American Elephants


Obama’s Core Principles, as Proclaimed From a Latin Tour Press Conference. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama, touring Latin America, has noticed that there is a kerfuffle here at home about his belated actions regarding the situation in Libya. At a press conference in Chile today, he said:

The core principle that has to be upheld here is that when the entire international community, almost unanimously, says that there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place, that a leader who has lost his legitimacy decides to turn his military on his own people, that we can’t simply stand by with empty words, that we have to take some sort of action. I think it’s also important to note that the way that the U.S. took leadership and managed this process ensures international legitimacy and ensures that our partners, members of the international coalition, are bearing the burden of following through on the mission as well. Because, as you know, in the past there have been times when the United States acted unilaterally or did not have full international support, and as a consequence typically it was the United States military that ended up bearing the entire burden.

Obama is trying desperately to cover all bases and yet not get blamed.  Americans don’t like humanitarian crises. Our basic instinct is probably that somebody should step in and do something. We are partial to underdogs, people who are being brutalized or killed, the bullied, cute animals and babies. The problem is that there are a great many brutal regimes in the world who are not treating their people well.

The nations of Europe are largely indignant that the United States is so reluctant, and want the Americans to take care of the problem so that they can criticize America for intervening and have anti-war demonstrations. They wanted ‘multilateralism’ but now that they’ve got it, they don’t like that either.

Assorted Democrats are indignant to varying degrees. Chris Matthews says that “the American people deserve to know why we’re at war.” Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) said that obviously “we’re in Libya because of oil.” …and our dependence on foreign oil highlights our need for a renewable energy agenda. Dennis Kucinich said “This is about the Constitution and if we don’t abide by our Constitution, everything falls apart here.” Ralph Nader said “Innocents are being slaughtered.” and…the Obama Administration is committing war crimes.” Kucinich and Nader are talking impeachment.

From the Hoover Institution, Bruce Thornton reminds us that “the lesson is one George Washington understood: ‘No nation can be trusted farther than it is bounded by its interests.’ So what are the national and security interests of the United States in this intervention?”

What are we hoping to accomplish in Libya? Obama and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have made it clear that we are not trying to remove Gaddafi and only want to protect Libyan civilians. Obama has said our commitment will last only for a few days or weeks.

Obama is more comfortable with our use of armaments from a distance — unmanned Predators, missiles, and bombs, I suppose because there is less risk to American lives, and the distance removes awareness of blown-up human beings. The Europeans claim they want multilateralism, but they would  rather go back to the Cold War period when the Americans kept the Soviets at bay, while they had demonstrations. Perhaps, if we are to be the world’s policeman, we should just charge dues. Since our European allies are unwilling to protect their own self-interests or support militaries, they could support our military.  That would at least have the added benefit of ending the Democrats’ complaint about defense spending.

Take a moment and make a list of countries where the people are oppressed by a brutal government. Your list would probably surprise you by how many countries you might include. So there you are.

Teddy Roosevelt famously said: “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.” Obama’s version might be “speak a lot, but carry a twig.” He makes a big mistake by always beginning his statements with boundaries.  We’re going to have severe consequences, but the French have to go first and we’re only going to do this for a few days and we’re certainly not going to have any boots on the ground. That’s really scary, isn’t it? Or perhaps, ‘we’re going to fight this war fairly hard under really restrictive rules of engagement so no one gets hurt, and then we will leave in 6 months.’  Not exactly Osama bin Laden’s “strong horse.”  In its way, George H.W. Bush’s Gulf War was at least more threatening.  We assembled an international coalition with everyone contributing. Then we assembled the full might and power of the U.S. Military, and Saddam sat there waiting for the boom to fall.  Drawn out response, but effective. Obama is correct when he says that right now the American Military is busy elsewhere.

International problems are seldom as clear and decisive as World War II. We were attacked by Japan (bad move, but we were weak at the time) and Germany declared war on us. Americans have always had the illusion that once a war in which we are participants is over, then we can relax and divert the money wasted on defense to nice comfortable social problems. Wars may end, but international conflict will not.  Simply having a prepared, strong nation is, in itself, a deterrent. Weak, indecisive nations invite trouble.

The question of just what our national interests are is ongoing and troublesome.  It is interpreted anew with each new administration and however it is interpreted— usually not many agree.  A prepared population is one that knows history, and has thought seriously about war.  Thinking that war is bad, or not nice, is not thinking.  Here are the comments of a few others, all Conservatives, but Democrats aren’t making much sense. There is some serious consideration here.

— Bruce Thornton: “Foreign Policy as Wishful Thinking“,  Hoover Institution. .

— Victor Davis Hanson: “The Obama Doctrine,” The Corner, National Review Online.

— Jed Babbin: “Obama’s Unstable Middle East,” The Spectator.

— James Carafano: “Spectator in Chief,” The Foundry, The Heritage Foundation.

— J.E. Dyer: “This is Your World Without Traditional  US Leadership“,  Hot Air.



I Think This is What They Mean by “Hoist by Your Own Petard”, President Obama. by The Elephant's Child

I missed this until now, though it has been around all weekend, I am told. The anti-war liberal Democrats are questioning the constitutionality of U.S. actions against Libya. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who always wants to impeach someone, demanded to know why the U.S. missile strikes are not impeachable offenses.

“Liberals fumed,” said Politico,”that Congress had not been formally consulted before the attack and expressed concern that it would lead to a third U.S. war in the Muslim world.”

“They consulted the Arab League.  They consulted the United Nations.  They did not consult the United States Congress,” one Democrat lawmaker said of the White House. “They’re creating wreckage, and they can’t obviate that by saying there are  no boots on the ground. …There aren’t boots on the ground; there are Tomahawks in the air.”

—Presidential candidate Barack Obama, in December of 2007:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

John Hinderaker suggested that “Maybe he just couldn’t be bothered. One gets the feeling that Obama doesn’t want to invest any more time or energy than necessary in his presidential duties (as opposed to his presidential perks).”

I don’t know, Obama seems to want to be very sure that he is not blamed. The French started it off, and administration people were in haste to make sure that everyone knew that the hit on Gadhaffi’s compound wasn’t done by the Americans. If all the wreckage created makes Gadhaffi reconsider, Obama will probably be right out front taking credit.

(h/T: PowerLine)



My Secret Vice by The Elephant's Child

I am compulsive.  I am not comfortable unless I have a notebook or tablet at hand.  I make lists. Oh, ordinary enough ones: grocery lists, Christmas lists, birthday lists, to-do lists, lists of all the birds I’ve seen at my bird-feeder, that sort of thing.  Then there are lists of plants seen at the nursery, plants seen in the botanical garden, plants I covet, economists, historians, books I want to read, books I want to take out from the library on a trial run to see if I might want to buy. Names for snow, names for storms.  Names of scientists I find interesting and their specialty.

I make lots of book lists; histories on specific periods, histories I’ve read, environmental books, best children’s books,  a list of the best books I’ve ever read, lists of authors I’ve liked, movies, recipes.  I have lists of family names—Grizzella and Tryntje are favorites.  I have an annotated booklist in three parts that I share with friends (who think I’m nuts).  I have a 68 page list of quotations insights that I’ve collected from my reading to which I refer frequently — which bores my family immeasurably.

Then there are the unintelligible lists—the list of ideas jotted down in a hurry, often undecipherable in hasty handwriting,  and I wonder what I could possibly have  had in mind.  I have stacks of notebooks, and have to go back through them to see if they can be discarded and find that I am fascinated with a list I have made long ago and wonder why I troubled to write that down.

My compulsion seems to be a matter of putting it in writing. A line from Richard Mitchell comes to mind —”the business of writing is to stay put on the page so you can look at it later and see where you have been stupid.” Not a direct quotation, but that’s the idea.

Writing it down fixes an idea in your mind. If I have made out a grocery list, I can usually remember everything even if I leave the list on the kitchen table.  A list may organize my mind, but I am, in general, no more organized that anyone else —probably less.

Am I alone in my personal weirdness? Anybody else out there? Just curious.




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