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The GOP's Response to Obama's Actions in Libya: A Case Study in Hypocrisy

President Obama's recent decision to participate in air strikes against Libya to enforce a UN-approved no-fly zone, intended to prevent the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people seeking freedom from more than 40 years of oppressive brutality by the Gaddafi regime, has, once again, exposed a vein of hypocrisy that runs deep within the Republican Party.

The modern-day GOP has long since abandoned any and all fidelity to truth, intellectual honesty and plain old facts, in favor of clinging to a verifiably failed ideology of greed, a disturbing pattern of proud ignorance and bigotry, as well as a disgusting habit of knowingly spreading blatantly false information for the sole, cynical purpose of winning elections.

Since the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, the regressive right has engaged in a two and a half year temper tantrum marked by shoulder-to-shoulder opposition to anything and everything the president supports, even those things that were originally Republican ideas (e.g. the individual mandate to purchase health insurance being a necessary prerequisite to achieving universal coverage, the market-based cap-and-trade proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions, to name but two examples).

No single issue or event during the Obama Presidency, however, has shined so bright a light on the GOP's rampant hypocrisy than the recent events in Libya.  For decades, the Republican party has branded itself as the party of "hawks" - unafraid to exercise our military might wherever and whenever U.S. interests were even remotely involved.  For example, on April 15, 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes against the tyrant in Tripoli following the Gaddafi-sanctioned bombing of a Berlin discoteque ten days earlier, in which two American military personnel were killed and more than fifty American soldiers and marines were injured.

Reagan ordered these airstrikes pursuant to his constitutional role as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and did not consult with or notify Congress about his intentions until after the fact.  Reasonable minds can disagree over whether Reagan had a constitutional obligation to consult with Congress prior to engaging in military action, particularly in light of the War Powers Act of 1973, however, the fact remains that he did not, nor did he do so, for that matter, prior to the 1982 intervention in Lebanon, the 1983 invasion of Grenada, nor prior to the various military campaigns he waged in Central America during his administration.

The criticism of President Obama's decision to participate in U.N.-sanctioned airstrikes in Libya coming from the left, while overblown and completely unfounded, have, nonetheless, been consistent with the long-standing beliefs held by the left that war-making authority is vested solely in the Congress and that no president may authorize military action without prior Congressional approval. The criticism coming from the right, however, can only be described as hypocritical at best, schizophrenic at worst.

As the winds of change began to blow across the Middle East last December, beginning in Tunisia, followed by Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain and then Libya, the freedom-loving hawks of the Republican party almost immediately began to criticize the president from every angle, running the gamut from the petty and superficial (former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum calling the Obama administration "clueless," while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty claimed that the administration appeared to be "caught off guard and surprised and confused") to the downright bizarre (former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's complaints that President Obama hadn't strongly enough signaled his support for Mubarak, apparently wishing for the U.S. to side with a brutal dictator over supporting the Egyptian people's unambiguous cries for freedom and democracy).

Unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama apparently believes that engaging in military action against another sovereign nation requires broad, international support.  As such, rather than making a knee-jerk decision to either stay out of the conflict in Libya or to become actively engaged in it, the president took the time to consider all of the possible ramifications of military action, sought input from allies around the globe, and waited for the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya to prevent a massacre of civilians - a measure that was passed, by the way, with the unprecedented backing of the Arab League.

While the president and his National Security team were shoring up international support for military intervention in Libya, nearly every possible contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination had something to say.  For example, when asked what he would do if he were president, Newt Gingrich responded on March 8, 2011 as follows:

Exercise a no-fly zone this evening, communicate to the Libyan military that Gadhafi was gone and that the sooner they switch sides, the more likely they were to survive, provided help to the rebels to replace him. ...The United States doesn't need anybody's permission. We don't need to have NATO, who frankly, won't bring much to the fight. We don't need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we're intervening. And we don't have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.

Just two weeks later, after President Obama demonstrated his deftness in walking the tightrope of international diplomacy by garnering the very type of broad international support he believes to be necessary in order to achieve success, Gingrich said:

I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Gaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.

Breaking with a long-standing tradition of not criticizing the President of the United States on foreign soil, the former, half-term, quitter Governor of Alaska and failed Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, accused the President of "dithering"on Libya during a trip to India- echoing a familiar refrain from the regressive right any and every time the President takes more than ten minutes to make a decision potentially affecting the lives of millions of people, such as his deliberate and considered approach to deciding how best to move forward in Afghanistan.

Then there are those criticizing the president for the costs of intervening in Libya - the very same people for whom money was no object (literally) when it came to waging war in a country that had not attacked us, was not actively engaged in the murdering of scores of innocent civilians, and did not possess the very weapons of mass destruction that were used as the main justification for going to war in the first place.

For some on the regressive right, it is an affront to our very character as a nation for the United States to partner with the U.N. or, worse, France, in addressing the situation in Libya.  Apparently, perpetuating the perception of America as the world's police is more important than mitigating the costs and responsibilities for the United States in participating in this multi-lateral military engagement in Libya.

Finally, when nothing else would stick, the president faced criticism for not cancelling a planned trip to South America while engaged in the airstrikes against Libyan military targets - ignoring the fact that the technology exists for the President to remain in close and constant contact with his National Security team as well as other world leaders and that his physical absence from the White House would in no way interfere with his ability to discharge his duties as Commander-in-Chief.

Enforcing a no-fly zone above Libya to prevent the slaughter of innocent civilians who want nothing more than to be free of their brutal oppressor is something that, one would assume, should be right up the Republican party's alley.  The random, incoherent, and nonsensical criticism by the regressive right serves to demonstrate beyond any doubt that, rather than a party of patriots, today's GOP is nothing more than a collection of sore losers and crybabies who peddle in ignorance, pettiness and outright hostility towards the duly-elected President of the United States.  It doesn't get any more anti-American than that.

 

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