Let's get the referendum out of the way because that is a thoroughly boring subject and is unlikely to bother us for much longer. We are still at a stage when journalists suddenly announce that the campaign for a referendum is the best thing since sliced bread, that nothing like this has ever been thought of and that all those who are unhappy with aspects of the EU and Britain's membership of it are going to support it. After all, what kind of a eurosceptic would not support an in/out referendum on Britain in the EU? (To be fair, Kavanagh's article is not about the referendum campaign and is mentioned only in passing.)
The answer is, of course, any eurosceptic who refuses to go along with the latest slogan, does not think that the support of such luminaries as Caroline Lucas, Keith Vaz and Bob Crowe is an inducement and does not believe that the in/out referendum will be won by us as we are wasting time, money and resources on stupid campaigns. None of these problems are dealt with, mild personal insults are strewn around and the best argument we get is public opinion is bound to move our way. Brilliant strategy. Marlborough, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Wellington and numerous World War II generals would be envious.
As to Libya, my opinion that this is not in Britain's interests but is, on the contrary, a poorly thought out emotional response, manipulated by President Sarkozy and Secretary of State Clinton for their own political purposes, is hardening. It is hardening because the supporters of this intervention can produce no arguments except Boys' Own slogans and mild, very mild, personal abuse. There are ridiculous references to the thirties from people who have no clear understanding what was happening then, let alone of the fact that the parallels are not altogether real. I have even been accused of "blimpism" though, I suspect, that was a joke. Or near it.
The reason for the accusation was my refusal to acknowledge that Libya presented a particular security risk to Britain or, even, the EU. I noted that the country that was most at risk, Italy, was merely cheering from the sidelines. If the French, I added, want to indulge in political adventurism, let them do so. What has it to do with Britain or the United States. Answer? Blimpism. I suggested another viewing of the great Powell and Pressburger film.
It is interesting to note that support for this war by any other name is patchy to put it mildly on both sides of the Pond and many of the problems stem from the ill-defined aims. The New York Times is mostly against it though, obviously as this is not Bush's war, they are ambivalent.
Pentagon officials are eager to extract the United States from a third armed conflict in a Muslim country as quickly as possible. But confusion broke out on Monday among the allies in Europe over who exactly would carry the military operation forward once the United States stepped back, and from where.The countries that abstained on that UN vote are now openly speaking up against the military operation, which was bound to go beyond whatever anybody thought were the limits. That would not matter if we did not have a President in the United States and a Prime Minister in Britain who believe in the efficacy of transnational rule.
In Washington, lawmakers from both parties argued that Mr. Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority by authorizing the military’s participation without Congressional approval. The president said in a letter to Congress that he had the power to authorize the strikes, which would be limited in duration and scope, and that preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya was in the national interest.
The Arab League's support, much touted before the operation started is, unsurprisingly, doubtful.
None of this is surprising any more than the fact that "Europe" does not speak with one voice is surprising. How could it? On the other hand, if the Americans are looking to hand over the operation to some other participants as soon as possible, the difficulties could become enormous.
However, there are somewhat more surprising opponents of this operation and they are not simply against it because it is led by President Obama or, possibly, Secretary of State Clinton who appears to be gambling her political future on Libya.
George Friedman on Stratfor thinks that this coalition's intentions are unclear and there are too many political complications in Libya and the whole area for a rather simplistic venture to be successful.
Victor Davis Hanson argues from an impeccably conservative (he has even been called a neo-conservative by those obsessed with that group and completely ignorant of it) point of view.
What are we left with? A mission that is part Black Hawk Down, part the twelve-year no-fly zone in Iraq, part working with insurgents as in the 2002 removal of the Taliban, and part Bill Clinton’s various air campaigns over the Balkans. So far, no one has agreed on any objective other than that Qaddafi should not be killing his opponents.Most unexpectedly, Caroline Glick (together with other writers on Jewish World Review) is critical. In fact, her argument is similar to this blog's only about the United States, not Britain.
Is he to be gone? If so, how soon and replaced by whom or what? The Libyan military? Westernized intellectuals and professionals? “Secular” Muslim Brotherhood types? Former jihadists whose experience was killing Americans in Iraq? Or is American success defined by rendering Qaddafi impotent and a rebel enclave safe, in the same way that for over a decade the Kurds carved out sanctuary from a closely monitored Saddam?
Traditionally, states have crafted their foreign policy to expand their wealth and bolster their national security. In this context, US foreign policy in the Middle East has traditionally been directed towards advancing three goals: Guaranteeing the free flow of inexpensive petroleum products from the Middle East to global market; strengthening regimes and governments that are in a position to advance this core US goal at the expense of US enemies; and fighting against regional forces like the pan-Arabists and the jihadists that advance a political program inherently hostile to US power.
Other competing interests have periodically interfered with US Middle East policy. And these have to greater or lesser degrees impaired the US's ability to formulate and implement rational policies in the region.
These competing interests have included the desire to placate somewhat friendly Arab regimes that are stressed by or dominated by anti-US forces; a desire to foster good relations with Europe; and a desire to win the support of the US media.
Under the Obama administration, these competing interests have not merely influenced US policy in the Middle East. They have dominated it. Core American interests have been thrown to the wayside.In other words, how are American interests advanced by this adventure? How are Western interests advanced? Has anyone thought about it beyond those, admittedly terrible, pictures on TV?
Mutatis mutandis we must ask the same questions here. I am ready to change my mind if I hear reasonable arguments on the other side.
Diplomad2.0 weighs in.