Well, that didn’t take long.
Now that President Barack Obama has intervened in Libya, his army of apologists is mobilizing to defend his “humanitarianism,” declaring that his war isn’t at all like Bush’s wars. It’s something new, and different – and admirable.
I’m not at all surprised. Are you? The anti-interventionist veneer of most American liberals and assorted “progressives” peels off quite readily when a little “humanitarian” lotion is applied – especially if it’s poured on thick by a liberal Democratic President with a domestic agenda they can endorse.
Mother Jones magazine, to cite one exemplar of this chameleon-like transformation, is no stranger to cheerleading the dark side of Obama’s presidency. You’ll recall that the magazine launched a scurrilous attack on Julian Assange, in which the author compiled a lot of quotes from self-described “experts” to the effect that WikiLeaks suffers from a lack of “transparency” – to the US government, no less! – and, alternatively, is a CIA “front.” That didn’t sit too well with their readers, as a look at the comments appended to that article attests, but a shill for power’s gotta do what a shill is born to do, and that is “spin” every event to make the team –Team Obama, in this case – look good. And certainly David Corn is up to the task.
“A ghost hung over President Barack Obama,” writes Corn, “as he stood at a podium in the East Room of the White House on Friday afternoon to talk about Libya: the ghost of George W. Bush.”
Well, not really: that was the ghost of Woodrow Wilson. Bush, I would remind Corn, isn’t dead yet. But such details don’t bother a progressive on his way into battle. The latest US attack on a Muslim country in the Middle East may seem very similar to Bush’s wars – “absent references to WMD” – what with the rhetoric (He’s killing his own people! He’s a tyrant! He’s a terrorist!) and the stern Bushian mien. But that just shows how much you know ….
Because, you see, according to Corn, the President “in the second half of his remarks departed from the Bush-like script.” He then cites a single sentence in which the President refers to the “international coalition” arrayed against Gadhafi – one smaller than Bush’s, by the way – and includes some reassuring phrases about how, this time, we’re “shaping the conditions for the international community to act together.”
There – feel better now? Take two bromides that Bush himself could – and did – utter, and call me in the morning.
Here is Corn’s translation of this vague happy-talk:
“That is, we’re not cowboys. This will be, Obama suggested, true multilateralism—one including Arab nations. His administration and the governments of France and Britain had quickly guided a forceful resolution through the Security Council (with China and Russia abstaining), and the United States, Obama noted, would be ‘enabling our European allies and Arab partners to effectively enforce a no-fly zone.’ US leadership, yet European and Arab action. He added, ‘The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.’”
“Noting that ‘our British and French allies, and members of the Arab League’ will take a lead role in enforcing the resolution, Obama declared, ‘This is precisely how the international community should work, as more nations bear both the responsibility and the cost of enforcing international law.’ That is precisely the opposite of how the neocons of the Bush-Cheney crowd viewed the world. They were not interested in tying their strategic desires to international law or in developing a global order in which the United States would not be the top-dog decider and enforcer.”
We’re not cowboys: we’re social workers, the kind with mean, pinched faces and a moralizing, condescending air – armed with fighter jets, guided missiles, and nuclear weapons, and determined to Do Good.
Now that the United States has bankrupted itself by spending more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined, the “multilateralists” take up the task of convincing the American people they’ve got to pursue the dream of empire to the very end. Oh no, they say, we’re good “liberals,” we don’t dream of empire – only of “international law” and a “global order.” Top dog? Not us! We’ll leave that onerous job to the UN Security Council.
Yes, and you’ll note the Obama-ites went to the Council, not the Congress, to ask permission to strike: and just to show we’re not the Top Dog, they let the Brits and the Frenchies take the lead. What generosity.
The “argument” presented here is the one progressives have salved their perpetually guilty consciences with ever since this manifestly unqualified ex-“community organizer” took up residence in the White House: he’s not Bush! That’s why they remained silent when he extended our perpetual “war on terrorism” into Pakistan, why they kept mum as the PATRIOT Act was reauthorized at the behest of the administration, and why they put the covers over their heads and stuck their fingers in their ears as George Bush’s torture regime continued, unabated and even expanded, under Obama. It’s why they ignored our failure to withdraw from Iraq, as promised by candidate Obama, and why they smiled politely and changed the subject whenever anyone had the poor taste to mention these unpleasant subjects.
Corn supplements the Not Bush argument with a new variation, an ideological rationale for knee-jerk defenders of the Obama regime: the we’re-not-neocons meme. Obama’s war in Libya is an example of what Corn actually dubs “the Anti-Bush Doctrine,” which is “precisely the opposite of how the neocons of the Bush-Cheney crowd viewed the world.”
The Anti-Bush Doctrine – and let’s call it that, because it reflects the partisan nonsense that passes for informed debate in Washington and in the San Francisco offices of Mother Jones – is merely the Bush Doctrine turned inside out, and left side up.
Mandated with a “responsibility to protect,” our self-appointed World Saviors and Bearers of Good Governance in the Obama White House are pledged to police the world in a multi-cultural and politically correct manner, kind of like the Federation on Star Trek, minus that bothersome Prime Directive they hobbled Captain Kirk with. Think of the vision of futurity in Things to Come, that fictional rendition of a parlor pink’s wet dream, where the Airmen take control after a world war, and patrol the earth disabling petty warlords and ragged barbarians with “peace gas.”
This very same “peace gas” is now being emitted by the likes of Corn and Mother Jones, in defense of the Big O’s very own war of “liberation.” This is the same crowd that cheered the Clintons’ war in the Balkans, where American fighter jets bombed some of the oldest cities in Europe at 20,000 ft. The Kosovo of organ-harvester Hashim Thaci, a state run by outright gangsters, is their monument. The gods only know what they’ll do to Libya. By the time they get through with the place, every Libyan will have guaranteed state-run healthcare – and a family member dead or missing.
Consider our Libyan war as a Keynesian exercise in “stimulus” spending: liberals who might otherwise object can take solace in the fact that Operation “Odyssey Dawn” has so far cost us the equivalent of the Republicans’ entire proposed budget cut. Every missile we send sailing into Gadhafi’s bunker costs anywhere from $600,000 to over a million. And by going to war with Libya we won’t just be selfishly stimulating our own economy, we’ll also be helping the Libyans even as we unleash destruction from the skies – at least, that’s the sort of Bizarro-logic employed by champions of the “broken window” fallacy, such as Paul Krugman.
As to the name given this operation by the Psyops department over at the Pentagon, “Odyssey Dawn,” it sounds like a women’s perfume, which brings to mind the true authors of this war, the three Amazons of the State Department: Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. These busy gals are the real powers-behind-the-throne, who reportedly nagged Obama until he reluctantly agreed to intervene. It’s what you might call an ultra-feminist foreign policy: we’re taking the whole world to America’s maternal breast. With these Amazons at the helm – acting in concert with its European allies, and whichever Third World despots know what’s good for them – the US will act on its “responsibility to protect” – what? Whom? Whatever victim group can be sufficiently valorized to play the lead in a familiar narrative, one that always ends with sending in the Marines.
It just so happens Libya is an oil-rich prize, with the eastern part of the country – now detached from the rest by the “no fly, no go” zone –especially favored. It also just so happens to be the energy-hungry Brits and the equally voracious French who are taking the lead – at Obama’s insistence – in the allied war effort. You’d have to be one of those dreaded “conspiracy theorists” to think there’s some connection between oil and this war, in which case Cass Sunstein – Samantha’s hubby – would like to give you a good talking-to.
“The United States will join in a multilateral fight for democracy and humanitarian aims when it is in the nation’s interest and when the locals are involved and desire US participation.” This is Corn’s reading of the Anti-Bush Doctrine: yet, how, exactly, is this any different that its alleged antipode? Going into Iraq, Bush, too, boasted of the number of his alleged allies, the famous “coalition of the willing.” But so what: is a gang rape better than a one-on-one deal? Not in my book.
Bush, too, assured us “the locals” would be supportive: remember how we were supposed to be greeted as “liberators,” and showered with rose petals? Except it didn’t quite work out that way.
As for the “humanitarian” nature of this intervention, I have my doubts. Obama’s rationale for military action is that
“Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.”
The emphasis is mine, and it illustrates just how completely enslaved to the Bush Doctrine the current administration really is. For the essence of the Bush Doctrine was and is the principle of preemption: for the first time, the United States was saying to the world that it would not only respond to actual threats but to any potential threat anywhere in the world. The Obama Doctrine takes this one step further, and says that we have a responsibility to protect not only our own alleged interests, but also the interests of peoples vulnerable to potential violence directed at them by their own governments. Bush told us Saddam was “killing his own people,” and now Obama is telling us Gadhafi could possibly kill “many thousands” of Libyans.
Emblematic of the liberal collapse before the onslaught of the Obama cult is Juan Cole, whose pathetic performance on Scott Horton’s radio program, defending the intervention, is an embarrassment he will not soon live down.
Cole’s “argument” boiled down to a catchphrase that surely has been uttered by every warmongering neocon who ever walked the earth: pressed by Scott to justify his stance in support of the ‘no fly” zone, he declared “I’m not an isolationist!” The ‘i’-word is what every interventionist drags out when cornered: it is a meaningless, content-less coined word, what Ayn Rand would call an anti-concept – like “extremist” – which is meant to end the discussion rather than enable it.
It’s downhill from there: “What’s to stop [Gadhafi] from making a move on Tunisia?” he asks. This is precisely the same argument Bush posed to Iraq war opponents: Saddam, we were told, was a threat to his neighbors – although it seems the Libyan despot has his hands full just keeping control of his own country. Professor Cole then goes on to aver, like any neocon circa 2003, that our chosen Enemy of the Moment is “a terrorist,” and “an element of instability in the region,” one who, left in power, will “go on to play a sinister role.”
This last point is curiously circular, because if we hadn’t intervened then presumably Gadhafi wouldn’t play such a sinister role – indeed, he would have played the same role he played when Tony Blair went to visit him, and the two signed a security agreement. The role he played ever since he came in from the cold, made his peace with the US and its European allies, and donated a lot of money to the London School of Economics and (so I hear) the election campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy.
The capitulation of the “liberals” to the War Party comes as no surprise: we saw this during the Clinton years, and we’re seeing it again. This time around, however, the War Party is even stronger. Although Corn is eager to persuade the readership of Mother Jones that the administration has not been taken over by the neocons, the truth is that the “humanitarians” are in bed with the neocons on this one, just as they were in the run up to the Kosovo war. Back in the 1990s, the neocons lent their names to innumerable “open letters” urging Bill Clinton to strike at the Serbs, with prominent progressives such as Susan Sontag leading the charge. George Soros financed a “grassroots” pro-war campaign, and the neocons were more than happy to jump on board the bandwagon – just as they are today.
Pushed into war by a coven of relentlessly nagging neo-liberal Amazons, and a cabal of round-shouldered flabby-faced neocons, President Obama has been captured by ideologues just as surely as was his predecessor – and, I’ll predict right here and now, with equally disastrous results.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I have an article you may find interesting in the current issue of The American Conservative – a piece making the libertarian case against gay marriage. I’m proud to say it’s my most politically incorrect article to date. I don’t think it’s online, at least not yet, but you can subscribe and read it online by going here.
A reminder: I’m still writing my monthly column for Chronicle: A Magazine of American Culture. Go here to subscribe.