Friday, August 26, 2011

The Fireside Chat for August 26th, 2011 (VIDEO)

President Obama pays tribute to the first responders, those who have served, and those who lost their lives ten years ago in the September 11th attacks. Visit for ways to commemorate the solemn anniversary in your community.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just for laughs, how did Libya look back in March, with lots and lots of (VIDEO)

Leading from behind, or the World Police turning into the World Police Chief?

An interesting thought from Zack Beauchamp (writing for the vacationing Andrew Sullivan):

Police forces aren't made up of one member. There's a chief, sure, but there are also detectives and uniformed officers who work with the chief. The chief guides their efforts, but each of them works on their own towards the general goal of enforcing the law.

It's better to think of the U.S. as the global police chief rather than sole policeman. We may be the strongest of our allies, but by no means do we take lead role in solving every problem. American allies work like detectives: they conduct crucial operations in support of the general task of keeping the global peace and creating a better world.

Libya demonstrates how the police chief system works. After the initial phase designed to halt Qaddafi's move into Benghazi, American forces played only a supporting role, letting NATO allies take the lead. Though our contributions (especially in terms of high-tech capabilities) were invaluable, no one would say American forces were doing most of the legwork.

That's the essence of "leading from behind:" convincing other states to shoulder some of the burden of creating a just international order. The U.S. provides limited help in areas where it has a significant advantage, but it outsources lead responsibilities to allies whenever possible. U.S. influence is exercised indirectly through bilateral contacts between states, mulitlateral organizations like NATO and the U.N., transnational networks, and "soft power" ideological and cultural means of influence. The idea is to limit U.S. involvement in order to husband the resources that America needs to lead in the first place.

Ultimately, that's why neoconservative critics of Obama's "weakness" and realist critics of American "empire" both get it wrong. "Leading from behind" isn't about abandoning American leadership - it's about exercising in a manner that's not completely self-defeating. Being a global policeman doesn't mean "wars all the time everywhere!" - it means enlisting allies to help us with global governance. Yes, that occasionally means military intervention by the U.S. and/or allies when the intervention in question passes basic just war theory tests, but doesn't mean the hallmark of the international order is perpetual use of military force. And our allies aren't limited to Old Europe - the U.S. can, with skillful diplomacy, work with rising states like India, which has demonstrated its commitment to global governance through its significant contributions to U.N. peacekeeping operations.

International police work is important. Not only is it morally required for rich, powerful states, but it's good for them in the long run by limiting dangerous instability. Luckily, Americans don't have to conduct every patrol on their own.

Turns out that the President in charge while Qaddafi fell had nothing to do with Qaddafi falling...if you ask the GOP

Mea Culpa, I was wrong when I wrote this back in March:

One of the things that annoys me about all the Congressional demands in this matter, is that it's not about process, it's about C.Y.A., covering (your...or in this case their) ass. They're only questioning it now because the outcome is uncertain, but you can bet your ass that if the Libyan mission comes off successfully (definition of success, TBD), Congress-critters and Senators will be lining up to take credit.

Nope!  Congressional Republicans (rather Republicans in general) aren't lining up to take credit. They're lining up to airbrush the President out of the decision.

Adam Serwer:

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, among the earliest voices calling for intervention in Libya, wasted little time in congratulating the rebels and slamming Obama for not intervening earlier:

The end of the Qadaffi regime in Libya is a victory for the Libyan people and for the broader cause of freedom in the Middle East and throughout the world. This achievement was made possible first and foremost by the struggle and sacrifice of countless Libyans, whose courage and perseverance we applaud. We also commend our British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE, for their leadership in this conflict. Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.

McCain and Graham, both of whom had warm personal interactions with Gaddafi in the past, have now gotten exactly what they wanted from the administration’s decision to intervene. But GOP partisanship demands that they not acknowledge the president’s role in assembling the global coalition that aided the rebels. Indeed, with the Republican Party wedded to a contradictory image of the president as foreign policy weakling and iron-fisted domestic dictator, we’re going to see a lot of bizarre rationalizing of what happened in an attempt to preserve this narrative of the Obama presidency.

Fred Kaplan:

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued a truly obnoxious statement today, congratulating "our British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE, for their leadership in this conflict," adding, almost as an afterthought, "Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower."

Second, if a pair of prominent Democrats had issued such a statement after, say, President George W. Bush helped to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan, they would have been condemned as bitter partisans or worse.

Thomas Lane (TPM):

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. "Ridding the world of the likes of Gadhafi is a good thing," he wrote. "But this indecisive President had little to do with this triumph."


Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who condemned the Libya action from the start, issued a statement acknowledging this disagreement:

"I opposed U.S. military involvement in Libya and I am hopeful that our intervention there is about to end. I also hope the progress of events in Libya will ultimately lead to a government that honors the rule of law, respects the people of Libya and their yearning for freedom, and one that will be a good partner to the United States and the international community."

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman had also opposed getting involved in the conflict. His press release failed to mention either that or the President:

"The impending fall of Colonel Gaddafi is one chapter in the developing story of a nation in turmoil. Gaddafi has been a longtime opponent of freedom, and I am hopeful -- as the whole world should be -- that his defeat is a step toward openness, democracy and human rights for a people who greatly deserve it."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry strove for a far-sighted, statesmanlike tone:

"The crumbling of Muammar Ghadafi's reign, a violent, repressive dictatorship with a history of terrorism, is cause for cautious celebration. The lasting impact of events in Libya will depend on ensuring rebel factions form a unified, civil government that guarantees personal freedoms, and builds a new relationship with the West where we are allies instead of adversaries."

The most substantive response was perhaps that of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as befits the man who is still the GOP's frontrunner. He turned attention back to the still-oozing wound of the Lockerbie bomber, and demanded the new government extradite him (presumably to America since the Scottish government has already -- controversially -- freed him).

Still, that too contained no mention of President Obama. Just as the partisan approach to the death of bin Laden seems to be to claim the root cause (and thus praise) goes back to President George W. Bush, one wonders whether a similar thing is happening here... and just how long it will be before we're told Qaddafi's fall is all the result of the prior President's ingenious long-term thinking.

And finally, Steve Benen, really nailing it:

Remember hearing about the “blame America first” crowd? Well, say hello to the “thank America last” crowd.

McCain and Graham “commend” everyone except the United States military, and then, even while applauding the developments, take yet another shot at the Obama administration.

These two just can’t bring themselves put aside petty partisan sniping, even when they’re thrilled by the fall of a dictator.

There’s obviously a legitimate question as to whether the international offensive in Libya was a wise decision. But as the Gaddafi regime crumbles, do the conflict’s two biggest congressional cheerleaders really feel the need to complain, “Yeah, but we’re not happy with the speed with which Obama got the job done”?

Here are three things I’d encourage McCain and Graham to keep in mind. First, complaining about getting the outcome they wanted is just cheap. When the fear of Obama getting some credit for success is stronger than the satisfaction that comes with a tyrant’s fall, there’s a problem.

Second, the fact of the matter is, the efforts of U.S. forces in Libya are being cited as “a major factor in helping to tilt the balance after months of steady erosion of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s military.”

And third, if McCain and Graham really want to complain about why “this success was so long in coming,” maybe they can talk more about their trip to Tripoli two years ago, when both McCain and Graham cozied up to Gaddafi, even visiting with him at the dictator’s home, discussing delivery of American military equipment to the Libyan regime. Both senators shook Gaddafi’s hand; McCain even bowed a little.

I’m curious if McCain and Graham have simply forgotten about this, or if they’re just hoping everyone else has.

MSNBC: The President's address on the Libyan Situation (VIDEO)

For some reason, we've been waiting for hours now for the White House to release this video, and only now are we able to get it from MSNBC: