Obama's Not Just Bombing Libya: The Main Course Speech That Felt More Like an Appetizer

You might have heard that President Obama (finally) gave a speech about the shelling of Libya he ordered well over a week ago. Or, you might not have; he’s been trying pretty hard to keep our involvement in it out of the public eye, despite the US having the leading role in every phase of this “kinetic military action” except (1) decision-making, and (2) actually talking publicly about what the heck it is that we’re doing there.


The speech can be boiled down into five basic phrases, four of which carry qualifiers:

(1) It’s the U.S.’s role to intervene anywhere that there are atrocities or persecution going on, unless there’s a vital national interest there and/or they have the ability to shoot back at us in any meaningful form whatsoever;

(2) Our goal is not to depose Qaddafi, whatever I may have said yesterday, last week, etc., except when it is our goal, which is whenever it isn’t not our goal to do so;

(3) This will not be like the Iraq kinetic military action, because that one wasn’t referred to by such a clever, lawyerly phrase, and because that “regime change…took 8 years” [Note: This supposed history savant is only off by about 7 years and 11 months on that figure], except that regime change isn’t our goal (see #2 above);

(4) The U.S. will prevail in Libya, except that we won’t be the ones doing it – NATO will – and, to ensure that this is true, we’re going to refrain from consistently communicating any goals whatsoever for our mission there, even as we send pilots (and, not at all unlikely, specialized ground forces) into harm’s way in pursuit of some nebulous objective which, again, we’re not going to bother telling you about; and,


(5) To quote Jim Geraghty, “Look, I realize none of you understand my decision making, but at the end of the day, you can rest easy knowing I’m right.”

Here are just a couple examples of the Twitter reax (this really needs its own post):


The President’s war metrics rely on projections of Libyans created or saved.

The President’s done a poor job of articulating war aims and means both; and he errs in assuming we may disclaim ownership.


From Claueswitz: #2 Objective: Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, & attainable objective . Didn’t hear it


Obama: I authorized this war that is not a war, which is narrowly focused but broad in scope, so we could lead. As helpers.


In a nutshell “Libya is not Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Yemen. I don’t know why, but because I said so. And ignore Al Qaeda helping the rebels.”


What I wonder is why the President sent our soldiers to Libya instead of the army of strawmen he built to make this speech.


Obama’s supporters must be proud this night to sound exactly like Bill Kristol

That last one is quite interesting, because, from reading the utterly ridiculous quickblog he posted on TWS‘s site tonight, I’m fairly certain that Bill Kristol didn’t even watch the same speech the rest of us did (or who, like @mcassil, happily didn’t watch). Forgetting for a moment the rah-rah, “let’s use our military to liberate the world!” rhetoric (how’s that “pro-democracy” revolution working out so far in Egypt, by the way?), Kristol leaves his readers with this head-scratcher:


The president was unapologetic, freedom-agenda-embracing, and didn’t shrink from defending the use of force or from appealing to American values and interests. Furthermore, the president seems to understand we have to win in Libya. I think we will.

Mr. Kristol, if you’d like to drop me a line to let me know where in this speech you saw or heard anything that even resembled so much as a hint at what “winning” in Libya means to the Obama team, I’ll be happy to take your call or email to hear/see it, because I sure as heck saw nothing of the sort whatsoever.

What I did see was a very poor effort at communicating by a man who resented having to lower himself to even appearing to explain his actions and decisions to the American people, who has no clear thoughts whatsoever on what we’re doing in LIbya, who is so honored that Europe asked his military (the only one worth its salt across the board in the Western world) to go to war to protect its own oil interests, and who has no understanding whatsoever of the world outside his own Ivy-covered Ivory Tower.

So what’s the next step in Libya? Judging by tonight’s performance, I don’t think Obama himself knows. I’m sure that’s an incredibly encouraging thought to those men and women in uniform who are waging this third simultaneous kinetic military action in hopes that whatever they achieve will, somehow, align with whatever Obama’s Wheel of Libyan Objectives eventually lands on.


*Partial credit for the subtitle to @CalebHowe


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