What John Cole Said

John asks if the fall of Gaddafi means he should change his initial opposition to the war:

Does that change my opinion about the ludicrous notion that providing air cover, using smart bombs and predator drones, providing intelligence and technological assets, as well as a large CIA presence on the ground means we are not, as the administration asserted, engaged in hostilities? No. I still think that is laughable, perhaps one of the dumbest things I have ever heard, and will be used by future administrations for less “noble” pursuits. I can’t wait to hear the howls when President Palin insists we are not in hostilities with Iran, just bombing them and providing Israel with munitions, technology, and other assets.

Does it change my belief that Obama’s actions sidestepping Congress will be used again in the future? No.

Does it change my belief that intervention was sold with a flood of bullshit, with phrases like “Arab No-Fly Zone”being tossed around? No.

Does it change the fact that the pretext for this was to stop a massacre, but we were clearly gunning for regime change from day one? No.

Does it change my belief that every time we use our military, it will be pointed to as a reason for more and more military involvement in other places? No.

Does it change my belief that there appears to have been approximately ZERO planning for the aftermath? No.

Does it change my opinion that we know literally nothing about the rebels who appear to be winning? No.

Does it change my opinion that a lot of this is not about Gaddafi, but about a steady supply of the light sweet crude that Europe is so dependent on for their ultra-low sulfur diesel fleet? No.

So, no. Libya is not Iraq, or Afghanistan, or any other country. Libya is Libya, and while I hope Gaddafi is gone and everything works out, I still do not think we should have been involved. I don’t care if you disagree, but I think I have some good reasons why we should have stayed out of this. Reasons that go beyond “You just hate Obama” or “You are just an idiot and Obama is smarter than you” or “You can’t tell the difference between Iraq and Libya.” Hell, I’m not even getting in the way of the pom pom waving and USA foam fingers- “OBAMA GOT BIN LADEN AND NOW GADDAFI,” mainly because I can’t grok the dissonance between the following statements:

“We’re really not involved in the Libyan hostilities” and “OBAMA JUST PWNED GADDAFI USA! USA! USA!”

See also: Glenn Greenwald, Freddie deBoer, Nick Gillespie

But there are no American “boots on the ground” so how could anything possibly go wrong?

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30 thoughts on “What John Cole Said

  1. wow – talk about straw men! FYI, by and large most of us who were pro-intervention did not use the arguments you and Cole just attributed to us. Also, you both seem to subscibe to the idea that the Rupublicans somehow wouldn’t use somewhat disingenuous justifications for any military action they choose to take, despite all evidence to the contrary.

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      • well let’s go with this…
        I can’t wait to hear the howls when President Palin insists we are not in hostilities with Iran, just bombing them and providing Israel with munitions, technology, and other assets.

        Does it change my belief that Obama’s actions sidestepping Congress will be used again in the future? No.

        Does it change my belief that intervention was sold with a flood of bullshit, with phrases like “Arab No-Fly Zone”being tossed around? No.

        Does it change the fact that the pretext for this was to stop a massacre, but we were clearly gunning for regime change from day one? No.

        Does it change my belief that every time we use our military, it will be pointed to as a reason for more and more military involvement in other places? No.

        Do you honestly think that if the Libya intervention hadn’t happened, these things would not have occcured under a Republican presidency? Yes a lot of these things are BS, but any president wanting to justify a war would have ended up using them as excuses at some point in the near future anyway.

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        • Actually, Mr. Super, the point was giving the GOP a smack anyway for what they might do someday with Obama’s Libya as a good example.

          There’s nothing that can’t be used as a cudgel against the GOP or neo-cons or whathaveyou, The Real Enemy.

          The fact is that the right was opposed in principle to the way BHO went about this, bypassing Congress and the American people. But partisanship stops at the water’s edge, and so they let it slide.

          I happen to agree with almost all of John Cole’s bullet points about the wisdom of the Libya adventure, much on the point that we have no certainty the rebels will be better. There is much to for the people to sort out already in its neighbors Egypt and Tunisia, and they could have given us a bit of a clue how things are swinging in that part of the world.

          I also agree about the doubtful constitutionality of BHO sidestepping Congress. But until we hear howling about “shredding the constitution” and other DefCon 1 shrillness—and dragging in what the right did or might do someday—these criticisms from Obama’s left remain little more than liberaler-than-thou theater.

          [POTUS just said the US did “the bulk” of the original heavy NATO lifting. Success has a thousand fathers.]

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          • It really takes commitment to maintain that Erik’s purpose in making a quite powerful argument in the here and now against Barack Obama’s (a Democrat, the sitting president in fact) actual, currently-in-execution policy toward Libya, regarding the precedent it sets for future presidents, was in fact primarily to bash the GOP in particular for things they might do in the future. Kudos, Tom.

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                • I think Tom is just very eager to see partisanship where none exists. He ignores the nature of the special interests, for instance. Neoconservatives have a much more powerful institutional pro-war network than anything on the left, spanning multiple publications, think-tanks, with solid support from virtually all corners of the conservative movement. On the left, there is simply not this level of support. That’s why you get Libya or Somalia under Democratic presidents, and you get Iraq under Bush. This has not always been the case (most wars last century were Democratic wars, after all) but it is now, largely thanks to the rise of neoconservatism during and after the Cold War. So if I hammer home the point about hawks and specifically about hawks on the right, there is a reason for it. But of course Tom sees what he wants to see.

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          • You really missed Cole’s point?

            He’s telling any liberal or Democrat who’s inclined to cheer for Obama right now “You’ll realize how much you hate this when a Republican does it”. He’s attacking partisans.

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  2. I was and am still for what we did in Libya simple because two of our primary allies thought it was necessary and we owe them support. Especially after lying to them about Iraq.

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      • It may be absurd that this is the case, but support of allies is one of a number of truly well-established bases on which nations have gone to war throughout history. That fact alone, to my way of thinking, renders it something that is not absurd to take into account when forming one’s view of this action, even if it remains an unsatisfactory reason as an independent justification for our participation from the perspective of our country. I frankly think that viewing considering the wishes of our allies to be absurd in making decisions about war and peace to itself be an absurd viewpoint, and not only when those allies are opposed to a war. Again, not that it alone ought to have been enough to get us to involve ourselves, but I don’t think it’s at all absurd to think that, given history. It might have been ill-considered or simply wrong. But not absurd.

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              • That is when we are *compelled by the supreme law of our Republic* to give them military assistance (if they ask — and we always can and frequently do violate the supreme law of our Republic). It is not “absurd” to think we might want to do so at other times as well, merely because they are our allies, and we want to be good allies. Maybe it would be very misguided in a given instance, such as perhaps this one (our allies can obviously at times get very bad ideas in their heads about what is in their or the world’s interests, and we should be willing to resist their wishes at such times). But it’s not *absurd* that their desires would be very important to us, potentially to the point of engaging in limited participation (meaning with minimal danger to our people and materiel , and costing us about $1B or less) in a foreign war that we’d otherwise be not much interested in if not for or allies’ interest. Maybe a bad idea. Not absurd to do it because our closest allies wanted us to. See below.

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          • You can say that if an ally wasn’t attacked, then we weren’t justified in aiding in the attack against Libya. But that still won’t contradict anything I’ve said. I’d be inclined to agree, though I don’t dismiss R2P completely. My position on humanitarian intervention is wildly in flux at the moment; I don’t have one, nor do I have a position on whether this war was justified or wise from our perspective.

            All I’m holding here is that it isn’t “absurd” for us to have considered the fact that Britain and France were strongly in favor of taking action in Libya in deciding our course of action, nor even for that to have finally proven the deciding factor. It’s at most massively wrongheaded policymaking. It’s not absurd.

            If England or France had actually been attacked by Libya’s state forces (acting pursuant to established state orders), then all this debate would be off the table; we’d be compelled to come to their defense. It’s not absurd to think that in a situation where our closest allies in an existing institutional alliance that invoked their responsibility to come to our aid when we were attacked thought it was in their interest to take a given action and requested our aid in so doing, that we would seriously consider those facts alone as weighing rather heavily toward offering what help we could (while strictly limiting what that would be). Again: maybe horribly misguided. Not absurd.

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      • Let me ask a question in return, what do we owe our allies when they ask us not to block their actions in the UN and NATO? Once those actions have borne fruit how due you justify not helping them? Both under terms of our alliances, and as payback for past assistance they have given us?

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  3. Sorry to go all Godwin here, but I can’t help imagining John Cole on VE Day:

    Does it change my belief that Poland would have been the last of Hitler’s demands? No.

    Does it change the fact that Germany’s reputation has been grossly smeared for propaganda purposes? No.

    Does it change my opinion that we’ve made zero plans for the aftermath? No.

    Does it change my belief that every time we use our military, it will be pointed to as a reason for more and more military involvement in other places? No.

    Etc., etc., and blah de blah.

    (I actually think myself, by the way, that there was and is reason to question the Libyan adventure, but quoting John Cole is just about the worst way to make that point.)

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