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March 26, 2011

There’s no blaming Bush for Libya

By Sultan Knish

Obama’s Libyan adventure has thrown a confusing wrench into the gears of the liberal reelection machine. Up until then it had been a fairly straightforward campaign, with the media touting an imaginary economic recovery, blaming a Republican congress for obstructionism, flirting with a government shutdown and organizing a labor pushback against economic reforms. Maybe taking some credit for Cairo. Simple enough. But Libya complicates things.

The Nutroots already weren’t too happy about Iraq and Afghanistan, or Gitmo or the return of military trials. The left’s anti-war energy had already completely dissipated. But they could always close their eyes and blame Bush. But there’s no blaming Bush for Libya. For the war without congressional approval or a complete lack of planning, no exit strategy and unclear objectives. This is your War(TM) on Obama(TM).


Still wars boost the White House occupant’s numbers… at least temporarily. Except Obama hasn’t really utilized the imagery, failing to address the nation, instead declaring an undeclared war in between giving NCAA picks and while abroad on a trip to Rio. The optics were terrible. How could they not be. And calling it a “Kinetic military action” just brought back bad memories of man-caused disaster.

The Gallup poll numbers marginally back the war, by 47 percent, the lowest numbers for any military conflict in 30 years. Compare that to 76 percent for the War in Iraq. Reagan picked up 71 percent support for bombing Libya. Obama can barely get to within 20 percent of that.

The next lowest contenders are Clinton’s adventures in Kosovo (%51) and Haiti (%54), which may highlight the problem. Support for military engagements comes heavily from conservatives. Liberal presidents lose much of that approval. And hard core liberals disapprove of most conflicts. That leaves liberal presidents with a much narrower base of support. But that’s not what happened here.

57 percent of Republicans approve of bombing Libya, and only 51 percent of Democrats do. That’s right. Bombing Libya has more support from Republicans than from Democrats. And a solid majority of independents opposes. And the Democrats are going to need those independents badly. Yet 44 percent of them disapprove of the Libya op.

Obama has lost independents and a third of democrats on Libya. That is not good news. And Americans are nearly equal cynical about Egyptian democracy. That leaves Obama with nothing in the way of popular foreign policy accomplishments to tout. Nothing. Zero. Zip.

But let’s take an even closer look, which third of Democrats has Obama really lost?

Going by all the huffing and puffing from Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann, you might think that he lost liberals. The Nutroots have been big on anti-war action. But has Obama really lost them?

Rasmussen shows 45 percent support, 34 against for the war among not just respondents, but likely voters. Those numbers are similar enough to Gallup. But here’s where it splits from Gallup and gets interesting.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of Democrats and a plurality (42%) of voters not affiliated with either major party support the president’s decision to use U.S. military force in Libya. Just 36% of Republicans share that view. Liberals agree more strongly with the president’s action than do moderates and conservatives.

According to Rasmussen, support breaks down along political lines, with the further left supporting and the further right you go opposing.

Other R numbers show only 34 percent of likely voters supported action on Libya and 47 percent of voters think Obama should have gotten congressional approval. Only 28 percent think Libya is important to national security. 42 percent say it’s not. Not terribly comforting numbers for O.

But it wouldn’t have been hard for Obama to improve on them. A few minutes in the Oval Office, some props, remembering Libyan terrorism, working in the Lockerbie bomber’s welcome back party, some reassuring words about how much O loves the boys and girls in uniform. Boilerplate stuff, but it would have kicked up the numbers. So why didn’t Obama do it?

Theory 1, he’s a coward. He plays dodgeball on military issues, because he doesn’t like the military and doesn’t want to be associated with any wars. If he has to start a war, he’ll do it from Rio.

Theory 2, it never occurred to him that he would need to get public support, just as it never occurred to him that he would need congressional support. It also never occurred to him that committing military personnel is a serious matter.

Pick your own theory. I suspect it’s a combination of both.

In Chile, Obama puts forth his doctrine, defending the Libya mission by claiming that humanitarian interventionism is the “core principle that has to be upheld.”

But where was the humanitarian intervention in North Korea, where Khaddafi’s actions would be a slow news day. And does anyone really believe we’ll be going into Syria.

But after spending the Bush years marching around with “Dissent is Patriotic” banners, the best MSNBC/HuffPo goons like Cenk Uygur can offer is a new motto, “Dissent is Unpatriotic”. Will that convince anyone? I don’t think so.

Final bit of Libyan good news, that whole rebellion thing may not be working out much

Rebel fighters who once vowed to seize Tripoli from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi instead have retreated from their forward positions to defend their homes, saying their rebel council isn’t leading them, they don’t trust their military commanders and their army is divided.

His friend and fellow fighter, Mohammed Saleh Ojadee, 23, a mechanic shop owner turned rebel fighter, offers a more ominous prediction. He said he fears that the power vacuum, and the constant feeling of mistrust here, could spark a civil war, based on vengeance for acts of betrayal that happen during this uncertain period.

“The continuous unrest that is happening in Benghazi has never happened before. We are not used to it. I am afraid people will lose hope living under that pressure and turn on another,” Ojadee said. “We need a leader.”

Democracy. Right. This is absolutely going to work out well.

Al-Amin Bilhaj, a leading figure in the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood and the President of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) recently traveled to Benghazi, the headquarters of the rebel movement, according to Hresha.

Really. Really well. Just like in Egypt.

Speaking of Egypt… a shocking and completely unpredictable turn of events has occurred. A turn of events that absolutely nobody could have ever conceived of happening. An absolute impossibility.

The Muslim Brotherhood is taking over.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

Again absolutely unpredictable. Except National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy did predict it. Repeatedly.

Back in the beginning of February, McCarthy wrote, “Don’t Count on Egypt’s Army”

Read the Twitter accounts of Jan 25 activists and you see chaos, anger and despair. Why?

The new government that the protesters made possible went ahead and banned protests. You’re reading that correctly.

The Egyptian cabinet approved yesterday a decree-law that criminalises strikes, protests, demonstrations and sit-ins that interrupt private or state owned businesses or affect the economy in any way. The decree-law also assigns severe punishment to those who call for or incite action, with the maximum sentence one year in prison and fines of up to half a million pounds.

First rule of assassination is kill the assassins. First rule of a coup, make sure you can’t be overthrown the same way.

And the authorities are abusing and humiliating arrested protesters.

After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on March 9, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

But luckily Hillary Clinton’s State Department is working on a plan to hand out a cell phone app that will erase address books from arrested protesters. Problem solved.

Now welcome to the new Egypt. The referendum was a showdown between the liberal activists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Guess who won and by how much.

Before the vote, Essam el-Erian, a Brotherhood leader and spokesman, appeared on a popular television show, “The Reality,” arguing for the government’s position in favor of the proposal. With a record turnout, the vote was hailed as a success. But the “yes” campaign was based largely on a religious appeal: voters were warned that if they did not approve the amendments, Egypt would become a secular state.

“The problem is that our country will be without a religion,” read a flier distributed in Cairo by a group calling itself the Egyptian Revolution Society. “This means that the call to the prayer will not be heard anymore like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France,” it said, referring to the Muslim head scarf. “And there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women like in the case of America.”

A banner hung by the Muslim Brotherhood in a square in Alexandria instructed voters that it was their “religious duty” to vote “yes” on the amendments.

In the end, 77.2 percent of those who voted said yes.

The people voted. There’s your Egyptian democracy.

Kristol concluded his attack on Krauthammer and Beck in mid-Feb by writing, “Egypt turns out to have its votaries of freedom. The Egyptian people want to exercise their capacity for self-government. American conservatives, heirs to our own bold and far-sighted revolutionaries, should help them.”

Well we have. And the butcher’s bill for that is growing.

Posted by Ted Belman @ 4:36 pm | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to There’s no blaming Bush for Libya

  1. DanS. says:

    Gotta love the morning Knish!! I’m laughing, smiling, made my day – he said it better than I could. Well done!!

    After reading the Qadhi piece in last weeks NY Times mag (had to see the white washing, although the author did refer to al-walaa w’al baraa (al-wala’ w’al-bara /alt) but the reader was left hanging – THATphrase/concept is such a key concept to this “struggle”) it’s refreshing to come back to comedic insane reality .

    A gut shabbos!

  2. AmericanEagle says:

    Wait just a minute! Wasn’t it Bush who “enabled” Muammar Ghaddfi by putting the fear of Allah into him that made him give up his WMD program and attacks on the west? Bush allowed the dictatorship to continue, so it is just a matter of time before Imam Obama will find a way to blame him. It’s all about the oil, you see, the oil that the US does not import from Libya even though it does not have its own reserves as the following link makes clear:

    http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm/6933/US-Has-Earths-Largest-Energy-Resources

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