Libya is on fire (literally). This is because President Obama and his colleagues in France and the UK blew it up with their 2011 assault on the country.
I say President Obama blew it up, rather than the US blew it up, because the US joined in the festivities entirely on his say-so. The President said that the US role was not something that required either consent or oversight from Congress because American lives were not at risk. By this he meant that the US could attack Gaddafi’s forces from the air and sea with impunity forever (it turned out to be seven months, officially). Only, absent congressional approval, it wasn’t the US attacking Libya but the President.
He told Congress not just that he didn’t need their approval, but that he was only reporting to them about the operation from an abundance of courtesy. He simply directed the US military to participate in the sustained assault at a cost of, according to the administration, about two billion dollars. That was less than the cost of two weeks in Iraq, the president said afterward. A bargain!
Some members of Congress groused about the president’s assertion of autonomy. A few were outraged, genuinely or otherwise. One got the sense that much of the resentment arose less from the deprivation of authority than from the lack of opportunity to speechify about the situation.
Outside Congress, opinion on the attack, or the president’s handling of the attack — “the situation in Libya,” as most of the polls put it — was almost evenly split throughout the duration of the official operation. More Republicans than not were okay with it initially, but they opposed it more as the operation wore on; more Democrats than not were okay with it initially, and more approved as it wore on. Relatively few people who disapproved did so because the president didn’t get congressional approval.
The liberal interventionist crowd were decorously orgasmic. Look! Humanitarian bombings at Filene’s Basement prices!
(If I’m ever forced to use human shields for humanitarian purposes, I want them to be liberal interventionists.)
People who opposed blowing up Libya on the grounds that it would kill lots of people and would not be successful in any context other than that of a commercial enterprise were, as usual, pretty much dismissed by everybody of consequence and were, as usual, right. And now Libya is burning and, as usual, nobody of consequence will be held accountable.
This is neither here nor there, really. Nobody much cares. Most Democrats will carry on with their “You da man!” approach to critiquing the President. Most Republicans still aren’t especially incensed by the fact of the attack on Libya or by the lack of deference from the President. Nothing before BENGHAZI! counts, apparently, and their approach to the current Libya-on-fire business is to blame the President for not keeping a firmer hand on the tiller of the Libyan ship of state after he sank it.
Weak! they say. Well hell: he blew the place up. Doesn’t that count for something?