|Obama casually inquiring about the dead bodies in Libya|
It’s one thing to say that the U.S. is right to take action against Moammar Gadhafi. It’s quite another to insist that it’s not even a war. And it’s simply dishonest to do so while escalating the war.
But that’s the spin from the Obama White House. While the president travelled through Latin America, his aides told sympathetic audiences in Washington that Operation Odyssey Dawn “is a limited humanitarian intervention, not war,” in the words of White House Mideast troubleshooter Dennis Ross. A letter to Congress notifying lawmakers that Odyssey Dawn was in effect studiously avoided the word “war,” preferring the more anodyne “military efforts” — which are “discrete” and “limited in their nature, duration, and scope.”
Ross’ remarks are outright deceptive. And it fits a pattern with President Obama: escalating U.S. military commitments while portraying them as essentially finite and limited.
For one thing, the fight is intensifying, not dropping off. On Sunday, the U.S.-led coalition flew 60 sorties over Libya; Monday it flew nearly 80; on Wednesday it flew 175. At this moment, American pilots are bombing and shooting at Gadhafi’s armor and artillery units on the outskirts of Libyan cities. Off the shores of Libya, a bevy of Navy ships and subs have launched over 160 Tomahawk missiles.
And to be up front about calling it a war would risk unraveling Obama’s contention that the war should be limited. It’s reasonable to ask whether the explicit goal of the war, now that it’s underway, should be to overthrow Gadhafi; which might require arming the opposition; or even devoting ground troops — all steps Obama wants to avoid. But those are arguments for caution about starting a war with Libya, not for pretending that the one the White House has ordered doesn’t exist.
This is getting to be a habit for Obama. First he expanded the scope of the U.S. counterterrorism efforts to Pakistan and Yemen, places that at least arguably exceed the 2001 congressional mandate for military action. Then he rejected congressional offers to openly debate a reauthorization of the war. When Obama ordered a 30,000-troop surge into Afghanistan — atop his earlier increase of 21,000 troops — he vowed the escalation would end this July. But only minimal numbers of troops will come home this year, and his senior aides are talking about an indefinite stay by at least some U.S. forces after 2014. (Indeed, at a dinner on Tuesday night, White House “war czar” Doug Lute said that would serve as an “insurance policy” against Afghanistan going down the tubes.)
If Obama’s aim is to conduct limited wars, he’s not doing it very well. And he’s certainly not coming clean to the public about what he’s doing. Somewhere, George W. Bush is smirking with vindication.
Spencer Ackerman in Wired.com. More Here.