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April 15, 2011
Dreams from our PresidentBy Greyhawk
Unbelievable! - you might cry. Of course it is. (If it wasn't, it wouldn't be deniable.) But that doesn't matter. You're along for the ride...
I suppose I should explain it in full. Lets start at the beginning (or at least, a beginning).
Wouldn't this be nice:
Act one: Libyan citizens, inspired by similar (and seemingly successful) protests in neighboring countries, rise up peacefully against Qaddafi's rule. In response, Qaddafi unleashes his military - actually thousands of thug mercenaries (his own people wouldn't serve in his army under any circumstances, right?) to crush them. Global outrage against the dictator increases as refugees reveal the extent of atrocities he'd inflicted on his own people. The tanks keep rolling, but just when things appear to be hopeless, NATO jets, responding to UN "authorization" granted following cries for help from the Arab League and African Union (renown for their progressive leadership and concern for their citizens' welfare above all else) appear overhead and make short work of Qaddafi's air defenses and armor.
Act two: In Libya, protesters - now under the protection of NATO airpower, become rebels. At last - no longer living in fear of tanks and rockets in the hands of mercenary thugs (and secret police) - shopkeepers, dockworkers, mechanics, students and teachers all rise up together, knowing that with NATO's help they now have hope. They are joined by former soldiers - including senior ranking officers - who quickly transform them into what analysts describe as a capable-enough force. But they aren't needed; on Friday - following almost a full week of NATO airstrikes (most now directed at Qaddaffi's only two truly effective, "hard line" brigades) tens of thousands of anti-Qaddafi citizens exit the Mosques to clog squares in Tripoli, in overwhelming numbers (the only thing previously stopping them - what "planners" call the "fear dynamic" - having been removed by our demonstrated firm commitment to their cause) soon further swelled as security force members, sent to end their demonstrations, instead join in. Qaddafi's military crumbles rapidly, along with the rest of his government as one by one his paid lackeys see the writing on the wall. (And after defecting reveal further horrors of the regime.)
Act three: By the end of the weekend - about ten days after the event began, or at least really got our attention (especially at the gas pumps) - we are treated to an amazing sight: celebratory crowds in Tripoli, Benghazi, and all those other towns in between. Chants of "USA! USA! USA!" occasionally drown out efforts of western reporters to describe the scene, but their commentary isn't needed. Throughout the crowd, hand-held posters of Barack Obama are visible, though not as common as those of the less-familiar (to American audiences) new Libyan leaders and military heroes. (These images are on American front pages everywhere the next day.) Qaddafi and his family, along with their last loyal henchmen, had fled the country overnight. Throughout that glorious Monday, new flags (actually the old, pre-Qaddafi flag of the Kingdom) are raised over Libyan government buildings everywhere. Statements from world leaders hailing the transformation are compiled for reporting on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC before noon, American time. Rush Limbaugh salutes the efforts of American troops (and Libyan rebels) points out that Qaddafi's was always a weak regime, and predicts Obama will take more credit than his due...
Epilogue: That night, Barack Obama addresses America in a dramatic, prime time broadcast. He takes no personal credit for events, nor claims any for his nation. He salutes the efforts of the brave American Airmen and Sailors involved - but this, he reminds us, is simply what happens when the world unites and coalitions are built in support of those people (of any color or nationality) whose voices, once hushed in despair, are raised in hope for peaceful change - to be ignored by dictators but heard by those inspired by their courage. [Applause]
Libya, of course, will need our continued assistance moving forward, as a nation renewed, into a new era of progressive freedom - an endsate now theirs to define. We'll work with [insert name of new temporary Libyan leader whose bio is in handouts] going forward, to ensure that free and fair elections complete the transition begun when Libyan citizens [insert particularly dramatic moment here]. Details of our immediate aid package are forthcoming, but even now our hospital ships are reaching Libyan ports. [Applause]
In America, of course, it's time for Congress to get to work on the budget, end partisan bickering, and achieve a similar unified result. And in the days to come, that is where his focus will be. Thank you, salute the troops, good night. [Applause] Later coverage of events will include comments from his political opponents, who salute the accomplishments of our rebel friends, laud the president's handling of the crisis, and dodge questions on other issues. Driving to work the next day Americans will notice the price of a gallon of gas has fallen a few cents...
Front pages that next day will feature images of doctors and babies in Benghazi, but opinion columns appearing in major newspapers and from influential bloggers will simultaneously remind Americans of a pledge once made to avoid stupid wars without allies or domestic support, rash wars "to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression." Yeah - this is what he meant by that. After all, it's not exactly rocket science... (And hey, I admit I was worried when we started this on the anniversary of the Iraq war, but I can't ignore this comparison: did you notice the whole thing took less time than our invasion force needed to topple that statue of Saddam Hussein?)
That, friends and neighbors, was the original best-case scenario for the Libya op (never mind all that boring stuff that would come after about blah blah blah) - a best-case scenario thought to be likely, too. (Okay - maybe no one actually expected Obama posters, unless they'd already printed them...) A plan put together in haste, and before anyone in America heard much about a crisis in Libya in the news. The worst-case scenario, on the other hand, was something that - in many ways - still wasn't as bad as what we've seen in the news (or not seen, as the case may be) over the past several weeks.
Why? What happened? Links above are to some of the actual events (or planning) that correspond to that point in the script; the points of divergence are clear. But more fundamentally, you simply can't really write a script like that and expect it to play out in the real world. Still, the Obama administration, having written it, figured they'd give it a try. The fever wasn't completely contagious (the DoD seemed particularly resistant), but on the non-military side of the debate two factors overwhelmed all other considerations in the go/no-go decision making:
One: Qaddafi really is a living comic book villain - much more so than Saddam Hussein. While Hussein had cultivated an image of serious threat (and a Stalin look to go with it), over four decades Qaddafi had established himself as dangerous, unbalanced, but somehow incompetent and laughable - comic relief.
However, while he'd never invaded a neighboring country that held vast oil reserves, like so many other world leaders his crimes through that history were very real. Shout "Qaddafi has to go" and no one would argue the point.
Two: the American media loves a good story, sees Qaddafi in that villain role, and the President of the United States - at least this one - as a perfect hero. Handed copies of the script, they'd play along - wittingly or unwittingly - for as long as they could. A week to ten days would be no problem. With new dramatic episodes coming fast and furious through every one of those few days - each better than the last - the story would be concluded before anyone ever thought to ask a serious question about what was happening. (See also #1 above.) More in-depth examinations in magazine pieces and books - maybe even television specials and movies - to come later would reveal that yes, mistakes were made, but everything really had been as totally awesome as it seemed.
It ain't over, as they say. But much of that script's been tossed. What went wrong? A lot of little things and a few big ones - the biggest at the very beginning. Failure was built in to the script. See act one? While "fact-based" it contains significant fiction. ("Based on real events" I believe they say in Hollywood.) Act two? Most of it depends on those earlier fictional elements. Even though they'd been reported as fact, that had little to no impact on events on the ground. (Much of act two also illustrates traditional leftist thought on history - truth is what we make it, and this is how things should happen if act one was truth.) See act three? By that point the only similarity to reality was yes, the president did make a speech. It wasn't delivered in prime time, and rather than a humble but triumphant call to move forward we (at least, those who tuned in) saw a nervous, unconvincing recap of news reports and op-eds from act one (and a comparison to Iraq, by way of saying it doesn't compare, because that took years), with an added reminder that "Hey, I've got 30 billion Qaddafidollars - and there's more where that came from. Who wants it?"
In his defense, of course, the president had been out of town throughout much of the earlier goings on...
Now, of course, we are moving forward - to tomorrow, next week, next year... and one of those days Qaddafi will indeed be gone. (Never mind all that boring stuff that would come after about blah blah blah...) If that's soon it could still be described as a triumphant (and "low cost") event. ("The Obama administration estimates U.S. military operations in Libya have cost about $550 million so far and will cost about $40 million a month going forward, a U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday... once U.S. forces are reduced and NATO takes over greater control.")
If not soon? Look back to the media paragraph above. Enthusiasm levels vary among participants. (And not all reporters are American... the British, for example, didn't have the script.) Even in America for every ten reporting what they were told to on page one, there was one raising eyebrows somewhere on page ten. Few were completely unaware of what was happening, hints (not to be confused with official "leaks" and incompetent "oops") trickled out, and for every reporter there's a limit to how far they're willing to compromise on whatever "truth" they believe they owe the public (or their boss, or his boss, or the government...). Meanwhile, back in the White House, the scriptwriters were working on revisions (still avoiding forbidden words like "civil war" and phrases like "of course we want to turn former al Qaeda fighters to our side - that's how we turned things around in Iraq back in '06") that keep as many elements of the original as possible (certain key fictions from act one can not be abandoned - officially, at least), and absolve them of blame for those other idiots' mistakes in the original. (By the way, they're increasingly available to explain those mistakes to the press - off the record, of course; a less egregious example of what they'd hoped Qaddafi's minions would do...)
Media recaps of act one are starting to sound vaguely or openly hostile (with elements of the actual truth increasingly slipping in, and what were once hints now sensational news), prompting an unprecedented joint response from western leaders. (An act one recap/reaffirmation available as pay per view at the Times or free on the White House web page.) In America the loyal opposition pledges support (see update here) - sort of. In England the loyal opposition pledges opposition - sort of. In France they're contemplating the best, or most practical way to get Libyan oil...
All that leads to confusion, and conflicting reports, and self-serving (but too rapid) conclusions based on too few facts, and further explanations offering clarification on previous confusion...
In America the public yawns. Except for those moments at the gas pump - more frequent if that dollar amount line determines your stopping point but necessity dictates your use. Maps are available, this one - call it plan "A" - won't get us anywhere (it's no better a map than it is a script) but it is important to understanding the trip thus far. New ones are coming, perhaps they'll be better.
But as noted at the top, like it or not, you're along for the ride.
Posted by Greyhawk / April 15, 2011 12:42 PM | Permalink
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President Obama explains why he doesn't need congressional approval to participate in the Libyan Civil War:The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under t... Read More
If you'd bet me a dollar at the beginning of this year that the United States would jump into another country's civil war based in part on a domino theory argument I'd have taken that bet. I'd owe you a dollar now - but before I handed it over I'd con... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com