Speaking in Chile to defend his decision to launch Operation Odyssey Dawn, President Obama couldn’t resist taking a swipe at George Bush, in a clumsy attempt to make himself look superior.
As reported by Fox News, the President declared: “In the past there have been times when the United States acted unilaterally or did not have full international support, and as a consequence typically it was the United States military that ended up bearing the entire burden.”
As the folks at Fox quickly pointed out, Bush actually had twice as many international allies for the invasion of Iraq as Obama has put together for his adventure in Libya. They even put together a list.
The thinking behind this latest Bush smear is extremely troubling. You might view Obama reflexively blaming or denigrating Bush as a dog-bites-man story, but consider the context.
Odyssey Dawn is only four days old. Unlike Bush, Obama made no effort to prepare the American people for the operation, and now that the initial surprise has worn off, significant questions are being asked about his authority to launch these attacks. The concept of taking executive action to counter an imminent threat was arguable in Bush’s case – and people have been arguing about it for years – but utterly risible with respect to Libya. Indeed, the Administration hasn’t even tried to advance such an argument.
Serious questions are being asked about the long-term objectives of Odyssey Dawn, how much of it we’ll be expected to pay for, and whether promises to avoid the commitment of ground forces will be kept.
Against this backdrop, Obama decided to throw out an offhanded smear of his predecessor… a slander so transparently false that it was debunked within minutes?
That’s a disconnect with reality so profound that it verges on mental illness. It also highlights just how half-hearted and poorly thought out this decision was. The President has a massive staff and an enormous political team, but apparently no effort was made to put together a comprehensive response to critics of Libya policy. Nobody gamed out the scenario, considered the most predictable developments, and developed comprehensive, well-researched answers to likely challenges. Instead, it was Improv Night in front of a brick wall in Chile, and the President decided to haul out the old joke about Bush the Unitary Executive.
The President’s comment demonstrates an appalling lack of knowledge about the Iraq war. He ran as an outspoken opponent of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay… but has continued all three, and now added Libya. It would seem his campaign criticism was not informed and intelligent opposition, but rather a general conviction that George Bush is the devil, and anything he did should be mindlessly denounced from every possible angle.
Congress is understandably upset that they weren’t even formally notified about Odyssey Dawn until several days of bombing had already gone by. No rational person could have thought they would be mollified by boasting of how many international allies were consulted, especially since this is a coalition Obama was dragged into. This is not the rhetoric of a President who has been carefully weighing policy options since the beginning of the Libyan uprising. It’s the irritable snarl of a man who sent American troops into combat to get everyone off his back, so he could get back to doing what he enjoys.