Is Obama's legal reading serious?....
Given a UN resolution authorizing all necessary measures to protect civilians, how come President Obama interprets the UN mandate to bar targeting Gaddafi or covering for rebel advances? How better to protect innocent civilians than by doing those? True, civilian human shields Gaddafi has drawn around him--many of whom are hardly free agents--would be harmed by our killing Gaddafi, should we find his lair. But they would be far fewer than Gaddafi is likely to harm if he survives. As for human-shield volunteers, they make themselves combatants and thus are legitimate targets.
Astute lawyers should grasp the legal interpretation key: "Necessity" is in the eye of the beholder. Even Tsar Vlad the Bad gets this, having called the UN resolution "a medieval call for a crusade" that "allows everything." Putin, it seems, is a better lawyer than our Constitutional Law Professor President.
Is no one in the administration able to grasp this? Or is this convenient interpretation to excuse a narrow role? If it is the latter, than why did President Obama reiterate yesterday that he would like to see Gaddafi go? Does he think Gaddafi will go voluntarily? What can Gaddafi do if he accepts exile? Move to New Jersey, where Libya maintains a residence, and start a hedge fund?
Moral: He who wills the end must will the means to achieve that end.
And there is a huge albeit long-shot bonus to ousting Gaddafi: protests in Syria are picking up steam, writes soldier-blogger Michael Totten at Commentary Blog. Beyond the humanitarian value of toppling the brutal Syrian regime, is the mega-size geo-strategic bonus of helping free Lebanon again and removing Hezbollah's second sponsor (after Iran). Were Syria to fall, and even if a successor regime is equally nasty (very possible, perhaps highly probable) the Green Movement inside Iran would be immensely energized. The Libya-Syria key is dislodging ruthless totalitarian regimes, thus making Iran's mullahs deathly afraid and perhaps inducing part of Iran's military to defect to the opposition.
The WSJ editors explain our national interest neatly:
The U.S. national interest in this season of Arab uprisings is to have anti-American regimes fall while helping pro-American regimes to reform in a more liberal (in the 19th-century meaning of that word) direction. Rather than waste effort wooing Assad, the U.S. should support his domestic opponents at every opportunity. A weaker Syria might cause less trouble in Lebanon through its proxy, Hezbollah, and be less able to spread weapons and terror throughout the Mideast. Even bloody-minded authoritarians are less sturdy than they look to Westerners who mistake fear and order for consent.
And Tony Blair weighs in with his customary eloquence in "Confronting Gadhafi is Not Enough".
The common bottom line is this: We want to support democracies that are at least neither terrorist, totalitarian nor otherwise criminal; and we need not back nominally democratic movements backed by terrorists or totalitarians, such as the Bahraini Shia backed by clerical fascist Iran. Does anyone think Iran is backing the Bahraini Shia out of sentimental worship of freedom and democracy?
Kudo Department. In addition to the French & Brits, Danes & Italians are flying NATO missions. And Italy & Spain--yes, Spain under anti-US socialist Jose Zapatero--are providing air base facilities. Also, State Department figures show that Multilateral Barack's 2011 Libya coalition is half the size of Unilateral G. W. Bush's 2003 Iraq coalition. Cheers for 43!
Understatement of the New Century. John McCain on Greta van Susteren last night, saying of Gaddafi that "he is not known as a very decent person." THANKS, LONG JOHN, WE NEEDED THAT!....
Arab Reality Department. The Gray Lady carried a front-pager on the parlous captivity of four NYT reporters freed yesterday. Lucky to be alive at all, they were abused as captives--the female reporter was groped by every one of her male jailers. Being American helped save their lives, as recounted by two Arabic-speaking NYT reporters:
“I heard in Arabic, ‘Shoot them,’ ” Mr. Shadid said. “And we all thought it was over.”
Then another soldier spoke up. “One of the others said: ‘No, they’re American. We can’t shoot them,’ ” Mr. Hicks said.
This is the kind of grudging respect that Obama's irresolution endangers. Michael Goodwin skewers the Arab League, of whose performance one can say, borrowing an old joke: "First prize, an endorsement from the Arab League; second prize, two endorsements from the Arab league.
Bottom Line. President Obama has embarked upon a third US-backed Mideast war, without a clear goal, let alone a clearly visible will to win it. These are ill omens indeed.
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