The vaunted coalition that George H.W. Bush put together was not due to last very long as it was limited in scope to strictly the liberation of Kuwait. There was no “New World Order” and frankly making alliances with nations such as Syria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia is loaded with danger. Foolishly, we allowed Saddam to survive and we are paying the price for that today.
by Arthur Herman
Twenty years ago today, ground operations in Operation Desert Storm came to a halt. American arms had won their most dazzling success in two generations, perhaps ever.
After five weeks of round-the-clock air strikes, forces under Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf shattered Saddam Hussein’s army, the biggest and most heavily armed in the Middle East, in just five days. The victorious 34-nation coalition lost only 392 killed, 294 of them Americans. Saddam had been driven from Kuwait; his regime teetered on collapse. A bright, new, world order seemed in the offing.
But two decades later we can see how many Americans, including our leaders, drew the wrong lessons from Desert Storm — creating myths that haunt us to this day.
One myth is that Desert Storm was the “good war” in which America and the world drew together to defeat a tyrant, compared to the deep divisions over the more recent Iraq war.
In fact, resolutions authorizing military action in Kuwait faced fierce opposition from the likes of then-Speaker Dick Gephardt, future Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Chuck Schumer and then-Sen. Joe Biden, and passed the House and Senate by inches. The first President George Bush went ahead despite the nay-sayers and prophets of doom and the thousands of protesters chanting “no blood for oil” — essentially the same folks who’d later brand his son a liar and war criminal.
A similar myth hovers over that amazing coalition, with not just the Brits and Aussies but also France (which sent 18,000 troops) and Greece and Pakistan, not to mention Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Its success bred the notion that the rightness of US military action rests on the number of nations willing to support it.
In fact, that coalition was a one-time event. There was no new world order, only an American president taking bold action and other countries calculating it was in their best interest to go along.
Plus, pressure from that same coalition helped to cut the campaign short and left Saddam in power — a gross mistake that would give Iraq’s dictator more than a decade to rebuild his power base, at brutal cost to the Iraqi people, before the United States under George W. Bush returned to complete the job. That is, it was thanks to that vaunted coalition that Americans threw away the advantages gained in the most successful military campaign any of them had ever witnessed.
And that was the other problem. Night after night, we saw videos of precision-guided smart bombs blowing up Iraqi positions with breathtaking accuracy. Smart weapons go back to Vietnam, but in Desert Storm they were 74 percent of all bombs dropped. Together with Stealth bombers and the new GPS guidance systems, they made war seem a clean, bloodless video game.
As we’ve learned since, most if not all wars aren’t like that. Grinding and violent, they require boots on the ground, boots from tough hardened units like Marines and airborne. They require men ready to charge a position and take it fighting room to room, bayonet to bayonet — as Marines did in Fallujah in 2004.
Wars also require a moral commitment to victory, a stoic endurance and patience at home as well as abroad. Desert Storm made the burden seem easy; when the Iraq campaign failed to be a rerun of 1991, many Americans asked for their ticket-money back. What they needed instead was a dose of sober realism about what our military could do after years of Clinton budget cuts, and how long it would take.
Desert Storm was the last hurrah of a military fed on Cold War budgets. It wasn’t GPS or smart bombs that destroyed Saddam’s military but old-fashioned planes and tanks and training — training that enabled our tank crews to shoot faster than the Iraqi automatic loaders.
Read the rest: Debunking the myths of Desert Storm
Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by their mishandling of the North African crisis as well as their poor treatment of old friends and allies shows that they are both out of their league. Neither one was prepared to take that 3:00 AM phone calls. Yes the White House and Foggy Bottom are staffed by blithering incompetents who see the world the way it ought to be rather then as it really is.
by Michael A. Walsh
Remember the ad Hillary Clinton ran against Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign?
“It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep,” it began. “But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world.
“Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world . . . Who do you want answering the phone?”
Now we know the answer: neither of the above.
Since the winds — and fires — of change began to sweep North Africa two months ago, first in Tunisia, then in Egypt and now in Libya, the Obama administration has distinguished itself by its utter ineptitude in dealing with what is both a crisis and a historic opportunity to change the governments and the culture of the Arab world.
The intelligence community failed to see the revolutions coming. The president adopted a strangely dispassionate, disinterested stance — hanging his spokesmen, both in the White House and at the State Department, out to dry.
“The president puts out statements on paper sometimes,” said new White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week, in reply to a reporter’s question about what was taking Obama so long to weigh in on Libya. Carney also blamed a “scheduling issue” for the lack of a rapid response.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton — “someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world” — came off like she’d literally woken up at 3 a.m. and stumbled out to face the cameras armed only with a mouthful of platitudes. Sounding more like a grief counselor than secretary of state, she said:
“The world is watching the situation in Libya with alarm. We join the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been lost, and with their loved ones . . . We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government.”
The Maria Dolores, a US chartered ferry hired to evacuate American citizens from Tripoli to Malta, was too small to sail in rough seas and had to delay its departure. To add insult to injury, the White House even misspelled the name of the country as “Lybia” on Twitter.
And UN ambassador Susan Rice? She blew off a Security Council meeting on the Libyan crisis in order to attend a UN panel discussion on “global sustainability” in South Africa. The Roxy had better amateur nights than this.
Once again, President “Present” has signally failed to lead, preferring instead to hide behind a fog of “consultations with allies.” True, on Saturday he finally — in a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel — called for Khadafy to step down, and also took diplomatic action against the beleaguered regime, issuing an executive order that blocks property and other transactions.
Insiders say that Obama hesitated to take a public stand against the doomed dictator for fear that US diplomats might be taken hostage. But a great power can’t conduct a robust foreign policy in fear; that way lies the path of Jimmy Carter, whom Obama is coming more and more to resemble. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out recently, America is starting to look like Switzerland in its international irrelevance. Is that what Obama meant by “fundamental change”?
Read the rest here: Untested and Unready