Today, the President of the United States (through an administration person) opined in a Congressional hearing that Gaddaffi will prevail in Libya.

We’re not supposed to say stuff like that. Is anyone home?

22 responses to “Huh?

  1. maybe the President told him to say that.


  2. I don’t think we should help Gaddafi hang on. Other than that I don’t like to criticize plane speaking. As the fight drags on, it would seem the government in Libya would have a better chance of prevailing.


    • I agree bruce that Libya will probably prevail. But the ocmments of that staffer were entirely inappropriate. It’s like he was getting ready to place a bet. Bad form – the gov’t can THINK that, but the gov’t should not SAY that.


  3. He definitely should not have said that.

    That said, Gaddafi will likely prevail. From a strategic perspective, he is doing the right thing: recapturing and securing Libya’s oil fields. Once he accomplishes that, he will have enough leverage to settle with the West.

    The United States is too tapped out to intervene given its commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as being prepared for a war on the Korean Peninsula). That leaves the Europeans, which aside from the Brits, have no spine to do much of anything.

    As usual, the U.N. will hem and haw, but ultimately do nothing.

    Gaddafi’s actions are despicable and immoral, but for a Middle Eastern despot, he is doing what is necessary for him to maintain power. Hafez al Assad killed 20,000 people in Syria in the 1980s to achieve the same goal. And he succeeded in maintaining power.

    Most Americans are not even aware of what happened and know nothing about Hama. Sadly, so goes Libya…


    • Sean, I think you’re exactly right. As George Will asked yesterday, do we REALLY want to be engaged in military action in THREE Muslim countries?

      Korea? How oculd we even deal with Korea if it happened? Do we really have the capacity any more?


      • I brought up North Korea because it is in the midst of an inter-generational power transition, is running out of food, and tensions are high with South Korea.

        The media only tends to cover things when they boil up, but is frequently absent when there are things still going on under the surface.

        In regard to how we would deal with Korea, the land forces we have there are mainly to serve as a trip-wire for an American committment. That is, if the North attacks the South, they will undoubtedly kill Americans and thus draw us into the conflict.

        The good news is that the Air Force and Navy would be the most heavily involved unless the ROK ground forces failed to stop a DPRK advance before it reaches Pusan. Then, welcome to the draft.

        But in terms of cost, Iraq and Afghanistan would pale in comparison. The DPRK has enough artillery to destroy Seoul, which likely would trigger a crash in global financial markets.

        Then one would have to worry about the proliferation of DPRK nuclear materials in the case of a North Korean collapse.

        We would win because the North Koreans would run out of supplies and food, but it would be a bloody mess with hundreds of thousands of casualties.

        Not to mention the fact that entire US military has been focused on counterinsurgency training in the past decade and would need to quickly retrain to fight massive convential battles in dense, urbanized and rocky terrain.

        In sum, it would be a bloody, terrible, and expensive mess. We have the air forces and naval forces to participate, but the Army and the Marines would be stretched to near the breaking point if ROK forces do not hold the line.


        • A disturbing scenario. How about tossing in instability in Pakistan. A nuclear power with traditional rival India on the east and the Taliban on its western border. Doesn’t even bear thinking about .

          Sometimes I want to be a turtle so I can just withdraw under my shell.


          • Yeah. Doubling down in Afghanistan never made sense to me (even though many conservatives supported it).

            The optimal strategy is a light footprint on the ground and maximum leverage of UAVs in the air. The goal should be to eliminate al Qada and the Taliban, not to build a democracy amidst a population with tribal ties lasting thousands of years.

            Plus the terrain is not flat like Iraq, where a surge strategy worked. The military brass should have known better.

            Also having a big footprint in Afghanistan pushes forces into Pakistan and further risks destabilizing that country.

            I may be a conservative, but I am a pragmatic one, and the way we are fighting this war does not compute when it comes to vital interests.

            I don’t advocate a withdrawal, just a more covert, less resource intensive campaign with lots of UAV’s in the sky.


          • Sean – our blind march into Iraq and occupation of that country was wrong on so many levels. But at least Iraq had a tradition of central government to which it’s returning. And, apparently, just as corrupt as before.

            But Afghanistan was a fool’s errand from DAy 1. The invasion there was really to get Al Qaeda and punish the Taliban; it was coincidence that Afghanistan was the country in which it all happened. But we abandoned the AQ search and in any case, the Taliban are back.

            I don’t think we can eliminate the Taliban, they’re too organic to Afghanistan. And – repeating myself I fear – the most awful thing is that when eventually we leave AFghanistan, things will be as they were before we went in. Someone will kill Karzai and the internal fighting will be on once again.

            It would be sweet, however, to get Osama. But he’s probably living in Vegas by now . . .


  4. I disagree people…..DNI Clapper has been getting beat up because people say he’s out of the loop…..

    He didn’t just say that….
    That conclusion came from the CIA, DIA and others ….
    IF the French, NATO and US doesn’t help the anti-Gaddaffi movement it may fail….
    My guess is the other countries are going to go more active in providing help even if the US doesn’t help militarily….

    Right now the US will be thinking about Japan first….


  5. Clapper got it right……


  6. “Sean – our blind march into Iraq and occupation of that country was wrong on so many levels. But at least Iraq had a tradition of central government to which it’s returning. And, apparently, just as corrupt as before. ”

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. The way the administration marketed the campaign was a disaster and it made three critical mistakes in the beginning that imperiled the mission (i.e., 1) it went in with too few troops, 2) it disbanded the Iraqi Army and 3) it disbanded the Baath Party). In my opinion, the real reasons we got involved are much more nuanced than anything I’ve seen in the media.

    I know I probably won’t change your mind, but this is my personal view for what it is worth because neither the right nor the left has ever clearly articulated it:

    The single biggest reason was weapons of mass destruction, which the U.N. to this day has never accounted for since the early 90s. One day they were there, the next they were gone. I was in the military at the time and we were “certain” that Iraq had them. Alas, the problem with intelligence.

    The second reason was oil. The Saudi kingdom’s hold over its country (and its oil fields) became uncertain after 9/11. In order to maintain power and a sense of legitimacy, the Saudis needed us out of the country. If you look at US troop levels in Saudi Arabia, they were around 7,000 pre-9/11 and dropped down to 200 or so after.

    That said, oil is so critical in our economy that we needed to maintain a presence in the Gulf to ensure the stable flow of that resource. Given Iraq’s violation of 16 or so U.N. resolutions and his military’s targeting of our aircraft lawfully enforcing the U.N.’s no-fly zone, Iraq was a logical place for the center of American military gravity in the Middle East.

    The third reason we got involved, in my view, and that the military could not publicize, was to effect a “honey-pot” strategy. Rumor has it (and this is rumor, so I cannot independently verify it), that a secondary benefit of war in Iraq is that it would draw radical jihadhists like flies to a US military venus fly trap in the Middle East and thereby spare the homeland a greater number of post-9/11 terrorist attacks. As a former military officer, such a strategy made logical sense, because it is easier to root out and fight terrorists from a tank than it is from a skyscraper.

    Our kill ratios have never been published, but my understanding is that in some engagements (e.g., with Muktada al Sadr’s forces), they were on the order of 30 to 1. As in any physics equation, you have an input and an output. As long as you eliminate more terrorists than you create, you are successful. The point is that the U.S. military was able to take the fight to the enemy and thereby disrupted the enemy’s ability to take the fight to the United States.

    That said, were we not so dependent on foreign oil, there would be no need to fight these wars because it is unlikely they would be in our national interest.

    Also, it is worth mentioning that the administration’s spreading democracy argument to start a war holds absolutely no water with me. I may be conservative, but I am no Wilsonian or neocon. I don’t believe it is in our interests to go to war in order to spread democracy.

    Anyway. My two cents.


    • [That said, were we not so dependent on foreign oil, there would be no need to fight these wars because it is unlikely they would be in our national interest.]

      That’s the heart of it all, isn’t it. I’m a realist; sure we need oil and countries do go to war to ‘protect their interests’. But we go to war a LOT. More than any other country ever has in modern times. And to the immorality of it all – we make absolutely no effort to conserve oil – big cars, low mileage, gov’t subsidies, not enough taxation on gasoline – plus we think it’s okay to keep every big box parking lot lit up like the noonday sun all night every night. We leave on every light in the house. We make no effort at all, at least no serious effort, to develop alternatives – I’ll never forget Reagan tearing Carter’s solar panels off the White House. If we’d been invested in improving solar storage cells and making them more affordable for the last 30 years, would we have gone to Iraq?

      By the way, I suspect you’ve read a lot of the books written in the last decade about Iraq. If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend “Imperial Life in the Emerald City”, “Assassins’ Gate” – I’ve forgotten the title of others that were just as good, but those two are excellent on the disaster of Bremer. And maybe the best I”ve ever read about Afgthanistan was written years before 9/11 – “Ghost Wars” by Steve Coll. It’s great background to where Afghanistan is today – about the CIA was in the 80’s.

      Democracy at the end of a gun? Nope. You got that right.


  7. “But we go to war a LOT.”

    MOE, I agree, which is why I think we have passed, are in, or nearing the period of peak oil production. When resources become scarce, civilizations are more likely to fight.

    Solar cells are part of the answer for peaking power, but nuclear is a better and cheaper solution for baseload power. Alas, I fear that the Japanese tsumani will result in another 50 year mothballing of a good power source that produces zero carbon emissions. People in Northern California (where I live) are already freaking out about fallout from the reactors, which I think is ridiculous at this point.

    And I say this from someone who grew up two hours from Three Mile Island. Both my grandparents live in the same city as that power plant. My grandfather lived until he was 91 and my grandmother lived into her late 80s.

    I will try to take at the book’s you’ve recommended. I get a lot of my intel on Iraq and Afghanistan from folks on the ground. The sad conclusion for me is that Islam has still not gone through an Enlightenment Period like the West did, which had the benefit of separating science from religion and ultimately church from state.


    • Sean
      I think you’re right that Japan has suddenly made nuclear unpopular again; it was just gaining ground. But I’m not sure that it will change things because too often we have very short memories. We really need to work at developing alternate non fossil energy sources; I’m not nuts about nuclear (there is that little disposal problem) but it beats accelerating global warming. So I guess I favor it as a necessary evil right now. (by the way, what do France and Japan and the others do with their spent fuel? Do you know?)

      As for oil, I keep seeing stories suggesting the Saudis really don’t have the reserves we think they do.


      • I think everyone has a similar disposal problem. The French bury theirs deep underground, but now the people are starting to oppose it. That said, France (I hate saying this) has one of the best nuclear programs in the world. About 70-80% of their electricity comes from nuclear power.

        As for Japan, I am not sure what they do. I suppose they bury it as well.

        The hysteria out on the West Coast has reached the point in which people have bought out supplies of potassium iodide, which is silly. As a former Army officer, I am, of course prepared and have my own stores of potassium iodide. I might even sell some on eBay if people continue to panic and for the right price. Sometimes people can be extremely irrational. The level of exposure in Japan is only twice what a normal U.S. nuclear worker can be exposed to in one year (5 rems).

        “As for oil, I keep seeing stories suggesting the Saudis really don’t have the reserves we think they do.”

        Yup. The Saudis used to publish detailed field-by-field estimates every year until about 1986. Now their data is a black hole. Matt Simmons has written a great book about Saudi oil production in exacting detail called Twilight in the Desert. It is a bit of a laborious read, but the conclusion is basically that we are not in Kansas anymore.


  8. You should be aware that the most positive story on energy is that supplies of natural gas are growing and prices have tanked. I think we’ll see more efforts to substitue gas for oil, or should. The only fly in that ointment is that there are some environmental concerns about fracing for natural gas. Look under shale gas is you’re interested.


  9. I live in Oregon, and I’m not really sensing much panic. Maybe it’s working for the electric company and who I hang with.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s