"No blood for oil" was a popular slogan chanted by the left in opposition to President George W. Bush's push to send U.S. forces into Iraq. Now that President Obama authorized Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya, I have been waiting to hear chants of "no blood for oil." I am happy to report, I don't hear them.
I went to the nobloodforoil.org website; its lead item opposes efforts to strike wolves from the endangered species list. In fact, as NATO forces are lobbing missiles to enforce a no-fly zone over the country with Africa's largest oil and gas reserves, the nobloodforoil.org domain name is for sale.
With a Democrat in the White House, the anti-war corner has a much more civil tone. Anti-war House members have asked the GOP leadership to schedule an up-or-down congressional floor vote on the use of military force in Libya. A perfectly reasonable proposal. Congress should take its constitutional responsibilities seriously.
Now the Obama administration is in the hot seat -- crushed between critics who charge the White House was too slow to authorize a no-fly zone and those who claim it was too rash in authorizing cruise missile strikes before notifying Congress. Hawks fear that Obama's promise not to put "boots on the ground" will embolden strongman Moammar Gadhafi to fight to retain power. Doves believe that Obama went back on his no-boots-on-the-ground promise by authorizing a CIA presence in Libya.
Now, there are some smart questions to be asking the Obama administration: Who are the Libyan rebels? Are al-Qaida operatives or other extremists members in their ranks? Can they win? Without answers, it is impossible to support any call to provide them with arms. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen opposes such a move; Obama said he wouldn't rule it in or out.
What happens if NATO wants to bomb rebel forces to protect civilians?
But the Obama administration isn't going to answer every question. What's the endgame? Obama says Gadhafi must go and that the military mission is not Gadhafi's ouster.
What's the exit strategy? Answer: the endgame.
As Obamaland has discovered once again: It's a lot easier to be asking questions than it is to answer them. On the same day that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney assured reporters that the U.S. military role would be of limited duration, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress "no one can predict" how long it will take before NATO's Operation Unified Protector will shut down.
Some Republicans have used Libya to score easy points against Obama -- Newt Gingrich was for the no-fly zone before he was against it.
Florida's new GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, however, has shown an adult conservative way to push for the necessary outcome -- regime change -- without tying Obama's hands. Last week, Rubio proposed a resolution to back the allied mission in Libya, to state that removing Gadhafi from power is in the national interest and to authorize that Obama act accordingly.
So there is reason to hope that the debate on Libya can focus on questions of principle, and Obama won't have to contend with the sort of cheap shots hurled against Bush as he won congressional authorization for the war in 2002. Why, one little-known state lawmaker charged that the Iraq War was an "attempt by political hacks" to distract the public "from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income," corporate scandals and "a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression." His name, as you've no doubt surmised, is Barack Obama.
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