Scene above:  Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York


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MARCH 3,  2011

LIBYA UPDATE – AT 11:58 P.M. ET:  There is a haze over news from Libya.  We know there is fighting going on, we know there is diplomatic activity, but we're not sure of exactly what is happening or whether positions taken by various nations are shifting.

Within Libya there is news of a provisional council being established in rebel-held areas.  The council is the first political coming together of dissident elements.  But we're not sure how much strength it has, exactly whom it represents, or whether the Libyan people accept it.

Outside Libya, Venezuelan buffoon-in-chief Hugo Chavez attempted to intervene to help his friend Qaddafi by offering to set up negotiations between the Libyan dictator and the opposition, but the opposition quickly, and correctly, rejected the idea. 

For Americans, the key question is what will Obama do.  Secretaries Gates and Clinton have made it clear that we are very reluctant to intervene militarily, especially since, as Clinton points out, we aren't exactly sure who the opposition is.  Obama certainly doesn't want to run for office next year having pulled a Jimmah Carter, and pushed one dictator out, as Carter did in Iran, simply to find a worse one take his place.

But the president seems to be moving closer to considering some military role, if Libya grows into a humanitarian disaster.   From WaPo:

President Obama said Thursday that he had ordered plans giving the U.S. military "full capacity to act, potentially rapidly," in Libya if the situation there deteriorates.

"I don't want us hamstrung," Obama said. He cited the possibility of a humanitarian crisis, or "a situation in which defenseless civilians were finding themselves trapped and in great danger," or "a stalemate that over time could be bloody" if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi continues to resist international demands that he step down.

Gaddafi "has lost legitimacy to lead, and he must leave," the president said.

COMMENT:  Pretty good words from Obama, but essentially toothless right now.  The great Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins was on CNN tonight, and he quoted a line from Lyndon Johnson:  "Don't tell a man to go to hell unless you're prepared to send him there."  Johnson was rewriting the great line, from Emerson, that if you strike at the king, you must kill him. 

American policy is evolving.  It is reactive right now, reacting to developments in Libya itself.  This whole situation can be over in days, but can stretch to weeks or even months.

March 3, 2011      Permalink

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WISCONSIN MOVES SYMBOLICALLY ON ABSENTEE DEM SENATORS – AT 7:37 P.M. ET:  The Wisconsin state senate is trying to pressure Democratic senators to return.  Some 14 of them fled to Illinois and other foreign countries to prevent the Wisconsin senate from voting on Governor Scott Parker's bill reining in the power of public-employee unions:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Republican leader of the Wisconsin Senate has signed orders finding 14 AWOL Democrats in contempt. The orders signed Thursday allow the sergeant at arms to detain the missing senators and use police force if necessary.

The Democrats say they are all in Illinois and won't return.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the orders are only binding in Wisconsin.

The Senate passed a resolution calling for the action earlier Thursday but gave Democrats until 4 p.m. to return. None of them did, which led Fitzgerald to sign 14 orders of detainment in dramatic fashion in the center of the Senate chamber. 

COMMENT:  It may be only symbolic, but it does put pressure on the escapees.  They can't sneak back into Wisconsin safely to visit their homes or their girl friends. 

The public-employee unions are apparently counting on public sympathy to force the governor to back down.  And there is sympathy, measured in the polls, for unions to retain the right of collective bargaining.  But polls also show that the public wants real concessions and budget cutting.

There is speculation that Walker will be forced to back down.  I doubt that.  He was very firm when he was Milwaukee county executive.  He tends to be a fighter.  Now he's fighting not only Wisconsin unions, but their allies from all over the country.

March 3, 2011       Permalink

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FIGHT FIERCELY HARVARD – AT 7:16 P.M. ET:  Harvard University is welcoming ROTC back to campus, in a distinct victory for rationality and maturity, two traits not always in great supply on today's campuses.  From AP:

BOSTON (AP) — Harvard University is welcoming the Reserve Officer Training Corps program back to campus this week, 41 years after banishing it amid dissent over the Vietnam War.

The Cambridge, Mass., school's change in policy follows the decision by Congress in December to repeal the military ban on gays serving openly, an official familiar with the arrangement said Thursday.

Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Friday are scheduled to sign an agreement that will recognize the Naval ROTC's formal presence on campus, according to the official, who wasn't allowed to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

As part of the agreement, a director of Naval ROTC at Harvard will be appointed, and the university will resume funding the program. Harvard cadets will still train at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as they have for years

Harvard and several other prominent schools, including Stanford, Yale and Columbia, had kept the Vietnam-era ban in place following the war because of what they viewed as a discriminatory military policy forbidding gays from serving openly.

But after Congress cleared the way for the repeal of the so-called "don't ask, don't tell," policy in December, Harvard's president said she'd work toward ROTC's return.

COMMENT:  Drew Faust has turned out to be a solid president of Harvard.  She kept her word on ROTC, which is commendable.

The battle is far from won.  There is still fierce resistance to ROTC at some schools, especially Columbia, where Lenin's children, including some on the faculty, regularly crawl out of their bunkers to confront the American militaristic, imperialist machine and its corporate lapdogs.   One faculty group recently issued a brave statement in favor of ROTC, whereas another issued one opposing it.  The opponent list was heavy with representatives of the anthropology department, known for its belief that Stalin was a capitalist stooge, and Middle East studies, known for its swell parties marking Muammar al-Qaddafi's birthday.

Among the arguments the Columbia faculty opponents raised was their concern that ROTC still discriminated...on the basis of age and physical disability.  I am not kidding.  They actually argued that.  Apparently, these apparatchiks won't be happy until ROTC accepts 55-year-old cadets with 20/800 vision who dream of being snipers. 

Columbia will make a decision soon.  I think they should vote on May Day, as the oppponents will be giddy with proletarian joy. 

March 3, 2011      Permalink

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WHERE OBAMA STANDS – AT 9:54 A.M. ET:  A new poll shows the president losing the bounce he received late last year, but don't underestimate him.  From The Politico:

Backsliding from his approval-ratings surge at the beginning of the year, President Barack Obama is breaking even in a poll of registered voters released Thursday.

The president’s approval ratings are split at 46 percent in a new Quinnipiac University poll as voters express substantial disdain for how the Obama administration is handling policy issues including federal spending and taxes.

In January, Obama’s approval in the Quinnipiac survey was at 48 percent and his disapproval was at 44 percent. Still, he is doing slightly better than he was just a few months ago in November, when his disapproval rating was at an all-time low of 49 percent and his approval was at 44 percent.

But even as Obama struggles to gain support for his approaches to the issues, 74 percent of voters said they personally like the president. Forty-one percent of those surveyed said they like him personally and like his policies, while 33 percent said they like him personally but don’t like his policies. Just 1 percent said they like Obama’s policies but not him, and 19 percent said they don’t like him or his policies.

By comparison, Rasmussen reports today that 45% of Americans approve of the president's performance, while 54% disapprove.  Rasmussen has generally registered higher disapproval ratings for Obama than other polls.

COMMENT:  While these numbers are not great for the president, they aren't all that bad.  The president's 2012 situation is far from desperate.  If the GOP nominates a terrific candidate in that year, he (or she) could give Obama quite a difficult time.  But if the Republicans nominate a so-so candidate, it shouln't be too difficult for Obama, a much better candidate than he is a president, to pull up to 50%, and a narrow victory. 

The Republicans need some old-fashioned excitement.  We have argued here before that they should look behind the obvious candidates, something the party has, historically, been reluctant to do.  Traditionally, Republicans nominate the guy who's next in line, living or dead.

March 3, 2011       Permalink

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LIBYA TODAY – AT 9:02 A.M. ET:  The revolution in Libya is taking on the characteristics of a civil war, rather than a brief rebellion, which was the Egyptian model.  And the dictator is proving difficult to dislodge.  Western countries face painful decisions, with no guaranteed outcomes, if the fighting goes on in the oil-rich country.  From Fox:

REGA, Libya -- Mutinous army units in pickup trucks armed with machine-guns and rocket launchers deployed around the strategic oil installation at Brega Thursday, a day after the opposition foiled an attempt by loyalists of Muammar al-Qaddafi to retake the port in rebel-held east Libya.

Government warplanes launched a new airstrike on the town in the morning, according to witnesses. It was not clear what they targeted, but it was likely an airstrip that belongs to the huge oil complex on the Mediterranean coast. There were no reports of casualties.

"We are in a position to control the area and we are deploying our forces," a rebel army officer in Brega told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.


Opposition leaders are pleading for foreign powers to launch airstrikes to help them oust Qaddafi as the United States moves military forces closer to Libyan shores to put military muscle behind Washington's calls for Qaddafi to give up power immediately.

COMMENT:  The administration, speaking especially through Defense Secretary Bob Gates, is making it plain that it doesn't want to get dragged into another conflict.

We are stuck, literally, between the proverbial rock and the hard place.  If we intervene militarily, we can appear to be Western imperialists trying to shape a new Libya to our own liking.  Al Qaeda's propagandists could have a field day, and our side can still lose.

On the other hand, if we fail to act, and Qaddafi remains in power, we will come off as weak and unprincipled, unconcerned about the people of the Arab world as long as the oil flows. 

One problem the administration has is actually identifying who the opposition is, not only in Libya, but in much more important Egypt.  There are already some very disturbing signs that the Muslim Brotherhood is starting to assert itself in Egypt, demanding, for example, the resignation of clerics it does not support. 

There are disturbances in other Arab countries, like Bahrain, Jordan, and Yemen. There are also continued, but small, disturbances in Iran.  But – and I think this is fascinating – the governments of those countries have thus far not been toppled.  It is quite possible that, over the weeks ahead, we will wind up with exactly the same autocrats in power as we had a month ago, with only the governments of Tunisia and Egypt changing hands, and with uncertain results in those two countries.

Please recall that there was a revolt against Soviet rule in Hungary in 1956, and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, surrounded by much hoopla and talk of freedom, but with no change in the ruling structure.  Revolutions are not easy, especially when the government starts shooting back.

March 3, 2011      Permalink

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BETTER JOB PROSPECTS? – AT 8:48 A.M. ET:  From Bloomberg:

Initial jobless claims unexpectedly declined last week to the lowest level since May 2008, pointing to a strengthening labor market.

Applications for unemployment benefits decreased by 20,000 to 368,000 in the week ended Feb. 26, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast claims would climb to 395,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level since October 2008.

Among the reasons for increased optimism about the labor market in coming months has been a recent drop in initial claims, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers this week. Companies added 200,000 jobs in February, while unemployment rose to 9.1 percent, economists project a Labor Department report to show tomorrow.

COMMENT:  Good news for the economy, and also for Barack Obama, as we move into the 2012 election cycle.  If unemployment starts to drop seriously, it will be a powerful boost for his reelection chances.

However, these figures are far from spectacular, and we would have to examine the trend over months.  Also, the information out today doesn't tell us what kind of jobs are being created, and at what level.  Ronald Reagan's classic question, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" still applies.  Many workers may be taking jobs at incomes below what they'd received before, which is not economic progress. 

The jury is still out.  But look to the mainstream media to spin economic news as favorably as they can, the better to help Obama cling to office.

March 3, 2011      Permalink

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TERROR SUSPECT IN GERMANY IDENTIFIED – AT 8:36 A.M. ET:  Suspicions that the gunman who allegedly killed two American G.I.'s in Germany yesterday appear to be confirmed.  From CNN:

The man who shot and killed two American troops in Germany Wednesday was a recently radicalized Muslim whose aim was to kill American soldiers, a German official said Thursday.

The suspect seems to have been acting on his own, but had spent time on local radical Islamist websites, said Boris Rhein, interior minister of the German state of Hesse, where the shooting took place.

The 21-year-old man from Kosovo is in custody after two U.S. airmen were killed and two others were wounded Wednesday in a shooting on a U.S. military bus at Frankfurt Airport, authorities said.

The suspect is named Arid Uka, from the northern town of Mitrovica, Kosovo's interior minister, Bajram Rexhepi, told CNN, citing the U.S. Embassy in Pristina as his source.

COMMENT:  One of the greatest fears of American counterterrorism experts is the lone wolf attack launched by a well-armed individual who operates essentially on his own, although his views have been shaped by radical Islam.  One major purpose of terrorism is to terrorize, and, while an individual might not do massive damage with a personal attack, he (or she) could terrorize a city or even the nation.  Think of the impact on the air system if a lone wolf brought down an airliner over an American city.

First things first:  Let's see if the Obama administration, at its highest levels, will acknowledge the ideology behind the attack in Germany, or will pull another Fort Hood – just a disturbed guy with no beliefs.

March 3, 2011     Permalink

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MARCH 2,  2011

REOPEN PAN AM 103 CASE? – AT 10:30 P.M. ET:  Recent comments by defecting Libyan officials about the bombing of PanAm 103 in 1988 have led to some initial actions by the U.S. Government.  From Fox:

The Obama administration may seek the prosecution of Muammar Qaddafi for the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, following claims of some ex-Libyan officials that the embattled dictator personally ordered the airline attack that killed 270 people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress this week that she has asked the FBI and Justice Department to look into the matter in response to lawmakers' requests.

"I think justice must be served," she told a Senate legislative committee Wednesday.

The U.S. has considered the bombing a closed case since a former Libyan intelligence officer was convicted of the bombing and Libya had paid compensation to families of the victims.

But Clinton noted that some Libyan officials who have defected in recent weeks have said Qaddafi gave the instructions to blow up Pan Am Flight 103.

The U.K. Telegraph reported this week that a former Libyan official, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, says Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi blackmailed Qaddafi into engineering Megrahi’s release from a Scottish prison by threatening to reveal the dictator's role.

Megrahi allegedly threatened revenge on Qaddafi unless he was returned home to his family, forcing Qaddafi to spend about $80,000 a month on legal fees in a campaign to secure the terrorist's release, the Telegraph reports.
Megrahi is the only man ever to have been convicted in the bombing, which killed all on board the New York-bound Boeing 747 and 11 people in Lockerbie in December 1998.

COMMENT:  I've always believed that the PanAm 103 case was covered, right from the start, by a layer of sleaze.  The attack occurred just days before Ronald Reagan left office.  The new president, George H.W. Bush, who, unlike his son, saw the Mideast primarily as a place to get oil profits, never showed much interest in the terrorist attack.  Even relatives of the victims who'd met with Bush described him as very cold. 

There seemed to be a great sigh of relief from various political and commercial establishments when Scotland convicted one Libyan sucker for the entire operation.  But common sense tells us he didn't go out and do it as a lark, or to get extra credit in terrorism class.  Something that momentous – the downing of an American-flagged airliner – had to have Qaddafi's approval.  We and the British just looked the other way.  A barrel of oil can buy a lot of indifference.  A hundred barrels can buy a birthday party for Qaddafi.

We welcome the new attention to the case, but I doubt if we'll ever have Qaddafi in custody.  I take him at his word that he'll go down fighting. 

March 2, 2011       Permalink

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MORE CHRISTIE – AT 9:33 P.M. ET:  There is more yapping about Chris Christie as a possible presidential candidate.  He keeps denying he's in, or will get in...but he keeps talking about it, and that feeds the yapping.  From NBC News:

Chris Christie said he knows he could win the White House if he ran for president next year.

The New Jersey governor and GOP rock star made the comments in an interview with the National Review last week while he was in Washington D.C., which was published Tuesday night.

"I have people calling me and saying to me, 'Let me explain to you how you could win.' And I’m like, 'You’re barking up the wrong tree. I already know I could win.' That's not the issue."

It's the furthest out there Christie has gone about his thinking about the 2012 race, which many conservative pundits have been pleading with him to join, citing the weakness of the field. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, he acknowledged he sees the opportunity, but didn't say that he also clearly sees a road to the White House over a field of more than a dozen potential GOP rivals.

He added, "The issue is not me sitting here and saying, 'Geez, it might be too hard. I don’t think I can win.' I see the opportunity both at the primary level and at the general election level. I see the opportunity. But I’ve got to believe I’m ready to be president, and I don’t. And I think that that’s the basis you have to make that decision."

WHOOPS!  That's about a 95% on the amateur meter.  You never say you're not ready.  It's the kind of quote that gets hung around your neck if you wind up with the nomination.  From this point forward, Christie must be very careful about not saying anything that can be used against him.  He has to be read his political Miranda rights. 

That having been said, there is a gut feeling in the Republican Party that the usual bench of candidates doesn't contain anyone sufficiently juicy to take on Obama.  I have doubts about Christie's boxing-ring manner, but the man is alive and exciting, and he's doing a great job.  He has also been discussing the presidency more and more, and has spoken out on national issues. 

Maybe he will reassess his readiness, and explain that what he really meant was that he wasn't ready to run because he didn't have enough suits, or charged batteries for his laptop.  This will be a fascinating story if none of the other candidates catches fire.

March 2, 2011      Permalink

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TWO GI's MURDERED IN GERMANY – AT 8:45 P.M. ET:  Two American soldiers, about to be assigned to war zones, were shot to death by a presumed terrorist in Germany today.  From ABC News:

A gunman shouting "Allahu Akbar" opened fire on a bus carrying U.S. airmen in Frankfurt, Germany, killing two and wounding two others before his gun jammed and he was subdued, officials said.

An ethnic Albanian from Kosovo was taken into custody and the FBI was heading an investigation because U.S. citizens were killed and to determine whether the shooting was an act of terrorism.

President Obama made an unscheduled appearance to say, "I am saddened and I am outraged by this attack" and U.S. investigators would work with German authorities and "spare no effort" to ensure that "all of the perpetrators are brought to justice."

He added that the killings were a "stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices" of American servicemembers.

COMMENT:  ABC News deserves praise for putting the gunman's rant – "Allahu Akbar" – right in the first paragraph.  The New York Times buried it deep in their story.  CNN didn't include it at all.  The Washington Post, shockingly, hasn't run the story on its website. 

Now let us see if we have another Fort Hood moment.  You'll recall that after the Fort Hood massacre in 2009, even our own Defense Department jumped through hoops to avoid dealing with the shooter's Islamist ideology.  The chief of staff of the Army, who should have been replaced, worried out loud that the incident might increase ill feeling toward Muslim troops.  Political correctness won the moment.  Well, two more families are being notified today about the deaths of loved ones at the hands of what clearly appears to be an ideology-inspired terrorist.  How much truth do you think we'll get?

March 2, 2011       Permalink 

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WAKE-UP CALL...ABOUT THE 5,000th – AT 9:51 A.M. ET:   Another gross airline screening failure shows just how close we are to a potential disaster.  From the New York Post:

A passenger managed to waltz past JFK's ramped-up security gantlet with three boxcutters in his carry-on luggage -- easily boarding an international flight while carrying the weapon of choice of the 9/11 hijackers, sources told The Post yesterday.

The stunning breach grounded the flight for three hours Saturday night and drew fury from Port Authority cops, who accused the Transportation Security Administration of being asleep on the job.

"In case anyone has forgotten, the TSA was created because of a couple boxcutter incidents," said one PAPD source, referring to the weapons used by al Qaeda operatives to commandeer the jets they later slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.

The two TSA agents and supervisor who completely missed the blades at a security checkpoint "will all be disciplined and undergo remedial training," said spokeswoman Ann Davis.

COMMENT:  I just don't know how any agency can explain this away.  Boxcutters are easily detected by screening equipment.  And it wasn't just one person who messed up.  It was at least three. 

There have been serious questions raised about the competence of the people hired by TSA.  These are low-paying jobs, and tediously boring as well.  Terrorists are constantly testing the system, and trying to develop new ways to beat it.  Here, a guy wasn't even trying, had obvious boxcutters, and zipped right through.

We've had several very close calls in recent years – the Christmas airline bomber, the Times Square bomber, and, no doubt, others we haven't heard about.  This incident is not reassuring.

March 2, 2011       Permalink

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COMBAT IN OHIO – AT 9:24 A.M. ET:  With so much attention on the convulsions in Wisconsin, centered in Lenin-loving Madison, we've been ignoring the public-union fight in Ohio.  No state is more important in presidential elections than the swing state of Ohio, and newly elected Governor John Kasich is already a national figure.  Combat is near, as the Washington Post points out:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Thousands of union supporters descended on the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday to protest a proposal that would dramatically curtail bargaining powers of government workers, as the state becomes the latest flash point in the fight over union rights.

Like their counterparts in Wisconsin, protesters here accused lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich (R) of trying to use a budget crisis to destroy public-sector unions. Government workers did not cause the crisis and should not bear the brunt of it, protesters said.

But unlike in the standoff in Wisconsin, Democrats don't have the numbers to walk out and delay a vote. Supporters said that a measure, which would go further than the one in Wisconsin by also affecting police officers and firefighters, could emerge from the state Senate on Wednesday.


Kasich, who supports the measure but has let Senate Republicans lead the effort to push it through, said in an interview last week that reform of public-sector unions is only one piece of a far-reaching agenda he plans to pursue this year - some of which he will lay out in his budget proposal, which he is planning to unveil in a few weeks.

"We need changes in the state of Ohio so that we can create economic growth," Kasich said. "The reining in of government can provide a better product to the customer, who happens to be the taxpayer. We need to grow. We've lost more jobs than every state in the country except Michigan and California."

Michigan and California are political poster children for liberal states.   California is in particularly bad shape.  If Kasich can rescue Ohio, count him as national contender.  If he can't, it's back to Fox News as a regular commentator. 

March 2, 2011       Permalink

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GOIN' HOLLYWOOD – AT 9:07 A.M. ET:  Chris Dodd, the ethically challenged former senator from Connecticut, has a new job that will make full use of his dubious talents:

Chris Dodd has gone Hollywood.

The former Democratic senator from Connecticut was named the new chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America Tuesday, nabbing one of the highest-profile lobbyist jobs in Washington. He starts March 17.

Dodd will now sit at the crossroads of Washington and Hollywood, giving him access to the glitterati that turns heads in town. As celluloid’s man in Washington, Dodd controls a private screening room where he can entertain and bend the ears of top policy- and opinion-makers while they mingle with celebrities.

In picking Dodd, the MPAA has gone with an experienced, well-liked Washington insider during a time of great change in the industry.

Get this, on Dodd's predecessor in the job, former Congressman Dan Glickman, who didn't make the cut:

Dodd will be dealing with issues such as Internet piracy, copyright infringement, taxes and ratings. Glickman’s mixed record with Congress drew criticism from the industry. In 2009, insiders grumbled that he got only $246 million worth of tax breaks for the industry in the economic stimulus bill — credits that were later cut from the final legislation after reports that the industry’s earnings had jumped by double digits.

COMMENT:  Hollywood is known for cutthroat tactics, deception and ego.  Washington is known for...  Well, Chris fits right in.

March 2, 2011      Permalink

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COMBAT IN LIBYA – AT 8:37 A.M. ET:  The conflict in Libya is taking on a distinct international angle, as it becomes clear that intervention may be the only course that will prevent a massive bloodbath and the suppression of the revolt.  From WaPo:

BENGHAZI, LIBYA - Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi moved to recapture control of a key oil port in eastern Libya early Wednesday, trying to reverse the tide of an uprising that has seen large swaths of the country fall into the hands of the opposition.


Rebel leaders in Libya are calling for international military intervention to help topple Gaddafi, saying they believe that people power alone may not be enough to dislodge the dictator from his last remaining strongholds.

The leaders say they do not want ground forces, but are increasingly coming round to the view that help in the form of a no fly zone, as well as supplies of weaponry and air strikes will be necessary if Gaddafi is to fall.

U.S. military officials said the rebels have not yet asked them for help, and on Tuesday they played down the likelihood of the United States setting up a no-fly zone.

We are on the spot, whether we want to be or not.  If we act militarily, there are certainly risks.  But if we fail to act, and Gaddafi wins, it will have a devastating impact on our international influence, and may well mean the end for the freedom revolutions going on throughout the Middle East.

The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl reports on some congressional frustration over American inaction:

Diplomats say NATO won't act to stop Moammar Gaddafi from bombing his own citizens unless the U.N. Security Council passes an authorizing resolution -- and Russia and China will not allow that. Pentagon officials are meanwhile warning that any no-fly operation would require preemptive attacks on Libyan air defenses. At a Senate hearing Tuesday Gen. James Mattis, chief of U.S. Central Command, called the potential mission "challenging" and added, "it would be a military operation -- it wouldn't be just telling people not to fly airplanes."

Those comments exasperated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a former Navy pilot who, along with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), just returned from a tour of the Middle East. "We spend $500 billion on defense, and we can't take down Libyan air defenses?" he asked incredulously in an interview he and Lieberman gave to me and The Post's Fred Hiatt. "You tell those Libyan pilots that there is a no-fly zone, and they are not going to fly."

"I think they [in the Obama administration] are making up reasons" not to act, McCain added. "You will always have people who will find out the reasons why you can't do it. But I don't recall Ronald Reagan asking anyone's permission to get Cuba out of Grenada, or responding to the killings of American soldiers." Reagan ordered a U.S. airstrike against Libya in 1986 after U.S. soldiers were killed in a Libyan-sponsored bombing in Berlin.

Whether you think we should intervene or not, it's great to hear someone with spine speak up.  Joe Lieberman said:

"Others in the Arab world are watching Gaddafi practice the most grotesque atrocities," he said. "Insofar as we get involved to stop him, the democratic revolutionaries will understand that we are taking their side." Regimes contemplating similar violence to put down protests will, of course, also take note of whether Gaddafi is allowed to succeed.

Absolutely correct.  This may well be a defining moment for the United States, as well as for the Middle East.  I see no great sense of urgency coming from the White House.

March 2, 2011       Permalink

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"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
    - Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
      of The New York Times.


"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
    - Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
      son, Douglas.



Part I of The Angel's Corner was sent late last night.

Part II will be sent over the weekend.



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Fax: 914-681-9398
E-Mail: katzlit@urgentagenda.com

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© 2011  William Katz