Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Libya: another uninspiring victory for no-drama Obama

Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham can’t help but enthuse about the fall of Tripoli. It’s increasingly dangerous to be an interventionist in the Republican Party. But, it’s less dangerous to be one when liberators are seen closing in on a tyrant.

They can stand with NATO and freedom fighters in Libya. But acknowledging Barack Obama’s un-dramatic staying power was too much to swallow:

“This achievement was made possible first and foremost by the struggle and sacrifice of countless Libyans, whose courage and perseverance we applaud. We also commend our British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE, for their leadership in this conflict. Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.”

It’s that damnable balanced approach of Obama's again.

Instead of backing French and British leadership in an intervention they initiated, Obama should have invited them to stand aside after a couple of weeks and taken charge of a blatant over-reach of the mission’s UN mandate. Americans could have dropped all the bombs, taken all the risks, and been accused alone for hundreds of further civilian casualties. Instead of Kaddafi railing against “Christian” and NATO invaders he could have concentrated on “US imperialists.”

McCain and Graham should be relieved that the Libya campaign is coming to a successful conclusion. They were becoming increasingly isolated in a Party that is increasingly isolationist. (House Republicans had already voted to cut off funding and the grass roots had already started talking about impeaching Obama over abusing his executive authority.)

 An Obama failure on Libya would have been—as an Obama failure on the debt-ceiling showdown would have been—a dangerous setback for moderates in the Republican Party.

It’s mean-spirited to begrudge the President any place in the immanent success of the Libya operation—a success that will be achieved without extravagant sacrifice and with careful attention to America’s broader interests.

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