Thursday, April 28, 2011

NATO Gets The Credit, We Get The Blame

We spend money, lose credibility, and guarantee our continued slide in world status.

Your wife asks, “Honey, does this sweater make me look fatter or thinner than the other one?” No matter what you say, you’re wrong.

The Tunisian street vendor who ignited himself and a chain reaction in North Africa and the Middle East put the US in a no-win situation. Disregarding any of the issues concerning Libyan intervention --who is right or wrong, Qaddafi, Muslim Brotherhood, etc. -- the US will emerge one way or another with baggage, most likely negative.

The question as to what we should do or should have done is, in my view, unanswerable. Siding with the eventual winner is the only possible way to win politically, and even that isn’t certain. Unfortunately, of course, the President doesn’t have a crystal ball in the Oval Office to pick the winning side. Besides, whoever appears to be the winner today may flip on us in a few short years.

No, it’s hard to imagine any scenario that ends up well for the US. In listening to the 24-hour pundathons, I haven’t heard anyone come up with a conceivable “good” outcome - just which outcomes are least horrible. We will be chastised if the rebels win because we interfered. We will be chastised if they lose, for letting “innocent” people die. At best we break even, but most likely we lose. It’s not a good position to be in.

My prediction, though, is guaranteed: NATO will get the credit - the US will get the blame. If everything should turn out super peachy, NATO will get all the credit, even though we paid for it. Even our apologetic president will give NATO the credit. If everything turns sour, we will get all the blame, plus we paid for it. If some good happens and some bad happens, NATO will get credit for the good stuff and we will be excoriated for the bad stuff. Plus, we paid for most of it – even though France and others have more at stake than we do.

And all this at a cost of a Billions dollars -- even without mission creep, which is already taking place. Let’s hope it’s no more than that, but dollars to donuts it will be by a “fur piece."

Certainly you can’t blame Obama for any of the existing problems in the Middle East; they were there long before he was President. Remember Barry McGuire’s 1965 hit Eve of Destruction, “And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’.’” Obama was four years old.

Sure, had Obama not been an apologetic back seat president to this point in his administration, we would have retained our general standing in the world and kept our respectability up. Who knows, maybe our respect level would have remained high enough that just a threat from us would have frightened Qaddafi into stepping down. Recall that after the US went into Iraq, Qaddafi tossed out his nuclear program as fast as he could. He was terrified we would come after him.

But on this issue, let’s face it; the Middle East is a lost cause and there really isn’t anything we can do. I do care about American interests as far as we can promote them (including the health and safety of Israel), but whether we do so by supporting dictators or “free” democracies is not that important. Supporting whoever is good for us should be our first priority. Hopefully that falls on the side of human rights and democracy. But, as we know, democracy in the Middle East is hard to define. Years from now when Iraq’s democracy is well seasoned, we may have an idea whether the concept is feasible or not. Until then we don’t have a clue. We should leave them well enough alone to decide their own fate except for, as mentioned, protecting American interests.

To that end, Obama is not without serious error in his handling of this crisis. In many ways, his actions have mirrored his presidency to date. First, he dithered around in his usual fashion, dodging questions and changing what we think is his view and what we think he wants, all the while appearing to us and the rest of the world as a weak, indecisive president; impossible to rely on. He said he wanted Mubarek in, then out. He wanted a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians but not to get rid of Qaddafi. Then he said Qaddafi must go. It’s bad enough that you have no idea what to do without opening your mouth and broadcasting it to the rest of the world.

Some might say that Obama, as leader of the free world (questionable designation at this point), was obligated to take a position and place his bets. Maybe. As of now, it’s hard to see how he could have come across any worse had he just kept silent instead of publicizing his dithering. Theoretically he wanted a “joint effort” by other countries and the UN or NATO, which he theoretically got. Obama’s supporters in this action proclaim that he, unlike cowboy George Bush who said it’s “our way or the highway,” was triumphant by gaining approval of the international community. The fact that his joint effort by the “international community” does not include India, China, Russia, Brazil, or Germany (who would, I’m quite sure, like to be included as international players) must be unimportant.

No, Obama timed everything perfectly. He was able to demonstrate weakness on our part, turn over control of our interests and military to a disjointed and non-cohesive committee for a project with no perceived end, make us appear responsible for the outcome and health of the Libyan people who, along with the rest of the Arab world, will not like us when this is all over anyway.

Did I mention that we get to pay for most of it?

All so that NATO can get the credit. And we can get the blame.

Mercer Tyson

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