Libya 101

Whether you like it or not, things in Libya have gotten a little more serious. Over the weekend, US warships launched over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libya’s air-defense systems. Seems like a wildly different outcome than you may have expected from us just one week ago. So how did we get here?

The first thing that you need to understand about Libya is that it is a very rich nation; although that wealth is in the hands of the Gaddafi family, which has control over the Libyan economy. It is one of the world’s 10 richest oil-producing countries, with a fairly small population – 6.4 million people. Most Libyans (97%) are Sunni Muslims. Muammar Gaddafi has been running the show since 1969. Before that, Libya has known as the Kingdom of Libya .. yes, run by a king .. and was pretty friendly toward the West but unpopular with the people of Libya. So in 1969 while the King was out of the country, a group of young military officers led by Muammar Gaddafi staged a coup. The monarchy was abolished and the King was exiled to Egypt. Gaddafi scrapped the constitution and went on to govern based on his own political philosophy outlined in his “Green Book.” In 1979, Gaddafi resigned as the General Secretary for Libya’s Congress and decided that he was just going to run things himself .. becoming a de-facto dictator.

Are you with me so far? So this goon has been running things since 1969 and has declared himself the dictator since 1979, making him the longest-serving leader in the Arab world. So … fast-forward to 2011. We’ve got Libya sandwiched in between two countries: You’ve got Tunisia, which borders Libya on the West, and Egypt, which is on Libya’s eastern border. The people in Tunisia and Egypt decide that they’ve had enough of these totalitarian dictatorships. They revolt, they protest and eventually they kick their long-time dictators out of power. Gaddafi sees the writing on the wall …. It’s only a matter of time before people in his country want the same thing. So he decides that he isn’t going to go down without a fight. And the thing is, Gaddafi can do this. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, there are no political parties in Libya. While elections in Tunisia and Egypt were rigged for years to keep their dictators in power, at least they had some sense of political opposition established. That’s not the case in Libya. Without Gaddafi, there really is nothing. That was until February 2011. Among violent protests, Gaddafi’s former justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil established a national council to try and orchestrate the rebel opposition to the Gaddafi regime. All the while, Gaddafi is gunning down innocent Libyans throughout the country. As many as a thousand people have been reportedly killed by Gaddafi and his regime since the recent protests began. So the rebels are operating out of the eastern city of Benghazi – the second largest city in Libya, second only to the capitol of Tripoli. As of right now, France is the only country that has recognized this National Libyan Council as the country’s legitimate government.

While the protests and the killing have been happening for well over a month, as of just two weeks ago, the US seemed completely against any sort of action in Libya. Even just a few days ago, the US did not even want to support establishing a no-fly zone.

So what changed? It became quickly apparent that the rebel city of Benghazi was in danger of collapse. So while Barack Obama is picking out his college basketball bracket, Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, jump into action. Hillary manages to convince the Arab League of Nations not only to support a no-fly zone but had Arab governments willing to participate in military action. Meanwhile, Susan Rice worked to get 10 nations in the UN Security Council to approve a resolution not only establishing a no-fly zone but authorizing a fuller range of options, including “all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country.” So by Friday afternoon, Gaddafi launched an armor assault on Benghazi. By Saturday morning, Gaddafi’s forces had reached a key bridge in Benghazi less than two miles from the headquarters of the National Libyan Council. So here we go … let’s put this “all necessary measures” to good use. On Saturday, the US launched 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles to knock out Libya’s air-defense systems and radar units near Tripoli. Meanwhile, the French launched an airstrike on the armored Gaddafi units around Benghazi.

And that brings us to today. Gaddafi says that he will arm one million Libyans with weapons “to rise up against what he called foreign aggression to occupy the country and steal its oil wealth.”

And now … the question: Is there really any compelling reason that we should be involved in this at all? Newt Gingrich has a few questions of his own:

1. Why not North Korea or Iran? Both countries are much bigger threats to the United States.

2. There are a lot of bad dictators doing bad things. Mugabe and the dictator of Sudan, for instance, have both killed more of their own citizens.

3. What is the Obama Standard?

4. How will success be defined here?

5. How far do we go to achieve that success?

6. How do we pay for this?

Gingrich refers to this as opportunistic amateurism without planning or professionalism?

The New Dayton Police Officers

It seems they needed to hire a few new police officers in Dayton, so they had a little test that they gave to potential recruits. There was a problem with the test. You see, the Department of Justice is a little unhappy with the number of blacks who failed this exam. So the Obama administration has decreed that the test will be given again, and this time the passing score will be lowered so that more blacks will pass.

Let’s cut to the chase here. What does this mean if you are now, or you are soon to become, a black police officer in Dayton, Ohio, every time you encounter a citizen –, whether it be a traffic stop, or some other law enforcement situation — that citizen is going to presume that you, as a black police officer, are less qualified for your job then the white police officers in Dayton. Now you may not like what I have just said, and you can scream racism until the aardvarks come home, but you know what I have this right. Virtually every citizen of Dayton knows or soon will know that the qualifications on the police exam have been lowered for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to facilitate the hiring of more black police officers. The fact is that many black applicants did pass the test, and that there are many veteran of black police officers in Dayton, who have shown their qualifications to serve in that office over the years. This, though, will have no bearing on public perception. If a white motorist is pulled over by a black police officer he’ll be thinking to himself, “Oh great, I’m getting stopped by an affirmative action cop. Just my luck.” It is unfortunate, but this will probably result in black police officers in Dayton being treated with less than the respect that they deserve for the job that they do. But for the Obama Justice Department it’s not about qualifications, it’s about race.

In effect, Obama’s Department of Justice has said that actual qualifications come in second behind race when it comes to choosing the next recruitment class for the Dayton Police Department.

Obama vs Obama

Drudge is currently highlighting the similarity between President Obama’s justification for today’s military action against Libya with what President Bush had to say about Iraq at the commencement of the war (strangely, both on March 19). Equally striking I think are some similarities – and contradictions – between the President’s decision on Libya and his objections to action in Iraq which he laid out in his famous 2002 speech:

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the middle east, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda.

Ah, but the President has a clear rationale in the case with Libya – right? Sure he does. A rationale that boils downs to the fact that Gadhafi is a brutal, ruthless dictator who is threatening to butcher his own people. (People, it might be noted, who have taken up arms in an attempt to butcher him.)

And like with Saddam, Gadhafi poses no imminent threat to the United States or to his neighbors. And also like Iraq, critics have noted that we are now faced with a military engagement of undetermined length, cost, and consequences.

The key difference in this case, is that these critics do not include Barack H. Obama.

It’s not news to anyone I think that the Barack Obama of 2002/2003 was about as anti-war as any mainstream political figure could possibly be, especially in the wake of 9/11. But to further illustrate the point, here are some images – rarely seen I think – of another anti-war rally in Chicago in March 2003, just prior to the launch of the initial attacks on Iraq.

Read more here.

The Grand Tourist

President Barack Obama played grand tourist to Rio de Janeiro’s vivid extremes on Sunday, motorcading from brilliant beaches to a notorious slum even as he monitored U.S. military strikes in faraway Libya.

With his whole family in tow on the second day of a Latin American tour meant to knit economic and cultural ties, the president visited the City of God shantytown that gained fame after a movie by the same name was nominated for four Oscars. At a community center in the heart of the jostling slum, the president plunged into the lives of children there, playing soccer with kids and watching enthralled at a dazzling martial arts display.

The president shed his coat and tie, rolled up his sleeves and dribbled one-on-one soccer with one surprised boy. Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia got involved, too, kicking a ball around with the kids.

Then the president walked out into the streets and waved to throngs of residents who cheered him from rooftops and balconies. Dozens of young children pressed up against a chainlink fence trying to get a look.

On the metal roofs of the poor shantybuildings armed guards stood by. It was a short visit but the president got a glimpse of the poverty of the slum, visceral scenes of jumbled dwellings, and people lining the streets.

Meanwhile, seemingly a world away U.S. warplanes launched a coordinated assault against Moammar Gadhafi’s defenses a day after the president authorized the military action to enforce an internationally authorized no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians. The president had been on a conference call with his top advisers earlier Sunday to get briefed on the effort as juggled his touristing and economic outreach in Latin America with the unceasing demands of being commander-in-chief.

Read more here.