Libya: Obama's Got Some 'Splainin' to Do

Can anyone please "splain" our Libya policy?  There have been so many positions taken by so many different folks in the administration from State to Defense to Executive over the past 2-3 weeks that I am a tad confused.  Even the latest version announced with classic stern face, upturned jaw and bellicose language was preposterous if you listened closely to the words.

First of all, what exactly is the Libyan "conflict"?  Unlike other protests in the Middle East which have based on an effort to achieve some type of democratic reform, and for the most part have been peaceful assemblies, Libya is best described as an all out civil war among tribes based in different regions.  It gets worse.  While it has been possible to identify most of the protest leaders and their goals in other countries so we can at least evaluate what might ensue if their demands were adopted, we have no real understanding of who the Libyan "opposition" is other than they are all against Khadafy; and little grasp of what a post Khadafy Libya would look like with these guys in control.

I have no sympathy for Khadafy, but the rough equivalent of the difference between Libya and others could be viewed as the difference between a "million man march" on DC to protest administration policy on voting rights; and armed militia attacks on Arlington and Bethesda.  Wouldn't we have the right to defend those cities by all military force available?  Extreme analogy I know -- up until the last couple of days, I thought Libya was still a sovereign country -- but you get the point.  The rationale used for finally getting the USA involved was to "protect innocent civilians."  Does the administration really think the USA voter and the Arab Street is that stupid?  It's basically a license to do whatever we want since you could drive a truck through that definition, as in wouldn't dropping a 500 pounder on Khadafy's head qualify?  And does it also include air support for the opposition countermove; and if that happens, I wonder how many innocent civilians will be in that crossfire.

And what about squaring the circle that it is unacceptable for Khadafy to shoot at Libyan rebels, but perfectly ok for the regime in Yemen to kill 50 folks who were simply expressing their right to assemble and seemed pretty "innocent" to me; or the deafening silence in the face of what was basically a Saudi invasion of Bahrain.  In an embarrassing episode on the Sunday talk shows, the administration trotted out a democratic Senator to make the ridiculous case that the difference between the events was that the Libyan venture had the support of the "international community," while intervening in the others did not.  So I guess it's ok to fire the cruise missiles if we are settling old scores on behalf of the Arab League.

Same with the blustery "Khadafy must leave" comment; does "leave" mean making funeral arrangements, or having Khadafy resign quietly and slink off into the sunset; or head off to the Cote d'Azur with a pile of cash and 60 virgins.  You can bet that the carrots are being tossed around as often as the bombs.  The PR release that Khadafy got out of Dodge to avoid confronting the scary US administration has already been drafted; cheap at $5 billion per word.

It was unfortunate that the National Security Advisor, a military guy, had to defend the rationale and make the ridiculous claim that regime change and targeting Khadafy are not mission goals, also on the Sunday talk shows; but perhaps that was part of the cover to make it appear that the military was the driver; someone from "Obama for president 2012" might have been a better choice.  And how long did it take for the Arab League to become shocked/shocked that real bombs were being dropped on real people; ditto for Khadafy to trot out the 50 civilian bodies from the hospital the coalition supposedly destroyed; and the Chinese and Russians to demand an end to the violence and the beginning of trade negotiations.

Make no mistake; I would have taken Khadafy out years ago, so that's not the issue. It's the attitude that we can hide behind some Arab League/French cover, so the administration can be perceived by its left base as not being in the forefront of committing military assets.  Even the rationale that we had to demonstrate conviction to support the nascent democratic movements in the Middle East, and Khadafy was the designated dart board, would have been fine; but that would have sounded too much like W and Iraq.

But does anyone really believe that the Arab League is going to supply fighters or B2's; or the French can sustain a no fly zone for more than a long weekend?  It's going to be us, and pretending otherwise is insulting to both Arabs and the USA voter.  It's more of the "not my job -- if things go south; it's 'their' fault" approach to life that the administration is taking, as with the budget and entitlements.  All of this is being driven in part by a perception that 2012 GOP field is so weak that a prevent defense approach to the election will prevail.  Granted it also plays into the apparent Presidential default position to deliberate and vote present, but the election is a prime additional factor -- do no overt harm where blame can be leveled, the poll numbers will stay put, and another 4 years is in the bag.     

Libya is a rounding error, so this type of decision making is not likely to be disastrous (in spite of the mission creep likelihood that eventually boots on the ground will be needed to complete the mission); but as a template, it bodes really badly if some international incident of substance actually popped up on this administration's watch.