The Belgian painter René Magritte is famous in part for the painting pictured below.
What’s surprising is how much Magritte can tell us about our war in Libya. To recap where we are in Libya, our military objective is to “protect civilians” in that country. Except there’s this paragraph opening the recent New York Times article on the war:
WASHINGTON — NATO planners say the allies are stepping up attacks on palaces, headquarters, communications centers and other prominent institutions supporting the Libyan government, a shift of targets that is intended to weaken Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power and frustrate his forces in the field.
The Times also runs these quotes from officials in charge of the war:
“Now we are going after his rear echelon,” one NATO official said. “We are going after his ability to command and control his forces — his headquarters, his command posts, his communications — all those things that allow him to coordinate his attacks at the front.”
Military officials privately acknowledge that removing Colonel Qaddafi from power is the desired secondary effect of striking at state television and other symbols of his authoritarian rule. “His people may see the futility of continued resistance,” one Pentagon official said.
Somebody should probably loop in poor White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who made the mistake just yesterday of saying the following:
“The goal of the mission is clear: protect the civilian population, enforce the no‐fly zone, enforce the arms embargo. [It is] certainly not the policy of the coalition, of this administration, to decapitate, if you will, or to effect regime change in Libya by force.”
So let’s work this out. The United States currently has as a policy objective in Libya to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power. Washington is simultaneously using the military to attack “institutions supporting the Libyan government” in order to “weaken Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power,” but our official position is that doing so is unrelated to our policy objective of getting Qaddafi out of power. Does the administration really think we’re that stupid? Perhaps more importantly, is Congress that stupid?
Also, it may be time for a rundown of terms for which we no longer have adequate working definitions. I nominate:
- “kinetic military action”
- “protect civilians”
- “regime change”
Any other nominees?