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Letters to the Editor

Wrong battle

March 25, 2011

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To the editor:

Moammar Gadhafi did not attack the United States. Attempts to justify our attack upon Libya by linking him to past terrorism begs the question of why we did not attack when his activities were freshly initiated.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama has succumbed to the temptation of prosecuting a war to prove his mettle for the next election. This contravenes the position he articulated (with threats of impeachment implied) as a senator to the effect that President Bush’s various incursions were unconstitutional.

Our greatest president, George Washington, warned us against “foreign entanglements.” Thomas Jefferson counseled that we should be friends of liberty everywhere but custodian only of our own.

Beyond legalities, the incompetence of our Libyan adventure is astounding: India, Russia and China have refused to endorse our actions; our temporary Arab allies denounced us within 48 hours of the missiles landing. Ironically, our sworn enemy, al-Qaida, has given us their imprimatur.

We sow now in the Middle East the seeds of our own destruction. The price tag on the missiles we have fired exceeds $100 million (this at a time when we are canceling much needed domestic programs because of overspending on the military and loan systems that defy common sense).

We have reached the point most western empires eventually reach: Our propaganda has collided with our national interest. Smedley Butler, one of our most decorated Marines, put it best: War is a racket.

Certainly there is a time to fight, but this is not it.

Comments

notajayhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

Can't say I entirely agree with you, Matthew, but it's refreshing to see someone write a letter to the LJW who isn't a hypocrite that blasted Bush, but thinks this is different.

ignati5 3 years, 9 months ago

Had we followed Washington’s dictum we would not have joined the UN in 1945 or sponsored NATO in 1949. Neither is the type of “self-enforcing” treaty that requires a member to act without regard to its own interests, as witness the diplomatic shuffling going on to get Turkey and Germany on board the Libyan intervention. Jefferson’s statement, like his similar admonitions against slavery, must be put in the context of his career. At one time he advocated the US take steps to aid Republican France in their struggle against the British, which would have entailed trade in arms with the French against British objections. A better example is the compromising position taken by the US, France and Britain vis –a-vis the Loyalists during the Spanish Civil War. All they asked from us were aircraft to defend themselves against the Nationalist invaders; we “democracies” gave them only volunteer contingents of left-wing intellectuals with literary pretensions. For reasons similar to those advanced today by opponents of the Libyan no-fly zone, we let the Spanish Republicans perish, with over 200.000 murders and imprisonments inflicted as reprisals by the fascists after their victory. We wring our hands over it to this day. Ordinarily, morality has no place in foreign policy. This might be an exception. BG

Fred Mertz 3 years, 9 months ago

An excellent letter and not just because I agree with its point. Focused on the issue, not partisan and well-written.

I agree with all the LTE writer wrote, but will add a few points of my own.

We need to stop Presidents (all, both Republican and Democrat) from sending our troops to attack other countries unless there is an immediate danger to our country or if they get congressional approval. Congress is (or is suppose to be) our voice and when the president acts alone, he takes away our voice.

Libya poses not direct or immediate attack to us and we are fighting two wars so it does not make sense to expend our military resources in Libya. And what did we really accomplish? The attacks against the rebels are occurring on the ground, not in the air. And who are the rebels? They are people who disagree with their government and have decided to attack it so why doesn't the Libyan government have a right to squash the rebellion?

Would Russia or China have a legitimate obligation to attack our country If a group of extremist in this country decided to attack our government? Should NATO have launched an attack against the US when the government was attacking the Branch Davidians in Waco?

We are in debt and have a budget deficit due, in a large part, to the two wars Bush started. The US needs to fix its own problems before meddling in the world's problems.

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

I agree with much of that.

But, if you follow some of your logic, then the British had every right to squash our rebellion, and where would we be if that had happened? I believe we got some help from other countries during our rebellion - what if we hadn't had that help?

A government only has legitimacy if it's a democratically elected one, in my view. Brutal dictators don't gain moral status simply because they're good at suppressing their people.

Fred Mertz 3 years, 9 months ago

I do believe that the British government had every right to squash our rebellion. And where would we be? Perhaps under British rule or perhaps an independent country without a violent uprising. There were other countries that were under British rule that did not have a rebellion and are today independent.

So, the most of the arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, England and other countries that have kings, queens, and other forms of government are not legitimate?

Of course, a brutal dictator is not moral by our standards. How do we determine which dictators to attack and which ones to let alone? Is the decision made on how easily we can bully and kick their butts? If so, is that really moral?

None of this is really black and white. My concern is take care of America first. We are not at a good point in our history and we don't need to be involved in any more wars than we are already fighting today.

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

What kind of "right" are you talking about?

An oppressive government has the "right" to suppress their people?

I'll have to think about monarchies, but my immediate feeling is that they are less legitimate than a democratically elected government, since the people have little input other than rebellion.

As I said, I agree with much of what you wrote.

Fred Mertz 3 years, 9 months ago

I guess the real questionis who gets to decide what is a legitmate government? You raise good points which make me think (a good thing) and I asked myself the question, suppose some states decide they don't want to be part of the United States anymore, does the US government have the right/authority to use force to prevent them from leaving?

Let's take it a step further, and this is just hypthetical as I am not a birther, but for the sake of discussion, let's suppose it turned out that Obama really wasn't born here and thus not a "legitimate" president. Would that justify US citizens using force like the Libyan rebels to overthrow his administration?

Just brings me back to the question as to who gets to decide which government is legitimate and I guess the answer is whoever has the most fire power and is willing to use it.

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

That is the question.

I think the question of states leaving the union is a good one - in my view, I'm not at all sure that they shouldn't be allowed to do so. Why force them to remain if they wish to leave? It's kind of like a guy who locks his girlfriend in the bathroom because she wants to leave him.

If it's just a matter of force, then might makes right?

I don't think that having superior force makes a government legitimate.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

That begs the question of who decides whether or not to secede.

The decision to secede by the Confederacy was taken by wealthy plantation owners/slaveholders. It most certainly wasn't run past the slaves for their approval, even though they considerably outnumbered their owners.

And I seriously doubt that whites on small farms and other non-aristocrats had much say in it, either.

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

Sure, in the historical example.

But, what if the majority of a state's residents wanted to secede today?

Michele Dillon 3 years, 9 months ago

Not true -The rebels were being attack from the air, which is why they requested a no-fly zone. Shame on those rebels for wanting democracy and human rights

Fred Mertz 3 years, 9 months ago

So once the no fly zone is in place the rebels will stop dying?

And without really knowing who the rebels are how can you be certain that they want democracy and human rights and not just power and control for themselves?

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

Smedley Darling Butler has become the darling of hard leftists in America. He was a highly decorated Marine who died in 1940. His controversial statements, which to say the least do not reflect the views of many other highly decorated Marines, pre-dated the kind of American "imperialism" about which the American hard left has constantly complained for decades.

Since much of the American hard left hates much of the American military, their frequent references to Butler's statements are nothing but rank hypocrisy.

Grant_Runyun 3 years, 9 months ago

"pre-dated the kind of American "imperialism" about which the American hard left has constantly complained for decades."

This is just factually incorrect. He was speaking out agaisnt exactly the type of imperialism we see today: Waging war for economic interests that benefit the few, under the guise of "humanitarian efforts".

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

Given when Butler said what he said and the sea changes that have occurred in our position in the world since then, citing Butler is virtually the same as citing Washington's comments.

Grant_Runyun 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't think that is a fair comparison since Butler specifically talks about going to war on behalf of Wall St. and bankers. Although, I feel pretty sure that Washington would've shared Butler's sentiments. Do you advocate going to war for narrow financial interests?

ignati5 3 years, 9 months ago

Where did you get this, and what has it to do with matters being discussed here? Butler was a paranoid conspiracy theorist cited by Robert Welch as being on to something, rather than "a darling of hard leftists in America." He was also a favorite of right-wing sensationalists of his own time like Westbrook Pegler and Fulton Lewis Junior, who included him in their llitany of anti-FDR precursors. As one who is often accused of being a member of the "hard left," I have yet to hear of my fellow travellers citing this guy as a source. It would be nice to keep your references in order. BTW, his middle name was "Darlington," not "Darling." (as per Wikipedia). Ah, accuracy. The bugbear of small minds.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

"Where did you get this, and what has it to do with matters being discussed here?"

The letter writer referred to Butler's most notorious statement in the penultimate paragraph of his letter. Perhaps you missed it.

If you're not familiar with the love that hard leftists routinely display for Butler's apostasy, you must not follow politics very closely. His statements are cited by anti-war leftists with great frequency, this letter writer's reference being a typical example.

I missed the typo on "Darling," and appreciate your bringing that to my attention.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

"Where did you get this, and what has it to do with matters being discussed here?"

The letter writer referred to Butler's most notorious statement in the penultimate paragraph of his letter. Perhaps you missed it.

If you're not familiar with the love that hard leftists routinely display for Butler's apostasy, you must not follow politics very closely. His statements are cited by anti-war leftists with great frequency, this letter writer's reference being a typical example.

I missed the typo on "Darling," and appreciate your bringing that to my attention.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

Where did you get this, and what has it to do with matters being discussed here?" The letter writer referred to Butler's most notorious statement in the penultimate paragraph of his letter. Perhaps you missed it. If you're not familiar with the love that hard leftists routinely display for Butler's apostasy, you must not follow politics very closely. His statements are cited by anti-war leftists with great frequency, this letter writer's reference being a typical example. I missed the typo on "Darling," and appreciate your bringing that to my attention.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

Ignati5 says: "Where did you get this, and what has it to do with matters being discussed here?"

The letter writer referred to Butler's most notorious statement in the penultimate paragraph of his letter. Perhaps you missed it.

If you're not familiar with the love that hard leftists routinely display for Butler's apostasy, you must not follow politics very closely. His statements are cited by anti-war leftists with great frequency, this letter writer's reference being a typical example.

I missed the typo on "Darling," and appreciate your bringing that to my attention.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

"Where did you get this, and what has it to do with matters being discussed here?"

The letter writer referred to Butler's most notorious statement in the penultimate paragraph of his letter. Perhaps you missed it.

If you're not familiar with the love that hard leftists routinely display for Butler's apostasy, you must not follow politics very closely. His statements are cited by anti-war leftists with great frequency, this letter writer's reference being a typical example.

I missed the typo on "Darling," and appreciate your bringing that to my attention.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

"Where did you get this, and what has it to do with matters being discussed here?"

The letter writer referred to Butler's most notorious statement in the penultimate paragraph of his letter. Perhaps you missed it.

If you're not familiar with the love that hard leftists routinely display for Butler's apostasy, you must not follow politics very closely. His statements are cited by anti-war leftists with great frequency, this letter writer's reference being a typical example.

I missed the typo on "Darlington," and appreciate your bringing that to my attention.

ignati5 3 years, 9 months ago

Sorry, I did miss it. The letter pissed me off so much I didnt pay enough attention. Apolgies. I do accept the "imperialist" take on some aspects of US foreign policy, as presented by historians like Ernest May, Walter LeFever, even the provocative Willam A Willams (my personal favorite, for a number of reasons aside from his armchair Marxism). This doesn't imply, however, that the type of imperialism we have exercised has always been bad for the countries in question, nor for us. Unlike Newt Gingerich and Franz Fanon, I do not cleave to the decon anti-colonial take on things. BG

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm curious-- which examples of American imperialism do you think were good for the targeted countries?

ignati5 3 years, 9 months ago

-Haiti in the 1920s, though not afterward. The longest period of peace they ever had - Cuba, at various times, despite the notorious Platt Amendment and our constant interference in their domestic affairs. - The Dawes and Young Plans towards Eastern Europe after WWI, which tried to nullify reparations in behalf of US financial interests. The Great Depression stymied this, but it wasnt for lack of effort - Mexico in the 30s- FDRs cooperation with the Cardenas government to subsidize agriculture and permit a legalized brazeros program - Japan after WWII -Italy after WWII, Austria after 1955. On the whole, of course, US imperialism has been a bane to the countries involved, particularly in the "Third World" Still, compared to the Japanese, German and Soviet styles of imperialism active during the same period. ours was often less intrusive to the countries involved. BGT-

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

In the examples you provide, I can agree that they could be described better as examples of (mostly) benign paternalism, rather than outright imperialism.

But that probably depends as much on perspective, as anything. Americans, armed with their manifest destiny, tended to view it much differently from the inhabitants of countries they occupied-- particularly in Asia and the Western Hemisphere where there were quite overt attempts at colonialism, particularly in the early to mid 20th century.

ignati5 3 years, 9 months ago

True. But examples of "benign imperialism" is what you asked for. It is hard to imagine any foreign policy by an economically developed, militarily strong country before the 1960s that didnt invlove some definition of "imperialism." Some did it with a lighter hand than others. BG

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Butler very clearly and accurately described the way the US military was used-- brutal enforcement for narrow economic interests abroad-- AKA colonialism. And he was in a very good position to know whereof he spoke.

Does that mean he's a hero to the left? Of course it doesn't. But it's much easier for you to discount what he said by merely associating him with the the "left," under your religious belief that anyone on the left is a sinister idiot, so anyone cited by the left must also be a sinister idiot. There are multiple logical disconnects involved in that, but that's much easier than critically countering what he said, especially for someone with your level of intellectual laziness and dishonesty.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

Bozo, I wasn't necessarily criticizing Butler. I was criticizing hypocritical anti-war leftists like you who routinely display intellectual laziness and dishonesty.

And, Bozo, we must again disagree. His statements are cited all the time by hard leftists to support their anti-war views, and in so doing they invariably set him up both as a military hero and an anti-war icon.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Are his statements accurate or not? If not, please show otherwise.

If they are accurate, why should they not be cited?

BTW, there is nothing remotely intellectually lazy about being anti-war. To the contrary, being a knee-jerk, ultranationalist, militarist warmonger is the height of intellectual laziness and dishonesty, especially when the imperial/colonialist motivation behind isn't acknowledged.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

Bozo, was our Revolutionary War a "racket?" How about our Civil War? Was Woodrow Wilson part of a "racket" in strongly advocating our getting into WW I? Was FDR a racketeer in strongly advocating our involvement in WW II, and actually doing so through Lend-Lease, well before Pearl Harbor?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

"was our Revolutionary War a "racket?"

It was primarily the idea of aristocrats, and once-loyal British subjects, who thought they could cut themselves a better deal by going it alone. Sure, there were some high-minded ideals, involved along the way, but it was as much about money as anything.

WWI was mostly the old monarchial order of Europe finally breaking down. There was really no reason for the US to get involved.

And WWII merely confirmed that war mostly just begets more war. You appear to approve of that vicious cycle, maybe because it validates your desire for ultra-nationalistic, patriotic claptrap, or something. I'd prefer to break the cycle.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm quite glad that FDR, and not you, was in charge when Hitler and Tojo threatened the world.

I detest war. It is, however, necessary at certain times. Defining when those times are is the perpetually difficult part of the equation.

XEPCT 3 years, 9 months ago

I disagree. America is unique militarily, in her ability to cripple any regime's offensive capability in less than 24 hours. The Tomahawk chop, one could call it. Not only are we doing the morally correct thing by protecting Libyan civilians, but we are reminding other would be blood thirsty regimes that actions are accompanied by consequences. Look how our pilots were cheered, even after some locals were injured by the subsequent bombing run to destroy the plane (standard procedure with a downed fighter). Best to be on the right side of history and not stand idly by (see Rwanda). We have the finest military the world has ever known; Mr. Washington, himself, might see things differently after considering the circumstances of the here and the now.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

Attacking countries that never attacked and could not attack us is abuse of our armed forces and a great big money hole no matter who is president and no matter which elected representatives approve it.

I find it disgusting that the USA government screams about dictators yet endorses the replacement of a dictator with another dictator so long as a new dictator is more friendly to USA interests which is usually along the lines of oil and vital precious metals.

Then we hear that Iraq and Afghanistan have "demcratic elections" yet if the winning candidate does not meet USA government specifications the USA declares those elections null and void... hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Selling weapons to violent dictators makes this government equally as violent......

Cases in point:

http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/4120/we_arm_the_world/

http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/03/24/spy.network.probe/index.html

http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/execsum.htm

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0208-05.htm

Grant_Runyun 3 years, 9 months ago

While I recognize the nobility of your sentiment, I have to ask how we are to determine when to intervene and when not to? Iran has been killing civilians who dare to exercise free speech for a while now. The same is true in China. What is the justification for picking and choosing when to intervene on the behalf of civilians?

Jimo 3 years, 9 months ago

We seem to have a supply-side rule of conflict. The U.S. acquires the supply of weapons and this induces a search for opportunities to use these these weapons (no doubt so we can place orders for replacements!). I would suggest a significant cut in weapons procurement as a means to prevent future Presidents from going abroad in search of an endless supply of monsters to destroy. Historically, the only time the U.S. matches its self-image of a peace-loving, live and let live nation has been when it had only the military might to protect itself, lacking the power relative to other nations to be the aggressor (apologies to the Natives as the exception).

Whatever the sincere desire of the President, it was already quite clear: power corrupts. It is also clear that Congress is institutionally incapable of protecting its own Constitutional powers against an imperial Presidency. Bizarrely, the Tea Party, the group you'd expect--based on their own stated claims--to most oppose wasteful governmental spending, is the group most loudly in support of this misadventure. Billions to lay waste to dark, swarthy foreigners, of whom we, literally, know nothing, but not a dime for Granny's heating assistance or aid to Americans unemployed as a consequence of Wall Street shenanigans.

Jimo 3 years, 9 months ago

Investing in missiles as "stimulus" would be about as effective as investing in tax cuts for the wealthy. Might there be a measurable effect? Sure. Would it be significant relative to other choices? No way. Home heating assistance? Stimulus gold.

Unlike you, with a one-size fits all religion, I'm an empiricist, favoring what works and perfectly comfortable with the junior high level concept that different circumstances require different policies. If powerless government and control of economic power by billionaires--or chanting magic incantations, dancing around in circles, and wearing special feathered costumes--lead to healthy economic growth then I'd be all for that. In short, I expect economic policy to create tangible results not existential "Truth".

John Hamm 3 years, 9 months ago

Not a war. An enforcement of a UN General Assembly "no fly zone" plus protect civilians mandate and Barry O (everyone knows I'm not a great fan of his) is doing all he can to keep the US involvement minimal. Personally I think we should've been involved one heck of a lot sooner I was seeing a repeat of the 1957 (?) Hungary revolt.

yourworstnightmare 3 years, 9 months ago

Good letter. I opposed Bush's military adventurism and I oppose Obama's.

This was a terrible mistake on Obama's part.

Centerville 3 years, 9 months ago

'Not only are we doing the morally correct thing by protecting Libyan civilians, but we are reminding other would be blood thirsty regimes that actions are accompanied by consequences." But we're perfectly happy with regimes who aren't "would be" but actually ARE blood thirsty regimes. As in, Iran and North Korea are BFF. I'm beginning to get it.

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