Fish Wrap’s Ross Douthat Finally Figures Out The Liberal Spin On Libya

He seems to be the only one. For the most part, the liberal media pundits have ignored the Libyan actions. In all the major liberal sources, most are avoiding any sort of editorials, for or against, “Obama’s war,” even while Obama’s liberal base is up in arms in slamming Obama. Obviously, this is A Very Liberal Intervention

In its month-long crab walk toward a military confrontation with Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Obama administration has delivered a clinic in the liberal way of war.

Most of us think that means “waffling, hoping the issue will go away, deferring strictly to the UN, waiting till it’s perhaps too late to matter, then finally jumping in.” Ross has a different (and funnier) viewpoint

Just a week ago, as the tide began to turn against the anti-Qaddafi rebellion, President Obama seemed determined to keep the United States out of Libya’s civil strife. But it turns out the president was willing to commit America to intervention all along. He just wanted to make sure we were doing it in the most multilateral, least cowboyish fashion imaginable.

He’s right. Bush was just plain silly in not going to the Congress, getting a resolution, not going to the United Nations, getting resolution 1441 (after 16 other UN resolutions), not laying out the rationale for military action in Iraq in speeches over long months, including the State of the Union, and not putting a coalition of over 40 nations together, not to mention not giving Saddam numerous chances to work with the weapons inspectors.

That much his administration has achieved. In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.

So, it was pushed by the warmonger chickenhawk women, and has virtually no connection to American security (a notion I disagree with)?

This is an intervention straight from Bill Clinton’s 1990s playbook, in other words, and a stark departure from the Bush administration’s more unilateralist methods. There are no “coalitions of the willing” here, no dismissive references to “Old Europe,” no “you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Instead, the Obama White House has shown exquisite deference to the very international institutions and foreign governments that the Bush administration either steamrolled or ignored.

You simply have to love that. First Ross calls it unilateralist, then a few words later mentions the coalition, which had over 40 nations. Of course, no France, since they, along with some other countries, were trading banned goods to Iraq in violation of UN resolutions.

But there are major problems with this approach to war as well. Because liberal wars depend on constant consensus-building within the (so-called) international community, they tend to be fought by committee, at a glacial pace, and with a caution that shades into tactical incompetence. And because their connection to the national interest is often tangential at best, they’re often fought with one hand behind our back and an eye on the exits, rather than with the full commitment that victory can require.

Someone should explain what the word “victory” means to Obama. Fortunately, it looks like our French and English allies are looking to take Gadhafi out.

The ultimate hope of liberal warfare is to fight as virtuously as possible, and with the minimum of risk. But war and moralism are uneasy bedfellows, and “low risk” conflicts often turn out to be anything but. By committing America to the perils of yet another military intervention, Barack Obama has staked an awful lot on the hope that our Libyan adventure will prove an exception to this rule.

In other words, a liberal war is meant to be a seagull mission: fly in, make a lot of noise, crap all over everything, then fly away.

You know what? Instead of discussing all sorts of nuances, let’s just continue what we are doing, namely, destroying Libyan air defenses and military outposts, take out the heavy armor, deny the air to the Libyan air force, and, yes, either capture or kill Gadhafi and his henchmen, then get out.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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