Tag: paul pillar

More Sensible Voices on Libya

My Cato colleagues have written on the current goings on in Libya (especially here and here), and I concur with their recommendations that the U.S. government should avoid intervening militarily in the conflict. For my part, I have hesitated to weigh in, convinced that I couldn’t offer much to the discussion.

But just when I thought I had seen enough regarding what the United States should do in Libya, I stumbled upon two posts over at the National Interest blog that deserve a closer look. Paul Pillar on Friday pointed out that the same people who were such strong proponents of war with Iraq – Charles Krauthammer, in this case – are back in the game, apparently unfazed by their disastrous predictions of the past. Pillar is particularly devastating in his critique of Krauthammer’s claim that if Egypt were as politically developed a year from now as Iraq is today, “we would think it a great success.” Pillar notes, correctly, that such a claim “speaks to how drastically standards of success were lowered as the United States sank into the Iraqi quagmire.”

Jacob Heilbrunn picks up on Paul’s point today and runs with it. I dispute the title, which suggests that everyone in the GOP agrees with the neocons about war, but the bottom line is sound. Challenging the Wall Street Journal’s contention that President Obama’s supposed passivity is synonymous with George H.W. Bush’s refusal to intervene on the side of the Iraqi Shiites in 1991, Heilbrunn notes:

there is a distinction. The Obama administration did not encourage Libyans to overthrow the loathsome Gadhafi. Instead, Libyans are doing it themselves. Which is why Obama is right to be wary about inserting himself into a Libyan civil war that Gadhafi is likely to lose, whether or not American forces assists the rebel forces.

I commend both Pillar and Heilbrunn for their wisdom, and add them to the long list of sensible voices opposing U.S. intervention in Libya. The neocons can count Ahmed Chalabi in their corner.

Woodward, Resilience, and Virtues of Partisan Foreign Policy

On the National Interest’s Skeptics blog, I have a new post about my lack of outrage over the revelations in Bob Woodward’s new book about Obama and Afghanistan.

Unlike John Bolton and Heritage, I don’t think that the President’s comment that we can withstand another terrorist attack like 9-11 is offensive. After all, we can, and saying so doesn’t mean you want to try it.

As I put it there:

What’s truly outrageous is the notion that the only valid response to terrorism is cowering fear at home and endless warfare abroad. Somehow, for much the right, crediting our enemies with the ability to wreck our society is required, and it is verboten to say that we are something other than a pathetic, brittle nation that cannot manage adversity.

I also fail to get upset about the President’s worry that expanding the war in Afghanistan would alienate his base. Politics not only doesn’t stop at the water’s edge; it shouldn’t. I’m not sure exactly when popular checks on the war-making power went out of style, but I think we could use more of that in Afghanistan, not less. If pandering to the base can get us out of there one of these years, pander away.

The solution to bad policies is better politics, not no politics, to paraphase.

*I also recommend Paul Pillar’s post on the same subject. He says that the real news here is the Pentagon’s refusal to offer the President a policy alternative between population centric counter-insurgency and exit.