Posts Tagged ‘Libya’


This article originally appeared at LobeLog. 

It’s time to ask some tough questions about US policy regarding Egypt. The most pressing being what that policy is, exactly?

John Kerry in a pre-June meeting with then Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, and then-President Mohammed Morsi

John Kerry in a pre-June meeting with then Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, and then-President Mohammed Morsi

agreed with the easily assailable decision by the Obama administration to refrain from labeling the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi a coup. It still is my belief that doing so might be consistent with US law, but would not be helpful to Egypt. Instead of taking funding away from the military which, since it now directly controls the Egyptian till, would simply divert the lost funds from other places (causing even more distress to an already reeling Egyptian economy) it would be better to use the aid as leverage to push the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) toward an inclusive political process that would include drafting a broadly acceptable constitution and, with all due speed, re-installing a duly elected civilian government. (more…)

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President Obama has now left Israel and is winding up his trip. His speeches sounded very counter-productive, offering no hope for progress. And I suspect that was just the message he was sending, especially to Israel. I explain in this week’s Souciant column.

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The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been greeted with the expected polarized commentary. Chavez was a man both vilified and idolized outside and, to some extent at least for a while, inside Venezuela. It’s worth taking a look at the man now.

Chavez was a populist, socialist leader who wasted little time alienating both the United States and the Venezuelan upper class after he took office. Chavez became a global

The Late Hugo Chavez

The Late Hugo Chavez

hero for the left, and with good reason. He didn’t just promise to help the poor, he took action. He spent Venezuela’s revenue on education and health care. He pulled the country away from US influence. On the local level, Chavez set up groups – the Bolivarian Circles and Communal Councils – that were decentralized community boards of sorts that had real influence on local issues, a hallmark of participatory democracy that is very significant and rarely seen. And through nationalization of oil, agriculture and other business, Chavez both alienated major investors and substantially grew Venezuela’s GDP, at least for a while.

But while Chavez stuck to his guns when international investment plummeted, he, like most leftist leaders before him, was unable to figure out a way to contend with this. The US isolated Venezuela in the wake of his program of nationalizing the oil and other major industries in the country, costing US investors a lot of money. And Chavez welcomed that isolation; it allowed him to lead the fight against US imperialism, and he surely reveled in the role. And, while Chavez has kept the economy steady in recent years, it has been a patchwork project.

In his later years, Chavez followed an all too familiar pattern, vesting more and more power in the executive. Of course, after the failed coup attempt in 2002, and the ongoing efforts to destabilize his regime, there were real reasons for this. That’s the Castro argument, and the effects were the same. Chavez became more repressive, even earning some opprobrium from the left a few years back after he imprisoned a judge because he issued a ruling Chavez (and many Venezuelans) disagreed with. (more…)

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I wrote recently of my decision to support the intervention in Libya, and the difficulty of that decision. I have rarely seen a question that has so divided people, and it’s happened on both the left and the right. I struggled with the question because there are good arguments both for and against the now-NATO-led military action there.

There’s one argument, though, that does not have much merit, though. That’s the issue of Obama’s not seeking Congressional authorization for this action. And the fact that it doesn’t have merit raises a whole set of new questions that all Americans, as well as the masses around the world affected by American foreign policy, need to consider most seriously.

Obama pointing the way to bypass obstructionist Republicans

Let’s start with the legal issue. Some members of Congress seem to either ignore or be ignorant of the US Constitution.  Congress has the exclusive power to declare war, a provision meant to check the power of the President as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. But there was no war declared here on Libya. In no way can this action be called unconstitutional.

Even Obama got this wrong when, in a 2007 interview while he was still a Senator running for the big job, he said: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Though he does go on to say, correctly, that, “History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.” The problem, as I’ll address below, is that this Congress has made that option considerably less than preferable.

But is Obama’s action legal? After successive presidents got the US caught up in Asian quagmires in Korea and, most especially Vietnam (including, of course, the fabrication deceiving Congress about US forces being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, though the US had already been involved in Vietnam by that time for years), the Congress, in 1973, enacted the War Powers Resolution. The purpose of this law was to ensure that the president could no longer drag the US into a prolonged conflict without congressional permission. (more…)

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Sometimes, even an indecisive stance can be wrong. When it comes to the international intervention in Libya, until recent days, I was indecisive, and I was wrong.

A couple of days ago, I got off that fence, and actually came down on the side I had been leaning away from (as evidenced by a short quip in this article I recently wrote). Before I could post anything on that subject, Juan Cole posted an outstanding argument supporting the current international intervention. You should read it.

As always, my own thoughts are a little different, but I find nothing in Cole’s piece to disagree with.

Libyans demonstrating against Qaddafi and for a no-fly zone

My initial ambivalence was based on a number of factors. It was certainly clear enough to me that Qaddafi was preparing to seriously escalate his assault on the rebellious citizens in Libya, and there was every reason to believe that the casualty rate would be high and would include a good many uninvolved bystanders as well as the rebels.

But when the no-fly zone was first announced, it looked an awful lot like another American intervention without a clear exit strategy. I was concerned that the US was once again heading into a Muslim country without thinking through long-term considerations. Moreover, I was not only mistrustful of any international effort led by the US, UK and France, but was especially worried because it meant a Western military presence right next door to Tunisia and Egypt, and a greater concentration of Western forces in general near the sites of other potential revolutions.

I still have those concerns, and I think they’re healthy. Given the history of the three countries leading this effort, we should remain ever vigilant.

But in the end, none of this stacks up against what it was apparent Qaddafi was about to do. And there are more considerations here. (more…)

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A new international news and views site has opened, Souciant, and it is currently featuring my latest piece, “Peace Means Everybody: J Street and the Arab Spring.” Check it out.

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