Kinetic Military Action, Inert Presidential Leadership

From the folks that brought you “overseas contingency operation” as a new name for the War on Terror, we now present “Kinetic Military Action” to describe the War on Libya. Somewhere out there, George Orwell is applauding a job well done.

I’m not a Constitutional law scholar like the President claims to be, and I’ve read opinions on both sides about whether the action we are taking in Libya is legal or illegal. According to Vice President Joe Biden, since the President didn’t seek Congressional approval first it’s clearly illegal and impeachment hearings should commence immediately. Oh, wait…wrong president. Never mind.

The most compelling argument in favor of the shelling of Libya being unconstitutional is that the situation on the ground there has no American interests. Had Gadhafi been threatening the United States in some way, the Constitutionality of these actions would not be in question because it would rise to the level of defending the country against a clear and present danger.

Still, I believe that what the President is doing is allowed under the law, which states that he has 60 days to get Congressional approval. Whether what Obama is doing is a wise thing is another matter.

Aside from the fact that America is so diminished under this Presidency that we were shamed into military action by the French, the humanitarian goal here of protecting the rebels from Gadhafi’s bombs is laudable. I don’t buy the argument that because we are not pursuing similar actions in places like Darfur we are constrained from acting in Libya. No, we can not get involved in all of the world’s various hot spots and basket cases, but that doesn’t prevent us from acting when and where we can. We can not aid the citizens of North Korea simply because there is no good opportunity or time to do so. That is not the case in Libya, where the opportunity has presented itself.

Admitting that the goal here is worthy, the execution of this operation has been a bungled mishmash worthy of Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. For weeks when the rebels were advancing Obama sat on his hands and did nothing. That was the time to get involved, when Gadhafi was back on his heels. Instead we waited until the French and British got a UN resolution to establish a No-Fly Zone. This makes it look like Obama’s getting his marching orders from the United Nations, enhancing the perception of him created by the treacly “citizen of the world” rhetoric he spouts.

Since the minute the jets hit the air Obama has been taking time out of his busy schedule to reassure everyone that we don’t really mean it. Yes, Gadhafi must go immediately, but it’s okay if he stays. Yes, we are bombing tanks, compounds, and roads but we’re not at war, it’s just a kinetic military action. Yes, the American military is doing the bulk of the heavy lifting here but in the next few days we’ll be turning over the lead to the first country willing to stand up and take it. Yes, we are doing this because the Arab League gave us their blessing, even though they apparently didn’t understand that enforcing a no-fly zone might require kinetic military action. Even the name of the operation screams wussiness. “Operation Odyssey Dawn”…what the heck does that mean?

To the surprise of nobody except the true believers out there, Obama wants to appease everybody and instead alienates everyone. His actions are those of a man used to voting “Present” whenever he might be held to account for an unpopular position. He knows the Left is generally in favor of using the military for humanitarian purposes, so he couches the attack on Libya as being for these purposes, he knows many on the Right want Gadhafi’s head on a platter, so he coordinates these attacks with the rebels. The world seems to be going to Hell in a handbasket between the tragedy in Japan, unrest in the Middle East, and now a brand new war in Libya, and where is Obama? Filling out his March Madness brackets, playing golf, appearing on ESPN, taking the family to Rio for a speech/vacation. Not once has he sat behind the desk in the Oval Office and addressed the American people about how we are helping in Japan or in Libya. His statements, when they don’t flatly contradict each other, are mealy-mouthed and incoherent. There is no real, stated goal to this action. This proves yet again that Obama does not take foreign policy seriously, that he views it as an inconvenience getting in the way of his domestic agenda. This is a trait he shared with his Democratic predecessor in office, and is the flip side of George W. Bush.

We are committed to this policy now, and the men we are sending into harm’s way (don’t worry, there will never be boots on the ground, Obama assures us this week) deserve our full support and I wish them Godspeed and pray for speedy success. But the political side of this situation has been an absolute bungle and for that there’s no one to blame except the feckless amateur in the White House.

UPDATE: I’m behind the times. According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, “kinetic military action” is so yesterday. Today’s term is “time-limited, scope-limited military action.” That’s better.

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