GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW

I need to take a little Scott Walker break, although check back early Thursday afternoon for a new post with a roundup of Wisconsin links.

Daniel Foster is one of the National Review's most reliable neocon extremists. This is no mean feat, akin to being the tallest guy in the NBA. If you think I am exaggerating, his proposed solution to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was to "nuke it." Seriously. It only makes sense, then, that his "solution" to the unrest in Libya involves aircraft carriers and air strikes – American ones, of course.

With reports that the Gaddafi regime — or what’s left of it — has effected the indiscriminate massacre of Libyan civilians, up to and including air strikes in Tripoli and the planned carpet-bombing of Benghazi, the suggestion that President Obama establish a “no-fly zone” above Libya has begun popping up on social media. I don’t say this lightly, but I think POTUS must so act.

After 32 years on this planet and almost a decade of devoting my time to trying to figure these people out I am not surprised that Mr. Foster doesn't seem to have learned any lessons from the last ten twenty fifty 100 years of aggressively interventionist American foreign policy. What does continue to escape me, however, is what motivates this knee-jerk recourse to American military intervention as the solution to every problem on the globe. Foster's "I don't say this lightly" indicates either a dry sense of humor or a delusional personality trait requiring medical attention.

Given how obvious it seems to the rest of us that Libya's domestic politics must play out among Libyans (as opposed to a solution brokered at gunpoint by the Pentagon – no, no problems with legitimacy there) I struggle to understand what intervention is supposed to accomplish and how. Do people like Foster think that we can air-strike our way into the hearts of foreigners, a revision of the old "They'll hail us as their liberators" theory? Or do they resort to sending in the Air Force because, well, that's the extent of what they know how to do?

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31 Responses to “GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW”

  1. HoosierPoli Says:

    Some food for thought: John Maynard Keynes is ridiculed for the suggestion that, if a government needs to help the unemployment rate, it doesn't matter what it does to employ people. The classic example is that the government could pay people to simply dig holes and fill them up again.

    This particular idea is rightly ridiculed, because we intuitively understand that spending lots of money to support an industry that has no tangible economic value other than keeping people employed sacrifices real investment in the economy at the alter of short-term, localized benefits that overinflate an almost totally useless industry.

    Now tell me, does that scenario remind you of anything?

  2. Ben Says:

    It seems like this is mainly an off-shoot of neocon Cold War thinking. Reaching its most pure expression in the Team B exercises (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_B) commissioned by the CIA, neocons during the Cold War believed mainly that Soviet power was much more robust than commonly believed, and that Soviet expansionism was having much greater efficacy than commonly recognized. The response to these factors involved massive military build-up (to counter Soviet power) and bombing the shit out of whatever little piss-pot country chose to call itself Communist (to counter expansionism).

    Flash forward past the fall of the Wall and Communism, and that mindset still exists but without a bogeyman at the center to hold it together. So it gets applied piecemeal to each individual situation. Egypt? Support Mubarak at all costs to prevent Islamic fundamentalist expansionism. Libya? Bomb the ever=loving shit out of it because the people can't be trusted to choose their own leaders. The assumptions and mechanisms of neocon Cold War thinking are alive and well, they're just being applied in a world even further removed from the reality the neocons thought they were operating in. If that's possible.

  3. The Man, The Myth Says:

    Andrew Bacevich's books are about this subject. He makes America seem really stupid and persuasively writes about how dumb our foreign policy has become post WWII.

    A couple of weeks ago I listened to the Jim Kunstler "Kunstlercast" and he talked about the conservatives as they have evolved in the last 50 years or so. When he was in college (late 60s-early 70s) he was one of the people protesting the war in Vietnam and generally thought America was doing some nasty things, however there was a group of people who couldn't accept that idea and lived with the glow of WWII perfection in terms of American Foreign Policy. They elected Richard Nixon, Ronald Raygun, and George W. Bush. Perhaps they have a self-esteem issue and they express their personal dis-comfort with not having a "good" war like their moms and dads? I think they are mouth breathers, but they seem pretty comfortable with it…

  4. Andy Brown Says:

    I think for these primitive thinkers, "doing something" is always better and more manly than "doing nothing", even when it clear that exercising some kind of self-restraint would be the smarter path. But then if you are going to do something, it should definitely be manly and heroic – and what is more manly than pontificating in favor of shooting magic peace-inducing missiles at the heathens. I really don't know if there is an argument to be made against shooting magic peace-inducing missiles at Arabs. Unless you just aren't willing to understand their magical properties.

  5. WyldPirate Says:

    "What does continue to escape me, however, is what motivates this knee-jerk recourse to American military intervention as the solution to every problem on the globe. Foster's "I don't say this lightly" indicates either a dry sense of humor or a delusional personality trait requiring medical attention."

    There is a relatively simple answer to this question with just a couple of parts.

    The first portion of the answer is that our military expenditures are by far the largest portion of our expenditures. It is our "sharply honed spear" that has been seen as either the direct or indirect answer to almost all of our foreign affair problems for decades despite the lessons to the contrary.

    Secondly, at least since WWII, the people we elect to govern us are either crazy bellicose fuckers or greedheads doing the bidding of the people buying them off via backroom deals or campaign contributions or a combination of both of these virulent types of sociopaths. Wars are nice little profit ventures for the MI complex. Not only on is that true for our military expenditures, but what our MI complex sells to the rest of the world.

    The final key to the puzzle is our dumb as shit populace who are for the most part bellicose, "America, fuck yeah we're #1" buffoons who know shit about history and care even less that they know shit or that their leaders learn from that history. These mouth-breathing morons have to a greater and greater degree since WWII been exposed to less risk of getting their dumb assses maimed or killed by serving in conflicts where lead and shrapnel are flying around. Hence, it is easier for them to put stupid bumper stickers and yellow ribbon magnets on their big ass honking SUV gas guzzlers with "We Support the Troops", "America, Love it or Leave IT" and other inane horseshit.

    Put all three of these ingredients in a big oil-dependent country whose citizenry thinks that spending a large portion of its taxes on subsidizing dirt cheap oil via military threat or support of dictatorial regimes that will sell oil to the US and its moronic citizenry instead of taxing the shit out of oil and developing alternative forms of fuel and mass transportation (like every other sane to semisane nation that isn't pssing away money on blowing brown people up and investing in high-speed rail and other forms of transit), then you end up with bug-fucking stupid policies that have generally followed the wackiness of the neocon that is the subject of your post.

  6. ladiesbane Says:

    I try to comfort myself by remembering that there have always been nutty loudmouths. Then I remember that they didn't always have the worldwide platform of the web, and an audience that was so deeply out of touch with practical thinking. To answer your question: yes, this guy has a toolbox with one item in it: an airstrike. Can you imagine him counseling patience, discretion, diplomatic support, or even the need to gather more data?

    He may wear a suit and tie to work, but anyone who speaks in this fashion is spiritually clothed in a T-shirt from the back of "Soldier of Fortune" magazine. I don't say this lightly, but nuke 'em til they glow and shoot 'em in the dark; the POTUS must so act.

  7. Da Moose Says:

    The US military is the solution to everything in this country. I just got my tenth federal government job rejection notice. Primary reason for rejection: no military experience. Americans have no idea how brain washed they've become into accepting the military as the primary standard by which we measure everything else that is "important" in this country. The militaristic culture, not the military itself, has become a blight upon this land of ours. It is only when the military is finally removed from the top of the leadership pyramid in this country that our nation will finally mature into a more hospitable place for its own people domestically and a more equitable advocate for the oppressed world wide. I have no faith that this point of maturation will be reached any time soon if at all. So, yeah, go ahead. Bomb Libya. That will bring peace and freedom to that nation. (gag, vomit, sigh, weep)

  8. Monkey Business Says:

    I'd like us to adopt what I call the Milton Berle theory of foreign policy.

    Supposedly, Milton Berle was well known throughout Hollywood for being particularly well endowed. As the story goes, every so often some young buck would challenge Mr. Berle to a literal dick waving contest. Milton, being a good sport, would whip his out. When asked, "Jeez, how big IS it Milton?" He is said to have replied, "I'll never tell, I just take out enough to win."

    The United States has the ability to turn any of these sandlot nations into Sheetofglassistan in pretty short order. We can quite literally bomb them back to the Stone Age. Although, considering most of these nations really aren't all that far from the Stone Age anyway, it's not all that hard.

    However, the point is no longer to whip it all out and dickslap the Middle East into governments we like with questionable human rights. The goal should be to make these dictators and despots understand that they no longer have the backing of the United States, and we'd rather see democracies that aren't as friendly to us than brutal dictatorships that are. Also, remind those new governments that are hostile toward us that if they want to work with us, we're a willing partner in peace and prosperity for the region, but also remember that we're fucking Milton Berle, and we only need to pull just enough out to win.

  9. Da Moose Says:

    The US military should be considered one of the Unions’ primary domestic foes at this point from a budgetary standpoint. The article below is just a small example of the abuse that has resulted from decades of pointless war and a civilian leadership incapable of understanding or valuing its responsibility to its citizens independent of military direction. Obama has done absolutely nothing to fight this trend. Nothing!:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/another-runaway-general-army-deploys-psy-ops-on-u-s-senators-20110223

  10. Major Kong Says:

    Please let me know when the National Review comes across a foreign policy issue that wouldn't be best solved by aerial bombardment.

    That would be the "man bites dog!" story of the year.

  11. Andrew Says:

    The goal should be to make these dictators and despots understand that they no longer have the backing of the United States, and we'd rather see democracies that aren't as friendly to us than brutal dictatorships that are.

    I don't think that is what the U.S. would rather see, to tell you the truth.

  12. Brian Says:

    I guess I must have put acid (LSD) in my coffee this morning in lieu of sweetener, but I agree with the excerpted quote, only. If the Libyan government is using air power to kill protesters, I'm fairly confident that is a crime against humanity (too lazy/trippin' to look it up to double-check). Oh, hey, sweet, that taco is talking to me. Wha? Oh, yeah, Libya. I have zero problem with the specific proposal to use American military power to enforce a no-fly zone over a country where civilian protesters are being murdered. Sticking just to that specific tactic, I see it as humanitarian intervention, not aggressive intervention. Goo goo ga joob.
    Fer realz, I'm serious. I am actually OK with preventing mass murder via military intervention. Maybe it is a slippery slope to full-scale intervention, but I think some distinction ought to be preserved.
    All that said, this is in no way intended as a defense of Foster as a warmonger, or of neo-con foreign policy.

  13. terraformer Says:

    I struggle to understand what intervention is supposed to accomplish and how.

    What military interventions are supposed to accomplish is simple:

    Give neocons a woody.

  14. Da Moose Says:

    In a situation as fluid as the one in Libya, you'd have to be a complete imbecile to expect that you are going to be able to effectively coordinate the proper ground intelligence with the precise amount of force to alleviate the situation there. What if we institute a no-fly zone only to shoot down rebel copters attempting to evacuate citizens from a Qaddafi loyalist onslaught? Ever hear the story of how we accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade months after planning said bombardment of downtown Belgrade with Tomahawks? The US military is a blunt instrument and is not suited for this type of situation. The best we could do, if we were forced to do something, would be to secure a land base in the middle of nowhere in the country, announce that it is a civilian protection zone and let people come to the safe haven. Even that option is a stupid one because no one trusts our military over there and there is the potential for the rebels to actually attack us.

    Thousands are dying over there right now, to be sure. But thousands die everyday from inadequate food and environmental issues brought on by environmental degradation directly linked to oil consumption. I suspect the US military could save more lives by halting military activities across the globe for one day than intervening in any actual slaughter in Libya.

  15. Brian Says:

    Da Moose's comment wasn't addressed to me, but I can't help but feel that I'm being called a complete imbecile, at least by association. Thanks for that, I really pride myself on my imbicility.
    I suppose the devil is in the details Mr. Moose points out. BTW, Moose, your military experience is what? I assume you have it, and I honestly want to know what it is, so I can better evaluate the validity of your opinion.
    Conceding the point that Libya is an inappropriate (fro operational reasons) place to intervene to stop/lessen the slaughter of civilians, what would an appropriate situation look like? If military intervention to stop the slaughter of civilians is never "clean" enough to be a viable option, what, if anything, can be done?
    And no debate on the last point. But saying "well, people die all the time" doesn't really answer the question of what, if anything, to do when the death is the result of particular direct action.

  16. HoosierPoli Says:

    Brian: I don't think you need much military experience to know that military operations ALWAYS have collateral damage, and if the goal is to burnish your image of supporting democracy, even the smallest amount of collateral damage in a region pre-disposed to hate anything the US does would lead to the most predictable backfire in history.

    It's important that the blame for the death of innocents stays where it belongs. Qaddafi has been blaming Americans for the unrest non-stop, so the solution is to add a gleam of legitimacy to that and allow him to co-op the role of nationalist resister of Western imperial ambition? Yeah, cause that has worked so well in the past.

  17. Da Moose Says:

    I'll be the first to acknowledge that I am an imbecile in many things. I am sorry that you are sensitive in that regard. I do not have any military experience and I was not intending to specifically target your stated position. Do you have military experience? If so, does that mean that your opinion is more valid than mine? Does that mean that you have the tactical and strategic education to orchestrate the impromptu insertion of troops into a disordered political situation? Perhaps, if you are a vet, you worked in a warehouse in Nebraska. If so, I'm sure that means you must know how to approach a geo-political situation with long term ramifications. The average military man I run across here in DC can't rub two sticks together in a tactical or strategic sense. In other words, if I don't own a boat nor have sailing experience does that mean that my conclusion to not put to sea in a hurricane is an unqualified position? Leaving geopolitical decisions to military types is one of the primary reasons our foreign policy is a joke. Next.

  18. The Man, The Myth Says:

    @da moose – I too received a letter of rejection for not being a vet this week.

  19. Da Moose Says:

    The Man,

    It's completely outrageous. Where I work as a contractor in DC, I am surrounded by ex-military government employees who rail against Obama's big government policies while collecting a pay check. So sick of these vacuous fools. In a couple of instances, I've made strategic decisions for them because they can't stop the political infighting. (contractors often act as policy middle men behind the scenes because shit needs to get done and we're easily blamed if it doesn't work out) Americans have no idea just how militarized the act of federal governance is becoming. Obama came in stating that he was going to clean up federal contracting. All he did was force vet contractors to become government employees, entrenching Bushies into our government for the long term. The level of incompetence that I see on a daily basis is basically astonishing. I simply have no doubt that this government will implode someday pretty soon.

    I am sorry to hear about your situation. Are you employed at all? Perhaps I can advise in some regard if you give me additional details with regard to your situation.

    -Da Moose

  20. bb in GA Says:

    What has happened in this "possible Libya humanitarian military mission" discussion is what I call "playing the Prussian Card."

    This card is usually played by Left wingers against people of the Right who have no military experience yet hold forth an opinion on something military. Usually epithets like 'Chicken Hawk' flow into the discussion at this point.

    The fact remains that in a country of 300+ million we have a military that is about 2.3 million (Spring 2009) I suspect that large segments of our population do not even know anyone in the military.

    So depending on how you fraction the population from there, you can see that only a small percentage of our people is "qualified" to discuss military matters under "Prussian" Rules.

    Why not let opinions on military matters be weighed on their merits?

    //bb

  21. acer Says:

    @bb,
    Methinks anyone who influences military strategy should have some vague understanding of how horrifying it is to actually be in a war, and be willing to avoid it if any other options are available. A lot of us find it hard to trust conservatives in this regard, after sitting through the pointless disaster of Iraq. The fact that so many of the neocons behind it skipped Vietnam and couldn't make it through the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan isn't really relevant to the strategic or humanitarian arguments, but it's hard not to push that button when it keeps flashing like that.

  22. bb in GA Says:

    @acer

    So you are advocating a Prussian rule on military matters (obviously not for me, but for policy makers)

    Those who know the horror are those who have served. I think your unintended Catch-22 is that, as a group, the retired officer cadre (the most likely source of policy makers) is overwhelmingly conservative – those very folks you have the least trust in.

    //bb

  23. Brian Says:

    HoosierPoli,
    Great point.
    Moose,
    Good point on the issue of the larger consequences of any deaths resulting from involvement.
    I have no military experience, but I'm not arguing that I do, or that I know what the particualrs are of wroking out such an operation as I suggested (which, I'm pretty well convinced was wrong).
    If I had relevant experience and could comment from a place of experience, then I would argue my opinion was in fact more valid than yours. Such is the nature of expertise. If it is on point and applicable, it gives more weight to an argument. That also answers your next question, that is, it does indeed depend on the exact experience. That's why I earnestly and respectfully asked for details.
    Your point about the oat and the hurricane is rather far afield. I never suggested that you had to have military experience to have ANY validity to an opinion. The world is more than black and white, or yes and no.
    Your responses to me read as reactions to the typical knee-jerk, unthinking, unsophisticated type whose comments are poorly written and full of unstated implications. I humbly ask for more credit than that. If there is one thing I am very qualified to do, it is to construct an orderly and rational argument, and to express myself very precisely with words. I ask for the opportunity to not have my statements read so far into, and in return, I will take your words at face value. I'm here to learn and discuss, not to try be right all the time.

  24. Da Moose Says:

    Brian,

    Thanks for the response. However, hate to say it but you've got a long way to come in constructing a rational argument. In your latest post you state that you "never suggested that you had to have military experience to have ANY validity to an opinion." But, in your 4:20 PM post you state that in order to "better evaluate the validity" of my opinion you would like to know if I had any military experience. These two points you make are in complete contradiction to one another. How can one state, as you have in this thread, that you'd rather not have your statements "read so far into" while also stating that you can construct an "orderly and rational argument?" Are you then saying that it is up to the reader to fill in the blanks of your arguments when they appear unsound? Critical thinking skills are established when we are challenged by others in our thinking processes. I like coming to this board because I do get challenged when my change of logic is flawed. It makes me a better thinker. Sometimes I let my emotions torque my thinking which is something I am working on. This board has allowed me to do that with some success. I hope we can debate again if debate is deemed necessary.

  25. Da Moose Says:

    Change of logic…I like that….meant chain of logic.

  26. Major Kong Says:

    @bb

    "This card is usually played by Left wingers against people of the Right who have no military experience yet hold forth an opinion on something military."

    Usually because the opinion held forth is usually something along the lines of:

    "Why aren't we bombing __________ back to the stone age? Preferably starting this afternoon."

    Eisenhower once said: "When people speak to you about a preventative war, you tell them to go and fight it. "

  27. bb in GA Says:

    MK:

    Yeah, that's the cartoon version.

    I like your General /Pres Eisenhower quote.

    //bb

  28. Major Kong Says:

    As someone who's participated in a couple no-fly zones (Bosnia and Northern Watch) here's my spin on this.

    There's nothing in the Libyan Air Force that would be a credible air-to-air threat to the US Air Force, US Navy or NATO air forces. They're basically a smaller version of what Iraq had in 1991 (Mig 23, Mig 25, Mirage F1). About half their aircraft are non-operational due to the arms embargo.

    Ideally, we would restrict our rules of engagement to a purely air-to-air scenario. Basically, we would shoot down Libyan air assets if they launched.

    Sounds simple, but there's always a catch –

    The problem is, the Libyan government might start shooting SAMs and anti-aircraft artillery at our aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone. We would then likely respond by bombing the SAM and AAA sites.

    While this would be a reasonable response, now we're back to American (and/or NATO) bombs being dropped and all the associated issues of collateral damage, hitting the wrong targets and possible escalation.

  29. Arslan Amirkhanov Says:

    "Collatoral damage"? You mean hundreds, possibly thousands of civilians killed, right?

    Look, there is an easy way to understand these "Revolutions" in the Middle East right now.

    If they lead to "democracies"(multi-party elections plus a pro-US/EU economic policy=democracy), then this will be vindication for the "Bush doctrine."

    If new dictators arise, or if Islamic governments come to power, then it's because of Obama.

    It's called Fox logic.

  30. Major Kong Says:

    Exactly. Which is why I think it's probably a bad idea.

  31. Edward Says:

    Foster is probably catering to the sentiments of his readers.