The Triumph Of Leading From Behind

“To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Qaddafi within six months: if Obama were a Republican, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now.”

—conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan

Anyone who has followed politics this year, particularly Obama’s policy on Libya, knows very well the criticism of that policy, some fair and some, well, ridiculously unfair. 

But now that Gaddafi’s bloody corpse has become an Internet sensation, it appears that the policy has been vindicated and that “leading from behind” and tactical patience is not a bad way, at least in this case, to end the career of a nasty dictator.

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14 Comments

  1. Most Republicans would have Ronnie on Mt. Rushmore.
    What was that Iran-Contra thingy again?

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  2. I have some Iranian friends. One told me (in 1987?) that it was common knowledge in Iran that the U.S. was supplying them with weapons. The intermediary for the transactions was supposedly ***ISRAEL*** ! ! ! I scoffed at the preposterous ‘rumor’. In a few months, the truth became known in the U.S. Everything my friend had described was confirmed, except for Israel’s role. The accuracy of his account led me to believe that Israel did have such a role. If so, it is the secret of all secrets, trapped outside of our American insulation. Such is the nature of global power politics.

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    • I used to do drafting/engineering for a Department of Defense contractor here. They made mortar rounds, artillery rounds, ‘dumb’ bombs and the Sensor Fuzed Weapon, which is a ‘smart’ bomb with 40 warheads. Most of the stuff, except the SFW, was being sold to other countries. In the lobby there is a display case devoted to the contract they had selling armor-piercing tank rounds to China.
      Most of the production has been moved to Mcallister Oklahoma, but when the government was attempting to shut this down and/or move it, the ‘hawks’ always waved the flag and started fear mongering about weak defense.
      The entire process for bidding, awarding contracts, engineering and administrating this production is highly flawed, if not downright corrupt in many ways.

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      • ansonburlingame

         /  October 21, 2011

        Sorry Sekan, but I cannot resist even if you don’t read it,

        Why does it not surprise me that you as a professional made “dumb” bombs???

        Anson

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  3. It is quite clear that the Libyan rebels have a superabundance of weaponry and ammo, including plenty to fire straight up in the air. I have wondered where it all came from – must be worth billions!

    One only has to read the recent book, Top Secret America, to realize that the Military Industrial Complex is so, well, complex, and huge, as to be the tail wagging the dog now. And it’s mostly about “bidness”, just as was shown in “Charlie Wilson’s War”. Sure hope this one doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass like that one did. The jury is still out.

    Jim S, should I assume in your comment that “them” refers to Libya being the recipient of the weapons, or did you mean Iranian rebels? If the latter, then it wouldn’t surprise me.

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  October 21, 2011

    To all,

    I am somewhat confused. When the GOP White House bombed Libya in the late 80′s the left was outraged over the use of such force, then. Now, ????

    Now read the questions posed in today’s Globe edit. Regime change as a matter of U.S. foreign policy is “tricky” at best, in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Afghainstan, Russia, Iran, Syria, and the list goes on.

    We also “changed the regime in three weeks” in 2003 in Iraq but you sure did not like that one now, did you?

    Anson

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  5. @ Anson,

    Just now I tried to search for any “outrage” from the Democrats to Reagan’s 1986 bombing of Libya and I can’t seem to find it. Could you please supply a link for that?

    What I did find, however, (link below) is a Gallup poll showing that the general public approved of the bombing 71% approve, 21% disapprove.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/146738/americans-approve-military-action-against-libya.aspx

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  October 21, 2011

    Jim,

    I was working in the Pentagon in 1986. I read the Washington Post daily at that time. Many people objected strongly to our use of force at that time, many.

    But, no, I will not go on a witch hunt to find a link to prove my point from recollections of almost 20 years ago. Recall France would not even let us overfly their country in such a bombing campaign and made the job even harder. So much for NATO unity in that case, right.

    anson

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    • Well, Anson, until I get better data I will stick with the Gallup poll indication that the bulk of the public, and by inference at least half of Democrats, approved of the action. (79% of the population either approved or had no opinion, and I doubt that all of the remaining 21% were Democrats.)

      I too was incensed over France’s behavior at the time . When we would go to Babe’s I ordered “Freedom Fries” for at least a year. Some thanks we got for shedding American blood and saving their butts from the Nazi’s!

      As for NATO, I think it’s pretty much a sham. The U.S. supplies most of the serious weaponry when NATO acts, but I suppose it does provide some political cover for operations. Despite the cooperation in the Libyan Affair and despite Daffy’s demise, I am still very skeptical of our involvement and even more so of the eventual outcome.

      A commentator on one of the evening News last night, can’t remember who, noted correctly that Libya is “not a natural country”. He went on to explain that the country is something of a geographical accident because it has no natural boundaries and is made up of many different tribes, most of whom hold historical resentments about one another. At least Daffy was holding them all together, albeit with force and torture, just as Saddam did in Iraq. And, Daffy had disavowed WMD’s. Will the new regime? What will they do with their vast oil wealth now? All that makes me think that Libya will probably be the same kind of “shining city on a hill” democracy that Iraq is, i.e., a dysfunctional and corrupt government.

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  October 22, 2011

    Jim,

    We are now going fairly far afield from the original blog points but that is fine with me. Just don’t accuse me of “straw man” stuff as we do so.

    I don’t know of ANY country in the Middle East that is a “natural” country, except perhaps for Iran, today. It is Persian, almost entirely as far as I know. The rest of the Middle East resulted from maps drawn by European “great powers” after defeating the Ottoman Empire in WWI. And the whole world is today trying to deal with those lines on the map thus drawn almost a 100 years ago.

    As for NATO and who really “carries the load”, I believe the same could be suggested over the UN today as well. Whether or not carrying that load is in America’s best interest is up for debate, again it seems, today.

    Now please don’t try to infere a political view on my part over such a debate. I only point out the debate itself without expressing a point of view on one side or the other.

    Anson

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  8. @ Anson,

    1. I promise not to accuse you of straw man arguments. (Unless you use them of course.)
    2. By “natural country” I assume the writer meant some combination of geographic boundaries and/or cultural identity over a long period of time. For example:

    a. Egypt – population crowded near the alluvial banks of the Nile and surrounded by serious deserts.
    b. Qatar – an island.
    c. Iran – bounded by mountains – the historic descendant of Persia.
    Libya is different of course because it is almost all desert and contains the descendants of some 300 nomadic tribes.
    3. NATO being similar to the U.N. – I completely agree, even regarding the subject of war. The U.N. lent respectability cover to our involvement in wars from Korea to Kosovo and Libya, but the U.S. did the grunt work.

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  9. ansonburlingame

     /  October 22, 2011

    Jim,

    America before 1492 was a “natural country”. Sure it was divided up between all sorts of “tribes” but they were all INDIAN tribes, etc. Then here comes European settlement and religion and look what happened. Today we are a very large (which helps) and diverse country with American Indians only in remanent forms.

    As well for at least a couple of centuries American was in fact a “Christian Nation”. Not now for sure and people get called all sorts of names for calling it such today. But I propose that in fact it WAS, some time ago, Jefferson and deism being an exception.

    Iraq and Syria for sure are enthinic mixes of all sorts. Kurds, Sunni and Shia just for starters in Iraq. I don’t know all the “mixes” in Syria but hear there are a lot of them just like Libya.

    I just finished Cleopatra’s history. Good book. I thought Egypt was, well Egypt, with all sorts of Egyptian pharoes around. Not so. Cleopatra was decidedly Greek according to the book, as was Alexandria a “greek city” in the midst of “Egypt”. News to me but then Alexander the Great, a Macadonia (Greek?) did in fact found it about 350 years before Cleopatra came along, as another “greek”.

    Anson

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  10. You restricted your challenge about “natural countries” to “Middle East countries, so I did too. For sure, the majority of other countries in the world would be termed “natural’, I think.

    I must take issue with your statement about America being a Christian Nation, however. When it became a nation, it was subject to the Constitution which, as amended in 1791, prohibits any state endorsement of religion.

    But of course I know what you mean – the majority of the colonists in the colonies were Christian of one sort or another. Some of them even enjoyed punishing or killing witches and putting the non-compliant in the town stocks. Ah, yes, gimme that old time religion, it’s good enuf for me! (Cue organ music.)

    I believe the pre-Columbian Native Americans were largely animists, but of course that’s not a single religion but a category. Nevertheless, perhaps they should not be ignored in this context. I recall reading that there were likely about 100,000,000 of them in North America when Columbus came, but of course smallpox and other new diseases swept through the populations like wildfire .

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  11. Andrew Sullivan’s comment was spot on.

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