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3:28PM

Obama: no American SysAdmin boots on the ground! (amended)

So he tells congressional leaders in Situation Room meeting, according to CNN just now.  Of course, sometimes certain US types show up very quietly on-site and nobody counts their boots, but we get the basic point.

Still, you have to wonder, why Mr.-All-Options-on-the-Table needs to flinch, pre-emptively, in such an obvious manner before even starting operations. Why signal that lack of intent up front? What does that buy you exactly from your opponent? Especially when it so clearly marks you as afraid of your own public?  It really makes you wonder about the quality of advice President Obama receives. It just comes off as so . . . I dunno . . . European, when Europe (at least parts of it) are acting more like America used to (making you wonder if Obama's purposefully suppression of US leadership really changes anything or just shifts the leadership impulse back to Europe's France--the one country there with an ambition to lead).

This is fine and dandy and I generally approve of the division of labor.  The more the "international community" picks up the SysAdmin work, the easier for the US Leviathan to works its magic.

Think back to the Balkans:  we did it mostly through the air and put forth only a small fraction of the eventual boots. But this time, given our current load and recent history, perfectly appropriate to line up others for the follow-through.  An excellent solution.  The Leviathan intervention will happen time and again, but Iraq-the-US-hogs-the-SysAdmin-show phenom never needs repeating.

But make no mistake, really no Leviathan action without us and our willingness to participate, and that's real leadership worth maintaining, because the entire system benefits whenever we can collectively muster norm enforcement.

No, we won't get it everywhere (across Gap) and we certainly don't need it everywhere (i.e., Core).  But when the opportunity is there, and the demand is there, and you are a difference maker on supply provision, you have to step up enough to enable the response.

Already we get a sense that Qaddafi's "cease fire" will be selective, but at least now we've entered into a serious negotiating stance.  This is all very positive.

Reader Comments (6)

In answer to your amendment, perhaps it is because Congress has some say when we go to war and has a right to have its questions answered.

March 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick O'Connor

The 'international community' dithered long enough for Govt forces to be able to infiltrate into Benghazi. OK, as a friend says, "It is what it is." Now is when the Special Ops community needs to make its money (again, those guys earn their pay and then some!). What would work is a classic Special Forces role in training and advising both the rebels, and the Arab League troops that will need to be placed on the ground to keep Govt forces from continuing to sneak downtown.

I still think, though, that the primary point of leverage is against the Gadhafi insiders; we need to figure out how to ratchet up the pressure on those guys that they will go down with him. Otherwise, it'll deteriorate into a very long and bloody low intensity conflict, where the Govt folks hope the international community gives up and goes home.

March 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Emery

Patrick,

Not my point. Didn't say he shouldn't answer Congressional questions or even that this is the wrong answer to give.

Point is that it was unwise, in my mind, to advertise the decision openly right when he's issuing ultimatums to Qaddafi. If you're trying to convince somebody to do something like that, no sense in broadcasting up front the limit of your actions.

Even if he knows everybody is going to exit the meeting and tweet the results, he should have said that the US has no intention of putting troops on the ground but that nothing can be ruled out at this time. Everyone on our side would know what he's trying to avoid but he wouldn't be advertising a preset limit that he very well may not be able to keep.

March 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterThomas P.M. Barnett

Have to say that the past few weeks have left me wondering where America had gone. Don;t get me wrong I recognise the massive increase in a risk adverse American political system and people, but this ne just sat up and screamed here a case study for Tom's next book. An opportunity to do this right. US air power and stand off munitions, some spec ops trigger pullers on the ground doing the real dirt, while the rest of the world picked up the slack on sys-admin duties. But it still took weeks to get organised.

Yes things take time, but really this much. As heart breaking as the lack of effort directed to Sudan was, this was possibly more so.

This really has been a remarkable display of the American Leviathan. In roughly 24 hours, we have shut down the Libyan air force and taken out a big chunk of its armor - all with the the use of air power and never setting foot on the ground. A nation that can do this is always going to be a nation to be reckoned with, and if you believe as I do, that the US generally (assuming we think things through) is on the right side of the issues, that's a good thing. Something to consider when defense budget cuts are on the table.

March 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterstuart abrams

I still struggle to believe everything is solved with air power. That is a tough statement but the 1st phase should be straightforward like this. Had the sys admin work performed in Iraq and continuing in Afghanistan been completed based on population (25 peacekeepers to 1000 people) with simply 10% US involvment and the rest from our allies in Turkey, China, Russia, and India, those insurgencies wouldn't have happened and would have been cheap and no one would have died. Similar to both Balkans efforts in 1995 and 1999.
Now, countries that are in the gap are have more people than the Balanks so go to our allies with the soldiers to complete the task. NOTE: if the US isn't there on the ground at least 10% troops, nothing happens and the US shouldn't engage until the G-20 agrees.
Obviously, Libya is the exception since 3,000 to 10,000 have died in three weeks. I'm looking to the Arab league to contribute the bulk of 150,000 troops (25 per 6 million Libyans) for the sysadmin work between 5-8 years (average length of civil war plus reconstruction). This would also allow for simply one combat tour for 5 years for those troops as well with no heavy combat.
Remember too what caused this, high bread prices! Where is the completion of the Doha round to alleviate grain prices for countries which spend 80% of income on Housing and Food compared to 35% on Housing and Food for core countries.
I'm a little concerned too with other countries where intervention may be on the only option, such as, Yemen, Somalia, finishing Afghanistan by 2014, part of Pakistan (dangerous if breaks up). If the world can bring the income in the 54 gap countries up to 3000 GDP/Capita, then those countries can make it to $10,000 GDP/capita on their own and go democratic. This is already happening and should be completed by January 1, 2040.
The next 29 years may have some necessary interventions in possibly Myanmar, North Korea (should be peacefully re-unified is my hope), Zimbabwe (may be pushed forward by people), Sudan (split peacefully although Darfur remains), and Democratic Republic of Congo (last of Rwandan civil war). If US is smart, eastern nations should be involved to keep cost, killing, and participation, and occupation small and between 5-8 years per situation.
Thanks.
Derek

March 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDerek Bergquist

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