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Obama's Women Advisers Pushed War Against Libya | The Nation

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Robert Dreyfuss

Bob Dreyfuss

News of America’s misadventures in foreign policy and defense.

Obama's Women Advisers Pushed War Against Libya

So three or four of  Obama’s advisers, all women, wanted war against Libya.

We’d like to think that women in power would somehow be less pro-war, but in the Obama administration at least it appears that the bellicosity is worst among Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power. All three are liberal interventionists, and all three seem to believe that when the United States exercises military force it has some profound, moral, life-saving character to it. Far from it. Unless President Obama’s better instincts manage to reign in his warrior women—and happily, there’s a chance of that—the United States could find itself engaged in open war in Libya, and soon. The troika pushed Obama into accepting the demands of neoconservatives, such as Joe Lieberman, John McCain and The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, along with various other liberal interventionists outside the administration, such as John Kerry. The rode roughshod over the realists in the administration.

The press is full of reports about how Clinton, Rice and Power pushed Obama to war. The New York Times, citing insiders, reports that Obama shifted to intervention in Libya only under pressure from the trio: “The change became possible, though, only after Mrs. Clinton joined Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, who had been pressing the case for military action, according to senior administration officials speaking only on condition of anonymity.”

Similarly, the Washington Post reports that yet another administration woman, Gayle Smith, joined Ben Rhodes and the troika of other women to push for war: “Obama’s decision to participate in military operations marks a victory for a faction of liberal interventionists within the administration, including Rice, Rhodes and National Security Council senior directors Samantha Power and Gayle Smith.” Opposed, or leaning against, were Secretary of Defense Gates, Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, and John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism chief.

Did the United States win legitimacy through the vote at the UN? Hardly. Five huge world powers abstained: India, Brazil, Germany, China and Russia. Using its enormous clout as the world’s last, if declining, hyperpower, the United States had to dragoon tiny little countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Portugal to vote yes, or it couldn’t have won the nine votes it needed to pass the resolution. At one point, Susan Rice had to scurry out to find the South African ambassador, who’s apparently tried to avoid the vote. The vote almost didn’t pass, since the United States, the UK and France ended up with only ten votes in the UNSC.

Did the UNSC resolution that passed demand that Muammar Qaddafi step down? No, it didn’t. While it gave open-ended permission to the United States, the UK, France, and other powers to attack Libya (short of an invasion), it has nothing whatsoever to say about regime change. (Go ahead, read the whole text.) It calls for “the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians,” demands “ a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people,” and “demands that the Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law.” That, however, hasn’t stopped President Obama from acting like he has a mandate for regime change, and US officials are making it clear that even if Qaddafi accepts the UN's terms, he can't survive. And Susan Rice says that the United States is prepared to go beyond the UN resolution, by arming the anti-Qaddafi forces.

So who’s in the new “coalition of the willing”? So far, it looks like it’s the United States, the British, the French and that bastion of democracy, the United Arab Emirates. That vicious and undemocratic kleptocracy, whose troops recently invaded Bahrain to put down a democratic rebellion there, is sending its jet to participate in the attack on Libya. In a painful and delivious irony, Clinton was meeting with the UAE’s foreign minister in Paris, and here’s how the Times described her dilemma: “In a Paris hotel room on Monday night, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton found herself juggling the inconsistencies of American foreign policy in a turbulent Middle East. She criticized the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates for sending troops to quash protests in Bahrain even as she pressed him to send planes to intervene in Libya.” Or was it really a dilemma? Qaddafi has long been a thorn in the side of the United States, so toppling him is a good thing, but the rulers of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf have long been subservient stooges, so why not keep them around?

Meanwhile, Qaddafi is making some good points. According to CNN, Qaddafi “called the UN moves ‘invalid’ because the resolution does not permit intervention in the internal affairs of other countries,” adding: "Libya is not yours. Libya is for all Libyans. You will regret it if you take a step toward intervening in our internal affairs.” And he “asked Obama what he would do if such an armed movement controlled American cities. ‘Tell me, how would you behave so I could follow your example?’” While farfetched, it’s an important point. Whatever else it is, the battle in Libya is an internal matter and a civil war. There’s no  indication yet that Libyan forces are carrying out genocidal massacres, although undoubtedly the fighting is brutal and bloody. Under what provision of international law does the United States have the right to muscle the world’s nations into supporting a UN resolution giving Washington, London, Paris and Abu Dhabi the right to attack Libya? 

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