither has shown a determination to massacre thousands of people or to start wars or to use poison gas.

    I realize it’s morally tricky ground to differentiate between a-holes and monsters, but that’s the cards we’re dealt sometimes.

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  65. ponce says:

    “Does it disgust you more than the support we have been lending to brutal dictators in the middle east to maintain the status quo there for decades? ”

    Welp, I guess what really disgusts me is that over 2 million children die every year from diarrhea and we do so little to prevent it when you compare the tiny amount we spend on nonmilitary foreign aid to what we spend on enriching our former generals working for American war profiteers.

    If I was a religious sort, I’d say America citizenship is a guaranteed ticket to an eternity of pain.

    As I’m an atheist, I just chalk it up to the swinish nature of our country.

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  66. anjin-san says:

    So Ponce, do you have a plan beyond complaining about how everything sucks?

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  67. ponce says:

    “So Ponce, do you have a plan beyond complaining about how everything sucks?”

    Vote for Ralph Nader again?

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  68. michael reynolds says:

    Update on my prediction:

    2:17am
    Coalition forces were carrying out intensive air strikes on pro-Gaddafi forces on the 400 km long road between Ajdabiya and Sirte, in the east, a government spokesman said Saturday.

    Yep. Long, empty road. In tanks. With the US, UK and French Air Forces overhead. Time to consider a bicycle.

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  69. michael reynolds says:

    ponce:

    You’re singlehandedly demonstrating that lefties can be as dumb as righties.

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  70. ponce says:

    Michael,

    Every time i read of a bomb dropping in Libya I think, “There’s 100 poor kids whose lives could have been saved.”

    If that makes me dumb, so be it.

    Glad to see you’re getting off on the slaughter, though.

    I see by today’s photos our winged heroes are down to blowing up pickup trucks and passenger cars…right on schedule.

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  71. michael reynolds says:

    ponce:

    You’re avoiding engaging on actual issues and you’re striking self-aggrandizing moral poses. You’re voguing and it’s boring.

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  72. ponce says:

    “You’re avoiding engaging on actual issues and you’re striking self-aggrandizing moral poses.”

    But the whole Libya think has been sold to us as a moral crusade.

    Only the bloodthirsty can be pious, Michael?

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  73. mantis says:

    ponce:

    You’re singlehandedly demonstrating that lefties can be as dumb as righties.

    He does that, doesn’t he?

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  74. Justin says:

    Stop the complaining.
    This Libya thing is what make Northern Virginia keep the lattes, and new
    car sales rocking.

    When those missle come off those babies Grumman and
    the rest of the defense industry hear are in high five mode !

    Only this time we like in Iraq we have no idea of who the rebels are
    More later !

    Yes Maryland and Virginia know how to keep the home sales rolling along
    thanks to Hillary and Obama

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  75. ponce says:

    “He does that, doesn’t he?”

    Americans are largely indifferent to the fact that 5000-6000 brown kids shit themselves to death every single day even though they could be saved for a modest cost to America.

    But let some imaginary people be threatened (Libyans in this case) and the U.S. military can be deployed to save them!, well, then no expense is too great to save these imaginary people.

    Why can’t the warmongers just be honest and say they’re will to help out brown people, real or imaginary, as long as it provides them with a constant stream of war porn?

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  76. anjin-san says:

    Ponce – the “America sucks” thing is getting old. I share some of your concerns, but you are just engaging in pointless bitching. We live in a highly imperfect world. What can you and I realistically do to make it a little better?

    The time you spend in here on these repetitive posts could probably be used to save one or two of the kids you are concerned about.

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  77. michael reynolds says:

    Why can’t the warmongers just be honest and say they’re will to help out brown people, real or imaginary, as long as it provides them with a constant stream of war porn?

    How much “war porn” did we get from rushing into Indonesia after their tsunami, or into Haiti after their quake? As I recall, both countries would qualify as “brown” people. Not that you give a damn about inconvenient facts. Vogue on.

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  78. ponce says:

    “I share some of your concerns, but you are just engaging in pointless bitching. ”

    Anjin, my point is that if Americans really, truly wants to save brown people from atrocities, using the U.S. military to do it isn’t a very cost effective way to do it.

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  79. Jay Tea says:

    ponce doesn’t grasp that REAL racists, when they see brown people killing other brown people, don’t want to intervene. They want to fire up the popcorn.

    But then, that’s just one of a nigh-infinite list of things ponce doesn’t grasp.

    And note how Iran, Afghanistan, and Libya are being pushed as “protecting brown people from other brown people.” Real racist there.

    J.

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  80. Barry says:

    I apologize for skipping the comments (in case somebody else has already point this out), but the ‘coalition’ in Iraq included a whole list of purely nominal units. What did Georgia send – 100 men, or 200?

    If we don’t contributions which are basically colorguards for a country’s flag and diplomatic tokens, what do the various coalition counts come down to?

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  81. […] ‘nuance’ doesn’t end there.  The Obama Administration’s description of the coalition has been stretched to the point of ridicule as well.  This is, as many have pointed out, the […]

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