On Operation Odyssey Dawn

American Fighters will patrol Libyan skies


Blundering Into Yet another Mid-East War! This Time Its Libya!

The swiftness of the coalition attack on Libya last Saturday caught me by surprise, although I have been following the situation closely.  While I argued against this invasion of Libya – yet another Islamic country that has committed no offense against the United States – I knew it could happen. As I listened to president Obama solemnly announce his decision to commit the American military to enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya in conjunction with England, France and the Arab League – which would be an unambiguous act of war – I was sure I had heard it all before.

First there is the profession of reluctance; we don’t really want to go to war but there is tyrant out there oppressing his people – who are always democracy loving ‘freedom fighters,” even if, as in this case, we don’t really know who the fuck they are or what they are about.  Then there is the question of our cherished values being violated, and since our values are “universal” we must defend them wherever they are under assault in the world.  And finally there is the hackneyed canard that no international effort against foreign tyrannies can succeed without “American leadership.”  We have all heard that one before; most recently before the Bushman launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  A war of choice from which we have yet to extricate ourselves, although it has now gone on longer than World War II.  And judging by the title they have bestowed on this invasion “Operation Odyssey Dawn,” who can say what the ultimate objective of this new war with Libya is?

Already we hear Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman on State of the Union this morning expanding the mission.  Hence “Mission Creep” is already rearing its ugly head.  “It is clear that we are in for a longer war,” says Lieberman, a proto-Zionist who wants to destroy any Islamic nation who cannot be brought under American control because he views that as the only way the security of Israel can be secured.  Needless to say, given the consequences of our one sided pro-Israel policy in the region, a reassessment of or national interests in the Middle East ought to be undertaken and our policies should be adjusted to the realities we face, not the wishful thinking of ideologues.  John McCain’s take on the invasion is entirely predictable, he’s Gung Ho!  Big Bad John is already to rumble, especially in a Third world country.

His cavalier dismissal of Libya as “a fourth rate military power” reflects the same attitude he had when he swaggered into Vietnam – another “fourth rate military power” by American standards.  But when his million dollar fighter plane was blown out of the sky by an enemy with no air-force, then captured and subjected to the will of these little brown rebels for a couple of years – where he spilled his guts and sang like a canary – he has suffered a deep sense of failure that he wants to assuage by a victory over some similar Third World force.

This issue however, is beyond the scope of the present commentary, anyone who is interested in my argument regarding McCain’s mindset should read my commentary – “General Clarke is Right: John McCain is Unfit to be Commander-In-Chief” – which was written during the presidential campaign when McCain’s military experience was being touted as the reason we should vote for him over Barack Obama.  Suffice it to say that the “Mack Man” is a psychologically disturbed war monger looking for a chance to salve his wounded pride, and any war will do.  Hence we should seek no counsel from him on matters of war and peace!

John McCain’s Capture by the Vietnamese after Downing his Plane
A defeated soldier still looking for a victory?

The problem with these kinds of decisions – whether or not Americans should ride to the rescue of beleaguered people with armed force – is that the public, reflecting the shallow jingoism of much of the mass media, generally have far too simple a conception of the problem.  For me, reaching a decision on whether the US should participate in an armed intervention of Libya involved consideration of many factors.  First of all there is the question of whether it is in the national interests of the US to participate in launching another war against an Arab nation.  This is a question that must be considered from several angles.  The discussion must begin with the simple questions: What are the paramount American interests in the Middle East?   And how has American policy evolved to protect those interests?

What, for instance, were the Bush administration’s objectives in the region and how did that influence their decision to invade Iraq – an act which many historians consider the biggest diplomatic blunder in history.  Most people think it was all about gaining control of the Iraqi oil reserves, which are abundant because they share some of the same pools as the Saudi’s.  However this was not the only motive for the American invasion, it was also just as much the product of the flawed theories of Neo-Con eggheads led by Paul Wolfowitz, a puppet of “Dirty Dick” Cheney’s, about creating a “unipolar world” under American domination – a Pax Americana based on the Pax Romana of the ancient Roman Empire.

I will soon post a detailed analysis of how this happened so I won’t belabor the issue here.  It will be an excerpt from a 110 page reflection on my debate about the Iraq war with Christopher Hitchens – the same treatise from which the commentary “On Racism and the Arabs” was culled.  The point here however, is that it is a mistake to attribute the Bushman’s invasion of Iraq to control of the oil reserves of those nations. That might be the concern of the oilmen in government and their shills, but for Senator’s McCain and Lieberman – the odd couple of American politics and a rare instance of bi-partisan cooperation in Congress – there are other issues that matter more in their heart of hearts.  And it may yet turn out that these impassioned ideologues will be more influential than the skeptics because they are so convinced of their cause and simplistic in their arguments.

Yet they have failed to adequately consider the innumerable things that can go wrong once the bombing starts, or the cost to the US in treasure …if not blood too.  And at a time when our economy is in the tank and the Obama Administration has frozen the wages of underpaid public servants, and Republican governors are abrogating the rights of American workers to collectively bargain with their government employers, the last thing this nation needs is another war anywhere…and certainly not in the Arab world.   It is conventional wisdom among historians of Empire that imperial nations crumble when the burdens of defending the empire bankrupts their treasury and leads to economic decline.

Of course Americans refuse to accept that we are an imperialist nation because we don’t have colonies based on the classical model of European nations.  That’s because the structure of the American empire bears a closer resemblance to the ancient Roman model. The great British historian Dr. Arnold Toynbee, one of the most learned men ever to write on the history of western civilization, demonstrates this in his book “America and the World Revolution.” Professor Toynbee pointed out that the Romans didn’t physically colonize weaker peoples through settlements and land alienation; they extracted treaties from them that gave them title to portions of their territory on which the Romans could construct military garrisons.  And it was from these strategically located military bases that the Romans imposed their will on the nations in the Roman spheres of influence.  It does not require formidable intellectual resources in order to see the similarities between the role of foreign bases in Ancient Rome’s domination of the ancient world, and the American imperial system that dominated the twentieth century.  That’s why American forces were able to assemble off the shores of Tripoli so rapidly.

For many years Americans had the burden of reconciling their armed proselytizing about the universal right to freedom and democracy for white people in Europe, suffering under fascism or communism, with the fact that they were practicing a fascist like tyranny over African Americans at home, and supporting the non-democratic police state tactics which was the standard operating procedure of their European colonialist allies.   Although few Americans recognize it, powerful pressures from the international arena created by the Cold War with the Soviet Bloc greatly influenced the willingness of racist backward white Americans to finally scrap the legal racial caste system that prevailed for over three quarters of US history.  Now that we have an African American President with an Arabic name, irrefutable evidence that the de jure caste system is history, many Americans believe the US can assume the role of moral policemen of the planet without being accused of white domination.

I have my doubts.  Our reputation is so bad in the Muslim world many people can be easily persuaded to believe the worst about Americans even if our intentions are honorable…as I have no doubt our President’s motives are.  Already we see Mummar Khadaffi screaming about the American invaders and their flunkies attacking another sovereign Arab government, with the self-avowed intention of removing a head of state from office.  And as in the other cases this government has conducted no hostile action against the US.  And he has the advantage of truth on his side in making the allegation.  Hence when he expands this to charge that Americans are waging war against Islam he will find many open ears on the “Arab street” that are greedy for his message.

The fact that Gadaffi has been a relentless foe of the Islamicist – as was Hosni Mubarek and Sadam Hussein – will be obscured by the anger and resentment of Muslims toward the “Great Satan,” who is killing Muslims in still another Muslim country.  I think we have stumble around and initiated another war that will be much harder to end than anyone associated with this decision is willing to admit.  While the Defense Secretary, the top Generals and the National security Advisor expressed skepticism about this military adventure and counseled restraint, the lady hawks – Hillary Clinton, Dr. Susan Rice and Professor Samantha Powers of Harvard – got into the president’s head and swayed him to their side.  Now that the dogs of war have been unleashed, let’s hope those who predict that this will be a walk in the Park because Gadaffi will quickly surrender in the face of the American led assault.  Let’s hope and pray that their prognostications are right…but I have serious doubts.  Sounds like SOS – the same old shit – to me!!  I will follow these developments with interest.  Stay tuned!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March, 20, 2011

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