Obama's Brilliant Wimpiness

Reminding the world that bad things happen when America stays home.

In a year of bizarre and unprecedented international occurrences, the last couple weeks have seen a series of unfortunate events that's left our jaws on the floor in stunned amazement.

The revolting Arab peasants are not a surprise; it was bound to happen sooner or later, as nobody likes being oppressed.  The departure of Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali was startling by its unexpected abruptness, but not really shocking: though dictators, they were never particularly bloodthirsty.

In like manner, Qadaffi's murderous response to Libya's revolution was perfectly predictable.  A guy who personally ordered an American passenger jetliner to be blown up by a baggage bomb will hardly quail at offing his own people wholesale.

Then the strangeness began.  Considering that the entire Arab world has been screaming about American meddling in their affairs for longer than most of us have been alive, it was rather surreal to see Arabs screaming about America not intervening on the behalf of the Libyan rebels.  Of course, the fact that their main base, Benghazi, was the world's #1 per-capita source for anti-American jihadists in Iraq merely makes the situation more bizarre.

Qadaffi has murdered dozens if not hundreds of Americans.  That was admittedly quite some years ago but America isn't supposed to forget those things.  Arabs beg for our help in defending their brethren from his vengeance.  What could be better?  As a president once said, "Bring it on!"

Or not.  To the shock of everyone, Obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming into even going along with a UN no-fly resolution.  Once that resolution was signed in strict accordance with John Kerry's infamous "global test," and not forgetting a supporting resolution from the Arab League...

The French led the bombing campaign.  Uncle Sam, while present, hid behind every other flag he could get his mitts on.  Cue the anguished responses worldwide:

What does it say about the role that America is choosing to adopt on the global stage? That in future we can expect it to follow rather than lead? That it has abdicated its role as defender and standard bearer for the principle of freedom – the idea that all men are born with inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, which the great founding documents of the United States declare to be universal and not simply the birthright of residents of one nation? If America is now to make its commitment to those values conditional – even when the oppressed populations of totalitarian countries are putting their lives at risk to embrace them – then we are living in a very different world from the one to which we have been accustomed.

These writers speak truth but they are missing the forest for the trees.  We have absolutely no national interest in Libya.  Iraq has demonstrated that we have absolutely no plausible way to make the Muslim world any better short of nuking it and turning the resulting glass over to Singapore.

Replacing the bloodthirsty nut Qadaffi who nevertheless behaved better the last time we bombed him, with bloodthirsty millenarian Islamists who can't be reasoned with, is not an improvement.  Whom would we rather was running the place, that might actually get the job?

Too bad; we're in anyway, and surprisingly, it's not a total loss.  Whether by accident or by design, Barack Obama actually has a good chance of accomplishing two extremely valuable and worthwhile things for which we hope to be able to give him full credit.  In fact, he's already accomplished one of them.

Hypocrisy and Lies from World Hypocrites and Liars

In the most scrupulous obedience to international law ever yet seen, Mr. Obama refused to lift a finger or even send forces into the Mediterranean until a U.N. security council resolution was signed, sealed, and delivered.  This required, at a minimum, the abstention of Russia and China, which came to pass.  Even then, he demanded that the Arab League endorse American involvement.

Then what?  Not a week later, both the Russians and the Arabs are condemning America for doing what they themselves authorized:

The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, deplored the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing campaign in Libya and said Sunday that he would call a league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention.  Moussa said the Arab League’s approval of a no-fly zone on March 12 was based on a desire to prevent Moammar Gaddafi’s air force from attacking civilians and was not designed to endorse the intense bombing and missile attacks — including on Tripoli, the capital, and on Libyan ground forces — whose images have filled Arab television screens for two days.

This is hogwash.  In order to establish a no-fly zone, you can't just shoot down planes.  It's essential that you bomb ground forces, otherwise their missiles will shoot down your planes.  Not a few commentators pointed this out well before the U.N. resolution passed, as a major argument why we really shouldn't get involved.  It's inconceivable that the Arab League didn't know this in advance; they simply believe their own people and the world audience to be idiots, and perhaps they're right.

Putin's condemnation is an even worse example of hypocrisy.  When has he ever shied away from violence of any kind?

"The resolution is defective and flawed," Putin told workers at a Russian ballistic missile factory. "It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades."

Right, that's why he did not vote against it.

The lesson to be learned is one that George W. Bush well knew: it doesn't matter what America does because the world's bad actors hate us regardless.  We might as well do what we think best rather than kissing up to folks who'll punch us in the face no matter what.

Obama's Global Apology Tour hasn't taught him this lesson; perhaps the Great Libyan Backstab will?  One can but hope.

Speaking of hypocrites, we can't help but notice a surprising handful of intellectually honest lefty nuts beginning with Dennis Kucinich.  Kucinich called for George Bush to be impeached over unwarranted military action; nothing new there.  Now he's called for Obama to be impeached for the same thing.  Two thumbs up honesty and consistency, Dennis!

America, the Indispensable Nation

We went into war following the leadership of the French, British, and Europe in general.  How's it going?  The Daily Mail tells us:

Today the German defence ministry announced Berlin had pulled out of any military operations in the Mediterranean.

A ministry spokesman said two frigates and two other ships with a crew of 550 would be reverted to German command.

Some 60 to 70 German troops participating in NATO-operated AWACS surveillance operations in the Mediterranean would also be withdrawn, according to the ministry.

With the Brits, the spirit is more willing, but the flesh - or the hardware anyway - seems to be a bit weak:

Defence insiders say as many as 12 [Tomahawk cruise missiles] have been fired from the hunter–killer submarine Triumph in the past four days.

If this is correct, the Navy will have used up to 20 per cent of its 64 Tomahawks in the opening salvos of the war, leading to fears that it is "burning through" its armoury.

What sort of serious nation goes to war with a grand total of sixty-four cruise missiles?  England is supposed to have the second-most-useful military in the Western world after the United States.  What Gilbert-and-Sullivan world do we live in when we see, in serious print, quotes like this:

"At this rate we are using up five or ten per cent of our stock per day and soon it could become unsustainable," a defence industry source said. "What if the strikes go beyond a second week? We will simply run out of ammunition."

Oh, woe is us, the war is lasting longer than two weeks and we're out of bullets!

At least the English are asking the right question: Can Britain and France really run this conflict?  The answer is manifestly a resounding No.

Facts are Stubborn Things

In driving this point home to the British and French who both still maintain residual memories of their world-girdling empires of time past, Barack Obama has performed a signal service.  For many decades now, the Europeans have received a free ride on the back of American military might, their presence more of a token than of a serious ally.

This isn't to insult the bravery of individual Englishmen, nor their ability to perform amazing feats of derring-do at the tactical level.  When it comes to running an entire war by themselves, though, even with American support in the background, it seems that they can't.

Thanks to President Obama's brilliant wimpiness, Europe now stands revealed as naked and bereft of serious independent power.  Every rational observer has known this for a long time, but not the common voters.  Now they do, and they don't like it one bit.

The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have a problem.  The French and British people are realizing that they have a very dire problem indeed - regardless of what their budget mandarins say, they do not in fact have viable national military forces.

What's worse, they now know that regardless of whatever treaties there may be, the United States can no longer be counted on to bail their chestnuts out of whatever fire they might happen to stray into.  Maybe, just maybe, they'll demand serious national militaries capable of actually defending themselves and their national interests all by themselves.

Until that time, Barack Obama's vacillation has graphically illustrated an even more important fact: Yes, just as Republicans have always believed, the United States of America is the indispensable nation - the only power with the ability to actually accomplish anything for good when the going gets rough.  Everyone else is third rate at best.

So start treating us with the respect we deserve!  If the other nations of the world actually do, perhaps we'll respond by electing a President who is worthy of being Leader of the Free World once again.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

Just a simple technical point I'd like to make. Since the Secretary of Defense, apparently willfully, lied about this it's not surprising that you weren't aware of how modern air power works. The fact is, from comfortably offshore, the Navy's Aegis ships can interdict aircraft without much risk. Since over 80% of Libya's population (and pretty much 100% of the fighting so far) is within 20km of the coast, and SM-2 has a range of, oh, over 100km, there is absolutely no NEED for us to bomb anything in order to enforce any no fly restrictions.

Of course, the UN delayed any action until Qadaffi had time to scrape up thousands of mercenaries and 'friends' to help with his temporarily-unreliable Army....so now, in effect, air strikes are required in order to stop his ground forces. Now that we have aicraft over ground, we 'need' to bomb stuff to make sure those pesky Libyans don't shoot back too much. In all fairness, originally the rebels didn't appear to want our help so maybe this general sequence of events was inevitable. Also, of course, your basic point that Europe has been revealed to the whole world as impotent remains.

March 24, 2011 11:09 AM

Thank you for raising this interesting point, Phocks. Now that you mention them, certainly Aegis ships can shoot down aircraft, and as you say, practically all of Libya that matters is close to the coast.

But maybe there's something more going on? Notice that the Brits are running out of missiles. Is it possible that we are too, and that the SecDef can't be confident of his supply to the Aegis ships? So he has to use manned aircraft and their weapons because it's what he's got?

Or maybe the Air Force lied to the SecDef so as to seem more relevant themselves?

March 24, 2011 11:17 AM

I just love how the media doesnt even bat an eye at the fact that Obama is (sort of) entering the US in yet annother conflict. Could you imagine the media and the congresional reaction to a Republican doing the same thing? Or the shit storm of astro turf anti-war protestors in the street? Code pink, media matters, open society, MSNBC, and every other "invisable hand" organization would go completely ape-shit over it. I can just hear them now, "three seperate conflicts!" "hes a war-monger, imperialist nazi!". But not Obama, he a nobel peace prize winner you know. He'll defend the ones that wage jihad on our troops. "Its only fair, you know those troops are baby-killers....."

March 24, 2011 11:46 AM

Here's one Brit saying WELL DONE for a superb write-up and some good analysis.

March 24, 2011 12:21 PM

Sorry for the long post, but I have to totally disagree with Phocks
thoughts about needing to have planes over the ground in Libya.

All of these facts I found using Google, I am just adding them
together to get my conclusion:
1. The Aegis cruisers are limited in their size, which limits how far
away they can see a target aircraft. While their missile systems can
take out targets at over 200 miles, the Aegis itself cannot see over
the horizon, which necessitates AWACS and Hawkeye coalition aircraft
to monitor the Libyan airspace
2. AWACS are based on 707s
3. 707s have a maximum range of 6,000 miles with max tanks of ~23,000
gallons of jet fuel
a. Jet fuel costs between $1/gallon and $3/gallon more than premium car fuel
b. Therefore a 707 goes ~.26 miles/gallon
4. AWACS and Hawkeyes can be midair refueled, but the personnel cannot
operate indefinitely
5. The coalition probably has fewer than 10 aircraft at any given time
to devote to airspace monitoring over Libya
a. The US has ~30 AWACS total; NATO has ~17; UK has ~7; France has ~ 4
b. The US has at ~3 carriers within range and a typical load would
be 2 Hawkeyes per
c. Libya is more than 1,000 miles from a US airbase to support AWACS
6. Libya’s coastline is 1,100 miles with real country width of ~900 miles
7. AWACS and Hawkeyes can fly up to 40,000 feet, but typically operate
between 25,000 and 30,000 feet
8. AWACS and Hawkeyes can “see” over 250 miles (assuming that no
objects are in the way, mountains, etc)
9. Satellites are not highly effective at monitoring military aircraft
due to multiple factors
10. Military aircraft (including the Libyans air force) can fly very
low to the earth to make it difficult for radar to track them
11. There are not infinite numbers of Aegis cruisers (or other missile
carrying ships) in the Med from which to launch long-distance
anti-aircraft missiles over Libya
12. IF an AWACS or Hawkeye spots a Libyan aircraft in the No-Fly-Zone
and IF there is a cruiser within range of a missile shot, as much as 5
minutes could be taken from the time the aircraft is spotted to when a
missile interdicts the target (target acquired, target identified,
target passed to Aegis, missile launched, time to target, etc), the
aircraft may well have moved, or have found somewhere to hide
temporarily (most military aircraft can tell when they are being
“painted” by a radar system such as AWACS)

1. While it is completely possible for the coalition to maintain radar
coverage over the general populated areas of Libya, it is not possible
for the coalition to maintain a No-Fly-Zone in Libya without airplanes
flying on patrol over Libya
2. If aircraft must fly over Libya to maintain a No-Fly-Zone, they
must attack at least SOME ground targets such as anti-aircraft sites
and control sites for such

March 24, 2011 2:53 PM
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