Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | March 20, 2011

We’re Not in Charge, Folks

The reluctance of many Americans to recognize that we are not in charge of the coalition effort in Libya has been remarkable to watch.  Few (save the Fox News Sunday talking heads this morning) have been interested in the fact that French forces took the lead with the first attacks yesterday.  More importantly, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the first national leader to announce the action to the public and frame it in political context.

Prior to our own first strikes, there were none of the extensive Pentagon briefings, Congressional deliberations, or presidential statements we’ve come to expect over the last 20 years with the operations in Somalia, Iraq, the Balkans, and Afghanistan.  Defense Secretary Bob Gates didn’t speak to the Libya operation at all in the wake of the UN vote, or before the strikes began on Saturday.  The public was not advised of the command relationships for the operation until after the first Tomahawks were launched.  Although individual members of Congress had spoken in favor of a no-fly zone over the last few weeks, the president requested no specific authorization for the use of force against Libya, and presented no concrete plan to Congress with explicit objectives.

It has therefore been remarkable to observe the MSM’s unquestioning acceptance of all these events.  Without the slightest evidence that President Obama has done the minimum required of a leader – set objectives for the coalition, and scope the operation – the media bustled in after the fact, once information began to trickle out to the public, to proclaim that the US must obviously be in charge.

The American military has the facilities and experience to assume tactical direction of the operation, and that appears to be what has shaken out.  That doesn’t mean we are in charge from the standpoint of policy or strategy.  There is an enormous difference between our public finding out about the command assignments second-hand, through the news media, and the communication practices of the last seven presidents, which were direct, explicit, involved, and responsible.  We haven’t had an administration even close to this coy about the use of force since Lyndon Johnson’s.

Don’t try to make this action fit the outlines of what we’ve been accustomed to from the presidents of the last 40 years.  The reason it doesn’t look like America is in charge is that, for the purposes that matter, we’re not.  Obama is not doing what previous presidents have done – and that’s why it looks different to the public.

It’s a bad practice to use military force where the objectives are murky, and multiple “partners” in the operation have placed different interpretations on them.  As Ed Morrissey notes at Hot Air, the Arab League, which thumped hard for the no-fly zone, has already come out criticizing the coalition for exceeding its UN mandate with the attacks on Qaddafi’s armored forces near Benghazi.  The first of those attacks were mounted by the French, although Sarkozy has been clear that regime-change is not his objective.  David Cameron of the UK does favor regime-change, however, and will probably continue to press for it, considering that his government has now basically burned its bridges with Qaddafi.  The British have had major petroleum interests in Libya; if Qaddafi remains in power, Libya’s resources will be closed to the British oil and gas industry.

Meanwhile, the African Union – some of whose members have troops volunteering with Qaddafi – has deplored the coalition intervention and plans to meet with Qaddafi as early as Monday to seek a political resolution.  Qaddafi is not without friends, as indicated by the reports of arms shipments to him from Syria and Belarus.

None of these factors would necessarily be a showstopper if the US had a clear objective, with buy-in from our coalition partners.  But we don’t.  Obama has spoken only of a defensive, open-ended condition to be achieved – Qaddafi not shedding his people’s blood – and a limit to the material level of US engagement:  no ground troops.  Neither of these is what the Vietnam-educated US military came to call an “endstate”:  a set of political objectives, the achievement of which would end the need for combat.

We may get lucky.  There’s no predicting luck, and Americans would do well to pray that Qaddafi exits the picture in one way or another, which would change the nature of the problem.   But if that does happen, it will unquestionably be luck that brings it about.

The void in strategic communication from the administration is what matters here.  When such communication is present, US policy – well-founded or otherwise – is being executed by American forces.  Even Carter and Clinton got that right.  When that communication is not present, American forces have been placed in the service of policies defined – or merely hinted at – by others.  Minus the rendering of payments, our military is, in effect, being rented out.  No good can come of that.

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.”  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.



  1. There are MANY questions to answer here! Alex Jones (NOT one of my usual sources, let alone favorites!) posits that many? most? of the “protesters” are, in fact, “soldiers of Allah” (al-Qaeda) working to oust Gadaffi in order to install shariah in Libya and, moreover, Obama’s OK to join in the “no-fly-zone” bombardments is really allying us with our enemies from other concurrent battlefields! What gives? Are we entering the back door of and, in fact, opening up yet another war zone (in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan)??

  2. I would presume that if the Obama administion has “a clear objective”, you would be the last person it would want (or need) to share it with.

    And not being part of the loop, you are reduced, as always, to mere speculation conducted in arcane cliches that suggest you have been watching too much Jack Bauer.

    I would speculate in my usual adolescent way that our military, along with their French and British counterparts are just about competent when it comes to operational arrangements. What concerns me is why we are intervening in yet another arab country in the first place. I thought the one clear message from 2009 was that the US electorate had rejected the neo-con agenda. Yet, here we go again with all the usual Republican and Democrat hob-nobs cheering-on this adventure from the sidelines (And all giving different and conflicting reasons why they support this intervention, and none of them having a coherent view of what our objectives are ). Bi-partisanship is, I’m sure, an admirable thing in many situations. However, this cosy coalition between the neo-cons and the humanitarian interventionists we could do without.

  3. “I would presume that if the Obama administion has “a clear objective”, you would be the last person it would want (or need) to share it with.”

    ???? Any American citizen has a right to know what the clear objective is. Please don’t play the silly game of “you’re not in the loop.” About national objectives, we should all be in the loop. There is no such thing as a valid reason to attack Libya that cannot be shared with the American people.

    I say this as a career Naval officer with extensive experience of the kind of political and operational planning I am speaking about. If you don’t have the same experience, I recommend going no further with this particular line of criticism (although the artistic reference to “Jack Bauer” is entertaining). It will only make you look foolish.

    • They have told you exactly the same as they have told me: that the purpose of this intervention is to stop Ghaddafi butchering the insurgents.

      Of course the American people have a right to be told the purpose of this intervention. After all, the Bush crowd gave the American people several different reasons for attacking Iraq. In fact, if my memory serves me right, they changed these reasons several times. Perhaps you are annoyed because the current shower has given only one……

      I’m a career sceptic of Government generally – including the military part of it. My experience is as one of the people forking out the gadzillions of bucks that pay for all these military panjandrums.

      p.s. I apologise for my failure to genuflect in your presence. I’m surprised that the navy has been able to do without such an important person as yourself when planning this operation. As one of the people paying for it, I intend having harsh words with Mr. Gates for this glaring omission.

      • Are you sure you’re not a re-tooled Fuster with a new nom de plume? Your remarks are pretty egregious re OptiCon – and she’s a helluva lot more tolerant that barenakedislam or atlasshrugs, for example (they usually smell trolls and give them about two posts to hang themselves – i.e., achieve that even more impressive status of being “Banned” – if not in Boston! – at least at OptiCon!).

        Meantime, hearing from another blog (this one an unabashed “neo-con,” as you would probably identify him), “Remember Lockerbie” should be our guiding light – at least until Gadaffy Duck loses a few more family members and gets the message to back down (much like he’s done so often in the past – “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man but one…”).

        • Obviously you are an admirer of robust comment – as long as its the sort of comment you like. I would sincerely hope that the OptiCon is more tolerant than the two extremist hate-sites whose policy of zero-tolerance to dissent you so admire.

          I wouldn’t be one to boast about killing little girls (even if they are Arab untermenschen and their adoptive daddy is a very bad man).

          • I’m not “boasting” about anything, Paulie, least of all about murdering little girls. On the other hand, collateral damage happens. Just a few hours ago, in fact, the “allied forces” (in this case, the US & the French) dropped a bunch of bombs on Gadaffy’s “residential compound.” It gives me NO joy or satisfaction whatsoever. But I am reminded of the 260 (approx) innocent souls – including MANY children – that Gadaffy heartlessly sent to their death over Lockerbie; and, not being interested at all in “turning the other cheek,” maybe this was karmic justice/payback time.

            OK, I’ll admit to preferring MY biases to those of folks who have opposite political leanings. BFD. So, sue me!

            As for Pam Geller’s supposed “hate site,” she led an incredibly brave and “never-say-never” campaign to fight CAIR and the radical Islamic family & mosque of Rifqa Bary to separate the frighted apostate and keep her ALIVE, for God’s sake! The result is a happy, young woman, whose faith (and NOT in the death cult of Allah!) sustained her through high school graduation and her 18th birthday – and, by law, FREEDOM from persecuation and death threats. No doubt living under a new ID and in an undisclosed location, but, again, ALIVE!! Pam Geller led the effort through her own sense of justice and fair play. The only hate involved was on the part of the parents, the mosque and CAIR.

            • I suppose one person’s “kharmic justice” is another person’s personal tragedy. You will be delighted to know that we are way way ahead in the child-killing “payback” league. (But it doesn’t really matter, Moslem kids are more like little animals than real children, and don’t feel pain like our kids)

              You couldn’t be referring to the same Pam Geller who:

              1. Defended the Serbian mass-murderers Milosevic and Karadzic.
              2. Denied the existence of Serbian concentration camps (Liberated and witnessed by NATO peacekeeping troops)
              3. Voiced support for the neo-nazi English Defence League when the latter were caught committing arson against homes and businesses owned by Moslems.
              4. Accused Supreme Court Justice, Eliza Kagan of being a Nazi sympathizer, and pictured her on atlasshrugs wearing an ss uniform.
              5. Accused Moslems of having sexual relations with goats.
              6. Advocates the forceable removal of every non-jewish man, woman, and child from the West Bank, Gaza, and the State of Israel?

              And I had always thought she was a pathological liar, and not the paragon of justice and fair play you portray.

              Shame on me for calling this wholesome courageous and tolerant woman a hate-monger.

              • As a very radicalized Right-Winger (minus the “racism” you Leftists like to call anyone right of center), I plead a resounding YES to all of the charges you, in your superior opinion, level at Pam Geller. She is not alone in any of the opinions/stances you dismiss as wrong or evil. “Au contraire,” Paulie, there are many of us who see the Truth thru a different set of lenses – and, FYI, we are NOT in possession of a different set of FACTS: Facts are facts and truth is truth, and your talking points are merely a different interpretation of those facts. I will never cede to you that your interpretation is 100 percent correct – let alone the ONLY interpretation.

                I could argue against all six points you level at Geller, but I don’t have time or energy NOW (but may return to the subject when I have a bit more time). You may characterize the EDL as “neo-nazi,” but that’s just YOUR – and ALL the Leftists’ – way of trying to dismiss a grassroots movement that’s fed up to here with the islamization of the UK and is rallying thousands of their fellow countrymen to protest and action.

                I am sure none of us has “first-hand” experience of the sexual practices of the radical muzzies (she doesn’t claim bestiality, BTW), but it’s well known that they bugger the hell out of little boys – a sick right of passage for far too many muzzies in majority-muslim countries.

                When we bombed Beograd to put Milosevic out of power, we next went on to, eventually, “liberate” Kosovo (much as if France came to the aid of Louisiana and “liberated” that state) – all to the benefit of al-Qaeda and its cells throughout Bosnia, Kosovo and much of Albania (combined with a Russian-style Mafia in those areas, now a very lethal – but lucrative – “business model,” sad to say). We sided with Islam over Christianity in a centuries’ long struggle & war between those two factions – i.e., the conquering Islamicists and their formerly conquered Serbian Christians.

                (To be continued if I have any psychic energy for these arguments…

        • jeepers, Joy, stop obsessing over me and for the love of reason try to understand that you’ve insulted the opticon by linking her to atlasshrugs.

          • I think it’s up to OptiCon – NOT you, of all people, Fuster! – to be insulted (or not) by atlasshrugs. And she’s under no obligation to confirm or deny your volunteering to be insulted in her stead…
            Of course, not all Conservatives are on the same page about certain issues or certain advocates, but sometimes they’re more vocal about these things than others. Further, they often wish to keep out of the fray re personalities or even individual candidates, but focus instead on issues & policies.

            I think OptiCon is one of those whose beliefs are firm and principled, but feel that, in his/her capacity of conducting lively conversations/dialogues, it’s useful & more effective to keep some personal opinions to themselves. I respect her (OptiCon) for that. OTOH, some bloggers are very much in the face of their readers with strong opinions and very direct language – that’s just their schtick! And I appreciate them, too, for their strongly held – and equally strongly stated! – points of view.

            Life’s too short to read everyone & everything, so why not concentrate on those whose relatively diverse opinions & styles more or less coincide with one’s own? Just sayin’…

      • “They have told you exactly the same as they have told me: that the purpose of this intervention is to stop Ghaddafi butchering the insurgents.”

        That’s not a clear objective, which is my point. It has already been so unclear that France, the US, and the Arab League do not agree on whether it means Qaddafi’s ground forces have to be attacked.

        We’ll keep Paulite around — never let it be said of TOC that we can’t take criticism or other points of view here. The funny thing is, I have been extremely skeptical of a no-fly zone from the get-go, but for whatever reason, Paulite is upset that my reasons for that are different from his/hers.

        • Au contraire, it IS a clear objective. So is regime-change. So is eliminating (real) WMD, and so is “I don’t like Arabs so lets bomb ’em (especially ones who wear camp outfits and live in tents”) – well, maybe not the last one…….

          What it ISN’T is an ADEQUATE reason for military intervention. Neither is regime-change nor non-existent WMD.

          This is the third murky military intervention in an Arab or Moslem country in recent times (we won’t even mention covert CIA ops like the overthrow of Mossadeq in Iran, or the installation of vile torturers like Saddam and the Shah). None of them was to the advantage of the USA or its interests.

          We have spent zillions of tax-dollars in making enemies out of possible friends, and mortal enemies out of minor irritants. Worst of all is the fact that thousands of young Americans, and hundreds of thousands of non-Americans, have had their lives cut short by this bogus and concocted “war between civilizations”. It is time it stopped.

          I’m not upset. I’m enraged.

  4. Paulite — no, it’s not a “clear objective.” Good analogies can be found in many ordinary situations. If your mom hands you the keys to the car and says, “Please go to the store and buy milk and sugar,” she has given you a clear objective. If she hands you the keys to the car and says “Don’t get into an accident,” she has merely stated a condition she would like you to maintain. There is nothing whatsoever in this communication to illuminate why you’re getting into the car in the first place.

    Obama’s desired condition — Qaddafi not killing his people — is analogous to Mom saying don’t get into an accident. We’re all in favor of dictators not killing people, just as we’re all in favor of avoiding car accidents. But that doesn’t make these satisfying conditions “objectives” in the context of either deploying military force, or driving the car.

    • Military objectives should be “clear, concise, measurable, and attainable,” and they should “directly support the National Security Strategy.” This is basic joint planning doctrine.

      Nothing about this operation supports the National Security Strategy, and there is nothing clear, concise, measurable or attainable in the vague vision statement that was offered as an objective.

      • In fact, nothing in any of our recent military interventions in the Arab world was clear, measureable, or attainable in terms of US interests, or US security – Iraq II in particular.

        • You got ONE war wrong, Paulie: The objective was crystal clear in Iraq I (“Gulf War I”): Namely, defeat Saddam’s forces in Kuwait and clear the Revolutionary Guard and his troups out of Kuwait. Period. The chased them back into Iraq (with substantial losses to the Iraqis), but did NOT press on to Baghdad – much to the consternation of those who felt that the timing was good for bringing down a dictator that proved VERY troublesome for US interests over the next 12 years. BUsh 41’s only – but HUGE – mistake was urging the Iraqis & the Kurds to rise up & overthrow Saddam – which they earnestly tried to do, awaiting the expected NATO forces to back them up. That help never came, of course, and tens of thousands were murdered by Saddam in retaliation and as a fearful message of deterrence.

          Parenthetically, Bush 43’s objective in Afghanistan was to clear out the Taliban. Period. That objective was met – but it wasn’t permanent, and the Taliban, undeterred by NATO forces (or, I guess, more accurately, the “alliance of the willing”), began to slowly return to certain provinces ajacent to Pakistan.

    • Analogies are (Like ‘words’ as the Queen said in Alice in Wonderland) are what you want them to mean). To indulge your exercise in semantics: By your measure, this is the third accident we have gotton ourselves into, and we still haven’t got any milk and sugar!

  5. Wow a regular Willard Grange… I remember that movie… No thank you.

    We aren’t perfect, and sometimes we end up having to do things for the short term that come back to bite us in the long term.

    I am not going to argue the merits or flaws of the issues concerning the coup in Tehran.. or the maneuvering to keep the southern flank of the Soviet Union under control, and keep them from controlling vital oil resources… since they didn’t yet know that the had much in the way of oil reserves, nor did they have the technology to get to it.. but gee…

    With all of the vitriol and bile you spew, half-facts, half-realities, Utopian fantasies of happy lovely times if we had just been indulgent and sweet to dangerous people… you’d have thought that you had the answer to all of our woes…

    We all know that just keeping to ourselves and not bothering anyone… paying the mugger what he wants… offering whatever tribute buys peace… if we just did all of that no one would be envious of us, no 10th century civilizations would want do do us harm…

    Well, I know just where you come from. I’ve heard it all before. Eventually it comes down to the core of your universe… yes, those dirty… er um neocons and their support of that nasty little state… if it didn’t exist, all of this wouldn’t be happening, now would it?

    I have already stated, that I am fully behind JE’s reasons for why this Libyan NFZ isn’t a good idea…

    The current regime is Libya is vile and reprehensible. There was ample reason for any number of sovereign nations led by us or not including us (if we are in we lead… that’s the way it should be…) to remove Qaddafi from power. This administration, however, has not stated those causes. There is nothing clear about buzz-bombing anything for no firm reason.

    Your assertions about the Gulf Wars, especially the Iraqi campaign, and the removal of Saddam as a part of the current War on Terror -it wasn’t a separate war, merely a battle campaign in a war that was declared on us in 1979, are patent nonsense. Your accusations are straight out of the half-truths of the anti-war talking point propaganda strumundrang…

    We are dealing with a long term problem of a nuclear Iran and Pakistan, we are in Iraq and Afghanistan for what is between those to “countries”. One day Iran will produce more than enough nuclear devices to alter the balance of power in the middle east, Europe, and here.

    I can guarantee you that should that nation become a nuclear power, your isolationist dreams will be incinerated in a mushroom cloud. They mean to do us extreme harm. They mean to destroy the State of Israel, and they mean to either subjugate or destroy Western Civilization.

    If you cannot see that… well..

    You are doomed to be Willard Grange.

    So I shall allow you to “stew in your own juices”… as my father used to say when dismissing gratuitous piffle…

    -The Mighty Fahvaag

    • who would be our allies when we have to come down on the Iranians, MF?

      how do we acquire political cover when we find it necessary to attack the boys from Qum?

      care to venture a guess as to what we might get from what is pretty much a mission in Libya that has little real upside for us?

      (the gratuitous in gratuitous piffle seems a touch….gratuitous)

    • Simply a TERRIFIC response, Mighty F!! You outline so succinctly – and pulling no punches – some of the basic truths that underscore our generational struggle – now almost outright war – with a 7th century political death cult, veiled thinly by a veneer of “religion,” that has amazingly bamboozled a large part of the globe into accepting it as a legitimate anything but what it really is!! But the tipping point, as you have wisely observed, is the nuclear option – which, in the hands of those who seriously entertain a belief in the glory in self-emolation, is so dangerous & scary that we avoid the necessity to demolish it only at our own peril!

    • I can understand your reluctance to discuss the merits of the overthrow of Mossadeq etc. There are none I can think of.

      I would presume that your idea of “bile” is opinion with which you disagree. I see no actual argument supporting your invective.

      I have never argued that we should be “indulgent” to anyone. However, subverting peoples’ governments and replacing them with US-compliant torturers is unlikely to engender goodwill towards the US. Strangely, it is not just the irrational, unreasonable, murderous, primitive, violent, Arab and Moslem untermenschen that take umbridge at this sort of foreign interference. People worldwide – from the Irish to the Poles (and every other hue and persuasion on the planet) have a history of resisting this sort of thing – usually with deadly violence.

      I should add that in the death and mutilation stakes the West is in an unassailable gold-medal position. But our actions are always just, measured, and reasonable. And anyway, who cares. The irrational etc. Arab untermenschen don’t feel pain like us. They don’t mourn their children like us; they don’t have a right to enjoy their property like us, and they don’t have a right to express anger when they are bereaved and dispossessed.

      What war was declared on us in 1979? I am unaware that anyone declared war on the US in 1979.

      Insofar as the removal of Saddam had something to do with the so-called “War on terror”: Even the Weekly Standard has long ago stopped claiming any connection between Saddam and Al Quaeda.

      I agree that Pakistan is a potentially deadly threat to the US. However, it is also a threat that is completely unamenable to a military solution (Unless you consider a full-scale preemptive nuclear strike as an acceptable way of dealing with the country). One thing is certain, the so-called ‘war on terror’, or our war in neighbouring Afghanistan, isn’t doing anything to assist in the stabilization of this fragile nation.

      Iran is the way it is because of its experience. We didn’t have to overthrow Mossadeq and replace him with our favourite torturer, Shah Reza. Do you think for a moment that the Mullahas would now be in power in Iran if we had treated Iran and the Iranians in a manner commensurate with the Christian principle of “doing unto others…….? Not on your life unless you subscribe to the notion that the Iranians are inherently irrational, unreasonable, etc. etc. You must remember that Iran has been subjected to constant threats of attack and invasion by ourselves and our surrogates since they threw out our stooge, the Shah. The war of agression started by our (then) client, Saddam, cost close to one million Iranian lives. These things concentrate the mind wonderfully. I would presume that the Iranians have (very rationally and reasonably) deduced that possession of nuclear weapons will make them immune from attack by us or our clients. We might, as a cheaper and more intelligent alternative to continuing our threats, try to negotiate some sort of rapproachment and non-aggression pact with Iran in exchange for verifiable discontinuance of her weapons programme. But, I forget, you can’t negotiate with the irrational, unreasonable, primitive, violent, Iranians either.

      There is no evidence whatsoever that the Mullahas who control Iran would court national annihilation by starting a nuclear war with anyone – unless you start from the presumption that the Iranians are irrational, unreasonable etc. etc. However, nukes are a wonderful deterrent against other nuclear powers. The real problem the Israelis have with an Iranian nuke is that it would undermine the credibility of their own nuclear deterrent. That is Israel’s problem, not ours. We didn’t ask them to acquire these things.

      Never heard of this Willard George. Is he someone who stole your toys or kicked sand in your face?

  6. In 1979 Iran forcefully seized US diplomats on US diplomatic soil. That’s an unprovoked act of war in my book. Perhaps that is what TMF was referring to.

    Subsequently, we managed to prolong the conflict between Iran and Iraq and keep both of those bad boys’ hostile intentions occupied for a while.

    • Seizing the embassy was certainly a hostile act. To say it was unprovoked is to ignore the history of US-Iranian relations which preceeded the hostage-taking. Ultimately, our policy of interference in Iran backfired on us. It is still backfiring. Similarly our wars on Iraq. Similarly our war in Afghanistan. Similarly, no doubt, as will be proved with our intervention in Libya. And so it goes.

      We didn’t intervene in the Iraq-Iran war to keep BOTH of these “bad boys” occupied. We intervened solely on the side of Iraq (by providing Saddam with intellegence and the credit necessary to buy war-making materials) for the cynical reason that we were pissed-off with Iran and we were observing the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. The fact that Iraq started it; that industrial numbers of men women and children were killed; that the war gave Saddam cover while he settled domestic scores (e.g. gassing the Khurds), and that there was no real vital US interest at stake, seems not to have occurred to anyone in the Reagan administration as being of much importance.

  7. —None of these factors would necessarily be a showstopper if the US had a clear objective, with buy-in from our coalition partners. But we don’t.—-

    get in, blow up some air defense stuff, a few tanks, sit back and let NATO/UN/ whatever do the rest of the work of sending Gaddafi off-stage.
    work quietly to do as much as we canto shape whatever comes next in Libya.

    try to get recognized as using our military in an Arab country in a way that likes benevolent.

    simple and clear objectives.

    • LOOKS benevolent.

      dog it.

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