U.S. Actions in Libya

Copyright 2011 by John T. Reed

What a freaking disaster!

Incompetence on parade

Obama is not competent to hold any job other than entry-level lawyer. He graduated from law school. He already tried entry-level lawyer and, I surmise, flopped at it. So maybe he is not even competent at that.

Unfortunately, he is the president of the United States, the most important, most difficult job in the world.

His incompetence is evident every day, but no more so than when a crisis happens.

His mode of leadership is to outsource leading to Democrats in Congress. How’s that working out for ya?

But it is in the various crises that pop up where Obama’s profound incompetence reveals itself most. The problem is crises force him to actually lead himself. For example, he could not delegate the BP oil spill to Nancy Pelosi. He would have if he could, but all the TV cameras pointed at him and there was no logical basis for him to delegate his authority to a Congresswoman in a non-legislative matter.

So he spazzed out threatening to “kick ass” and pretending he had the slightest idea of how to stop an oil leak or the slightest way of doing so. He was just a spectator like the rest of us, but posing as a leader. About all his people did was interfere with the Louisiana state efforts with such things as stopping boom boats to make sure they had enough life jackets and refusing to allow various approaches to dealing with the oil washing up on the Louisiana coast. And, although it had nothing to do with the oil spill, he shut down all Gulf oil rigs—many of which have now been removed from the gulf and are operating in foreign country waters—even though he had announced expanded drilling in U.S. waters only a short time before the BP spill. He voted for expanded drilling before he voted against it. A real leader would be consistent because he had some core principles. Obama’s only core principle is the  greater glory of Obama and that offers no guidance on the actual job of being president like  how to handle an oil spill or a revolt or nuclear accident in some foreign country

When pirates took U.S. merchant mariners hostage, he had to have 17 meetings and phone calls to order the SEALS to shoot the sonsabitches. Had I been president, I would have told the first underling who called me to take care of it using his own judgment, and chewed his ass for wasting time and trying to put the monkey on my back.


The word most media people have been using in the Libya uprising is the same one they used when Obama was deciding how many more troops to put in Afghanistan: dither. Here are the definitions of that word:

• A state of indecisive agitation.

• To be nervously irresolute in acting or doing.

Uncertain trumpet

Maxwell Taylor is one of my fellow West Point graduates. He commanded the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day and until the end of World War II, was superintendent of West Point, and was chief of staff of the U.S. Army 1955-59. Taylor resigned in protest of the Army’s then unwise over-reliance on nuclear weapons. He was John F. Kennedy’s main military adviser. President Kennedy’s brother Robert, the Attorney General, was so impressed width Taylor that he named one of his sons Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, Max for short.

Taylor was chosen by the Kennedys because of his 1960 book  The Uncertain Trumpet. The title comes from a Bible verse:

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 1 Corinthians 14:8

A leader needs to speak with conviction and confidence. The public is most familiar with this in the performances of professional sports officials. The tougher the call, the more certainty with which they signal their decision.

That is the theater of officiating.

Must have confidence and convey it

There is also theater to leading. The degree to which the public follows is dependent on the degree to which they perceive that the leader knows what he is doing and is confident his direction is the right one. The higher the stakes, the greater the confidence and certainty the leader must display.

When buglers were actually used in battle—through the Vietnam war if you count the enemy—the buglers had to blow their bugle commands with perfect certainty. That is what the Bible verse refers to. The bugle was the commander’s voice in the era before electronic communications.

Barack Obama is NOT certain he is doing the right thing, and he is NOT capable of successfully pretending that he is. As a consequence, he is sending men into battle and leading a nation into a new war utterly without the confidence and determination that warriors and the public must have to persist and prevail.

The only thing worse than a leader who does not know what he is doing is a leader who does not know what he is doing and who cannot hide that.

Working assumption confidence

In football coaching, one of my areas of expertise, we sometimes have to call for an onside kick when we are behind at the end of a game. A play like that is based on an assumption: not a probability assumption, a working assumption. Probability-wise the kick will probably fail. Most onside kicks do. But the coach must make the working assumption that it will succeed because there is no other path to victory at that moment. And he must convey that working assumption with total confidence to the players.

Okay guys, which team in this league uses the onside kick the most?

We do, coach!

That’s right. And which team is the best at it?

We are, coach!

Right again. And which coach in this league wrote the book on managing the clock?

You did, coach!

And which team in this league runs the two-minute drill better than anyone else?

We do, coach!

Bingo! So line up, remember your assignment. I will call the best location for the kick when I see how the enemy lines up against us. We’re gonna kick it better than anyone else in this league can. We’re gonna recover it better than anyone else can. And we’re gonna run the two-minute drill better than anyone else can and we’re going win the game. Chris, give us a break—a louder break than you guys have ever done before. “Win” on three.

Will that cause the players to win the game? Can’t say for sure. But you probably cannot do a much better job of persuading the players that it can.

Can Obama talk like that? Sure. In the campaign, when it was all just a big abstraction.

But Libya ain’t an abstraction. And Barack Obama cannot cite any evidence of why we are going to win like I can as a football coach. He never prepared himself or his people. He has no clue about military operations and capabilities or limitations.

He bluffed his way into the Oval Office which he saw as as abstraction, an honor, a title. He was going to be the world’s biggest big shot. Now he is trying to bluff his way through three wars, which are real life and death. They require real understanding, real decisions, and real leadership.

One discussion I saw on TV of Obama’s response to crises was that he and his team don’t like them, regard them as annoyances and distractions from the real job of being president: passing transformative legislation. Obama does not want to be bothered by oil spills, wars, tsunamis, and revolutions in the Middle East.

So resign, buddy. Become a legislative adviser to a real president who reads the whole job description before he runs for the office.

‘He who is most reluctant’

Jean-Jacques Rousseau said,

He who is most reluctant to make a promise is most likely to keep it.

For too long—since around the mid-1950s—U. S. presidents have been not reluctant enough about going to war. They accumulated unkept military promises—from the Bay of Pigs to Vietnam to Mogadishu to Libya. The result has been that the U.S. military, which was the most feared organization on the planet in the late 1940s, has built a reputation as a paper tiger, an organization that will not know how to fight if you just take off your uniforms and that will run when casualties reach a level that most other countries would shrug off.

The U.S. military and its commanders in chief are the boys who cried wolf. Time and again presidents have launched military action against foreign groups then ultimately allowed the enemy to win, not for lack of ability to win, but for lack of competence about how to do it and lack of will to make it happen in the face of criticism.

He who is most reluctant to go to war is most likely to win it.

If I were president, I would treat these various revolutions and the U.S. populace reaction to them the way the good sheriff or marshall in the cowboy movies treats lynch mobs. Tell them to go home.

Like the cowboys who never draw their gun unless they intend to use it, I would virtually refuse to ever threaten military force. I would send the lynch mob home again and again.

Eventually, there would probably be a time to use military action. I would still remain mum. But I would have the military get ready. I would keep operational details secret to maintain the element of surprise, but I would make sure that the whole world knew that I was getting ready—really getting ready. I would call Congress leaders in and say here is the clear-cut mission we need to accomplish, here is my plan and my schedule. Will you declare this war or not?

If and when they said yes, I would make the appropriate extremely brief speech in Congress on national TV, get the declaration, give the enemy one more chance to surrender, then launch the attack with a ferocity not even seen during World War II (because they did not have current weapons). I would have a mission along the lines of kill or capture Ghadaffi and his sons within 30 days. Destroy anyone or anything who gets in your way without hesitation. No American lives are to be lost because we hesitated to use deadly force over a question of whether a possible danger was maybe not a danger. Any man,woman, or child over about 4 who appears to be attacking American troops will be shot. If you receive fire from a house, obliterate the house without regard as to whether there are any non-combatants inside. Use no more force than appears necessary, but end all threats to our soldiers and marines as soon as you identify them.


I think there is a law against assassinating enemy leaders. If so, either find an exception that applies, like his being part of the enemy chain of command in a war, or repeal the law.

MSNBC’s Rachel Madow highly praised Obama for being extremely reluctant to go to war and saying repeatedly how reluctant he was.

Uh, hey dummy. The praiseworthy reluctance refers to actions not taken, not talk. Furthermore, once you decide to GO to war, there will be NO reluctance expressed at all by the commander in chief! Sucking up to your anti-military, lefty base is NOT something you do while sending men into harm’s way.

Libya not on the terrorist state list anymore

But the Libyan situation is a new low even for Obama. Libya is a terrorist state. Oh, wait a minute. We took them off that State Department list because Ghadaffi promised to end his nuclear weapons program and pay some money to the Lockerbie victims’ relatives. Bush did that. Obama left him off the list.

Many of the guys who were killing our soldiers and marines in Iraq were Libyans sent by Ghadaffi. Ghadaffi killed some American servicemen in a bar in Germany.

When 9/11 happened, my thought was that we should have declared war on Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Libya: the identified and typically self-proclaimed terrorist states. I still think we should have done that. And I mean real war, not this never-ending screwing around where we avoid hurting civilians and the whole enemy army claim to be civilians. See my article on rules of engagement. Just obliterate the capability of those countries to harm us.

If they want to harm each other, enjoy. We are not going to spend years, a trillion dollars, and thousands of American lives trying to stop them. Indeed, I think it would be wise to put all the military-age men in these various dysfunctional Middle Eastern countries into national camps where we give each one knife and tell them to let us know when they are ready for a Jeffersonian democracy.

Ghadaffi’s latest misbehavior—murdering his own people who do not care for him—should be labeled the straw that broke the camel’s back. (Overdue in my opinion.) And Obama should go to Congress and ask for a declaration of war against Libya based on the whole history of Ghadaffi actions against the U.S. Obama should also ask for an immediate tax increase to pay for said war and reinstatement of the draft so every family in America has a chance to be directly affected by the bloodshed.

If, as I expect, Congress refused to agree to those three things, Obama should say,“You have my number if you change your minds.” After that, his answer to questions about Libya should be, “I told Congress my policy and it has not changed. If you want something done militarily, ask Europe or the Arab League or the U.N. If there are no further questions, I have to go back to work on reducing the national debt.”


Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader both say Obama’s actions in Libya are unconstitutional. Of course they are. The resolutions of the Arab League and U.N. do not trump, or substitute for, the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution says Congress declares war, period. They have not. Congress did pass the War Powers Resolution, which the U.S. Supreme Court has said is constitutional. But my sense is the War Powers Resolution blurs the role of Congress in the various wars where it has been invoked. I think it should be repealed and we should go back to Congress declares war and the president cannot do anything on his own initiative militarily other than defend the nation from surprise attack.

Time and again, Congress has approved wars like Vietnam (where I did a tour as an Army officer), Iraq, and Afghanistan. Then, once the war gets going, many in Congress pretend it was solely the president’s idea. If I were president in such a situation, I would immediately tell the Congress to reaffirm the authorization for that war or I would order the troops home and make sure everyone knew it was Congress’s decision. This bullshit about Congress voting in favor of, say, Afghanistan, then criticizing the war severely as only the president’s policy—while American are risking their lives pursuant to that resolution—is bullshit. When it comes to war, we are either all in or all out.

Also, American history tells us the American people will only support a war, no matter how initially popular, for about three years. So I would order the military to win it within that time period and relax rules of engagement as needed to meet that deadline.

Ordering Ghadaffi to step down

Barack Obama ordered Ghadaffi to step down as head of Libya. Rev Louis Farrakhan, a beneficiary of Ghadaffi donations, asked Obama, “Who the hell do you think you are? [to order Ghadaffi to resign]”

I have no use for Farrakhan, but I totally agree with the implication of his question. Not only does Obama not have authority to order U.S. military action against Libya without Congress’s permission, he has no right to order a foreign leader to step down.

No president should ever say such a thing unless he has the will, the authority, and the means to make it happen. Obama has none of the above.

He was bluffing. Ghadaffi instantly called his bluff. Obama authorized firing of 100 plus cruise missiles at $600k a copy, but Ghadaffi did not step down and probably would not step down if Obama fired every cruise missile in the U.S. supply at him.

Some advocates of war never served in one, like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. They are deservedly called “chickenhawks.”

Obama, who never served in the military before becoming Commander in Chief of it, is a cruise and predator missile hawk. Generally, missiles alone cannot accomplish a military mission.

Ghadaffi ought to step down for a million reasons, but Barack Obama ordering him to is not one of them.

‘The rebels’

The U.S. and other countries who have attacked Libya are, in effect, siding with “The rebels.”

Who are they? Essentially some former Ghadaffi military guys who abandoned Ghadaffi but who have no present appetite for fighting against their former colleagues and a bunch of leaderless, disorganized young men who are enthusiastic about forcing Ghadaffi out but flee from heavy fire. No one knows how many of them are Eagle Scouts—or grade school graduates.

Are they better than Ghadaffi?

No one knows.

Could they be worse than Ghadaffi? Hard to imagine but we have no basis to say they could not.

They are a question mark and nothing more.

Their sole attraction to the coalition of Libya attackers seems to be that they are not Ghadaffi and the vague notion that, because they are not him, they must be Jeffersonian democracy heroes.


There is also the fact that Mubarak stepped down in Egypt and Ben-Ali in Tunisia because of peaceful street demonstrations, so Libyans were probably inspired by that example and therefore clones of that. First, we are not yet sure what will will reap from regime change in Egypt and Tunisia.

Second, the Libyan military sure as heck ain’t the Egyptian military. Hell, the Libyan army seems not even to be Libyan, according to reports that Ghadaffi has hired many foreign mercenaries to kill the rebels.

The Chinese government found that they had to bring in Army units from far-away provinces to murder the peaceful demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Chinese Army units from the Beijing area refused to kill their friends and relatives.

Policy has to fit Tiananmen Square as well as Libya

Whatever policy adopts towards Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Bahrain, Iran, and Libya must also apply to China and Tiananmen Square.

Would someone please articulate Obama’s policy toward Libya such that it would apply exactly the same to heads of other countries like China murdering its citizens who were demonstrating peacefully.

It is clear to me that Obama’s policy is to order dictators of some small countries to stop down and threaten them and shoot missiles at them if they do not comply. But it is also his policy to do the opposite with other dictators of small countries who are murdering their peaceful citizens with the difference seeming to be whether there are some demonstrations in the streets. But sometimes we ignore the demonstrations and other times we don’t. And one other consideration is the size of the country in question. If the dictator murdering his peaceful demonstrators is in Russia or China, we invite him to a state dinner and do not even hint that he should step down. I believe this is called the Colin Powell Doctrine: never fight unless you are a forty-touchdown favorite.

Are you following this “change you can believe in” in U.S. foreign policy?

Military strategy

There are essentially two military strategies on this planet at present.

• U.S. strategy: spend more money than all the other countries in the world combined on weapons and transport and troops—literally
• everyone else’ strategy: fighters wear civilian clothes and always stay near civilians, puppies, and kittens

Note that the everyone-else strategy is totally, 100%, always effective against the 21st Century U.S. military—and a whole hell of a lot cheaper.

Human shields

There is a simple , well-known strategy for fighting against America now. You put human shields all over wherever you have troops or weapons. You wear civilian clothes and you fight only with sucker punch tactics like IEDs, booby traps, and snipers in hiding.

So what did Ghadaffi do the instant the U.N. approved the no-fly zone and other military actions? He ordered his soldiers to wear civilian clothes and to put human shields, including western reporters, all around his military assets.

On 3/20/11, the British military called off a military strike because they were watching a live TV broadcast from one of the targets and Reuters guys were there.

I would not have called it off.

The British should not have called it off. If criticized for the death of reporters, the British military should have invited the media to kiss their ass. “We are fighting a war here, ladies and  gentlemen. Conduct yourselves accordingly. If you wish to play the role of human shield protecting our enemy, expect to be injured or killed. We recommend you henceforth instead send a pool reporter from Al Jazeera to cover events at likely targets.”

Human shields should be totally ignored for the same reason paying ransom is outlawed. Rewarding people for kidnapping encourages more kidnapping .


Rewarding people for using voluntary or hostage human shields encourages using human shields.

If we blow away the bad guys, and their human shields, we will discourage both volunteering to be a human shield and the taking of hostage human shields, or the use of just stupid ones like Western reporters. War is hell. Rules that make war not hell prevent victory. If we are not in it to win, we should not be in it at all.

The Nazis and World War II Japanese were extremely brutal, vicious SOBs who murdered millions, but they never used human shields. I am not sure of all the reasons, but at least one was the Allies would not have given a damn if they had. C’est la guerre. The World War II Allies deliberately blew away hundreds of thousands of enemy civilians with strategic bombing of cities. I oppose that. But I also oppose pulling our punches or canceling strikes because of fear of human shield injury or collateral damage.

War is war.

Civilians who are innocent and who do not want to be hurt should follow the example of the World War II civilians. Get the hell out of the way! If you want to stay, enjoy. Maybe you’ll get your name on a monument after it’s over. Maybe you’ll get 72 virgins.

If neither of those appeals to you, get the hell out of the way!

U.N. authority

Click here to read the actual U.N. resolution. It authorizes a no-fly zone and use of all means necessary to enforce the no-fly zone. It does not authorize war against Libya or regime-change actions.

That’s pretty narrow. Seems like the Brits, french, and U.S. immediately exceeded that authority.

And Obama and his minions have to engage in tortured explanations of how the policy of forcing Ghadaffi to step down meshes with the extremely limited U.N. resolution.

Before the U.N. resolution, it seemed that Obama, Hillary, Mullen, and various other Administration officials were contradicting each other on a daily basis. I am not sure they have stopped.

What did you expect when a 47-year old with the resume of a 24-year-old grad student was elected president?

They sound like lawyers when talking about the military action in Libya. What the definition of “is” is. It’s all about U.N. Resolution 1973, whether Congress was consulted properly, and the War Powers Resolution. They won’t use the word “war.” They do not sound like military leaders. They sound like lawyers, perhaps because Hillary graduated from Yale Law School and Obama graduated from Harvard Law School. Charles Krauthammer said they talk about attacking Libya as if it were a piece of legislation which all about wording.

This is not how you fight an enemy. It is not how you motivate your troops to risk their lives.

Could Obama possibly bring in a grown-up like Wes Clark to straighten this out?

Rules for getting involved in foreign civil wars

Someone promulgated three rules for getting involved in the civil wars of other countries, e.g., Vietnam:

1. Don’t.

2. If you do, pick a side.

3. Make sure your side wins.

Obama has already violated Rule #1. Has he complied with Rule #2? Maybe half way. He has picked a side to be against: Ghadaffi. But I am not sure he has picked a side to be for.

Will he make sure his side wins? First he has to pick a side. As fa as Obama making sure his side wins: he does not strike me as the kind of guy who could ever win a war. He would be too sensitive to criticism from Huffington Post and George Soros and all that crowd and they only are willing to win wars where the rules restrict it to a pillow fight between groups of adults. The long-term prospect for the war in Libya is like Afghanistan: our troops will not be allowed to win or leave; they will only be allowed to take casualties and spend $1 million per soldier per day of taxpayers’ money.

The actual Powell Doctrine

I have little use for Colin Powell. See my article about his support for Obama in spite of being a lifelong Republican and career military officer. But I must admit he did promulgate a real doctrine that makes some sense. Here it is with my comments next to each provision in red

  • Is a vital national security interest threatened? No
  • Do we have a clear attainable objective? No.
  • Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed? Are you kidding?
  • Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted? Nope. Ghadaffi would have won by the time we did that. By that standard, we should have delayed the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in World War II for another six months or so.
  • Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement? Perhaps: turn it over to some Eastern Hemisphere country or alliance, but we have not figured out who.
  • Have the consequences of our action been fully considered? Nope. Probably cannot be because it’s too complex over there. What does “fully” mean anyway? Sounds open-ended so that one could never claim to have “fully ”considered all possible consequences.
  • Is the action supported by the American people? No. About 50-50 in the polls.
  • Do we have genuine broad international support? No, but in what war did we ever? The Revolutionary war was supported by France only. I would not know who supported us in the War of 1812 or the Civil War. We had broad support for the two world wars, Korea, and Desert Storm. Britain did not have broad international support for the Falkland Islands War, not even from Ronald Reagan. Broad international support is nice, but only a wimp like Powell (who became famous in Desert Storm, which he opposed) would think American cannot declare war unless it would be popular overseas. I do not think we should have entered World War I, although we had broad international support for doing so. Broad international support does not mean the war was right for the U.S., nor does lack of it mean it was wrong for the U.S.
  • Powell was a politician, not a warrior. Obama is neither. He is just a poseur, play-acting at being a grown-up who is competent at his job.

    John T. Reed

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