Well, President Obama has functionally invaded his first country as part of a joint military implementation with the UK and France of a no-fly zone over Libya. Did you expect rightbloggers, who had been bitching about his inaction on the matter, to applaud him for coming around?
You didn’t? Oh, good, you’ve been paying attention.
Some of them just decided that, now that the action is actually happening, it isn’t such a good idea as it once seemed. Others just decided to dispense with the foreign policy crap altogether, and used their platforms to settle old scores, mock Obama for being pussy-whipped into war, etc.
Prior to the installation of the no-fly zone last week, conservatives generally portrayed Obama as indecisive on the matter.
“I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Obama to react,” said Weasel Zippers, “he’ll vote present and let the Europeans decide Libya’s fate, at the very least a no-fly zone is needed to stop Gaddafi’s forces from crushing the rebels.”
“Moammar Khadafy is moving relentlessly to crush the Libyan revolt that once promised the overthrow of one of the world’s most despicable regimes,” said John Podhoretz. “So where is the president?… Obama is defining himself in a way that will destroy him.”
“The White House has said the U.S. will send aid to the rebels and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with their transitional council next week,” wrote Michael Barone. “Aid, not arms; a meeting, but (unlike France and Portugal) no official recognition. The president seems to be voting ‘present’ once again.”
“NRO’s Jim Geraghty summed it up on twitter,” wrote Matthew Shaffer. “‘Ya hear that, Gaddafi? You keep pulling these stunts, and we’ll continue to evaluate all options!'”
“..far from supporting the Libyan people in even their basic right to survival,” wrote National Review‘s David Pryce-Jones, “Obama has apparently decided on a non-show. Then he has said he is ‘very concerned.’ Is there any cliché more feeble in the entire political lexicon? ‘Very concerned’ means, ‘I’m doing nothing, you may get on with your plans.'”
Even on March 17, as the UN was authorizing “all necessary measures” to halt Qaddafi’s attacks on insurgent, Pryce-Jones was writing, “[Obama’s] multinational and bilateral stuff is just that — stuff — a recipe for inertia, arenas for self-important diplomats in which to generate hot air, to propose meetings and postpone them, to pass resolutions watered down until they are meaningless… Obama’s refusal to commit the United States over Libya has given Qaddafi an international Get-Out-of-Jail card. First disappointment, then danger.” Maybe Pryce-Jones just has long lead times, like Conrad Black (“On Libya, the U.S. Is a Pitiful Giant”).
On February 28, Victor Davis Hanson mocked Obama as a pusillanimous “Academic-in-Chief,” and denounced the Administration’s “enfeebled response to the pathological Qaddafi.”
By March 16, as Obama was ramping up, Hanson began, “There are plenty of good arguments for imposing a no-fly zone in Libya.” He even predicted that if Obama were to “bomb Qaddadi.. The Cindy Sheehan crowd would either be silent or be silenced by the liberal community,” which wasn’t a good bet.
But then Hanson added that “using military force at this moment in Libya is a bad idea,” and also added that “we have no idea who exactly the Libyan protesters are or what they represent.” And, he said “Obama, in contrast [to Bush], is as likely as not to back out of Libya should things go wrong. Plus: “Nor do we have a systematic plan of action in Libya: Is the idea that we will impose a no-fly zone in the air, but would do nothing to stop an exposed column of Qaddafi’s tanks from streaming along below to slaughter outmanned insurgents?” (That would seem to suggest a no-fly zone with ground attacks, which has in fact been happening.)
Finally, Hanson decided that “direct military intervention in Libya is a noble idea that this country, at this moment of incoherence and as it is currently led, has no business embracing.” The message was clear: The United States should deal with Qaddafi unless Obama is President and actually does it, in which case it’s ridiculous.
On the 20th Hanson acknowledged the no-fly zone, and ran a similar routine, though more pithily: “Now that we are committed to a no-fly zone (an unwise idea, I think, given the absence of consistent aims or defined objectives), we must support it and ensure its success.” No pleasing some people.
Hot Air’s Allahpundit had been impatient for Libyan action since February: “As I’m writing this, Hillary has just issued a statement,” he scoffed then. “I haven’t seen it yet, but no doubt all the ‘gravely concerned’ I’s are dotted and the ‘we urge restraint’ T’s are crossed.”
Later Allahpundit speculated: “Jackson Diehl of WaPo warns that if Qaddafi wins, it could demoralize the entire Arab democracy movement in the region. Sad to say, but could that actually be one of the reasons for western dithering?… A reptilian assessment, but that’s foreign policy for you.”
When it became clear that this was not the Administration’s reptilian plan, Allahpundit evinced no relief. “What happens if the war on the ground drags on and the Brits, French, etc, decide it’s not worth persevering?” he asked. “Will the USAF then return to ‘heavy kinetic activity’ or is that the end of the mission?”
To be fair, there were some who dissented forthrightly. Timothy Carney opposed intervention on the grounds that it reflected the same “big-government agenda that galvanized the Tea Parties.” Unsurprisingly, that didn’t gain traction with the Tea People, whose opposition to Big Gummint is highly selective. But it did resonate with some old-guard conservatives and of course Ron Paul, bless him.
Most other rightbloggers either engaged in watery yeah-but-not-like-that demurrers, or went off on tangents.
Prior to this week’s intervention, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit had sporadically lobbed snark at the Administration on Libya, e.g.: “TELEGRAPH: Obama’s Strange Silence On Libya. Investor’s Business Daily: As Libya Burns, Obama Fiddles. Hey, he’s flummoxed by pirates. What’s he gonna do about Libya?” (Reynolds was referring to a recent pirate situation, not to the Administration’s more successfully handling of pirates in 2009.)
Once the action began, though, Reynolds was giddy with schadenfreude — not over the fate of Qaddafi, about whom he seemed not to care very much, but over liberals who didn’t predict Obama would take military action against Qaddafi and were presumably sad about it. “They told me if I voted for John McCain, we’d be bombing Arab countries while the supporters of the bombing promised that we’d be greeted as liberators,” he said. “And they were right!” (Ed. note: Running gag.) Also: ” Hey, it’s exactly 8 years to the day since Bush started bombing Iraq! If you voted for change, this is the change you voted for. . . .”
When Michael Moore opposed Obama’s action, Reynolds exulted, “MICHAEL MOORE: Now a racist teabagger. Also, fat and unattractive. Some things don’t change so easily… How’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ for ya?” When Andrew Sullivan, a longtime conservative who betrayed Reynolds by supporting Obama, was abashed, Reynolds did a sack dance: “ANOTHER RUBE SELF-IDENTIFIES: YOU CAN CALL ME ‘SMUG’ AS LONG AS YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THE STING. You were played. I told you so at the time. The whole hope-and-change thing was an obvious con, and you were among the rubes who fell for it anyway. And yeah, I’m rubbing it in.” Mrrowr! When Reynolds said Sullivan was turning him in favor of torture, we didn’t know this was what he meant.
Moe Lane of RedState gave Reynolds an ass-pat: “And since we’re bringing up uncomfortable truths, let me add this one: we were right on the war, rubes, and you were not.” Lane refers here to the Iraq War, but who knows — maybe after nine years and thousands dead, someone will be saying the same about Libya.
Other rightbloggers also skirted judgement on whether the action was good or bad and concentrated instead on the paucity of liberal opposition.
“The Left has been curiously silent — outside of Michael Moore, who is of course an insane person,” said Kevin Glass at TownHall. “Going to war in Libya may be the right idea. But the Left’s twisting justifications in order to support their President leaves a lot to be desired.” Imagine — a rightblogger who needs liberals to justify an attack on Libya for him! These are indeed strange times.
“I almost NEVER find myself agreeing with someone like Ralph Nader,” said Gadget’s Blog (which, BTW, has a big “IMPEACH OBAMA NOW! Patriots Against Obama” banner at the top), “but he is one of the few on the left who is at least giving an apples to apples comparison of Bush’s to Obama’s actions.” We guess this is what is meant by Strange New Respect. Similarly, Doug Powers of Michelle Malkin pretended to take seriously Dennis Kucinich’s impeachment threats against Obama (“I love the smell of a potential primary challenge in the morning”).
The New York Times provided a new angle with an article mentioning that “three women were pushing for American intervention to stop a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Libya,” — Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. This rightbloggers scored as a victory over the ancient liberal canard that women are peace-loving.
“It’s the opposite of the Code Pink idea that women bring the peace,” wrote Ann Althouse. “How long have I heard this feminist plaint: If only women had the power, we would have peace, not phallocratic war… Oh, timid men. Step aside! Yield to the boldness of women.” It’s labia versus Libya!
“Suffragists and feminists often claimed that women would bring world peace if they could only get the reins of power,” agreed The Thinking Housewife. “For 40 years, feminist scholars have argued that if more women were placed in significant roles in developing public policy..” blah-blahed Right Pundits. “I never liked ‘chickenhawks’ as a slur,” said Tom Maguire, “but given their slim military credentials will libs be calling Hillary, Samantha and Susan the ‘chick-hawks’?” “Feminism = Peace!” laffed Charles Crawford.
And so on. When exhausted of other hooks, rightbloggers fumed at Obama for playing golf during Libya, taking a “vacation” in Rio de Janeiro (actually a diplomatic mission but, well, you know how they do) during Libya, etc. We hate to pick favorites, but will say that “Nothing to See Here: Chuck Todd Skips Controversy of Obama Making NCAA Picks During Crises” is at least among our favorite related headlines.
Many liberals are indeed disappointed to see Obama lobbing cruise missiles into another oil-rich country. But that’s how the big game of two-party government goes — each side shores up its base when it can, but mainly acts out of fear that events might highlight its perceived weaknesses (in the Democrats’ case here, unwillingness to use military force) and so turn off the dreaded Undecided Voters, who are thought to be susceptible to that sort of marketing. ‘Twas, or should we say ’tis, ever thus: We understand there are people who are surprised, or at least pretend to be, that the big budget cuts the Republicans promised them in the late election have been reduced to a scant $61 billion. In American politics, there’s always plenty of disappointment to go around.