"Some people are born bullshit artists, others learn to become bullshit artists, but if you fall into neither category and have ambitions in that direction, you may need my bullshit generating software."
- Richard E. Quandt
As someone who opposed invading Afghanistan and invading Iraq, and who now opposes the United States' current participation in Libya's civil war, I have been forcefully reminded in recent days of the old adage about how politics makes strange bedfellows.
But it's a new dawn, a new day, and a new President. And now that the President dropping bombs is a Democrat, it seems like many of the same people who were happy to beat the drums for war in Afghanistan and Iraq have suddenly discovered the following: (a) wars cost a lot; (b) wars are very hard to end once you start, especially if you have no clear criteria for victory; (c) using advanced weaponry does not guarantee a swift and tidy outcome; (d) involving yourself as a foreign actor on one side of a domestic war can result in unintended consequences for decades to come; and (e) the longer a war goes on, the more people die.
"The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word 'war,' therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist."
- George Orwell, 1984
In his speech last night, President Obama stated that the U.S. had "a responsibility to act" as "an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom." Leaving aside the self-congratulatory nonsense about the U.S. behaving as an advocate for human freedom around the world, let's accept this premise.
Obama goes on to say that, "I made it clear that Gaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power." We worked with the U.N. to get a no-fly zone authorized, we have not acted alone, etc. We will "support the aspirations of the Libyan people." Apparently, we are going to provide logistical support to the rebels, help with jamming Qaddafi's communications, and "pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people."
Yet in the same speech, Obama states that "broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake." Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to see the U.S. mired in another Middle Eastern land war - that would be why I was against the U.S. initiating a no-fly zone in Libya in the first place. But it raises the question: if regime change is not the goal of the NATO military mission, then what is?
"As our international power and interests surge, it would seem reasonable that our commitment to republican principles would surge. These commitments appear inconvenient. They are meant to be. War is a serious matter, and presidents and particularly Congresses should be inconvenienced on the road to war."
- George Friedman
Reasonable people can certainly argue about whether Daniel Ellsberg's leaking the Pentagon Papers or Bradley Manning's leaking diplomatic cables was justifiable as a moral duty or contemptible as a breach of national security. However, it would be an extraordinary stretch to argue that these leaks constitute a greater crime than premeditated murder of unarmed civilians in a war zone.