‘Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Moammar Gadhafi. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. The world, and the Libyan people, would be better off without him. But I also know that he poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors ... 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.”
A young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama gave that speech in October 2002, with the important difference that he spoke not of Gadhafi and Libya, but of Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
He predicted that our imminent intervention in the latter would be “a dumb war ... a rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion.”
It was an incredible, bold and prescient speech at a time when public opinion ran very much in the opposite direction. It would play no small part in Obama’s subsequent success in Democratic politics.
By 2008, the position he had staked out early on distinguished Obama clearly from his 2008 opponent, hawkish Republican John McCain.
War-weary America made the obvious choice.
Today, Obama has engaged in Libya’s civil war without the required congressional authorization, and he denies that we’re in a war at all.
Having represented himself as a dove, Obama now embraces the position that presidents have unilateral authority to engage in low-intensity conflicts that have no bearing whatsoever on American interests.
Obama’s position, outlined in great detail, is far more hawkish than that of President George W. Bush, who started two wars, but only after extensive consultation and bipartisan congressional votes.
For however dubious the argument was that Hussein’s removal served American interests, there at least was an argument over which reasonable people could disagree. In Libya, there is no argument at all.
McCain marched to the Senate floor last week and upbraided his fellow senators for not supporting this unauthorized war in Libya.
McCain promised to present a Senate resolution soon that would approve the war retroactively.
“Whether people like it or not,” McCain said, “we are engaged in Libya and we are succeeding. I would ask my colleagues, is this the time for Congress to begin turning against this policy?”
In other words, as long as “we are succeeding,” the merits and legality of the conflict are of no consequence.
Columnist David Freddoso is The Washington Examiner’s online opinion editor.