2 August 2011
by Jeff Huber
Operation Unified Protector, our woebegone war in Libya, has become the only major undertaking of the developed world worse conceived and executed than the present manifestation of Saturday Night Live. OUP and SNL both consist of a large number of people combining misdirected efforts to produce an abysmal farce. SNL, however, has a couple of things going for it: it is not responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, and even thought it is a major pollutant of the information environment, its very existence is not illegal.
The latest news of our burlesque in North Africa comes to us by way of a 30 July New York Times story titled, “NATO Strikes at Libyan State TV.” Insider knowledge gives me a unique perspective from which to appreciate the monumental absurdity of that headline, but the eyebrows of even the most casual observers are likely to collide as they wonder to themselves, You mean they’re just now getting around to doing that?
|Air Marshall Lord Basil Fawlty scrubs|
tomorrow's Unified Protector target list.
It was clear back in May, already months into young Mr. Obama’s “days not weeks” Libyan lark, that his euro-stooge NATO commanders announced they were “broadening” their target list to include Libya’s infrastructure. Otherwise, claimed Britain’s Sir General David “Harrumph” Richards, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi would “cling to power.” Before directing air strikes at infrastructure, NATO had already bombed Qaddafi’s “command and control” centers.
Every air war gets run by a different set of air-power theorists called “targeteers” who are trained, among other things, in how to choose what kinds of targets to bomb in order to achieve a campaign’s strategic and political goals. When Unified Protector was still just “Odyssey Dawn,” a thou-shalt-not-fly zone you probably heard about and a naval blockade nobody cared about, the only legitimate targets were stuff like surface-to-air missile sites and navy bases. That was when the only stated goal was to protect the freedom-loving people of Libya from their freedom-hating dictator. Then, in April 2011, Obama for all practical purposes admitted that regime change had been the objective all along, at which point the target list should have broadened exponentially.
There is no such thing as uniformity in military jargon. Depending on when any given set of any given air operation’s targeteers went to any given target college, different kinds of targets and missions will be called different things. One war’s “interdiction” is another war’s “strategic strike,” just as “command and control” targets can fold into the “infrastructure” target set and then morph into “regime” targets.
But whatever you want to call a regime’s mother-effing state-controlled television and radio stations, the mother-effing mother-effers doing the mother-effing targeteering should bomb the mother-effing monkey mucous out of them in the first fifteen mother-effing minutes of the mother-effing war. It’s next to impossible to believe that these mother-effers were too mother-effing dumb to do that. Talk about theater of the absurd meets film noir. They ought to call the talking chimps running this one-buttock operation The Gang that Couldn’t Bomb Straight.
We’re justified to a certain extent in snickering up our sleeves at the French fire drill our little NATO buddies have created. But we have to remember that NATO actually stands for “The United States and a handful of mostly white schmoes who speak in Romance and Germanic tongues.” The top military commander of NATO is always a U.S. four-star who only takes legal orders from two dudes: America’s secretary of defense and its president. Accountability for this fiasco rolls all the way to the top of the pile.
Of course, it’s comical to invoke the term “legal” in any discussion of our Libyan involvement. In waging it without so much as a by-your-wink-and-nod from Congress, Bombardier Barry has flushed both the Constitution and its freckled stepchild, the War Powers Resolution of 1973, clear down the Potomac, out the Chesapeake Bay and into the Atlantic. Progressive popinjay Juan Cole says the Libyan sock-hop is legit because it’s mandated by a UN resolution, an aegis that he characterizes as the “gold standard for military intervention.” Jesus in a G-string, where do we find such eggheads?
Fops like Cole argue that because the Senate ratified the U.N. Charter it became, as per Article VI of the Constitution, the “supreme law of the land.” Such assertions leave the law-of-the-land clause out of context; it actually appears at the end of a litany that reads “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the…” One can easily show that this order conveys an intended precedence hierarchy: in cases where any of the three may conflict, the Constitution trumps the laws of the United States, which in turn trump treaties. To suggest otherwise is to declare the Constitution an instrument of March hare insanity, a legal framework that says the legislature can legally pass laws that demolish the very framework that legitimizes the legislature and makes its laws legal.
Article I of the Constitution clearly assigns the preponderance of foreign policy powers to the legislature: the powers to ratify treaties, to confirm ambassadors, to regulate international commerce and the military, and to declare war. And it is the legislature, not the executive branch, that the Constitution grants powers to “repel invasion.” So everybody who talks about a president’s “constitutional prerogative” to conduct foreign policy or defend the country is feeding you a line of bull roar. Claims of unitary presidential powers you typically hear from Rolex-sporting prevaricators with degrees in jurisprudence stem from the Federalist Papers, documents that are not the Constitution, nor an amendment to the Constitution, nor an annex nor an addendum nor an attachment to it.
The Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Monroe, three landed cats who didn’t believe democratic government was such a keen idea and who wanted the president to be a sort of dress-down Friday king that they could easily control, which is pretty much what today’s Federalists want. Federalist notions on the subject of presidential powers contrast sharply with those of Founders like Jefferson and Washington and Adams.
The UN charter itself has numerous codicils regarding nations going to war on the Security Council’s say so, most notably its numerous references to “special agreements” that essentially grant that no country has to go to war for the UN unless it really, really wants to. Moreover, since the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council, we can veto any resolution that calls for war, so the UN isn’t going to ask us to fight a war unless it’s a war we crammed down the UN’s throat the way we did with the present cluster bomb in Libya.
So what Cole and fools like him are asserting when they call a UN resolution for war the “gold standard” is that warmongering lunatics like John Bolton and Susie Rice can vote us into any old conflict anytime they want to and the rest of us have to go along with it because the Constitution says we do.
That respected American intellectuals actually think that way and are taken seriously could be the basis of a wholly hilarious SNL sketch if it weren’t so utterly terrifying. I think that we might have, in a decade or so, grown back the toes we shot off with our antics in Iraq and the Bananastans. But I’m afraid this Libya business will prove to be the whimper our republic went out with.
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.