Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Libya, Obama can do no right by the right

I'm still on the fence over the intervention in Libya, though I'm leaning more towards support than opposition. (Yes, I'm still something of a liberal interventionist, despite Iraq, despite Afghanistan.)

But I genuinely feel for Obama, who finds himself in a no-win situation politically -- unless everything breaks perfectly, which is highly unlikely. He's facing not just criticism from the left but calls for impeachment. And while the right, Republicans and the like, is generally supportive of intervention, nothing Obama does will ever be good enough, and we're already being bombarded with criticism that Obama isn't doing enough and took too long to make a decision. What is being responsible (or at least cautious and deliberative) to most of us is being weak to warmongers in the neocon circle. None of this is at all surprising -- partisanship? never! -- but it shows just how challenging it will be for the president to benefit from this, or even just to break even.

Andrew Sullivan, who thus far been a skeptic of intervention, exposes some of the conservative nonsense that is currently making the rounds, from the likes of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Max Boot, and Hugh Hewitt, yet also acknowledges, against such criticism, that the intervention has already, to a key point, succeeded:

President Obama -- calm, judicious, even-tempered President Obama -- jumped into this lose-lose mess in one Tuesday meeting. And the most significant gain -- avoiding a massacre in Benghazi -- has already been achieved.

This is not to say that the rest of the military effort will go well. There are still so many questions, and there is still so much uncertainty, not least with respect to the allies' longer-term objectives, and so much that could go horribly wrong. But the conservative criticism, with the possible exception of calls from the likes of John Boehner for Obama to explain the intervention more clearly, is simply comic in its ideological superficiality. Conservatives are either advancing their dangerous, and failed, agenda (they still have an awful lot of blood on their hands) or trying to score cheap political points, or both.

It will certainly be difficult to Obama to come out of this looking good, but so far... well, so good.

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