17 March 2011

Caruba Demands Simultaneous War and Peace

Upated 3/20

Conservative columnist Alan Caruba is terrible. If you read my blog regularly, you probably already know this. But somehow being consistently and unspeakably wrong about everything has not dissuaded him from continuing to write - mysteriously, he still regularly publishes his column. This week is a good example of him being terrible.

His column is called "Give the Peace Prize Back, Obama."

As the Middle East begets one insurrection after another against the oppression that has been endemic to the region for centuries and as Japan faces the worst nuclear energy disaster since Chernobyl, the President of America and Commander-in-Chief is Absent Without a Leave (AWOL).

Barack Hussein Obama is the first President of the United States who received a Nobel Peace Prize just for showing up. It is a mark of how debased this once prestigious international prize has become. He should give it up. ...

It is an ancient axiom that power is lost when power is not exercised. Osama bin Laden seriously misread the U.S. when he referred to it as “a weak horse”, an Arab way of saying it could be attacked with impunity. George W. Bush responded by bombing the hell out of Tora Bora in Afghanistan and then by invading Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden has been in hiding ever since and his top lieutenants keep getting whacked.

Obama’s approach to foreign affairs has been to misunderstand and denigrate the role of America in a dangerous world. Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal calls it “The Collapse of Internationalism” because the failure to lead has demonstrated the uselessness of the United Nations, its Security Council, NATO, the European Union, and the Arab League when it comes to facing down a psychopathic despot like Libya’s Quadaffi and, of course, the same was true regarding Saddam Hussein.

This is how big wars occur.

Recent history bears out the failure to take action against Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, against Adolf Hitler prior to his invasion of Poland, to anticipate the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and now the inevitable acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran. ...

Just as Americans must organize to resist and survive Barack Hussein Obama over the next two years, having come to realize how utterly incompetent he is, other nations are wondering what will occur without the leadership the U.S. has always provided in the past, including two world wars, several smaller ones, and the containment of the former Soviet menace.

There's more, but that's essentially his argument.

First, let's take a moment to appreciate the beauty here. Alan Caruba thinks that Obama should give back the Nobel Peace Prize because he has failed to go to war against Libya. This is possibly the most wrong thing someone can say.

There are some legitimate arguments that can be made about Obama's inaction in Libya. You might think that the United States should have acted to even the odds between Qaddafi and the rebels by taking air power out of the equation with a no-fly zone imposed on their airspace. I personally don't think so, since there's a very small chance that such intervention would end well. The possible results:

  • Qaddafi soon wins (as seems likely, from what I read), and gets to claim he is not only the rightful leader, but that he "beat the U.S." This would make us seem rather a paper tiger - half-hearted interventionists who won't pose much of a real threat.
  • The civil war drags on (a spectre raised effectively by Ross Douthat in this same sort of discussion) and we are faced with either backing out and looking terrible or escalating into yet another protracted war in a country of which we have little understanding.
  • The rebels win, but because it was partly due to our intervention, we are faced with the moral dilemma of nation-building again: we helped them free themselves, now aren't we responsible for helping them build a working country? This either sinks us into a new quagmire of corruption or renders us despicable for failing to finish what we so violently helped start.
  • Or in the seemingly least likely but still possible final scenario, the rebels immediately win and initiate a new corruption-free government without our help. I must admit this could happen. But when was the last time this occurred? Didn't we learn anything from our recent exploits?

But let's return to Caruba. Let's examine the inactions at which he sneers, and the success story in which he delights.

Recent history bears out the failure to take action against Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, against Adolf Hitler prior to his invasion of Poland, to anticipate the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and now the inevitable acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.

Ponder the sentence construction here. "Recent history bears out the failure..." Is this not saying the opposite of what he wants to say? Shouldn't it be "recent history condemns the failure..."? But whatever, he's only had this column for like forty years, so he's still not very good with the writing.

Notice that none of these are "recent history," unless you are 178 years old, like Caruba. WW2 was rather a few years ago, while Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons is at some dubious point a decade or two away. For myself, I consider that WW2 turned out rather well, considering how Japan, Italy, and Germany are all fairly reformed countries these days. As far as wars go, those can be considered rather successful actions by America - with all the tragic results of death and destruction that accompanies such "success." Are these really his best examples of terrible results?

Here's a better and rather more recent set of examples: Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh, wait. Caruba beat me to it.

It is an ancient axiom that power is lost when power is not exercised. Osama bin Laden seriously misread the U.S. when he referred to it as “a weak horse”, an Arab way of saying it could be attacked with impunity. George W. Bush responded by bombing the hell out of Tora Bora in Afghanistan and then by invading Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden has been in hiding ever since and his top lieutenants keep getting whacked.

Wait a second... what did Iraq have to do with Bin Laden? Nothing at all, remember Carubakins? It was those WMDs. Surely you're not trying to conflate the two wars, are you? That would be profoundly dishonest.

And is this really the crowning triumph for neoconservative philosophy? It's been a decade of these wars, and casualties continue on large scale and the countries remain embroiled in bloody civil wars against their interior factions - does Caruba really want to hold this up as an example of how to do things right?

Caruba repeatedly calls for "leadership" on Libya. He did the same thing with Iran, demanding Obama do... well, something. What does he want? Does he want military intervention and a third war? Does he want us to supply money and weapons to the rebels (it worked out so well with the Contras, right?) even though open support from the States would be the kiss of death to any groundswell of support for a movement happening among people who generally dislike us?

This befuddled call for undefined "leadership" is a way of taking pot-shots from the sidelines, without being willing to actually endorse a plan. Obama is terrible because he's not doing something? Well, man up and tell us what he should do, since it's so obvious to you.

Failing that, at least Caruba should make his cowardly criticisms a little more coherent. Obama should give back his Nobel Peace Prize for failing to start another war? That's not just cowardly, it's lazy.

Update 3/20:  Well, the UN has indeed imposed a no-fly zone and ceasefire, and now active exchanges of fire are going on between UN forces and Qaddafi's military after they ignored the UN orders.  I am uneasy at this turn of events, but at least there is the silver lining that Caruba is wrong in yet another way.

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