Monday, April 04, 2011

Warmongers: They're not Just Neocons Anymore

by Jeff Huber

Apr. 5, 2011

Between 800 and a thousand people were slaughtered in the Ivory Coast on March 29 as the town of Duekoue became caught up in the post-electoral violence devouring that country.  Progressive icon Juan Cole hasn’t called for support of the rebels in the Ivory Coast through U.S. military action.

Thousands gathered in Damascus, Syria on Sunday Apr. 3 to mourn the deaths of those killed protesting against the rule of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.  Juan Cole has not called for liberals to demand a U.S. military intervention in support of Syrian rebels.

What, me know what I'm
talking about?

Fred Bridgeland of Scotland’s Sunday Herald posits that the Ivory Coast is the next Rwanda.  In 1944, the civil war in Rwanda led to the murder of between half-a-million and a million people.  President Bill Clinton did not did not intervene militarily in that war, and as best as I can tell Juan Cole did not criticize him for it.  Juan Cole also hasn’t called for use of armed force in the ongoing civil war in Darfur.  The most visible lefty to push for U.S. action in Darfur has been actor George Clooney, and I never got the impression he was expecting us to go in and kick the door down there. I think Clooney was looking for something along the lines of Yo, Danny Ocean wants we should help out the Watusis or whatever the hell they are.  What say we knock over another casino and give them half the take? 

Juan Cole didn’t call for military intervention to help rebels oust dictator Hosni Mubarak in Egypt’s erupting civil war, he’s not calling for a bombardment in support of Jordan’s germinating civil war, nor did he ask for a blockade of the terror of the civil war in Tunisia.  And, of course, Cole didn’t call for U.S. invasions in reaction to the civil wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That's largely because Cole was protesting the U.S. invasions that caused those civil wars in the first place.

Cole has, however and famously, exhorted the liberals of our nation to back young Mr. Obama's insertion of force into the civil war in Libya.  In Cole's March 27 “An Open Letter to the Left on Libya,” an all-time low-water mark in liberal intellectualism, he presents arguments for war in Libya that make Bill Kristol’s asylum of neoconservative New American Centurions (think Dan Quayle) sound positively lucid. 

The UN sanctioned Obama’s war in Libya, Cole argues, and although the neocons love war they hate the UN, plus they didn’t vote for Obama, so if you back Obama’s UN endorsed war in Libya that will show the neocons, huh?  Oh, yeah, and the Neocons are always using humanitarian intervention as an excuse to go to war, and we liberals can’t let them be the only ones who do that, so let’s get behind Obama’s UN endorsed humanitarian intervention and, boy, that’ll really steal those old neocons’ thunder, won’t it?  That’ll grind glass in their eye, all right. 
It's okay if the Israelis do it.

Cole kinda-sorta argues that the humanitarian crisis in Libya is worse than it is (or was) in the Ivory Coast or Syria or Rwanda or Syria or Egypt or wherever, but he kinda-sorta doesn’t make his case.  And in any case, Cole kinda-sorta never explains why he didn’t call for U.S. military intervention when the Israelis were firebombing mommies and babies in Gaza City with white phosphorous shells.

In a March 30 rebuttal to Glen Greenwald’s rebuttal of his cockamamie Open Letter, Cole opens with “Iraq was an illegal war, for no pressing national interest and with no [United Nations Security Council] authorization,” an authorization Cole defends with the lysergic assertion that “a UN Security Council resolution is the gold standard for military intervention.”  What despicable Tommyrot. 

Nations have been going to war—legally or otherwise—since long before there was a UN or anything remotely like it.  The very fabric of international relations recognizes that political leaders have the right and responsibility to employ policies and strategies, including wars, that are in the best interests of their nations, and even the UN charter recognizes that member countries have the right to exercise the right of self-defense through use of armed force.

What makes a war illegal or illegal, especially when we’re talking about the United States, really has nothing to do with international agreements like the UN charter that member nations can back out of whenever they please.  What matters in the U.S. is that we enter into war in accord with our own laws.  Messrs. Bush and Cheney and their neocon supporters exploited the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to get themselves a pair of Authorizations for Use of Military Force  (AUMFs) from Congress that allowed a president to Invade Iraq and pretty much any place else he cared to as long as he did so in the name of fighting a terror-related ism.  So the Iraq war is as legal as wars get in the post-World War II undeclared war era.  

A pretty sound argument says that when you get right down to it, an AUMF is a perfectly legit substitute for a formal declaration of war.  But Obama can't slip his little Libya war under the umbrella of the existing AUMFs because Libya doesn't present a terror connection.  In fact, military intervention in Libya doesn't even pass the national self-defense test.  Hence, it is Obama’s little field trip to Libya, and not the lamentable quagmire in Iraq, that is the brazenly illegal conflict.  

This is foreign policy 101 stuff that ivory tower twits like Juan Cole (who is a history professor at the University of Michigan) ought to have down cold before they go shooting their mouths off about armed conflicts and the fates of nations.   

The piece of resistance in Juan’s Open Letter was his boldface assertion that “Libya 2011 is not like Iraq 2003 in any way.”  Oh, really?  Let’s run a quick comparison.  U.S. intervenes militarily against ruthless dictator.  Check.  Said ruthless dictator is conducting military operations against his people to suppress insurrection.  Check.  After having been previously spanked by U.S. armed force, said ruthless dictator is now a toothless tiger who poses no threat to his neighbors or to the Unites States.  Check.  Said ruthless dictator has no weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda.  Check.  The list goes on.

Picking on Cole is fun and easy, partly because he’s such an intellectual phony and partly because he’s inflated himself into a Biden-esque gasbag.  But Cole is merely a symptom of a larger malignancy growing in political left.  The progressives’ moral high ground in matters of war and peace began eroding when young Mr. Obama invited young Mr. Bush’s top five-sided funny farmers—Uncle Bob Gates, Moon Mullen, King David, Desert Ox Odierno, etc.—to stick around.  Things continued rolling downhill with the addition of liberal warmongers like Cruella Clinton and Susan Rice to the team.  Then Obama let King David and the rest of the general assembly bully him into escalating the bungle in the Bananastans.  The promise of withdrawal from Iraq is vanishing like ethics in the banking industry, and oh, lo and behold, we’ve reversed our position in Yemen now.  It seems our boy, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, just got himself put on our spit list, and now he’s the same kind of totalitarian dictator that Saddam Hussein was and Muamar Kadhafi still is (for the time being, anyway).  Nothing good is going to come of this, believe you me. 

I hate to be the one to spring this on the left on the occasion of Obama officially launching his re-election campaign, but if the Democrats want to hold on to their claim of being the party of the Great Enlightenment movement that founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin espoused, they need to change their top leadership by Nov. 2012. 

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is author of the critically lauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance.


  1. Well, there is one difference between Libya 2011 and Iraq 2003: Saddam didn't get a bailout from the Fed before we started dropping bombs on his ass:

    The Fed Bailed Out A Libya-Owned Bank

    Also here and here.

    What I'd love to know is if they paid the same ridiculously low interest rate (a fraction of 1%) that outfits like GM got when they were issued emergency loans from the “discount window.”

    Are you mad yet, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer? (Americans sure are a passive-aggressive bunch).

    Oh, and it looks like the GWOT has been cancelled, or at least put on hold indefinitely:

    US To Purchase Oil From Libyan Rebels, Thereby Funding "Flickers" Of Al Qaeda

    And why not? “Thar's light sweet crude in them thar hills. Al Qaeda? Never heard of him.”

  2. Thanks once again for the added value, JP. Have a great week.


  3. We Americans are so much in love with war...... now there is this:

    We now have "war" Easter eggs.

    Back in the day, when I was more or less forced/shamed into attending church on a regular basis.... (my grandmother was the organist, and my mom was the choir director)....
    we were taught that Easter was the celebration by Christians, of the resurrection of The Prince of Peace.

    Now, we have "war" eggs.

  4. War eggs. Jesus, God and Julie from The Mod Squad, what has happened to us?

    Thanks for the info, EL.

  5. Another very good commentary sir.
    When will Americans wake up to see how we have been lied to again? True, the "media" will not tell us the truth. It is the internet that gives the truth now days. Thanks again sir, your blog is an excellent source.
    I still find it striking how this war is being cheered on by three women. Ms. Rice, Ms Powers, and Hi-Larry. They are, of course, just following their "hero" Madass Al(not so) bright. Remember her comments about the sanctions during the time of Billy Bob Bubba Clintstone? Her "it was worth it" about the deaths of about 500,000 Iraqi children? That was our(??) Secretary of State back then. Obombers' three "ladies" must worship that nasty old gal.
    We need to stand up and say ENOUGH! Enough of these damn fool wars of choice. The morons in congress are trying to gut Social Security, Medicare, and every other social program that helps the working class and the poor. This IS class warfare people. We need to stop it.
    Yeah, Obomber has "announced" his bid for a second term that will no doubt top $1 Billion dollars! Holy crap, just think how much good can be done with that amount of money. Our infrastructure is crumbling and yet all we do is start another damn fool war. Yes, I am highly pissed off.
    America, what a country

  6. Thanks for reminding me about Powers, Charlie.

  7. Jeff, I'm a big fan of your columns, but I have to point out the obvious that CheneyBush were not running things during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

    Otherwise, couldn't agree more.

  8. Thanks Jeff. as some one from the left I got a good laugh from Coles letter, I guess he has become/always has been a beltway whore. I got hammered when I said only about the oil and as it's been pointed the first ship is loading up and since there's no worry about any planes showing up, it looks good from the wh. I guess the rebels have to pay back their new Masters.

  9. Saul,

    Thanks for the catch. I'm talking about Darfur, of course. Sheesh! I'll rewrite that bit right away.

  10. Jo,

    Well, I too got a good laugh from it. I really am disappointed in what the left has done--or not done--given power. The hell of it is that the alternative to the left is the right.

    God help America.


  11. Libya has oil (I'm smiling wryly) and the Yemeni ruler is being asked to step down by his DC/S.A. handlers

    Eeek, when I did I get so cynical?

  12. The hate of liberals is a waste of time.

    Better to discriminate based on hate of illicit war.

  13. While I agree with the overall theme of the post, there's a detail I don't agree with, and that's the idea that international agreements aren't relevant to a war's legality.

    Article V of our constitution places the constitution itself, all laws derived from that constitution, and "all Treaties made, or which shall be made" as the supreme law of the land. I don't see how you rationalize sidelining treaties we are bound to by constitutional law, while propping up "domestic" laws as primary. The language of the constitution doesn't make the distinction. The UN, Geneva Conventions, and NATO are produced by and we are legally bounded to those organizations constitutionally. These are not secondary to U.S. law.

    Perhaps a more honest metric is merely what wars will be tacitly accepted (as legal) due to the lack of either successful war crimes prosecutions or a UN Article 39 determination of illegality. An honest criticism of the UN Charter is that practically the U.S. would never actually be charged with an actual determination of an illegal war, because that determination is entirely up to the UN Security Council and the U.S. has veto power. It's pretty unlikely the U.S. would not use it to avoid an illegal war designation, for any war it was involved in.

    But despite this practical problem preventing an official designation, one can ignore this requirement and come up with a compelling opinion based on the available facts and the treaties we've signed. And from that perspective the 2nd Iraq war was substantially illegal.

    In the case of Libya, there is a UN resolution authorizing use of force. Unlike with Iraq. So while I don't agree with the outcome, that is not a basis to determine legality, anymore than merely looking at U.S. domestic laws while ignoring treaties we've agreed to.

  14. Your points are worth consideration. Here is my quick reply.

    I reject out of hand, as should you and every other American, any argument that says a UN resolution overrides the Constitution's requirement that the U.S. Congress approves sending troops to war.

    Your argument that OIF is illegal has the same holes that similar arguments make. You ignore the self-defense clause in the UN charter and the existence of UN resolution 1441 which the Bush admin. used to bolster the legitimacy of its invasion.


  15. One can rationally form an opinion that UN resolutions bind the U.S. to treaty obligations including armed conflict. We've agreed to that very possibility, and the mechanisms for approving such armed conflict, within those treaties. Now, you can make an argument that you don't agree with the content of those treaties or their mechanisms, and I may very well agree. But that doesn't wipe away the present facts that we've already tacitly approved of UN resolutions calling for our involvement in armed conflict. Congress has approved the treaty. And they tacitly agree with this every single day they do not rescind the treaty - which by the way is much easier to do than treaty approval in the first place.

    I have not ignored UN resolution 1441, I am referring directly to it. It did not authorize armed conflict. Not only the written language of 1441, but every verbal conversation from every member of the UNSC, include Negroponte (U.S.) who said an additional UN resolution would be required to authorize armed conflict with Iraq. That resolution was in the works, with only the U.S. and U.K. backing it, leading up to invasion, and never was passed.

    And article 52 isn't applicable because it allows defense in the case of armed-attack. Iraq had attacked no member country.

  16. For all the sound and fury over Libya, it's just a sideshow in this carnival:

    Defense Secretary Gates, Saudi king to discuss Mideast unrest

    Yeah, I'll bet. I don't envy Gates his job. That Saudi royal family is big. It's probably a good thing we have all those empty McMansions left over from the housing bust.

    That's no doubt why we let the Europeans take point in the Libya fracas: we're holding those military assets in reserve for the "big one."

    Saudi Arabia Goes M.A.D.: Saudi Oil Minister Says Crude To Hit $300 If Turmoil Spreads To Saudi

    Of course, that"s extremely unlikely to happen. One of those "low probability events." Like a guy setting himself on fire and sparking a revolution. Or a 9.0 earthquake. Probably not going to happen.


  17. "One can rationally form an opinion that UN resolutions bind the U.S. to treaty obligations including armed conflict."

    No, that is not rational, nor is it rational to conclude that Congress can usurp its own constitutional authorities by ratifying a treaty that overrides them.

    I'm afraid you've fallen prey to the same kind of leftist intellectual dissonance that Juan Cole has become such a high priest of.


  18. Follow the money??

    Oil prices are up again this morning.

    Lots of folks making lots of money from this... and all wars in the Mideast.

  19. Gee whiz, folks making money of war. Well, what's a capitalist to do, turn down free money?

  20. jp white
    Thanks and here I was afraid all those properties would just go to waste;)
    Gates, are they talking about trying to get rid of the last to strong holds that don't like Amerika I wonder?

  21. "No, that is not rational, nor is it rational to conclude that Congress can usurp its own constitutional authorities by ratifying a treaty that overrides them."

    Congress alone has the constitutional authority to determine the state of war or peace, that is clear in the constitution. The mechanism for treaties is also very clear in the constitution and the document itself places EQUAL weight to both constitution and treaties. It is eminently rational to conclude Congress can give up its power to even declare war. And through the treaty process it has done exactly that. It has in effect permanently deferred the power of warfare to another body, using the treaty process. You may not like it, but that is how the text of the constitution reads, it's how Supreme Court cases have gone, and it's actually how the world works today, unless you get member countries going off rails starting wars without UN resolutions, or in direct self-defense in the face of attack, as required.

    In the aftermath of WWII ending all war was precisely the mood this country, the world, and certain the League of Nations and founders of the United Nations were in. Millions of people died in WWII. The UN Charter expressly makes it illegal for member countries to start a war. It expressly makes any war illegal unless either a.) armed conflict approved by the UNSC, or b.) self-defense in the face of attack.

    Neither of those were true for the 2nd Iraq war. Only one of them is true in the case of Libya. And here the UN is prattling on about Libya, tragic though it is, and we have humanitarian crises going on in Ivory Coast and in Syria. I do not think we should be involved in any of these conflicts. If humanitarian causes are valid, then genocide in Dafur would take precedence over bloody noses in Syria and Libya. Yet the UN did nothing.

    "I'm afraid you've fallen prey to the same kind of leftist intellectual dissonance that Juan Cole has become such a high priest of."

    And that's just name calling, plain and simple. It is not an analysis of the constitution or the UN charter. It is an emotional reaction. You're merely disagreeing with something because you don't like the connotation or the result, but it has no basis in fact or law.

    What you want to do is discard the facts as though they don't matter, and therein lies a real concern with any treaty established by our masters, in their interests, not ours. The reality is, it works exactly as I've described whether you like it or not, whether you think it is legal or not.

  22. Your argument says the Constitution allows Congress to grant a foreign political power the authority to send American to war, overriding the congress and the executive as well. That's insane. Please don't take up any more space here with this kind of wind.

  23. The liberalism represented by Cole is really just one of the two rival tribes composing the American political class. I've been seeing this ever since Obama got elected -- very little "progressive" changes, lots of business as usual. His supporters, despite being against this, have muted themselves because deep down elections have stopped being about real, pressing national issues but more of an Us vs. Them bar fight. Criticizing Obama now for continuing Jooner's failed policies would just lend support to whatever screwhead the GOP puts forward next year -- who will also want to continue the failed policies.

    Ugly situation. It takes guts to keep pointing out the absurdities. Keep up the good work.

  24. "Your argument says the Constitution allows Congress to grant a foreign political power the authority to send American to war, overriding the congress and the executive as well."

    No that is not my argument. The constitution empowers Congress alone to decide the state of war or peace, and to ratify or not ratify treaties. And they have, entirely as prescribed in the constitution, done this with respect to the UN Charter. That is my argument.

    There is no override of Congress or the president possible, the U.S. as a permanent seat with veto power on the UNSC. A war without the express approval of the president is not possible. And if Congress didn't like it, they can rescind our membership in the UN, and our obligations, entirely legally, with a simple majority vote, not even requiring presidential approval. Anything the UN commits the U.S. to has at the very least tacit approval by Congress, and direct approval of the president.

    Your argument is that the constitution is higher law than a treaty, in particular one with which you don't appear to agree with. But the constitution's own text does not consider constitutional law higher than treaties, it considers them equal.