Monday, March 28, 2011

Essay: Libya Is A War For All The Right Reasons

The first time I was exposed to the Navy's ad and slogan, "A Global force for good," I could not  keep myself from thinking out loud that the marketing people had poured a little too much sugar on its messaging this time.

"That's Madison Avenue packaging. The last two wars we got into were for revenge," I said.

"I like it," a neo-hawk friend snapped back as we watched The Winter X Games. "It sends the right message."

The back and forth went on for a bit with neither of us swayed by the other's argument.

Well, as the saying goes, seeing is believing, and given the U.S. response in Libya, now I am a believer.

The Navy owns the ad, but not the message: the Air Force, Marines and Army personnel involved right now in Libya are all a force for good. They have stopped much of Moammar Gadhafi's killings, they are trying to help avoid a humanitarian crisis and the playing field has been leveled for the rebels.

The good guys (the coalition and NATO) are winning, but somehow President Obama's critics find fault in his soul-searching decision to avoid another Srebrenica, another Rwanda, another Darfur, another Warsaw Ghetto. His critics charge that Obama should have sought congressional approval, suggesting erroneously that he did something unconstitutional.

Some Republicans, like Newt Gingrich, even went so far as to flip-flop in order to take a politically charged swipe at Obama's Libya policy. Gingrich was actually for a no-fly zone before he was against it.

Liberal Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich hinted that Obama had committed an impeachable act by circumventing Congress. Some of my leftist colleagues were split: Some wrote Kucinich was right, others accused him of providing aid and comfort to his enemy, the Republicans.

Washington journalists dine out on this kind of political discourse, relishing the quotes that spew from all comers and gleefully scribbling every word. But with American servicemen and women in action right now in Libya are these lawmakers, and their echo chamber, going too far this time to score political points?

During the buildup and early days of the Iraq war, the White House would question the patriotism of anyone who criticized the beat of then-President George W. Bush's war drums.

Bush's Barnumesque buildup to the war back then would be laughable at this point, if more than a 100,000 Americans, Brits, Iraqis and others had not lost their lives, while countless others were injured, many severely, in that war of revenge.

In "selling" the Libya mission, there were no "slam dunk" predictions that weapons of mass destruction would turn up, no counterfeit documents claiming a despot was buying "yellow cake uranium" in Nigeria, no rumors of the dictator's connection to Al Qaeda, and a CIA operative's career would not be destroyed for political revenge.

No, instead Team Barack argued: Innocent Libyans are going to die under Gadhafi's orders, and our allies in that neighborhood could suffer from the disruption to the region.

And, thanks to a special breed of  government worker, the men and women who wear the uniforms of the American Armed Forces, lives have been saved in Libya. As Obama has said, it has so far been a success.

There will be plenty of time to hear from congressional committees and cloistered constitutional scholars on whether Obama overreached in not seeking the blessing of Congress. For now, though, it may be best to not politicize the essential work of the global force for good.

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