Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 21, 2011

THE LIMITS OF 'LEADERSHIP'.... For Republicans who've been clamoring for a military confrontation with Libya, the new challenge is coming up with a rationale for why they're still not happy.

With that in mind, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went on quite a little tirade on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, complaining that President is acting as if "leading the free world is an inconvenience."

For the White House, one of the key points of emphasis is that the United States is only the "leading edge" of the coalition's effort, and the U.S. will gladly scale back its role quickly. For Graham, that's not good news at all -- the U.S., the senator argued, must take "a leadership role," not a "back seat." Indeed, as far as Graham is concerned, Obama's limited mission is itself a problem, since the senator wants to the U.S. to "replace a tyrannical leader."

Adam Serwer's take on this struck me as just right.

Most of the arguments for why the U.S. should be seen as "taking the lead" seem to hinge on little more than the fact that so doing would be emotionally satisfying to those who have been agitating for intervention in Libya since hostilities began. Ross Douthat, for instance, argues that the U.S. multilateral approach facilitates a "caution that shades into tactical incompetence." Since the U.S. is still extricating itself President George W. Bush's unilateral invasion of Iraq which didn't exactly amount to "tactical competence," this is less than persuasive.

There are several reasons why the U.S. shouldn't be seen as taking the lead. For one thing, the U.S. is already occupied with the aftermath of one war in Iraq and attempting to bring a more than decade-long operation in Afghanistan to its conclusion. The U.S. does not have unlimited military resources, and other countries that demanded intervention should take responsibility and offer contributions rather than free-riding off of the United States. The statements from the Arab League -- which asked for intervention but then wavered when operations started -- suggest that there really is a short shelf-life for the legitimacy for this operation in the Arab world, even though intervention initially had global support. If the operation goes badly, or takes far longer than advertised, it's frankly in the U.S. interest not to be seen as having led the attack on a third Muslim country.

For Graham and those who share his ideology, having the U.S. military "take the lead" is necessarily good, regardless of the costs or burdens, because "taking the lead" is good. Leaving heavy lifting to allies, who aren't overstretched with two other wars, is bad, because, well, it just is.

That's not a foreign policy, it's a chest-thumping bumper sticker.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Comments

And don't forget, we're "broke".

Posted by: ComradeAnon on March 21, 2011 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, but we're never too broke to drop bombs on brown people. We've *always* got the money for that.

Sigh,
-Z

Posted by: Zorro on March 21, 2011 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Lindsey, girlfriend, calm down.

"...since the senator wants to the U.S. to "replace a tyrannical leader."

Are we now (again) in the business of replacing tyrannical leaders?

Well, what about Lil' Kim in North Korea?
He actually makes the Libyan Gadfly seem like a piker in comparison.

How about Myanmar?

Or a good chunk of Africa?

Oh, yeah, silly me - NO OIL!


Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 21, 2011 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Especially brown people with oil that is, black gold, texas tea.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on March 21, 2011 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I suppose, Zorro, Libya was never too broke for their deranged leader to pay operatives to place a bomb aboard a Pan-Am flight to kill, white, brown and black people. He was never too broke to support Idi Amin and other despots in the killing of brown and blacks in Uganda, Chad and the Sudan. He was never too broke to have his operatives kill our servicemen in Germany.

But, ooooooh, if we should blow up a place where Mariah Carey, Beyonce and other US entertainers have performed for a despot and his sons, that is a horror of horrors, as we may have killed brown people in his employ.

I have been against our President for playing footsy with the right and aiding in the passage of watered down bills. I stand with him on this. Yes, the man can, indeed, walk, think and chew gum at the same time, no matter from behind his Oval Office desk or being on the Road to Rio. I believe his communications unit travelling with him keep him apprised at all times.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 21, 2011 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Little Lindsey is a fucking idiot. And yet the press insists on turning to him over and over as some kind of foreign policy expert.

It's maddening

Posted by: fourlegsgood on March 21, 2011 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

about Libya:

my whole thing is, from the beginning - this is NOT our problem.

I know enough about politics and Geopolitics, especially OIL-based politics.

here’s the thing - this is NOT ‘ our’ oil.

this is Europe’s oil.
this is China’s oil.

we BARELY have diplomatic relations with Libya, and somehow, it’s OUR problem?

puleeze.

I was watching Roland Martin’s show, NOWHERE ELSE did I hear it broken down like it was on his panel Sunday.

1. why is this US’s problem?
2. How come the ARABS can’t enforce the NO-FLY ZONE? they have enough weapons…how do we know this? WE SOLD IT TO THEM.
3. how is it with us barely having diplomatic relations with Libya, does it fall on THIS President.

Cynthia Tucker said it - we only have diplomatic relations with Libya because of George W. Bush…so, if this is anyone’s problem, it’s HIS.

I am disappointed in our involvement in this, but I don’t blame the President, and I’m not going crazy like other folks, mainly because everything that had to happen in order for this President to actually AGREE to this - happened. So, what’s the man supposed to do?

I think that the Arab League was shocked that folks took them seriously…AND AT THEIR WORD that they wanted a NO-FLY ZONE. IMO, they thought that the old reliables - CHINA and/or RUSSIA would provide the objecting vote on the Security Council, and then they’d be able to go ‘ oh well, we wanted a NO-FLY ZONE, but it didn’t make it out of the Security Council’. When the abstentions happened, and the NO-FLY Zone passed, they went ‘ OH SHIT’. Now, we have these suckers trying to do the backtrack to which I say - HELL TO THE NAW on that.

I am not happy, but there are some things in which I’m tired of folks trying to hang on this President, especially when it comes to foreign policy. I don’t want no damn Cowboy. I want someone who gets that folks in the rest of the world should have the option for self-determination, even if it’s messy. I believe this President understands that.

Posted by: rikyrah on March 21, 2011 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

That's not a foreign policy, it's a chest-thumping bumper sticker.

Which has been the policy of the Party of Draft Dodgers And Service Avoiders since at least back when they were all supporting the war in Vietnam, so long as they didn't have to do more than the chest-thumping.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 21, 2011 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Folks,
Here's a short list of who's for what we're doing, doing is sooner, or doing more, including boots on the ground:
John McInane
Joe Liebers-himself
Lindseed Graham
Paul Neo-con's Neoclown Wolfowitz
William "Wrong AGAIN!" Kristol

Surprisingly, George Will is not for this.

I hate to agree with Will, but in this case, I think he's right.

And take a good long look at that list above him, and tell me you want to be on it?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 21, 2011 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Will someone please remind Lindsay that Obama is the Commander-in-Chief and that with his remarks, Lindsay is "undermining the morale of the troops" and "giving aid and comfort to the enemy."

Posted by: June on March 21, 2011 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I suppose, Zorro, Libya was never too broke for their deranged leader to pay operatives to place a bomb aboard a Pan-Am flight to kill, white, brown and black people

I believe Zorro was mocking the right wing's constant refrain "we're broke."

Libya isn't broke at all. Qaddafi has looted his country of billions of dollars.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on March 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Per our Republican friends, "taking the lead" is good where our oversized military comes in and shoots people or blows them up.

"Taking the lead" is bad when it involves technical innovation to phase out petroleum usage, address global climate change, or medical services delivery.

Apparently, killing people is always good; helping, bad.

Posted by: zandru on March 21, 2011 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

The game plan is the same as it always was: use any argument, no matter how nonsensical, the more poisonous the better, if it'll help bring Obama down next year. Who's the beneficiary? A GOP administration can be counted on to make less fuss about the ongoing annexation of the West Bank.

Posted by: davidp on March 21, 2011 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Surprisingly, George Will is not for this.

Will never did jump on the neo-con bandwagon with Kristol, Krauthammer and the rest. His instincts on foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, have generally been pretty good, which is to say hesitant and skeptical about what our vital interests there are.

Look, Obama could have run around like his hair was on fire, threatening to take Tripoli like it was Iwo Jima and Graham and McCain and the others would have gone on the Sunday morning shows tsk-tsking him for acting so belicose and not showing more "restraint," especially at a time when these darned budget deficits are so high. They're transparent partisan hacks and should not be given the attention they clearly so desperately crave.

Posted by: jonas on March 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think what Graham is trying to say is that he isn't gay.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 21, 2011 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Tactical incompetence." Ooooookay. You know, maybe what Obama's doing right this moment is somehow the worst military blunder in all of human history.

HOW WOULD ROSS DOUTHAT OF ALL PEOPLE KNOW?

Posted by: Matt on March 21, 2011 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Zorro was mocking the right wing's constant refrain "we're broke."

Bingo. Subtlety often fails to play well in text, due to the lack of non-verbal cues.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on March 21, 2011 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

HOW WOULD ROSS DOUTHAT OF ALL PEOPLE KNOW?

I call him "Ross Asshat" for good reason.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on March 21, 2011 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

c u n d gulag thanks for a good laugh, I needed it.

Posted by: Kathryn on March 21, 2011 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Zorro, I apologize. I was just a liitle het up from reading the many anti-Obama comments, supposedly, from Obama supporters over at HuffPo. There is still a major wing of former McGovernites who have a knee jerk attitude of being anti-military. I remember walking with a group of Progressives in '04. One woman asked me who I supported. I said I was leaning towards Wesley Clark. She replied, "Never - He is a military man". Of course, she was the one who sponsored a rally in her home supporting John Kerry and said nothing when he saluted and said "Reporting for duty".

Howver, Zorro, I misunderstood and I apologize.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 21, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

I'm 100% with c u n d gulag at 12:05 PM and that list of the usual suspects. Why would any sane person take anything they say seriously?

All else aside, creating a leadership vacuum in Libya just has to be a dumb and dangerous thing to do.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on March 21, 2011 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Bert-the-clock, @2:21PM

"Funny". I'm, basically, anti-military too, but I was for Wesley Clark all the same. At that particular moment in time we *needed* someone intelligent and with military expertise, to try and see if anything could be saved from the cluster-f*** that Dummy built. And, somewhat to my surprise, his attitude toward women was much better/more sensible/less controlling than I might have expected from a professional military man. Those two points alone were enough to tip my pragmatic Libra towards him.

Posted by: exlibra on March 21, 2011 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Lindsey is pinch hitting for McCain because whining took a lot out of him this last weekend.

Posted by: sparrow on March 21, 2011 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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