Something You May Have Missed This Weekend

Over the weekend, groups of Libyan civilians stormed the headquarters of various militias, several of which have now said they are packing it in. This is, most certainly, an excellent development. It might “just” be self-interest on their part as a way of keeping the Americans out, or it might be, as I feel that it is, that they simply don’t want to live in a country that includes fundamentalist Islam. Theirs has been a largely secularized version of the religion over the last few decades, and I don’t think most of the people there want to go back to the days of the Caliph.

So I take this as a hopeful sign. It isn’t everything, but it’s something, and any sort of progress is welcome.


Romney: Foreign Policy Idiot

There was a time, not that long ago, when the conventional wisdom was that Democrats were better on domestic issues and Republicans were better on foreign issues. This view seemed to primarily be pushed by Republicans who wanted to see all cool and awesome against the Soviet Union, but I think there was at least a hint of legitimacy to it.

These days, however, the Republicans have, at least in my opinion, proven themselves unable to do either foreign or domestic policy with anything even approaching sanity. Just look at how George W fucked up our country at home and our standing abroad.

The foreign policy aspect of this is carefully intertwined with our insane stance on Israel; a stance that says they can do no wrong no matter what. That stance comes up, at least in part, because of certain right-wing wackos who are convinced that if Israel continues to be a powerful nation, it won’t be long until they rebuild the Temple of Solomon, and that will somehow trigger Armageddon. And the people who believe this are in positions of power. Yeah, gotta love democracy.

Anyhow, I doubt that Romney is part of that cadre of idiots, but clearly he has no clue on foreign policy or diplomacy, and seems to definitely belong to the current GOP school of thought that says, “We’re in charge! The rest of the world can fall in line or die!” This is showcased in his response to the recent attack on our consulate in Libya; an attack which resulted in our ambassador being killed.

I don’t want to go into all the details here (though Sully does here), but suffice to say Romney claimed the Obama administration’s first reaction was to apologize to Islam or some such nonsense. This is a lie. A pure, simple, unadulterated lie. That never happened. He also seems to believe a lot of other stupid foreign policy ideas, like that going to war with Iran is somehow a productive, effective, and possible notion.

Romney may be gifted in many ways, but he’s very unsuited to be president. This current debacle just adds fuel to that fire.

Another Dictator Gone

1942 - 2011

Muammar Qaddafi is now dead. The dictator of Libya died when he was shot by rebel forces, apparently after surrendering, though the details on that might change later. I hope he wasn’t shot while a prisoner. Executing someone without trial is the sort of thing that dictators do.

It’s unfortunate that it had to come to this. Qaddafi had plenty of potential, and there was a time there where it looked like he might have had some good ideas, and might be able to help all of Africa to improve. In the end, whatever evil impulses he had took over whatever good impulses he had, and, well, here we are.

I do hope that Assad is taking notes. I hope also that the dictators of Iran, Belarus, and various other nations are paying close attention. It would be nice if they could learn the correct lesson (ie: give your people democracy and step down while you stand a chance of being an elder statesman instead of a corpse), but I think it more likely they won’t.

It’s also worth noting the way that the Obama administration has handled this. To quote from the Daily Dish:

A reader writes:

Bush and Saddam – One Trillion dollars and thousands of US lives.

Obama and Qaddafi – One Billion dollars and zero US lives.

Meep Meep indeed.

And this time, the Arab world loves us as well.

To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Qaddafi within six months: if Obama were a Republican, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now.

One other note: this is the third time recently that someone of great international importance was killed without trial. Osama bin Laden and Anwar Awlkai were also both killed without being brought to court. Awlaki, to make things worse, was a US citizen and hadn’t even been charged with anything.

For those of you who think this is a good thing, and that it’s ok to kill people without trial when we know they are guilty, I invite you to answer this question: if a police officer finds someone committing murder and that someone surrenders, should the officer in question be allowed to handcuff the murderer and then shot them in the back of the head? Would you be comfortable with our police having that sort of power? I ask this question especially to the Republicans I know, many of whom are distrustful of government. Would you be ok with that sort of scenario?

“To the Shores of Tripoli…”

Well, sounds like events in Libya are just about done, aside from the upcoming reprisals, which hopefully won’t be too severe and will be carried out through courts rather than through mob justice.

First off, congrats to the people of Libya. Seriously, you guys have put up with a lot of shit over the last four decades and you deserved better. Hopefully you’ll get that. I also sincerely hope you guys catch Gaddafi and put his ass on trial. That’s a man who needs to be locked up for the rest of his life.

Second, congrats to NATO and specifically to President Obama. I don’t think that anyone’s under the delusion that things would have gone this way without our intervention and assistance for the rebels. Yes, they were determined, but I believe it was Voltaire who said God favors the bigger army.

To Americans, it’s worth remembering that for all his perceived failings on things like the economy (which has merely stagnated since he took office, instead of getting worse), Obama has still had many successes, and it’s under his watch that Gaddafi was defeated, the dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt fell, that the Syrian dictatorship is crumbling and that Osama bin Laden was finally killed. Remember this come 2012.

Droning On

Not an unmanned arial drone.

We have started using unmanned drones in Libya. Or to put it in a more alarming way “Terminators to Tripoli!” (note: exclaimation point added for obnoxiousness)

I know these vehicles are a problem for those on the right and on the left. I can kind of understand this, because basically everyone has seen The Terminator and we all “know” that the robots are out to destroy us (see here, here, here and just about every major science fiction film of the last twenty years).

I can understand this, but keep in mind: these aren’t robots. They are remote controlled vehicles. They are under human control flown by human pilots in a room in, I believe, Missouri. This is no different than a human pilot flying an airplane over enemy territory except, oh, wait, you don’t have that human pilot’s life in danger.

To me that is an important thing. While I don’t want us to have the hugely bloated military that we have right now, I do want the people in it to be as safe as possible. This is why I haven’t any problem ethically we us using these remote controlled vehicles. Why should I? I’m quite happy that we have a way to fly missions that doesn’t endanger the lives of the people flying them. I think that’s a good thing.

Now I know these things are a PR nightmare and have accidentally killed civilians. But that happens when we have real pilots and when we have people on the ground who have been known to even accidentally kill people on our side from time to time (side note: god, I’ve always thought that hat looks so stupid). Accidents happen in wartime no matter who is behind the controls. But frankly if we can at least keep our side safe, I’m happy with that.

Now I suppose the next question is: what if we do develop autonomous robots that can engage in combat? Should we send them into battle? Is the Pope a Catholic who covered up decades of child rape by priests? Yes. So yes. As long as there is oversight by a human, why not? This not only eliminates the physical danger to our troops, it also lessens the psychological nature and, frankly, makes the conflict just that much more terrifying for whomever we are fighting, thus making them more likely to surrender sooner and saving their lives, too.

The use of robotic devices and remote controlled vehicles in warfare is likely to only increase, and I’m just fine with that. Saving the lives of our soldiers is more important than giving into the fears of people who think those movies and TV shows linked to above are documentaries.

Obama’s Speech

So I watched Obama talking about our involvement in Libya. It was interesting. Didn’t really sway me one way or another. I’m still pretty ambivalent about our involvement therein and the fact that we aren’t involved in many, many other places. But I think he did do a good job of stating his case and I feel that, yes, we probably won’t be involved for too long and that’s a definite plus.

Also, I must admit I loved that he took a swipe at the last administration and the Iraq war. 😀

So Begins the New War

What is, as far as I'm concerned, the legitimate flag of Libya.

Well, following a resolution by the UN and a call for a no-fly zone from the Arab League, first the French, then us, then the Brits, have began attacking key military sites in Libya. The new war has begun.

I’m still not wild about this. But as long as we don’t ever, ever land feet on the ground in Libya again (again, you say? Where do you think we get “… to the shores of Tripoli”, in the Marine song?), I can put up with it. I do wonder what the overall plan is here, though. I mean, are we just going to stop Libya’s military from flying? Will we attack their ground forces from the air? Will we sink their ships in the Med? What exactly are our limits and what exactly is our goal?

Needless to say, the Libyan government isn’t taking this lying down. Here’s what they said in an official statement on Libyan TV:

“An enemy attacked the state on March 19 with rockets… Those enemies killed 48 martyrs- mostly women, children and religious clerics. they left more than 150 injured. The majority of these attacks were on public areas, hospitals and schools. They frightened the children and women near those areas that were subject to this aggression.”

*eye roll*

One good thing about the way this has played out is that at least we have the Arab League in support, and apparently Qatar and the UAE plan to help out. Many other Arab states quietly indicated they might help, provided no one says they have helped. That way they can have it both ways with bashing the West and getting rid of someone they don’t like, either. Be nice if they just manned-up and did it openly, but something is better than nothing.

Either way, what I really hope is that this leads to a better country for the Libyans. If it does, and if the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt work out ok, we could have three countries all bordering each other and all much better off than they were a year ago.