Obama’s war – just for the hell of it 27

Muammar Qaddafi was a tyrant. Little good can be said of him. He was probably one of the worst Arab heads of state – a class that lends itself to only very small degrees of comparison.

But two things were in his favor.

One was that he wanted friendly relations with America. Or at least he did not want to give America reason to invade his country. President Bush launched an invasion of Iraq in March 2003 largely because (it was generally believed) Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Colonel Qaddafi had an arsenal of such weapons; but in December of that year, a few days after the defeated Saddam Hussein was captured, the dictator of Libya declared that he would abandon his WMDs. (In fact he kept quantities of chemical weapons right up to the day of his death in October 2011, but the 2003 declaration was nevertheless a white flag.)

The second thing – Qaddafi was the enemy of al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, both of which were active dangers to the West.

It would seem, therefore, that the interests of the US and Europe would best be served by his staying in power.

Why then did President Obama go to war against him?

Diana West writes at Townhall:

More than Benghazi skeletons should haunt Hillary Clinton’s expected 2016 presidential bid. It now seems that the entire war in Libya – where thousands died in a civil war in which no U.S. interest was at stake – might well have been averted on her watch and, of course, that of President Obama’s. How? In March 2011, immediately after NATO’s punishing bombing campaign began, Muammar Qaddafi was “ready to step aside,” says retired Rear Admiral Charles R. Kubic, U.S. Navy. “He was willing to go into exile and was willing to end the hostilities.”

What happened? According to Kubic, the Obama administration chose to continue the war without permitting a peace parley to go forward. 

Kubic made these extremely incendiary charges against the Obama administration while outlining his role as the leading, if informal, facilitator of peace feelers from the Libyan military to the U.S. military. He was speaking this week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi was presenting its interim report. Kubic maintains that to understand Benghazi, the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in which four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed, “you have to understand what happened at the beginning of the Libyan revolt, and how that civil war that created the chaos in Libya could have been prevented.”  …

A short chronology sets the stage:

On March 19, 2011, Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, made a dramatic announcement from Paris on behalf of the “international community.” Eyes steady, voice freighted with dignity and moment, Clinton demanded that Qaddafi – a post-9/11 ally of the U.S. against jihadist terror-armies such as al-Qaida – heed a ceasefire under a newly adopted United Nations resolution, or else.

“Yesterday, President Obama said very clearly that if Qaddafi failed to comply with these terms, there would be consequences,” Clinton said. “Since the president spoke, there has been some talk from Tripoli of a cease-fire, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story. Colonel Qaddafi continues to defy the world. His attacks on civilians go on.”

That same day, NATO air and sea forces went to war to defeat the anti-al-Qaida Qaddafi and bring victory to Libya’s al-Qaida-linked rebels. Uncle Sam … joined the jihad.

Through Libyan intermediaries whom he knew in his post-naval career as an engineer and businessman, Kubic was hearing that Qaddafi wanted to discuss his own possible abdication with the U.S. “Let’s keep the diplomats out of it,” Kubic says he told them. “Let’s keep the politicians out of it, let’s just have a battlefield discussion under a flag of truce between opposing military commanders pursuant to the laws of war, and see if we can, in short period of time, come up with the terms for a cease-fire and a transition of government.”

The following day, March 20, 2011, Kubic says he relayed to the U.S. AFRICOM headquarters Qaddafi’s interest in truce talks as conveyed by a top Libyan commander, Gen. Abdulqader Yusef Dubri, head of Qaddafi’s personal security team. Kubic says that his AFRICOM contact, Lt. Col. Brian Linvill, a former U.S. Army attache in Tripoli then serving as point man for communications with the Libyan military, passed this information up his chain of command to Gen. Carter Ham, then AFRICOM commander. AFRICOM quickly responded with interest in setting up direct military-to-military communications with the Libyans.

On March 21, 2011, Kubic continued, with the NATO war heating up, a senior aide to Qaddafi, Gen. Ahmed Mamud, directly submitted a set of terms for a 72-hour-truce to Linvill at AFRICOM. The Benghazi commission made the basic text of these terms available to press.

During a follow-up telephone interview I had with Kubic, he underscored the show of good faith on both sides that created hopefulness that these flag-of-truce negotiations would come to pass. On the night of March 21, Gen. Ham issued a public statement on Libya in which he noted the U.S. was not targeting Qaddafi.

By March 22, Qadaffi had verifiably begun pulling back troops from the rebel-held cities of Benghazi and Misrata. The cease-fire Hillary Clinton said the “international community” was seeking only days earlier seemed to be within reach, with the endgame of Qaddafi’s abdication and exile potentially on the table.

Then, shockingly, Kubic got what amounted to a “stand down” order from AFRICOM – an order that came down from “well above Gen. Ham,” Kubic says he was told – in fact, as Kubic said in our interview, he was told it came from outside the Pentagon.

The question becomes, who in the Obama administration scuttled these truce talks that might have resulted in Qaddafi handing over powers without the bloodshed and destruction that left Libya a failed state and led to Benghazi?

Had talks gone forward, there is no guarantee, of course, that they would have been successful. Qaddafi surely would have tried to extract conditions. One of them, Kubic believes, would have been to ensure that Libya continue its war on al-Qaida. Would this have been a sticking point? In throwing support to Islamic jihadists, including al-Qaida-linked “rebels” and Muslim Brotherhood forces, the U.S. was changing sides during that “Arab Spring.” Was the war on Qaddafi part of a larger strategic realignment that nothing, not even the prospect of saving thousands of lives, could deter? Or was the chance of going to war for “humanitarian” reasons too dazzling to lose to the prospect of peace breaking out? Or was it something else?

Kubic, the military man, wonders why the civilian leadership couldn’t at least explore a possibly peaceful resolution. “It is beyond me that we couldn’t give it 72 hours — particularly when we had a leader who had won a Nobel Peace Prize, and who was unable basically to ‘give peace a chance’ for 72 hours.”

Obama favored the Muslim Brotherhood’s coming to power in Egypt. He welcomed some of its members into advisory positions in his administration. Did the possible “larger strategic realignment” involve the Muslim Brotherhood? Did the Obama administration want it in power in Libya as well as in Egypt? What advice was Obama and Hillary Clinton getting on Libya and Egypt during the violent upheavals of the so-called “Arab Spring”, and from whom? Is there a clue in the fact that Hillary Clinton’s closest adviser was Huma Abedin, whose family has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood?  Isn’t there at the very least grounds for suspicion in the light of all this? (See our posts, Extreme obscenity, July 27, 2013, and Hillary of Benghazi, August 27, 2013.)

We think there is. But why Obama and Hillary Clinton should want the Muslim Brotherhood in power in North Africa is another question – one to which there cannot be a reassuring answer.

Oil the Savior from God in the heart of darkness 2

On October 14, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that 100 U.S. troops, acting as advisors to the Uganda military, will help in military action against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) — a rebel force roaming northwest Uganda, recruiting child soldiers, committing atrocities, and taking hostages (including slave “wives”) for more than fifteen years.

Information on the origin and nature of the appalling Lord’s Resistance Army is provided here at PJ Media by Harvey Glickman, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Haverford College, who also speculates on the reasons for the recent stepped-up US involvement against it in Uganda. (For more on the LRA see our post The Lord’s army of child slave cannibals, June 14, 2011.)

The LRA’s main goal is to live off the terror it creates. Northwest Uganda, northeast Congo, and southeast Sudan (now divided by the new border with South Sudan) have all seen decades of bloody disorder as the LRA traversed international borders to elude Ugandan troops. At times, the LRA has also attacked in Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Republic of Sudan, and Uganda, committing atrocities in those countries.

The LRA emerged as an atrocity-anarchy mechanism in the mid-1980s. It arose among the long-neglected Acholi people in northern Uganda, whose brief period of ascendancy during the brutal Idi Amin regime was overthrown by the National Resistance Army, led by Yoweri Museveni, in 1986. Museveni parlayed his military success into the presidency and remains there today.

Joseph Kony, a member of the Acholi people originally from Gulu in northern Uganda, founded the LRA, and instigated a rebellion against the Ugandan government in 1986. His ostensible purpose was to establish a theocracy based on orders from God communicated to him via spirits. His method to spread the “Word” encompassed unspeakable atrocities and child abduction, eventually displacing two million people in his rampages through northern Uganda, Congo, and Sudan.

After the September 11 attacks on the United States, the Ugandan military reinterpreted its own measures against the LRA rebellion as part of the global war against terrorism. In 2002 the Uganda parliament passed a Suppression of Terrorism Act. The United States rewarded Uganda’s support for the war in Iraq by restarting a military training and assistance program in 2003. The agreement provided for electronic technology and some direct military assistance, but not weapons. Part of the program was to “win the hearts and minds” of the Acholi people, whose territory within Uganda has been most ravaged by LRA depredations.

By 2003 it was estimated the LRA had 3,000 fighters under arms and 2,000 camp followers, many involuntary. In October 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for five leaders of the LRA, including Kony.

Early in 2010, however, the Ugandan military stated that the LRA was at its weakest point in the past fifteen years. More recently, it claims there are only 200 to 400 soldiers still in the field for the LRA.

So why does the U.S. government pick this moment to get involved?

It turns out that the United States has been involved with this issue for some time. As early as 2003, the United States contributed aid to the Uganda defense budget as part of the expanded struggle against global terrorism. And President Obama has disclosed that since 2008 the United States has helped efforts in the region to protect local people by pursuing the LRA.

U.S. Public Law 111-172 — the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009” — was passed by the U.S. Congress on May 24, 2010. The bill, combining national security and humanitarian goals, was sponsored by Senators McCain and Feingold to provide financial and material assistance to Uganda’s counterinsurgency efforts.

But U.S. support for the anti-LRA war has not been an unmitigated success. The National Security Council authorized training and financial support for the December 2008 Operation Lightning Thunder, a joint Uganda-Congolese-South Sudan campaign. This resulted, however, in major casualties among Congolese civilians, with 200,000 people displaced and the LRA escaping to fight another day.

Again the US is invoking R2P – the Responsibility to Protect – as its reason for intervention in a foreign war. It was the reason given for US military intervention in Libya. But if the intention really was to protect civilians, that intervention must be counted as a failure. (See our posts The danger of R2P, March 23, 2011; A siren song from hell, April 1, 2011; NATO bombards civilians in Libya, October 5, 2011.)

There were other reasons for the US and NATO to go to war in Libya, among them the need for European NATO member-states to ensure their access to that country’s oil. And there are surely other reasons for the US to go to war in Uganda.

Somewhat puzzling about the new U.S. deployment “to protect civilians” — as stated by the U.S. Embassy in Kampala on October 17, 2011 — is the fact that the Ugandan army announced that the Kony/LRA problem is no longer a threat in Uganda, but a regional problem. So, apparently the UPDF is joining the U.S. in an African regional conflict. Uganda has been a leader in the African Union’s battle against the al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia, and suffered a retaliatory bombing in Kampala by them in July 2010.

So does this new operation mean a wider U.S. regional military action in East Africa in support, however reluctant, of Kenya’s incursion into Somalia against al-Shabaab? Is this part of an expanded role for AFRICOM, the U.S. military command in Africa?

Among the possible motives that Glickman considers for more military action by the US in the region, one makes more sense than most:

There is one other possible factor inspiring this new U.S. effort. The geographic areas in which the LRA operates are in the middle of recent discoveries of oilfields. The finds are substantial. Three companies have bought the drilling rights. Heritage sold its interests to Tullow, Tullow sold 30% of its interests to Total and CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which is state-run). …

The Obama administration’s motives are still not clear. Given this list of possibilities, the way the campaign develops should provide some answers.

We think oil is a very good reason to go to war. It would be an added benefit, greatly to be welcomed, if in the course of such a war the Lord’s Resistance Army were to be destroyed.

Is America in decline? 2

Is the world entering a post-American era? Will the 21st century be dominated by some other power, or several others?

In the splendid speech that John Bolton delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010, he said of Obama, “He is the first post-American president.”

In Obama’s eyes, American superpower status is already over. The decline is happening. There’s no reason to regret it, and it would be pointless and unnecessary to try to halt or reverse it. Obama is content to let America be a nation among the nations, no different in any important respect, and certainly no better. “He sees American decline as a kind of natural phenomenon,” Bolton said.

In Bolton’s own view, however, America is still exceptional and still the one and only superpower. If its status as such is under threat, that threat proceeds from Obama himself, who, almost casually – not caring very much, as John Bolton remarked, about foreign and national security policy – is himself weakening it.

What Obama does care about is domestic policy. To achieve his redistributionist goals he has put America into crushing debt; and being determined, it seems, to turn America into a European-style socialist state, he can only make the debt vaster and heavier. That alone weakens America.

China is America’s chief creditor, but that does not mean China is now a second superpower. A China growing in wealth and confidence, and becoming an increasingly significant world actor, may pose an economic threat to America but is not, or not yet, a rival world power. Militarily it is far from a match. Militarily, America is still far and away the most powerful nation.

But there again, if Obama has his way, it won’t be for much longer. He has, in Bolton’s words, an “incredibly naïve idea” that if the US would get rid of its own nuclear weapons, other countries would give up theirs; those that do not have them but want them – such as Iran and North Korea – would abandon their intense efforts to obtain them; and the world would live at peace forever after. This belief or ambition represents, as John Bolton put it, “a pretty deep-seated strain in the left wing of the Democratic Party.” Obama will soon negotiate an arms control agreement with Russia by which he will undertake substantially to reduce America’s nuclear capability. America will not develop new nuclear weapons, or arms in outer space, or even keep its existing arsenal battle-ready by testing for safety and reliability. It is as if America had no enemies; as if America were not under attack; as if 9/11 had never happened; and as if Iran and North Korea would not drop nuclear bombs on America and its allies if they could do it and get away with it.

Furthermore, with the rest of the dreaming Left both at home and internationally, he aspires to another vision of a new earth: one that is not only sweetly irenic but held forcibly in union by a supreme governing authority. Those proposals for world taxes that we hear of; the intricate business of trading in carbon indulgences in the name of saving the earth from being consumed by fire or ice; international treaty regulations that would result in banning the private ownership of guns – all these are measures to realize the tremendous objective of “world governance”. It would mean the end of American independence, the end of national sovereignty. It would mean that the Revolution was lost, as Bolton said.

In a sense it would be the end of America, because America is an idea of liberty. And it is an idea that the world needs. Its loss would be a colossal disaster, a tragedy for the whole human race.

Can America be saved?

In his book titled The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria asserts that “America is closing down”, but allows that it “won’t be demoted from its superpower position in the foreseeable future” because “it’s not that the United States has been doing badly over the last two decades. It’s that, all of a sudden, everyone else is playing the game.”

America can “remain a vital, vibrant economy, at the forefront of the next revolutions in science, technology and industry, as long as it can embrace and adjust to the challenges confronting it”.

“The challenges” come from other nations, now rising, which he groups together as “the rest”.

China is the first of them because it is becoming an economic giant. The 21st century, he considers, may be the Chinese century.

What if [China ] quietly positions itself as the alternative to a hectoring and arrogant America? How will America cope with such a scenario – a kind of Cold War, but this time with a vibrant market economy, a nation that is not showing a hopeless model of state socialism, or squandering its power in pointless military interventions? This is a new challenge for the United States, one it has not tackled before, and for which it is largely unprepared.

Next in line is India. Poorer but democratic, India is “the ally”. Then come Brazil and Chile (plausibly); South Africa (less plausibly); and (implausibly) Russia. (Russia is a demographic basket case.)

Ironically, Zakaria says, these nations are rising because they learnt from America:

For sixty years, American politicians and diplomats have traveled around the world pushing countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. … We counseled them to be unafraid of change and learn the secrets of our success. And it worked: the natives have gotten good at capitalism.

America, then, has not been a malign power, or not always. In Roosevelt’s day other countries believed that “America’s mammoth power was not to be feared”. It was after it had won the Cold War, when it became the only superpower, that it began to go to the bad. “Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has walked the world like a colossus, unrivaled and unchecked”, and this “has made Washington arrogant, careless, and lazy.” Furthermore, he tell us, “people round the world worry about living in a world in which one country has so much power.”

To relieve that worry, America “must reduce its weaponry and work towards a non-nuclear world.” It is hypocritical for the US to insist that other countries should not have nuclear weapons while it is hoarding a nuclear arsenal of its own. By giving them up it would “gain credibility”, an end he apparently considers so desirable that it would be worth risking the nation’s very survival to achieve it.

The summer of 2002, Zakaria says, was “the high water-mark of unipolarity”. The world felt sympathy for America after 9/11. America went to war in Afghanistan, which was not good but not too bad. But then it invaded Iraq, which was very bad, and the world’s sympathy dried up. America was being too “unilateral”, too “imperial and imperious”.

George W Bush and “the nefarious neoconservative conspiracy” antagonized the world. He and his conspirators “disdained treaties, multilateral organizations, international public opinion, and anything that suggested a conciliatory approach to world politics.”

So the world’s dislike, contempt, and fear of America were justified, or at least understandable, in the light of the foreign policies of the “arrogant” Bush administration. Zakaria even claims that the animosity filled the Republicans – already full of “chest-thumping machismo” – with pride.

He asks:

Can Washington adjust and adapt to a world in which others have moved up? Can it respond to shift in economic and political power? … Can Washington truly embrace a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints? Can it thrive in a world it cannot dominate?

The advice he gives to “Washington” for success in adjusting, adapting, responding, embracing, and thriving is to be conciliatory, apologetic. It must listen more; proclaim universal values”, but “phrase its positions carefully”; be like the chair of a board gently guiding a group of independent directors. America must “learn from the rest”. The president must meet more non-government people, have smaller entourages, rely more on diplomacy. Consultation, cooperation, compromise are the key words. He objects to such accomodations being called appeasement. Consult and cooperate, he urges, with Russia, and with “multilateral institutions” such as the UN, NATO, AFRICOM, OAS, and the International Criminal Court. (Even internally, the US legal system “should take note of transnational standards”.)

The federal government has been “too narrow-minded” about terrorism. When bin Laden got America to “come racing out to fight” him (in response to 9/11) this was “over-reaction.”  Zakaria’s advice: “take it on the chin” and “bounce back”. The government must stop thinking of terrorism as a national security issue, and think of it as criminal activity carried out by “small groups of misfits”. Although Democrats were on the whole “more sensible” about terrorism, both parties, he says, spoke “in language entirely designed for a domestic audience with no concern for the poisonous effect it has everywhere else.” His solution is better airport control round the world. The more urgent problem in his view is that American Muslims have become victims of over-reaction to terrorist attacks. Instead of being “questioned, harassed, and detained” they should, he urges, “be enlisted in the effort to understand the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Zakaria does not consider himself anti-American. He does not even see himself as a man of the left. He reiterates that he is a free marketeer. It is because America became “suspicious of free markets”, he says, that partly explains its “closing down”.

He wrote his book before the economic crisis. He saw a globalized economy bringing about an increasingly prosperous world in which the poorest nations were rising strongly enough for him to declare that “the world is swimming in capital”, and “there really isn’t a Third World any more “. But even then the dollar was sliding, and America was showing signs of being “enfeebled”.

At a military-political level America still dominates the world, but the larger structure of unipolarity – economic, financial, cultural – is weakening… every year it becomes weaker and other nations and actors grow in strength.

For all its military might, its chest-thumping phase is over and now it is “cowering in fear”. It must, he says, “recover its confidence.” ‘It must stop being “a nation consumed by anxiety”, with a tendency to “hunker down”, unreasonably “worried about unreal threats” such as terrorism, and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. (Iran, he explains, has good reason to fear the United States, with its armies on two of its borders. It’s only to be expected that Iran would try to arm itself with nuclear bombs and missile delivery systems. He does not explain why America should not fear this as a real threat.)

He is certain about what America needs to do to propitiate and serve the world it has alienated. It should ‘‘build broad rules by which the world will be bound’’, rather than pursue “narrow interests”.

What the world really wants from America is … that it affirm its own ideals. That role, as the country that will define universal ideals, remains one that only America can play.

We know Obama has read Zakaria’s book, or at least looked into it, because there is a photograph of him holding it, one finger marking his place. Obama is doing much that Zakaria advises in foreign affairs. But that’s less likely to be because the writer has impressed the president with his arguments than because they have both drunk from the same ideological well.

Obama’s foreign policy lets us see if Zakaria’s theory works. So far it has not.

So is America’s decline beyond all remedy?

It’s a relief to turn from Zakaria’s dull and weakly reasoned book with its uncongenial credo to an article titled The Seductions of Decline (February 2, 2010) by brilliantly witty and insightful Mark Steyn. If America believes it is in decline, he says, it will be. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The view that America has been too arrogant a power; that it is not and should not be exceptional; that humility and apology are required of it; that only endlessly patient negotiation in a spirit of compromise will improve foreign relations and dissuade states like North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear arms; that Islamic terrorism should be treated as crime and not as the jihad its perpetrators declare it to be; that Russia should be consulted on, say, the deployment of American missile defense; and that the US should reduce its nuclear arsenal and work towards a non-nuclear world – will bring about the decline.

National decline is psychological – and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline.

His answer to the question “is America set for decline?” is yes, because of the policies of Obama and the Democrats, which arise from their acceptance of decline.

Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: Unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the American economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet.

American decline, he says, “will be steeper, faster and more devastating than Britain’s – and something far closer to Rome’s.” It will not be like France’s, or Austria’s.

Why did decline prove so pleasant in Europe? Because it was cushioned by American power. The United States is such a perversely non-imperial power that it garrisons not ramshackle colonies but its wealthiest “allies”, from Germany to Japan. For most of its members, “the free world” has been a free ride.

And after “Washington’s retreat from la gloire” as hegemon of the world, when America “becomes Europe in its domestic disposition and geopolitical decline, then who will be America?”

Of the many competing schools of declinism, perhaps the most gleeful are those who salivate over the rise of China. For years, Sinophiles have been penning orgasmic fantasies of mid-century when China will bestride the world and America will be consigned to the garbage heap of history. It will never happen: As I’ve been saying for years, China has profound structural problems. It will get old before it gets rich.

Not China then. Russia?

The demographic deformation of Tsar Putin’s new empire is even more severe than Beijing’s. Russia is a global power only to the extent of the mischief it can make on its acceleration into a death spiral.

Not Russia. How about the Caliphate that the terrorist war is being fought to establish?

Even if every dimestore jihadist’s dreams came true, almost by definition an Islamic imperium will be in decline from Day One.

So what might the post-American world look like? Mark Steyn’s answer is deeply depressing:

The most likely future is not a world under a new order but a world with no order – in which pipsqueak states go nuclear while the planet’s wealthiest nations, from New Zealand to Norway, are unable to defend their own borders and are forced to adjust to the post-American era as they can. Yet, in such a geopolitical scene, the United States will still remain the most inviting target – first, because it’s big, and secondly, because, as Britain knows, the durbar moves on but imperial resentments linger long after imperial grandeur.

But nothing is inevitable, and Mark Steyn offers a last hope. Though “decline is the way to bet”, the only thing that will ensure it is “if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.”

When in 2008 a majority of the American electorate voted for Barack Obama to be president of the United States, it seemed that the deal had been made. But now Obama is failing, the Democratic majority is under threat, and the Tea Party movement is reclaiming the Revolution.

This could be another American century after all.

Jillian Becker   March 1, 2010