A Slight Change in Foreign Policy

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Slight Change in Foreign Policy

Column: On the Right and Never Wrong

By: Nicholas Halks

Could President Obama be the first Harvard Law Review editor to have failed constitutional law? In 2007, the then presidential candidate declared, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

He surely would have aced the test because he was correct: without congressional approval, even the War Powers Act fails to give the President the authority to wage wars against countries that have not attacked or threatened the United States.

Lest we forget, Libya had neither attacked nor threatened this country. Colonel Gaddafi did not even have the nerve to insult us. Yet we currently stand at war with Libya, the President having unilaterally authorized the attack.

And it seemed like only yesterday Obama was shaking hands and being received by Gaddafi. Today, Gaddafi is a murderous tyrant, targeted for termination, requiring a massive orchestration of military force.

When President Bush dragged the country to war with Iraq, albeit based on staggering exaggerations, he first went to Congress and got approval. Without the semblance of consulting Congress, Obama railroaded America into an unconstitutional and unnecessary war.

Just as Bush told the country before the invasion of Iraq, the war with Libya was supposed to be a simple matter. Drop enough bombs, use enough missiles and the dictator will flee in fear. It would be over in a matter of days, weeks at the most. It has not taken long but the truth is now apparent.

Obama’s war has become a stalemate, and our military faces a troubling and difficult reality. The battle cannot be won with bombings, missiles, and airstrikes. It needs ground troops. In Brussels, a NATO official, Brigadier General Mark van Uhm, reluctantly admitted, "There is a limit to what can be achieved by air power."

As if the extensive and costly lessons learned from Vietnam and Afghanistan were seemingly ignored.

The President’s stated goal is regime change but clearly, that is not going to happen anytime soon. Gaddafi has ruled Libya for 42 years and has defiantly declared, he will become a martyr before he deserts his country.

The President has been caught in a similar predicament to one his predecessor dealt with. It would be political folly to withdraw now, allow the rebels to be overrun, and go into the 2012 presidential election as the defeated Commander in Chief. Yet, it is economic suicide to wage three wars simultaneously, with a debt well over $14 trillion and no political agreement on where to begin to cut spending.

And so it goes.

What began as a no-fly zone to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s air force has evolved into a full scale war. Regrettably, that may have been NATO’s plan from the beginning. It did not take long to ground the obsolete Russian and Italian made fighters, which comprised the bulk of the Libyan Air Force. The air war over North Africa was concluded within 72 hours and the rebels were saved from a sure defeat.

Yet, instead of accomplished, the mission crept on. The United States fired over 120 missiles, targeting a mixture of military installations and high value targets across Libya. President Obama decided to play Santa Claus and even shot one down the chimney of Gaddafi’s compound. Perhaps, the Colonel had squeezed his hand a bit too hard when they last met?

Despite repeated assurances that no troops would be deployed, the British, French, and Italian militaries have inserted one thousand military “advisors.” Of course, this was after our President, already mired in a gargantuan budget battle with the GOP, gave $25 million to the rebels to buy equipment – not arms.

And with what equipment does one need to win a civil war?

As if introducing military advisors and paying for the war was not enough, on April 22, Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared that the US will be deploying the lethal Predator drones to help break the deadlock in Libya. Predator drones are state-of-the-art unmanned aircraft that roam the skies at night and fire missiles at suspected militants from unreachable altitudes. Gates touts their extraordinary accuracy in urban areas which would give a “modest contribution” to the Libyan rebels.

All these actions originated from a simple United Nations resolution allowing the creation of a no-fly zone.

Had the UN existed in 1862, Washington D.C. would have been shelled by British, French, and Spanish warships until the Union forces accepted a ceasefire. Abraham Lincoln and his sons would have been forced to vacate power. British troops would have occupied the ports of Charleston, Norfolk, and New Orleans to secure the flow of cheap cotton into Europe. Perhaps a demilitarized zone would have been established around Virginia. Does anyone think this would have solved America’s problems?

Thus, could missile strikes, predator drones, and troops realistically solve Libya’s?

Some actually insist it will. They believe it is America’s duty to police the world and adjudicate, by force, any instability deemed worthy. Both political parties are equally guilty of this madness. The difference is the Republicans go to war while the Democrats conceal their fights under the guise of “humanitarianism.” The list of these interventions, since Bush I was inaugurated in 1988: Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Iraq II, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

More then half are failed states by any standard rationale. Our intervention solved nothing besides the removal and replacement of one strongman with one more friendly to the United States. It remains doubtful that the citizens of these countries are any better off after their infrastructure was bombed, their children maimed, and their resources plundered.

And now we have intervened in a civil war, 5000 miles away, in the deserts of North Africa. Is it not time for the African Union, to take up its fair share of responsibilities beyond begging for increased foreign aid?

Of course not, it is the duty of the American family to pay and the American soldier fight another civil war far away, in a nation which did not pose a threat to us. In direct violation of the Constitution, the President bullied the country to war without congressional approval. The façade of protecting civilians has progressed into funding and fighting the war for the rebels. If history serves as a guide, America will soon be deploying military advisors as a precedent to ground troops.

The only question is where are those troops coming from?

They are still busy fighting in the wars President Obama was elected to end.


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