Libya: What kind of damned war is this?

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Commander-in-ChiefThe madness continues in Libya, and regarding Libya. It’s no kind of war at all, says President Obama. The American military activity he has authorized in Libya doesn’t come under the purview of the War Powers Resolution, and therefore doesn’t require the approval of the U.S. Congress, because …

U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof.

See: U.S. forces might have bombed and shot at Libyans quite a bit early on, and may potentially do so again if circumstances demand it, but Col. Gaddafi and his forces understand that it’s just not appropriate to shoot back, and actually injuring or killing any Americans engaged in this operation against them would be a completely unacceptable faux pas. Therefore, no war.

So President Obama, sad to say, becomes part of a particular string of presidents who have put U.S. forces in harm’s way, in a situation that might well escalate in unpredictable ways, but who do not wish to use the word war, and wish to escape full debate and scrutiny of their decision. The war in Korea, under Truman, began as a “police action” on behalf of the United Nations. The war in Vietnam was labeled as anything but by JFK and Lyndon Johnson as they progressively escalated it. The whys and wherefores of these wars are another question, but surely it can at least be stipulated that truth is never advanced by using weaselly words. It’s worth noting that in the case of the first Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan, and the 2003 war on Saddam Hussein, explicit congressional approval was actually sought and obtained in advance. Yet to some it will always be the fashion to accuse those presidents of being warmongers, cowboys and unilateralists.

In Yemen, U.S. forces are also in action, but there is a difference here. First, it arguably comes under the authorization given by Congress in the wake of September 11th to pursue the enemy responsible for those attacks. It is al-Qaeda which is being targeted in Yemen. Secondly, those activities have been going on for several years in relative secrecy because the regime of President Saleh wanted it that way, for reasons of internal security (he didn’t want it to be universally known that he was allowing Americans to fight on Yemeni soil). However, if the cover has been blown, and the commitment to Saleh no longer means anything, and the hostilities are moving to a new level (all of which appear to be true) then it is worth considering whether the 2001 authorization by Congress really covers what is going on there, or if the mission in Yemen demands its own authorization. Scrutiny can have the salutary effect of compelling clarity as to what the mission actually is, after all.

But back to Libya: The inanity and hubris of those “leading” this war against Gaddafi was clear enough at the outset, but just becomes more frighteningly clear each day. Points:

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week, “The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.”
  • Only 8 of the 28 nations in NATO have been willing and able to provide fighter and bomber aircraft. One of those, Norway, will be ceasing to do so as of August. Others, including Britain, are having increasing difficulty keeping up the supply.
  • France—the biggest flag-waver for this war in the first place—has said it will no longer be able to provide the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in the fall, and this is the only aircraft carrier from which attack missions are being flown.

The general belief of those initiating the war seemed to be that once the mighty NATO bombs started falling, Gaddafi would throw in the towel and escape abroad, or be completely abandoned by his forces, mercenary or otherwise. Surprise, surprise: he’s actually willing to fight; that is, when he’s not too busy playing chess with visiting Russian Grand Masters.

And all of this doesn’t even get into the fact of who some of these rebels are, and the vast potential for Islamic jihadists to take over swathes of Libya.

That is, the same people the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan, Yemen, and still to a significant extent in Iraq.

It’s a mad, mad world, alright. Since the Obama administration seems determined to continue muddling though, it’s surely time for Congress to pull the funding for this particular lunatic endeavor. If not in this case, when?