March 21st, 2011

David Warren on Libya: “we don’t know what we are doing”

David Warren isn’t exactly a fan of the intervention in Libya.

However, he provides an answer (but is it true?) to my oft-repeated question about who the Libyan “rebels” might be:

…[I]n point of fact, the most promising internal opponents of Gadhafi’s regime are thuggish tribal chiefs and Islamist ideologues we have no reason to prefer to the monster with whom we are overfamiliar.

Here’s more:

In a way almost touching, the Bush administration tried to meet all the criteria of a just war, when invading Afghanistan, then Iraq. They tried to meet the Powell maxims, too. They went to elaborate and exhausting lengths to leave “democratic” and constitutional regimes, in a most unfavourable region. For this, especially, they endured the contempt of the world’s most aggressively self-righteous people.

Who, in turn, seem to be rallying behind the Security Council resolution of Thursday night, which “authorizes” the enforcement not only of no-fly zones over Libya, but any other uses to which military forces may be put, short of a decisive ground invasion.

The very fact that Russia and China failed to veto this resolution, speaks against it. That it fails not on one, but on every single criterion of a just war, should be noted. That it fails the Powell test is a matter of course…

We don’t know what we are doing. We only know that we have moral support for it on paper, from an international organization that is utterly corrupt, wherein members who do not wish us well are pleased to grant us permission to blunder.

[NOTE: Michael Walzer of TNR agrees, for somewhat different reasons. Max Boot disagrees. Ross Douthat analyzes what makes this the very model of a modern liberal war, and what’s wrong with that.]

19 Responses to “David Warren on Libya: “we don’t know what we are doing””

  1. LAG Says:

    I am very much in sync with Ross Douthat’s analysis. This is going to look a lot like the early stages of the last war in the Balkans. Before long we will discover once again that airplanes (especially less capable Euro-planes) are no match for a guy on the ground with a machete or whatever tribal knife is used by Qaddafi’s soldiers. Then even the small effectiveness the air forces do bring will be diminished as the unending stream of photos of the horror done of the ground erodes the will of our European friends. In this case, however, the US will be in the enviable position to point at their actions and tell them what dummies they were in asking for this war in the first place.

  2. Artfldgr Says:

    The very fact that Russia and China failed to veto this resolution, speaks against it.

    i guess we are ideologically in line now…

  3. SteveH Says:

    “”the US will be in the enviable position to point at their actions and tell them what dummies they were in asking for this war in the first place.””

    Not so fast. We got nearly every democrat on tape boasting about how Saddam Hussein was a grave danger requiring intervention and we all know how that turned out. Lefties are nothing if not superb rewriters of history and events.

  4. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society Says:

    David Warren on Libya: “we don’t know what we are doing”

    And this is different from anything in the last two years HOW?

  5. Curtis Says:

    Jihadwatch is already reporting the rise of the Islamists in the “democratic” Egyptian revolution. Algeria is the model that has been used over and over again and the plan goes like this: I kill you!

  6. LAG Says:

    SteveH you’d be right except that this time it’s leftist v. leftist. Whoever recriminates first, wins.

  7. Parker Says:

    “We don’t know what we are doing. We only know that we have moral support for it on paper, from an international organization that is utterly corrupt, wherein members who do not wish us well are pleased to grant us permission to blunder.”

    I think Obama has made (or been dragged into… that sneaky Hillary) a great blunder. Michael Moore wants him to hand in his Nobel Peace Prize, the Kucinich UFO contingent is yammering, and even the chattering class is questioning the rationale for this intervention. The only good thing I can see coming from this situation is that it will increase leftist apathy at the polls come 11/6/12 or perhaps Ralph Nader to launch yet another presidential bid and siphon off 2 or 3% from Obama’s 2012 vote tally.

  8. Parker Says:


    If/when this UN fiasco goes south I doubt we will see leftist against leftist. Given their convoluted thought process, they will simply find some way to blame Chimpy Bush, the Koch brothers, Rush, FOX, or the evil oil companies.

  9. Artfldgr Says:

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

  10. betsybounds Says:

    I’ve been thinking that the Jewish feast of Purim may have a direct application to Libya. It certainly applies to Darfur and Rwanda, and probably other, similar situations as well. Here’s the short version: In the Book of Esther, the King of Persia succumbs to pressure to order the Hebrews slaughtered. However, he does not know that his wife, Queen Esther, is a Hebrew and so will be slaughtered along with all the others. When she tells him, while he cannot rescind his first order, he issues a second: The Hebrews shall be armed and permitted to defend themselves. This is the origin of the feast of Purim, meaning the casting of lots, for the date set for the Hebrews’ attempted slaughter and self-defense was set by the casting of lots.

    I’ve always thought it would be a good modern application of this old, old story to allow people who are oppressed and marked for slaughter to be armed and permitted to defend themselves, rather than being forced into the uncertain, undignified, and supplicant position of being dependent on the sketchy good-will and alleged protection of such worthless outfits as the UN and, yes, even the U.S. It was the ultimate in being self-congratulatory and patronizing to refuse the Darfur refugees arms against their Sudanese-government-sponsored Janjaweed persecutors. Instead, we herded them into refugee camps and gave them a bit of food between attacks. How awful it all was–and yet we want to repeat it again and again.

  11. texexec Says:

    This is the weirdest entry by the USA into armed combat I can remember. This administration is like the Keystone Cops.

  12. gs Says:

    1. If Obama fires Hillary for her bad advice, she has a perfect pretext to primary him. If he keeps her around, good luck getting her to recognize her mistake.

    2. What’s the absolute dumbest thing Obama can do under the circumstances? Blame the military for botching the implementation of his strategic genius.

    Just sayin’.

  13. Beverly Says:

    I had forgotten about David Warren; thanks for the reminder. I’ve often liked his columns.

    I really can’t make head or tail of this Libya affair. If Obummer really wanted to stop him from killing his people, why didn’t he? I mean, before he had the chance to do it?

    Also, I want to kick him in the fanny every time he gives our enemies a “date certain” when we will pull out. Bellum interruptus is impotence indeed. (Erm, feel free to correct my Latin: I know it’s a highly inflected language, but I never studied it.)

  14. kolnai Says:

    Beverly –

    My Latin is as rusty as Barack Obama’s actual writing abilities, but “Bellum interruptus” is quite clever. I love it (the phrase, not the practice).

    I’m on board with you not being able to figure this thing out. I had a long discussion with my brother last night to that end, and we were still stumped when we finished.

    I don’t see what Obama gets out of it, aside from some cheap validation of his multilateral, un-bush, internationalist bona fides. I’m not sure what Libya gets out of it. The mission sends no message at all to anyone we’d like to send a message to. Obama ignored Congress, for reasons I can’t fathom, thus unnecessarily setting himself up to fall hard if things go bad.

    On this one, I’m thinking “fool” is the explanation. The only account I can come up with is bumbling incompetence and lack of concern. It feels really weird not being able to understand why Obama chose to intervene, to what end, and how exactly he plans to secure it. I can’t even feel strongly “pro” or “con” – I’m just mystified.

    Anyone got any clue about the TOTUS’s thinking here?

  15. daniel Says:

    My prediction:

    – we back out of this in a couple of weeks, leaving c&c in place for the europeans

    – The Europeans back out after a few more weeks, citing mission accomplished

    – Daffi moves in without air and slaughters the same number of civilians that he would have slaughtered with air support

    – Daffi stays in charge

    – American media just drops coverage and we all forget about this before summer.

  16. kolnai Says:

    Here’s Stanley Kurtz taking a stab at a “knave” explanation:

    So on this reading, Obama is cementing Samantha Power’s pet “Responsibility to Protect” principle with a kind of “pilot intervention.”

    Not sure about that, though it’s as plausible as anything else at this point. And it does account for all of the weirdness – ignoring Congress, curtseying to the UN, etc.


  17. Amy Says:

    Tim Carney, in the Washington Examiner: At once presumptuous and flippant, President Obama used a Saturday audio recording from Brazil to inform Americans he had authorized a third war — a war in which America’s role is unclear and the stated objectives are muddled.

    Setting aside the wisdom of the intervention, Obama’s entry into Libya’s civil war is troubling on at least five counts. First is the legal and constitutional question. Second is the manner of Obama’s announcement. Third is the complete disregard for public opinion and lack of debate. Fourth is the unclear role the United States will play in this coalition. Fifth is the lack of a clear endgame. Compounding all these problems is the lack of trust created by Obama’s record of deception.

    I find the legal and constitutional question most troubling, particularly since the Obama administration time and again has shown itself willing to bend, ignore and suspend the law on behalf of ideology.

  18. LAG Says:

    daniel, I think your final point will happen whether any of the others do or not. As soon as the American media realize this is not going to play well for Obama, and there are signs now among the Congress-things, it will drop its coverage like a hot rock. No morning show angst, no softball interviews with O the Liberator, nada.

    I just wonder what will be next?

  19. Parker Says:

    “I just wonder what will be next?”

    Corpses stinking of sh%t and p%ss. The dogs will be well fed.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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