Friday, March 25, 2011

PUNDIT PREP - THE WHITE HOUSE RESPONDS: "1) The lead seems to breeze past this statement 'having largely succeeded in stopping a rout of Libya's rebels,' with no acknowledgement that this is the core goal of the mission and the [Security Council resolution]. 2) The story asserts that 'Only on Thursday, the sixth day of air and missile strikes' did we give command of the [no-fly zone] to NATO. What is the standard you're comparing this effort to that leads you to believe 6 days is slow? Moreover, what should have happened that hasn't during those six days that impacted our core objective? 3) You assert that the coalition is fraying, but the trajectory is nothing but positive. First they agreed on AWACS. Then they agreed on implementing the arms embargo. Now they've agreed on giving C2 of the no fly zone to NATO. And they've tasked the planning to put civilian protection under NATO C2 as well. On top of that, you saw the UAE commit 6 F-16s and 6 Mirages today. How is that fraying?

"The international community has responded to Qaddafi's actions with unprecedented speed. It took two years of fighting in the former Yugoslavia before the UNSC passed a resolution establishing an [International Criminal Court] referral. It took 3 months for an arms embargo, and more than a year for an asset freeze and two years for a travel ban. Those things happened in 9 days in Libya. NATO began Operation Deliberate Force-the air campaign against Serb military forces, who had attacked civilians in UN Safe Areas in Bosnia-in August 1995, more than four years after the first bombing by Yugoslav Air Force against civilian targets in Croatia, and more than three years after the start of attacks against civilians in Bosnia.

"In March 1999, NATO began Operation Allied Force, an air campaign against Yugoslav ground forces in Kosovo and strategic targets in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This was more than a year after Serbian police began a series of violent raids in the Drenica region of Kosovo. Operation Odyssey Dawn commenced on March 19, two days after UNSCR 1973 was adopted by the Security Council, and 31 days after beginning of the Libyan peoples' uprising against Gaddafi. Somehow we have lost a needed sense of historical perspective in this discussion. Things that took years are taking days and weeks. Unprecedented support from Arab states is treated as cursory. And the prevention of a mass slaughter of Libyan people is written about as if it were not the core goal of the effort, but rather an aside."

In Defense of ‘Dithering’ By TIMOTHY EGAN NYTimes

Five years ago a young politician who seemed wise beyond his years was asked by Tim Russert what makes a great president. It was the kind of question that Russert, who could prompt more news in a single interview than entire cable operations do in a year, was so good at.

The politician took a thought breath before proceeding: “Obviously, most of the time it seems that the president has maybe 10 percent of his agenda set by himself, and 90 percent of it set by circumstance.”

Barack Obama: meet your 90 percent. The senator who so accurately predicted how events make the leader now finds himself a president trying to lead through those events.
In the process, despite a largely incoherent chorus of second-guessers, Obama has settled into a groove of reflective dithering before making his decisions. For the most part, it has served him well.

Think back to … oh, all of one week ago. The mercenaries of Muammar el-Qaddafi were closing in for the slaughter of people trying to take a breath of the same Arab Spring air going around Tunisia and Egypt.
Had Obama done nothing, as the Dennis Kucinich fringe Democrats and the Ron Paul isolationist Republicans would have it, the blood of many civilians would be filling the streets of Benghazi. Don’t forget: the regime had promised to chase its own citizens into closets and butcher them.

Or, had Obama put U.S. troops on the ground, as the imperious former Bush “diplomat” John Bolton insisted, a humanitarian mission would now be seen as another superpower invasion of an oil-rich Arab nation.

In his deliberative fashion, Obama ultimately saved countless lives in the short term, and will allow the rebels in Libya to own their revolution in the long term, if they can push ahead — a big if, of course. In the meantime, the economic and diplomatic noose will tighten around Qaddafi and the people he pays to kill on his behalf.

What Obama wanted to avoid, as he discussed during that same Russert interview, was the “messianic certainty” that led President George W. Bush to start a disastrous, trillion-dollar occupation of Iraq. In putting together an international coalition, backed by a United Nations resolution and the Arab League — all in record time — Obama also pulled off a nice bit of statecraft. And, had he used another day to reach out to Congress, there would be much less criticism at home.

Still, Republicans can’t cope with a president who tries to think before he leaps. Mitt Romney, who wakes most mornings in a groggy scramble to find his principles, faults Obama for the nuance of his Libya policy. How dare the president see shades of gray instead of black and white!

Newt Gingrich first criticized Obama for not imposing a no-fly zone, but now hits him for imposing a no-fly zone. You read that right. “I would not have intervened,” Gingrich said a few days ago. This followed a statement, barely two weeks ago, where he said he would intervene “this evening.” And he now calls the air strikes over Libya the worst foreign policy blunder in his lifetime.

Overstatement and misjudgment are Gingrich’s stock in trade — two reasons why he’ll never be president. He can always be counted on to fulminate on demand, with consistency the only casualty; the subject doesn’t matter.

The real problem for Republicans is that they are perplexed over what position to take on an issue that defies partisanship. So, Obama’s least-thoughtful critics attack him for thinking.

Ponderous deliberation, which doesn’t sit well in an age when we all move information with our thumbs, has been a hallmark of the Obama presidency from the beginning. His 90 percent of circumstances started on Inauguration Day, when Bush handed him the worse recession since the Great Depression, and continued through an oil spill that nearly poisoned an entire ecosystem.

During the spill, it was liberal cable pundits who wanted a president who could shout, emote and point fingers. Instead, he quickly negotiated a $20 billion escrow fund from BP that attempts to make whole those hurt by the spill. Similar success followed with the auto bailout, which saved General Motors, but cost Obama much of his early political capital.

There are certainly inconsistencies in the Obama approach to Libya. Why not help the protesters who are clubbed and jailed by our ally in Bahrain? “Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma?” Obama asked in one of his books. “We can’t arbitrate a civil war,” he argued. As president, those questions are no longer Hyde Park parlor debates.

A poll just published by Reuters/Ipsos found 48 percent of respondents describing Obama’s military leadership as “cautious and consultative.”
Another 36 percent chose “indecisive and dithering.”

I would argue that the combined 84 percent are basically saying the same thing — that this president is anything but impulsive.
 And next year, with an improving economy in a world where the United States is held in much higher regard, most people will probably choose a president who takes time to get it right, rather than one who is afraid to dither for a good outcome.