Loose Canons

Charlie Foxtrot Over Libya

There are no facts to support any explanation Obama will give tonight.

By 3.28.11

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France "decided to assume its role, its role before history" to stop Colonel Gaddafi's "murderous madness," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Any war premised on French pretentions to glory won't end well.

President Obama eagerly hitched us to Sarko's team, insisting we won't take any leadership role, without a word of explanation to the American people about why it was worth risking American blood and treasure.

In a prime-time speech tonight, we are promised, Obama will explain all. Meanwhile, thanks to an agreement yesterday, Sarkozy's Triple Entente No-Foam NATO Latte (Britain, France and the U.S., joined by whichever hangers-on want to control decisions) will maintain the no-fly zone over Libya for as long as it takes or ninety days, whichever comes first.

Obama won't say we are at war tonight because, according to his new spokesman, it's not war: it's a "kinetic military action." (Andy McCarthy, with characteristic brilliance, now suggests "jihad" should be referred to as "kinetic Islam.")

We cannot know when or how Obama's Libyan kinetic military action of choice will end because, to be charitable, nobody knows what the hell we're doing. Least of all our president.

America went to war as the junior partner in a coalition with the Brits and the French. Sarko was so eager to turn the French air force loose in Libya that he recognized a "government" of the Libyan rebels before "our" coalition was formed, and French bombs were falling before you could say "fromage."

One plucky French pilot scored the first kill on Thursday. The first news reports said that a Libyan aircraft was shot down for violating the no-fly zone.

Later reports confirmed the kill. A French fighter had destroyed a Libyan G-2 Galeb trainer. Which had just landed when the French pilot fired an air-to-ground missile at it, demonstrating the bravery, skill, and daring we expect of the gallant Gauls.

At this point, NATO -- according to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, its secretary general -- will take command of and enforce the entire no-fly zone and arms embargo efforts and "… protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack from the Gaddafi regime." He added, "NATO will implement all aspects of the UN Resolution. Nothing more, nothing less."

Which, if you'll pardon the expression, leaves everything about the no-fly zone up in the air, and apparently excludes any anti-Gaddafi operations. Our aircraft are supposed to protect innocent civilians (if any such there be, a highly dubious assumption) from Gaddafi's forces (unidentifiable in civilian garb) and then apparently leave old Moammar alone to sulk in his tent.

What rules of engagement will be imposed on our airmen to accomplish this has apparently been left to the imagination of NATO diplomutts to decide another day.

It is impossible to understand Obama's case to enter this war, but when you hear his cabinet members and senior congressional Democrats explain it, the impossible turns into the bizarre. Congressional Republicans and at least one Republican presidential aspirant haven't had the courage or the smarts to say Barry was just plain wrong.

On ABC and NBC yesterday, Defense Secretary Gates said that Libya posed no threat to the United States and that intervention was not a vital national security interest. Hillary Clinton, smiling beside Gates, talked about how wonderful it was to have the international coalition behind us. (Way behind us.)

Pressed on another show to justify the war, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) couldn't think of any reason to have American lives at risk, so he defaulted to the idea that the "Arab street" was happy with us for doing that. Which sentiment was echoed by ol' Joe Lieberman on Fox News Sunday. The less said the better about what John McCain and Newt Gingrich said.

McCain, of course, is rooting for regime change in classic neocon fashion and Newt -- having been on three sides of this two-sided issue -- managed a McCainesque level of incoherence. Why can't anyone on the Republican side say the obvious: if it's not in the interest of the United States to be in Libya, we shouldn't be? 

On the morning before Obama's speech we can guess a little of what he's likely to say. Actually, just enough. He will say we need to honor and support the troops he's committed to war by supporting our president.

We know that every liberal professes love and admiration for every American soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, coastguardsman, police officer, fireman, ambulance driver and meter maid. And, of course, they don't mean it.

Having spent most of their lives hating the Vietnam War and those who fought it, liberals had a political epiphany when our warriors kicked Saddam out of Kuwait so quickly and brilliantly in 1991. Kicking a soldier for fun became the quiet province of private liberal conversation. Even the wackiest libs on television always say that they support the troops.

The difference between mouthing "I support the troops" and actions that give that support is the difference between Dick Durbin saying that the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison was like a Nazi prison camp and a Gold Star mother sending cookies to the survivors of her son's unit.

That difference is defined by the social contract between our nation and the troops we ask to go in harm's way. The real warriors, one way or another, all say the same thing: spend my life if you must, but don't waste it. A bond of trust based on that contract must exist between a president and the troops. If the president is willing to risk their lives in the absence of a compelling need to defeat a threat to America, that trust is violated.

President Obama violated that trust by entering the Libyan civil war in the absence of any compelling and urgent American interest. He risks the future of our all-volunteer military by, without good cause, risking the lives of U.S. pilots and those who support them in combat.

Adm. Mike Mullen, Obama's politically correct chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that American goals can be met in the Libyan conflict without removing Gaddafi from power. The last time we struck at Gaddafi -- the Reagan-launched air raid in 1986 -- left the Libyan terror master chastened but enabled him to recover quickly enough to order the Lockerbie bombing that cost 189 American lives. What will Gaddafi do this time if we only do what the UN, the French, and the Turks agree we should do, and leave him in power again?

In tonight's speech will Obama explain -- clearly and fully -- why it's in America's best interest to risk the lives of our airmen over Libya? Can he give any assurance that if Gaddafi stays, there won't be another airline bombing or a whole string of terrorist attacks on Americans here and abroad?

There are no facts to support any explanation Obama can give, and any assurance he makes will be false. We should never have engaged in the Libyan civil war, and it can have only two outcomes, neither of which will benefit us. If Gaddafi stays, there will be more Lockerbies, and worse. If Gaddafi goes, whoever succeeds him will be different in appearance, but not in function. Iran and Syria will see to that. If we were doing to them what we're doing to Gaddafi, we would be acting in America's interests.

Republicans have been too chary of challenging Obama on any aspect of foreign policy. After the speech tonight, they should force a vote on Libya. Let's support the troops for real and stop funding Obama's war of choice before we lose one American life.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. You can follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin.