The Libyan War is the Women’s War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 23rd, 2011

Does anyone Know Why we’re in Libya?

There’s woe and suffering all around the world.  And yet we’re not bombing all around the world.  We’re bombing Libya.  And the BIG question is why?  Why there and not other places?  Other places that have woe and suffering?  Like North KoreaSudanRwandaZimbabweSyriaYemenIranSri Lanka.  I mean, put a map on the wall and throw a dart.  Chances are that wherever it lands there will be terrible woe and suffering.  And unless that dart lands on Libya, you can bet that the U.S. is not in that country trying to stop that woe and suffering.  So why?  Why Libya?  And not the rest of the world?

Good question.  A lot of people are asking it.  Is it oil?  Well, let’s look at who they export to.  According to Reuters, the breakdown goes like this:  Italy (32%), other Europe (14%), Germany (14%), France (10%), China (10%), Spain (9%), Other (6%) and the U.S. (5%).  Ours is the smallest piece of the pie. Over half goes to Europe.  So I can see why Europe cares.  But the U.S.?  We probably spill more oil than we buy from Libya.  Clearly oil isn’t a motive.  Unless the plan is to screw our European allies and take their Libyan oil.  Then again, it was the Europeans that dragged the U.S. into this thing.  So I doubt that.  Which leaves the BIG question unanswered.  Why Libya?

Is it to foster good will in the Muslim world?  By having a U.S.-European (i.e., a non-Muslim, or, one could say, as I’m sure they’re saying in the Middle East, Christian) coalition attack oil-rich Muslim land?  You know, this sounds familiar.  I think it’s been done before.  It had a name.  Oh, what was it?  Oh yes.  The Crusades.  And you know why it sounds familiar?  Because the people who hate us in the Middle East call everything we do there a Christian Crusade.  So, no, it can’t be to foster good will.  There has to be another reason.  Has to be.  Because nothing so far makes any sense.

Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power Advise the President

So just who advised Obama to go to war in Libya?  Apparently it was the women in his administration (see What is Obama’s endgame in Libya? by David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst, posted 3/20/2011 on CNN).

One irony, as a female friend put it, is that for years many of us believed that if only more women could gain power, the world would surely become more peaceful. Yet, we now see that the three people who talked Obama into using force against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi were all women — Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power. Leading male advisers were opposed.

Interesting.  The women wanted to use force.  The men didn’t.  That’s a switch.  Like Gergen’s lady friend says, it flies in the face of everything we thought we knew about women.  It was always the men that started the wars.  And the women who had to deal with the suffering resulting from them.  But Gergen is a guy.  What are the women saying?

Passion and Emotion now Determine Foreign Policy

Well, Maureen Dowd is a woman.  And she wrote a column about these Amazon Warriors, these Lady Hawks, these Valkyries, these Durgas (see Fight of the Valkyries by Maureen Dowd posted 3/22/2011 on The New York Times).

They are called the Amazon Warriors, the Lady Hawks, the Valkyries, the Durgas.

There is something positively mythological about a group of strong women swooping down to shake the president out of his delicate sensibilities and show him the way to war. And there is something positively predictable about guys in the White House pushing back against that story line for fear it makes the president look henpecked.

It is not yet clear if the Valkyries will get the credit or the blame on Libya. But everyone is fascinated with the gender flip: the reluctant men — the generals, the secretary of defense, top male White House national security advisers — outmuscled by the fierce women around President Obama urging him to man up against the crazy Qaddafi.

How odd to see the diplomats as hawks and the military as doves.

Reluctant men?  I wonder why they were reluctant.  Were they simply not manly?  Critics often call liberal men (and Obama and his staff are liberals) less than manly.  But that moniker doesn’t apply to the generals.  To become a general usually requires combat experience.  As a junior officer.  The ones up close and personal with the actual shooting.  These officers lead charges, they don’t order them.  Before you can order them you have to lead them.  And the brass promotes the ones who survive.  It ain’t like politics.  Where money and connections can make a career.  So these generals aren’t liberals.  They’re men.  They can walk it like they talk it.  So maybe the women are just strong women born with the courage, confidence and wisdom that others gain in combat.

Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador and former Clinton administration adviser on Africa, was haunted by Rwanda. Samantha Power, a national security aide who wrote an award-winning book about genocide, was thinking of Bosnia. Gayle Smith, another senior national security aide, was an adviser to President Clinton on Africa after the Rwandan massacre. Hillary Clinton, a skeptic at first, paid attention to the other women (putting aside that tense moment during the ’08 primaries when Power called her “a monster”). She also may have had some pillow talk with Bill, whose regrets about Rwanda no doubt helped shape his recommendation for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Hell, these women aren’t Amazon Warriors.  They’re just a bunch of clueless, over-emotional women giving very dangerous advice on matters they are woefully unqualified in.  The use of force.

When President Obama listened to his militaristic muses, it gave armchair shrinks lots to muse about. As one wrote to me: “Cool, cerebral president chooses passion and emotion (human rights, Samantha, Hillary, Susan) over reason and strategic thinking (Bob Gates, Tom Donilon). Is it the pattern set up by his Mom and Michelle — women have the last word?”

And there it is.  Passion and emotions.  The female traits that will make the world a better, more peaceful place.  Only here they led to war.  And a very uncertain future.  These women have just made the world a more unsafe place.  The mission is unclear (regime change no regime change) because the mission was never rationally planned.  It was just emotional reaction.  And the need of a president to please the women in his life.  As far as foreign policy goes, it doesn’t get any worse than this.

Bombing in the name of Humanitarianism

It’s not just their emotions that make these women dangerous advisors.  They’re liberals.  Which means they don’t like the military.  They see it as nothing but a toy past presidents used to bully other nations with.  They don’t believe in projecting force to protect vital national security interests.  Or in deterrence.  But they have no problem in using that military for humanitarian purposes.  Of course, it’s easy for them to volunteer the military for these missions.  Because they have no idea what it’s like to serve in the military (see Women and War by W. James Antle, III, posted 3/23/2011 on The American Spectator).

To me, the more interesting angle in this case is the reluctance to go to war on the part of those with some familiarity with the military, and the enthusiasm for it on the part of those who have never faced war’s consequences.

Liberals criticized George W. Bush for deploying the military in combat operations when he did not serve in combat himself.  And now here are these Valkyries.  Who have never served in combat, either.    Advising the president to send the military on a poorly defined mission with no clear exit strategy.  So they can end the suffering.  And feel good about themselves.  Without any idea of the consequences that may result from this action. 

And who, pray tell, are these rebels we’re supporting?  Democracy-loving Muslims in a theocratic Middle East?  The Muslim Brotherhood?  Al Qaeda?  Iran-sponsored Shiites?  We just don’t know.  No one knows.  All we do know is that all of the ‘big bads’ in the Middle East feed on chaos.  And we just added a great big tsunami of chaos to the region.  It would be wise to remember how Iran became the Iran it is today.  Ayatollah Komeni swooped in during the chaos of their democratic uprising.  And before anyone knew it he established autocratic Sharia law.  Traded an oppressive dictatorship for a worse oppressive dictator ship.

We really need to be careful of what we ask for.  Especially in the Muslim Middle East/North Africa.  Especially when it results in less peace and stability in the region.  This is bad.  What’s worse is that the president of the United States is taking policy advice from these naïve pseudo-warriors.  Makes one fear what’s next on the foreign policy plate.

A Sad Chapter in American Foreign Policy

Of course, while the Lady Hawks feel good about what they’ve done, the Muslim world sees Muslim civilians dying from ‘Christian’ missile-strikes on their oil-rich land.  Will the Muslims love us for this?  For liberating these masses from a tyrant?  Well, do they love us for liberating millions of Muslims in Iraq?  In Afghanistan?  No.  They don’t.  They harbor deep suspicions.  Because we’re still there.  As we will no doubt be in Libya for a long time to come.

Libya was not a threat to vital U.S. security interests.  After we invaded Iraq, Qaddafi behaved lest he was next on the invasion list.  We had no reason to fear his brand of terrorism anymore.  We do now.  He’s pissed.  And cornered.  Who knows what money he has hidden.  And what connections he has outside of Libya. 

Yes, the suffering was bad.  But as bad as in Sudan?  Rwanda?  Zimbabwe?  Why Libya?  And not them?  Or was Libya just first?  And these are the next countries the Lady Hawks will advise the president to bomb for humanitarian reasons?  Let’s hope not.  But after Libya, anything is possible.

This is indeed a sad chapter in American foreign policy.

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LESSONS LEARNED #25: “War is costly. Peace, too.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2010

AT THE HEIGHT of the Roman Empire, the empire reached from North Africa to Britannia (England), from Hispania (Spain) to Mesopotamia (approximately modern day Iraq).  When Roman power ruled the civilized world, there was peace.  The Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The Romans built empire through conquest.  And Rome grew rich with the spoils of conquest.  For awhile, peace was only those quiet intervals between growth and conquest.  But with secure borders, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  For some 200 years.

Life was good for the Roman citizen.  As well as for those living in the empire.  The Romans modernized the provinces they conquered.  Made life better.  Even for the conquered people.  Although there were those who hated being subjugated by a foreign power.

Reg: They bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had. And not just from us! From our fathers, and from our father’s fathers.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah, all right Stan, don’t belabor the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct?

Reg: What?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct.

Reg: Oh. Yeah, yeah, they did give us that, ah, that’s true, yeah.

Revolutionary II: And the sanitation.

Loretta: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.

Reg: Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you the aqueduct and sanitation, the two things the Romans have done.

Matthias: And the roads.

Reg: Oh, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads…

Revolutionary III: Irrigation.

Revolutionary I: Medicine.

Revolutionary IV: Education.

Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.

Revolutionary V: And the wine.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Oh, yeah! Right!

Rogers: Yeah! Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

Revolutionary VI: Public bathes.

Loretta: And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

Rogers: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it; they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Hahaha…all right…

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Revolutionary I: Brought peace?

Reg: Oh, peace! Shut up!

(From Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, 1979.)

Maintaining a peaceful empire is costly.  As people got more accustomed to peace and plenty, they began to complain about taxes.  Citizens refused to volunteer to serve in the Roman Legions maintaining that peace.  Barbarians began to serve in the Legions.  Some rose to command them.  Some Roman commanders came from the very people they were fighting in the border regions.  Soon Rome would rely on mercenaries (hired soldiers) to defend their borders.  All of this cost the empire.  It had to pay more and more to maintain the loyalty of the military.  Ditto for the huge bureaucracy administrating the empire.  And they lost control.  Trouble on the borders and economic collapse ended the peace.  And, ultimately, the empire.  The civilized world broke down and collapsed.  And barbarian leaders on the borders, hungry for conquest, attacked.  Plunging the former Roman provinces into war and instability.

RISING FROM THE ashes of the Roman Empire were the seeds of new empires.  And the ground that proved most fertile was the northern limit of the old empire.  England.

England started to assert herself with the growth of her navy.  With her borders secured, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  Again.  For about a hundred years.  During the Industrial Revolution.  After the defeat of Napoleon. 

Imperial Britain stretched across the globe.  The sun never set on the British Empire.  And wherever she went, she brought the rule of law, modernity, a sound economy and political stability.  Her old colonial possessions went on to be some of the richest, most prosperous and peaceful nations in the world.  India.  Australia.  New Zealand.  South Africa.  Canada.  And, of course, the United States of America.  She achieved her century of peace (Pax Britannia) by a balance of power.  She maintained peace by intervening in disputes, often on the side of the weaker nation.  She prevented stronger, aggressive nations from threatening her weaker neighbors.   And she provided a safe environment for the weaker nation to live peacefully in the shadows of stronger, more aggressive neighbors.

For a hundred years Britannia kept the peace.  In large part due to her Royal Navy, the most powerful and potent navy at the time.  If you ate any imported food or used any imported goods, it was thanks to the Royal Navy that kept the world’s sea lanes safe.  But this peace came with a price.  The rise of nationalism, the quest of new empires to establish their own overseas colonies and a change in the balance of power in Europe with the rise of Germany added to that price.  And then a shot fired in Sarajevo by a Serbian terrorist ignited a tinderbox.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip started World War I.  The most bloody and expensive war at the time, it bankrupted Great Britain and ended her empire.  And left the world a less safe place. 

From the ashes of World War I rose new leaders with aspirations of world conquest.  Fascist Italy led by Benito Mussolini.  Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler.  Communist Russia led by Joseph Stalin.  Imperial Japan led by Hideki Tojo.  And the nation that led the victors in World War II would, by default, become the new world power.  The new world policeman.  The United States of America.

SO WHAT HAPPENED during the inter-war years that led to World War II?  War exhausted Britain and France.  Neither had the stomach for another war.  Britain continued to rely on the Royal Navy for protection (as an island nation, sea power is indispensable).  France built fixed fortifications (the Maginot Line).  Both were primarily defensive strategies. 

In America, General Billy Mitchell demonstrated the vulnerability of battleships to air power by sinking a battleship with an airplane (greatly flustering the naval high command).  Colonel George S. Patton developed an armored doctrine for an unenthused army and eventually transferred back to the horse cavalry.  Meanwhile, Imperial Japan was building aircraft carriers.  And Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist Russia developed air and armored doctrine while fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Fascist Italy attacked Ethiopia in 1935 to rebuild the Roman Empire and make the Mediterranean Sea a Roman lake once again.  Nazi Germany launched World War II in 1939 by an armored assault on Poland with tactical air support.  Poland resisted with horse cavalry.  And lost.  Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 to destroy American naval power in the Pacific.  They did a lot of damage.  But the American carriers, their prime objective, were at sea.  They would eventually meet those carriers later at the Battle of Midway.  Where they would lose four of their best carriers and many of their best aviators.  This tipped the balance of power in the Pacific to the Americans.

America was ill-prepared for war.  But American industry, the Arsenal of Democracy, ramped up and built the planes, tanks, guns, rifles and ships that would win the war.   It would come with a heavy price tag.  Global wars typically do.  Had there been a balance of power that would have checked the territorial ambitions of the aggressor nations, it would have been a different story.  Of course, having the power is one thing.  How you use it is another. 

France had more tanks than Germany before the outbreak of hostilities.  But the Nazis quickly overran France.  Why?  Doctrine.  France’s doctrine was to hide behind the security of the Maginot Line.  It was a defensive-only strategy.  She developed no armored doctrine.  The lesson they learned from World War I was that armies killed themselves attacking fixed defenses.  Germany, too, learned that lesson.  So their doctrine called for going around fixed defenses with fast-moving armor spearheads with tactical air support (i.e., blitzkrieg).  Formidable though the Maginot Line was, it could not attack.  And if the Nazis didn’t attack it, it did nothing but concentrate men and firepower away from the battle.

WHEN WE PULLED out of South Vietnam, we agreed to use American air power if North Vietnam violated the terms of the treaty ending that war.  Watergate changed all of that.  Even though JFK got us into Vietnam, it became Nixon’s war.  And a vindictive Congress wouldn’t have anything more to do with it.  The North tested the American will.  Saw that there was none.   Attacked.  And overran South Vietnam.  The message was clear to tyrants.  America will quit in the long run.  Especially after a large loss of life.

Other ‘retreats’ would reinforce this perception.  Especially in the Arab world.  The withdrawal from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marines’ barracks.  The withdrawal from Somalia after the Somalis dragged dead American troops through the streets of Mogadishu.  The Arab world even saw the victory in Desert Storm as a retreat.  The anti-American Arab world said that our invasion was about oil.  That what we really wanted was to topple Saddam Hussein and take his oil.  It was just another Christian Crusade into holy Islamic lands.  When we didn’t do that, the Arab world saw it as another American retreat.  That America didn’t have the will to endure a bloody battle to conquer Iraq. 

So some in the Arab world would test America.  Al Qaeda.  Headed by Osama bin Laden.  They started small and became more daring.  World Trade Center bombing.  Tanzanian Embassy bombing.  Kenyan Embassy bombing.  Khobar Towers bombing.  The USS Cole attack.  And they paid little for these attacks.  America didn’t fight back.  But their luck ran out on September 11, 2001.  Because America finally fought back.

PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER one, Osama bin Laden, belonged to the conservative Sunni sect of Islam called Wahhabi.  They have a large following in Saudi Arabia.  The Wahhabi have a delicate relationship with the Saudi Royal family.  They disapprove of the Western displays of wealth in the House of Saud. 

Al-Qaeda was a shadowy enemy.  We confronted them in the mountains of Afghanistan where the Taliban gave them a safe sanctuary.  We attacked.  Knocked the Taliban from power.  Drove al-Qaeda underground.  But we could not stop their funding.

Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia financed 9/11.  And the money continued to flow.  The Saudis would not intervene on behalf of America.  They feared any crackdown on the Wahhabi could unleash a civil war.  So America needed leverage to get Saudi cooperation.  And they found it in an old nemesis, Saddam Hussein. 

A Sunni minority ruled Iraq.  The Saudis did not like Saddam Hussein.  However, they liked the balance of power he offered to Iran.  Iran was Shiite.  As much as the Saudis did not like Saddam, they disliked Shiite Iran more.  This was the American lever.

After some diplomatic gymnastics, the invasion of Iraq was set.  The Saudis thought we were bluffing.  They didn’t believe we would invade Iraq.  Never in a million years.  If we didn’t do it in Desert Storm when we had the force in place to do it and didn’t, there was no way the Americans would amass another coalition and redeploy forces to the region again.  Especially because America doesn’t like long, drawn out, bloody wars.  Which an invasion of Iraq would surely be.

They asked us to remove our forces from the Saudi bases.  We did.  Now they were getting nervous.  That was the political game.  Make some noise to show the Arab world you weren’t an American toady.  But, secretly, you want those American forces to remain.  That American presence did provide security.  And stability.  After the invasion of Kuwait, it sure looked like Saudi Arabia would be next.  It was only that large American force in the desert that changed that inevitability. 

The Americans invaded.  And conquered.  Now the Saudis had a vested interest in helping the Americans.  They needed them to be successful in Iraq.  To contain Iran.  The lever worked.  The Saudis stemmed the flow of Wahhabi money to al-Qaeda.  The invasion of Iraq proved to be one of the most effective battles in the war on terrorism.  

HISTORY HAS SHOWN that a balance of power can lead to peace.  It has also shown that a superpower can enforce a larger peace.  But it also has shown that there is good and bad when it comes to power.  The Romans could be cruel, but so were most in that time.  The road to empire, after all, started out simply as a quest to provide a buffer between Rome and the hostile barbarians on her borders.  Rome, then, expanded in pursuit of peace.  (Initially, at least.)  And then used her power to maintain peace.

Many view Great Britain as the successor to the Roman Empire.  And many view America as the successor to the British Empire.  These powers share many things (rule of law, an advanced civilization, political stability, etc.).  Perhaps the greatest, though, is a powerful military.  And how it was/is used.  As a powerful deterrent to an aggressor nation.  To protect trade routes.  To maintain peace.  Malign these empires/nations all you will, but the greatest periods of world peace were due to their military power.  And their will to use that military power.  Expensive as that was.  Is.

So, yes, wars are costly.  Peace, too.  Sometimes, though, we must fight wars.  But we can avoid a lot of them.  By a peace-time military force that acts as a deterrent.  Because there are bad guys out there.  Who only respect one thing.  And it isn’t diplomacy.  Often the only thing preventing them from waging a cruel war of conquest is a potent military and a willing leader to use it.  If a tyrant knows he will face a military consequence for acting, he may not act.  When he knows that consequence will be devastating, he will not act.  But if he knows a nation hasn’t the military power or the will to use military power, he will act.  Just as Hitler did.  As Mussolini did.  As Tojo did.  And as Osama bin Laden did.

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