Archive for March, 2011

Libya Does Not Equal Iraq

March 31st, 2011 No comments

In the short time since we became involved, there are already three big myths that are getting perpetuated about the U.S. and its role in Libya:

  1. That Obama was slow to respond to the situation.
  2. That intervention in Libya makes Obama just a repeat of Bush.
  3. That liberals are hypocrites for supporting intervention in Libya and not Iraq.

The first myth comes from neoconservatives, the second from leftist doves and right-leaning libertarians, and the third from conservatives in general. They are all false, and let me explain why.

Libyans on a Tank in BenghaziFirst, the idea of Obama as Hesitater in Chief is one that conservatives have been trying to pin on the President for a while. Many of the people pushing this perspective are the same ones that rushed us into the war in Iraq, using impressive sleight-of-mouth tricks to distract us from their constantly changing rationale. They are what I like to call the “Knee-Jerk Right,” who think the president should whack the big red missile button whenever an international event occurs. Obama does appear to enjoy thinking more than his predecessor did, but that being said, he responded quite quickly to Libya.

Within nine days of the outbreak of fighting in Libya, the Obama administration had already acted with the international community to freeze assets, impose a travel ban, and establish an International Criminal Tribunal. Compare that to Rwanda and the seven months it took for an International Criminal Tribunal, Bosnia and over a year it took for a travel ban & asset freeze (plus three years for a tribunal), and Darfur, which waited two years before it got any of those things. Within 31 days of fighting, Obama declared a no-fly zone in Libya. In former Yugoslavia, civilians were getting bombed for over a year before a no-fly zone was imposed. In Rwanda and Darfur, no such measures were ever taken to protect civilians. There was a long lead-up to the recent Iraq War, and even the First Gulf War did not see hard action until almost six months after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait (during which time Bush Sr. was working with the UN & the Arab League, and building a coalition). So the truth is actually that Obama responded so quickly to the situation in Libya that his critics got whiplash.

Second, because of Obama’s speed and decisive involvement, many libertarians and liberals are outraged at the thought that there was never any change to believe in, and that Obama’s foreign policy is just round two of Bush. Why they have decided that Libya is a repeat of Iraq rather than Bosnia is not clear to me. After all, before neoconservatism there was liberal internationalism – both believing in intervention for the sake of liberty, but the latter stressing cooperative, multilateral action through international organizations. In this light, Obama reminds me more of Clinton, or perhaps Bush the elder.

Simply put, Libya does not equal Iraq.

Yes, they both are Muslim, oil-producing countries. Yes, they both involved a crazy dictator. But no, Iraq was not in the middle of popular revolt against Saddam. Civilians in Libya rose up against the dictatorship of Gaddafi, and when triumph could not be realized as easily as in Egypt, they called on the international community for help. That is the difference between Libya and Iraq, and I think it should be as clear as night and day. The Libyan public asked for our help; the Iraqi public did not. Libyans were already fighting the regime’s forces; Iraqis were not. The president has vast international support in Libya; in Iraq he did not.

Sheesh, the French took military action before we did, for goodness sake, and are more supportive of intervention in Libya than Americans. That alone should prove that Libya is different than Iraq.

Lastly, liberals are not hypocrites for supporting intervention in Libya. This is because Libya does not equal Iraq, and because liberals don’t support intervention in Libya. Don’t get me wrong, some liberals do support the military engagement, but conservative talking heads have got to stop acting like Obama is the Pope of the American Left. Because, unless I missed the memo, Dennis Kucinich, Code Pink, and the antiwar protesters in NYC & San Francisco are all liberals. And they are all against the war. Broad brush generalizations aside, the liberals that do support Obama’s measures are still not hypocrites because of the stark differences between Libya and Iraq that I enumerated above.

Now, none of this means that Obama necessarily made the right call. I currently support the intervention even though parts of it make me uneasy, but hindsight will provide better reflection. Those against Obama’s decisions still have a right to question his disregard for prior Congressional approval, and still have a right to question his goals (and whether or not he sufficiently defined them). Others may celebrate Obama’s willingness to roll up his sleeves to help the people of Libya, but wonder “Why not Syria, why not Yemen, Bahrain, or Ivory Coast?” Those are legitimate questions as well, and I don’t have time to address them all here.

All I want to get across is that you mustn’t believe the myths. This is a complicated situation we find ourselves in, and a lot of interested parties are going to try to sell you their stories, whether they’re reasonable or not.

Stacking Up the Competition

March 13th, 2011 2 comments

Potential Republican candidates seem hesitant to announce any presidential aspirations, and the race is already starting (or continuing to not start) much later than in past cycles. In the midst of all of this hemming and hawing and aw-shucks-I-don’t-know maneuvering, a tentative outline of Obama’s would-be challengers are starting to come into focus. This is how the competition stacks up so far:

Mitt Romney smilingMitt Romney
Horse Race Status: Early frontrunner
Likelihood of Running: Almost certain
Credentials: Former Gov. of Massachusetts, ran for Prez in 2008, former CEO of Bain Capital
Strengths: Fundraising, good looks, economic chops, being seen as “electable”
Weaknesses: Mormonism, health care law he passed in MA

Photo of Mike HuckabeeMike Huckabee
Horse Race Status: Early frontrunner
Likelihood of Running: Likely
Credentials: Former Gov. of Arkansas, ran for Prez in 2008
Strengths: Likability, public speaking, fact that he’s an ordained minister
Weaknesses: Fundraising, lack of insider support

Photo of Tim PawlentyTim Pawlenty
Horse Race Status: Dark horse
Likelihood of Running: Almost certain
Credentials: Former Gov. of Minnesota
Strengths: Doing & saying all the right things
Weaknesses: Just seems to lack the “it” factor

Photo of Sarah PalinSarah Palin
Horse Race Status: Overhyped, 2nd tier
Likelihood of Running: Who knows
Credentials: 1/2 term former Gov. of Alaska, McCain’s running mate in 2008
Strengths: GOP base loves her
Weaknesses: Dumb as a bucket of fish

Photo of Newt GingrichNewt Gingrich
Horse Race Status: 2nd tier
Likelihood of Running: Almost certain
Credentials: Former Speaker of the House
Strengths: Political shrewdness, convincing salesman
Weaknesses: History of infidelity, image as Washington insider

Michele Bachmann
Horse Race Status: Wild card
Likelihood of Running: Unclear
Credentials: Minnesota House Rep. & founder of Tea Party Caucus
Strengths: Strong Tea Party support
Weaknesses: Completely batcrap insane

Photo of Rick SantorumRick Santorum
Horse Race Status: Back of the pack
Likelihood of Running: Very Likely
Credentials: Former Sen. of Pennsylvania
Strengths: Conservative on all counts
Weaknesses: Google “Santorum”

Photo of Ron PaulRon Paul
Horse Race Status: Back of the pack
Likelihood of Running: 50/50
Credentials: Texas House Rep., ran for Prez in 2008 (as Republican) & 1988 (as Libertarian)
Strengths: Active & loyal supporters, consistent libertarian values
Weaknesses: Not taken seriously, lack of insider support

Photo of Herman CainHerman Cain
Horse Race Status: Wild card
Likelihood of Running: Unclear
Credentials: Radio talk-show host & former CEO of Godfather Pizza
Strengths: Tea Party darling
Weaknesses: See credentials
(Photo: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

Photo of Haley BarbourHaley Barbour
Horse Race Status: Back of the pack
Likelihood of Running: Likely
Credentials: Gov. of Mississippi
Strengths: Southern Conservatism
Weaknesses: History as a lobbyist, past racial scandals

Photo of Mitch DanielsMitch Daniels
Horse Race Status: Dark horse
Likelihood of Running: Less likely
Credentials: Gov. of Indiana, served in Bush Jr.’s cabinet
Strengths: Baby-blue eyes, political insiders see potential
Weaknesses: Mitch who?

Photo of Jon HuntsmanJon Huntsman
Horse Race Status: Back of the pack
Likelihood of Running: Very Likely
Credentials: Ambassador to China, former Gov. Utah
Strengths: Foreign policy experience
Weaknesses: Will have worked for Obama for two years (explain that to Tea Party)

Photo of Buddy RoemerBuddy Roemer
Horse Race Status: Back of the pack
Likelihood of Running: Very likely
Credentials: CEO of Business First Bank, former Gov. of Louisiana
Strengths: Named “Buddy”?
Weaknesses: Last political position was 20 years ago, used to be a Democrat

Special mentions:
Donald Trump – acts like he’s seriously considering running. God help us.
Jimmy McMillan – yes, the “The Rent is Too Damn High” guy says he’s going to run as a Republican for president in 2012. Get ready for “the deficit is too damn high.”

Personal notes:
In my opinion, Mitt Romney is the guy to beat. His economic message is giving him an edge in credibility, and therefore fundraising. In elections, fundraising success breeds more fundraising success, which lends more credibility, so Romney is in an upward cycle unless someone breaks it.
Still, someone could do just that, and I think Huckabee, Pawlenty, or maybe possibly Gingrich or Barbour are the only ones that might have a chance.
Conversely, I think the only candidates that could give Obama a run for his money in a general election are Romney, Huckabee, and maybe Jon Huntsman.

In short, I would watch Romney and Huckabee. One of them is extremely likely to be the nominee. If Huckabee declines to run, I would have trouble seeing anything other than a Romney-Pawlenty ticket or something very similar.

War in Wisconsin

March 8th, 2011 2 comments

Wisconsin Budget Protesters in the SnowLast month saw war break out in Wisconsin, over labor unions. In case you missed the headlines, this is basically how it went down:

Gov. Scott Walker: We have a budget shortfall and we have to make some hard choices. Therefore I’ve proposed a bill to destroy labor unions in Wisconsin.
Democratic State Senators: What??? We’re not going back to the Gilded Age!
Walker: What’s wrong with the Gilded Age?
Dems: We were willing to negotiate benefits and compensation, but getting rid of collective bargaining rights would mean families could just get steamrolled by their employers!
Walker: Oh, speaking of steamrolling, we Republicans control a majority of the State Senate, so you can’t really stop us.
Dems: Wait, it says in the State Constitution that the Wisconsin Senate needs at least 3/5 of its members present to vote on budgetary issues… if we don’t show up, they’ll be one short and can’t pass the bill!
Repubs: What??? Ok, well it also says the Seargant at Arms can “compel” the attendance of absent members…
Dems: We’re leaving the state – compel this! (Obscene gesture)
Sergeant at Arms: State troopers, after them!
State troopers: Too late, sorry. By the way, are you taking our bargaining rights away?
Repubs: No, you guys and firefighters are exempt. Because we like you.
News Media: Breaking news! Wisconsin state senators are hiding in another state and pro-union protesters have swarmed the Wisconsin Senate waving Egyptian flags!
American Public: WTF??

Now at this point in the story, if you’re like me, you might’ve just thought, wow, the Republicans are acting like jerks and the Democrats like children. I mean, the union-busting thing is harsh and radical, but running away and hiding out of state? Really?
But then things got more interesting:

Walker (picking up phone): Hello, who is this?
Liberal blogger: Oh hi Scott, this is David Koch, the oil tycoon who helped fund your campaign. How’s it going crushing those union bastards?
Walker: We’re holding strong. I’d be willing to talk to the Dem leader only if all 14 of them come back and sit in the assembly. When they do that we’ll have quorum, and then we can pass the bill behind their backs during the recess.
Liberal blogger: Beautiful. We’ll back you any way we can. We were thinking about planting some troublemakers in the crowd.
Walker: We thought about that, but if the protesters cause a ruckus it might make people call on me to solve the problem. Better to let them protest until the media stops finding it interesting.
Liberal blogger: Well, once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.
Walker: Alright, that would be outstanding.


Liberal blogger: Hey everybody! Listen to this prank call I recorded!
Walker: You gotta be kidding me.
American Public: WTF?
Walker: I just want to talk to the Dems…
Adm. Ackbar: It’s a TRAP!!!
Dems: What a corrupt a-hole!
Walker: Everybody calm down, I’m just doing what is necessary for the budget.
Dems: But there wasn’t a budget shortfall until you cut corporate taxes!
Wisconsin fiscal bureau: Actually, Wisconsin might end the year with a surplus.
Repubs: Blah, blah, blah, why do liberals just want to start class warfare all the time?
John Stewart: Doesn’t taking money from teachers and giving it to bankers count as class warfare?
Shep Smith of Fox News: There’s no budget crisis. This is purely political. Unions contribute big time to Democrats, so if you bust the unions, you bust the Democrats.
MSNBC: Wow, we agree with… the Fox News guy.
Walker: Big unions are dragging down the economy and getting in the way of responsible budgets.
Economists: Actually the five states prohibiting collective bargaining are in much worse budget crises than Wisconsin.
Walker: Well, I’m doing what’s best for Wisconsin.
Pollsters: A majority of Wisconsinites oppose Walker’s plan.
Dems: See, we’re not just being dicks.
News Media: The protesters are growing in number and not relenting. Protests are spreading to other states with similar measures being debated.
John Stewart: It’s the “Bizarro Tea Party” – the liberal grassroots are waking up!
Glenn Beck: These protests are part of an Islamo-socialist alliance that is spreading across the globe, starting with the revolutions in the Middle East!
American Public: WTF?
Repubs: Well we’re going to fine the Dems $100 for each day they’re absent and pass a resolution ordering their arrest!
Legal Experts: We don’t think that’s legal…
Green Bay Packers: We stand with the protesters.
Charlie Sheen: Winning!

And that pretty much wraps up the War in Wisconsin so far.

Categories: Deficit/Debt, Economy Tags: ,