Born-Again Leftist Hawks

The mental contortions used to justify Libya by the vocal critics of Iraq.

Supporters of Barack Obama, who campaigned to finish the “good” war in Afghanistan and drop the “bad” war in Iraq, cast enthusiastic ballots with the expectation that their candidate would subtract America from at least one war. Instead, he added one.

For Obama’s foot soldiers, it is time either for epiphany or to get in line for Kool Aid. A third war in the Islamic world, after all, is not the hope and change they voted for. The campaign in Libya elicits disillusionment or rationalization. For those engaging in the latter, the party line is, though embarrassingly hypocritical given the caustic rhetoric during the George W. Bush presidency, quite predictable.

This is a liberal war. Did I say war? I meant “kinetic military action,” or “humanitarian mission,” or maybe “internationally authorized intervention,” or perhaps “time-limited, scope-limited military action” even. Liberals don’t fight wars. They manage “conflicts,” oversee “interventions,” and participate in “actions.” Bullets fly. People die. Just don’t call them wars.

Liberal bombs and missiles are humanitarian in intent. When American ordnance and Libyan people experience their moment of cultural exchange, the Libyans will surely appreciate how well meaning the American policy is. What is “I am from the U.S. government and I am here to help you” in Arabic?

The campaign is multilateral. This is another way of saying France is on board. Operation Iraqi Freedom, which involved a more diverse coalition that included Brits, Poles, Spaniards, and three dozen or so other peoples, was “unilateral.” That’s because the French stayed home.

Sure, Barack Obama bypassed Congress. They’re comprised primarily of conservative rubes now, anyhow. The Constitution? It gives rights to foreign gentlemen imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay; it doesn’t restrain presidential power, at least when the commander in chief is a Democrat. The important thing is that the Obama administration went to the United Nations. Their approval, not Congress’s, affirms the legality of the president’s action.

The decision to go to kinetic military action was made after due consideration and prudential deliberation. This is Barack Obama, Ivy League graduate, we are talking about. George W. Bush may have rushed to war when he attacked Iraq five months after Congressional approval and more than a year after the first protests of an Iraq war that wasn’t (yet). But Barack Obama’s commitment of the American military to another Middle Eastern campaign, when everybody was preoccupied with a natural disaster in Japan, was anything but a rush to war. So circumspect is this president that he waited more than a week after U.S. jets took to the Libyan skies to give his reasons to the American people in a televised address.

Barack Obama struck Libya not for narrow U.S. interests; he did it for the world. The Secretary of Defense himself said on ABC’s “This Week” that Libya was “not a vital national interest to the United States.” This is no jingoistic war waged by America for America. It is fought with the altruistic aim of making the world a better place.

Barack Obama’s motives are pure. There may be oil in Libya. And prices may be approaching $4 a gallon at the pump. But you can be sure there will be no blood spilled for oil. He is too noble for such uncouth motivations. He is a Democrat like us. He is good like us.

If this is an unfair characterization of the mental contortions used to justify Libya by the vocal critics of Iraq, then the born-again hawks, by all means, should explain in their own words why one megalomaniac dictator deserved to be bombed while another deserved to be overlooked; one oppressed people merited help and another rated to be ignored; a war without Congressional approval is dubbed legal and a war with Congressional approval is deemed illegal; a war conducted by a coalition of several dozen nations is decried as “unilateral” while a war conducted by essentially three countries is praised as “multilateral”; a war months in the offing is a rush job while one sprung on the American people without so much as a presidential address avoids that designation; and bombing foreigners is jingoistic when ordered by a Republican but humanitarian when ordered by a Democrat. The major objections to Operation Iraqi Freedom generally apply to Operation Odyssey Dawn more easily.

Muammar Gaddafi is an unhinged brute unfit to rule a pet, let alone a country. The people of Libya are right to desire his hasty departure. But he poses no threat to America and his country is not a vital U.S. interest. On the question of Libya, war is not the answer. Neither is kinetic military action.

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Sky News, PBS, CSPAN, and other networks. He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at