Foreign Policy

Obama’s Bush moment

President Obama had a Bush moment last night. But I’m not talking about George W. Bush. I’m referring to his father. Obama’s explanation of why he won’t back the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi under a U.N. resolution was all about the limits of war by committee — the same constraints that prevented the military coalition put together by George H.W. Bush from going all the way to Baghdad in 1991.

It is often said that G.W. Bush decided to topple Saddam Hussein to make up for his father’s “failure" to overthrow the Iraqi dictator in the first Gulf War. In his speech last night, Obama pointed out that regime change in Iraq “took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

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Is there an Obama Doctrine?

The tenuous situation in Libya poses a big dilemma for this administration. What baffles me is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

As the bombs fall and the missiles fly, it’s clear the world wants Gadhafi gone. Even the Arab League acknowledges that point. So for President Obama to state a similar line, there’s not much foreign policy wisdom flowing forth. Yet as congressional voices grow louder for clarity on “the mission,” this White House has turned to some pretty lame reasons for the U.S.’s presence over Libya.

“Humanitarian actions” to protect the citizens of Libya … Is that the best they can do? When the president states he wants Gadhafi deposed, that should be enough. And yet we have an administration that is stepping on its message by releasing statements in the name of protecting the people of Libya. A noble cause, yes, but to carry that logic through, then shouldn’t this country have acted sooner and not waited until the tyrant’s forces were about to deliver the deathblow to the opposition?

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Obama is right about Libya

Had the president, the U.N. and the Arab League not acted when they did, the mass murdering dictator in Libya would have executed a mass slaughter that would have been a moral disaster for the world and a strategic disaster for the United States.

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Obama’s military coalition for regime change in Libya

Taking a huge risk, the U.S. has joined a coalition at the U.N. Security Council that has voted for military action short of boots on the ground to end the bloodstained rule of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Make no mistake: Whatever the U.K. and U.S. governments say about this being humanitarian in nature, the resolution adopted last night was all about regime change and provides “all necessary measures” to do so. It’s an impressive achievement, avoiding a veto by Russia and China, which along with three other countries decided to abstain. But Germany — which abstained — invoked the “great risks” that could lead to immense loss of life, as well as a protracted military conflict that would affect the wider region.

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Israel and the Tea Party: Heartland America supports Israel

Two overviews dominate American influence on Israel: the one emerging from that old Pepsi commercial, of a bunch of waifs holding little candles in some kind of world concert, singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." This is Team Hillary, with help from Bono and Bill. They want to turn back to the 1990s. The other is the Kagan/Kristol axis, who send their littles, like Charles Krauthammer, to the major media. Loosely called the neocons, it is a small group with a big vision, a vision of America suited to 1946. They want to turn back to the 1980s.

Israel, like China and Germany, has moved solidly into the second decade of the 21st century, and both these views put Israel in jeopardy. The Hillary/Bono people see no distinction between Moses and, for example, Moammar Gadhafi — we are all the same inside. The others really see the world with important places like America and Israel and a few unreliable friends, surrounded by dangerous enemies. This is a version of the British “frogs and wogs” variety.

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What to do about Libya

The Romans twice ran Libya.

The first time, they brought the Libyans a “Golden Age.” As Wikipedia puts it: “As a Roman province, Libya was prosperous, and reached a golden age in the 2nd century AD, when the city of Leptis Magna rivalled Carthage and Alexandria in prominence. For more than 400 years, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were wealthy Roman provinces and part of a cosmopolitan state whose citizens shared a common language, legal system, and Roman identity. Roman ruins like those of Leptis Magna, extant in present-day Libya, attest to the vitality of the region, where populous cities and even smaller towns enjoyed the amenities of urban life — the forum, markets, public entertainments, and baths — found in every corner of the Roman Empire. Merchants and artisans from many parts of the Roman world established themselves in coastal Libya and the province was greatly 'Romanized' ... "

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Remind me, please ...

... What we are doing, or accomplishing, or aiming for, in Afghanistan.

... What defines victory, or the end of our involvement, in Afghanistan.

... What is our way out (“exit strategy” is the term the pros use) when wars have only one way out — victory — which we can not define after nearly a decade there.

... What we might use the money we are spending in Afghanistan for to solve problems in the United States.

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Obama’s Mideast gamble

There’s plenty of free advice for the Obama administration over its Middle East policies at the annual Herzliya conference in Israel, where policymakers and other security experts are meeting to discuss the strategic challenges of the day.

In the past dominated by Iran and its nuclear program, this year’s conference has been marked by angst about the turmoil in Egypt. The Israelis are particularly worried about the authoritarian government of President Hosni Mubarak being replaced after elections by a government where the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood could have a role.

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Foreign aid on the chopping block

According to a Gallup poll released right before the president’s State of the Union address, a majority of Americans said they favor cutting U.S. foreign aid, but more than six in 10 opposed cuts to education, Social Security and Medicare.

That is not that surprising. Nobody wants his or her Social Security touched. Let’s cut spending on all those foreigners.

Another survey, released in 2010 and conducted by The WorldPublicOpinion.org project at the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, asked the question: "What percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid?" The median answer was roughly 25 percent, according to the poll of 848 Americans. In reality, about 1 percent of the budget is allotted to foreign aid.

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