Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Time to Support Obama

As the far-left has assumed its normal, although currently somewhat subdued, opposition to war, many Republicans have begun to position themselves against the administration’s actions in Libya. Seemingly, much of this opposition on the right comes from politically- not ideologically-motivated origins. While budgetary concerns are certainly high in the minds of many Tea Party-infused congressmen, the GOP should be careful to avoid opposing a policy just because Obama initiated it.

A number of Republicans have begun speaking out against the mission. Some of this questioning is certainly appropriate. For instance, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) was correct to press Obama on the objectives of the mission in a recent letter sent to the president. However, like many Republicans, Boehner walks a fine line between assisting the war-wary president to define the United States’ goals and commitments and, on the other hand, fomenting an unwise charge against the intervention in Libya.

As outlined in the letter, there are a number of tactical considerations that must be publically clarified. Presumably some of Obama’s hesitation is due to the image of the anti-war president that he assiduously crafted as a candidate. But while questioning these tactical and even broader strategic concerns is valid, the underlying need and motivation for intervention should be off the table.

Not only would such partisan attacks smack of raw politics but they would establish a huge contradiction within Republican ideology. Republicans have spent over a decade defending the need to promote democracy across the globe. While there have arguably been missteps in the implementation of this mission, the underlying goal is sound. For a few partisan points in their political battle with Obama, it would be foolish to throw all of this away.

Instead, Republicans should jump on board with the no-fly zone, throwing their support behind the president and showing America that when the Democrats choose to do the right thing, bipartisanship can prevail. Not every policy initiated by the current administration need be opposed; fighting across the aisle is only warranted when the other side is grossly out of line, for instance as the Democrats were on Obamacare. Americans want to see this country moved in the right direction; they do not want to see consistent bickering.

The call, by some Republicans, including Utah’s congressmen, Jason Chaffetz, for congressional authorization of the no-fly zone is a prime example of this misguided policy. Relying upon Obama’s own asinine comments made to this effect while a candidate, Chaffetz argues that the president must turn to Congress for approval. This argument, though, is a straw-man, used by the opposition party for decades. Congress has not officially declared war since World War II, while numerous military actions have been initiated by presidents in the years since. The ability of the president, as commander-in-chief, to send troops into battle has been a long-settled issue. While Congress should undoubtedly be consulted prior to military action and should maintain certain controls and inputs into its execution, the current criticisms are nothing but transparent attacks on the office of the president.

Republicans should not join the far-left in this attack. That ground should be left to Dennis Kucinich and his loony friends who are mulling impeaching Obama. Instead, if the GOP feels the need to separate itself from the administration, it could look to some of the mistakes made in the implementation of the no-fly zone, in particular the long delay in its initiation. Jonah Goldberg, at National Review Online, makes the most poignant argument in this regard. While fully supporting the mission, he argues that the delay in getting it started has added some considerable difficulties. Goldberg blames this on Obama’s desire to be a multilateralist and fear of “too much unilateral hot-dogging” if the United States had taken the lead. His analysis is quite astute and correctly separates the tactical blunders made by the administration from the strategic necessity of intervention.

For Republicans who cut their teeth on opposition to this president, throwing their weight behind him will be a bitter pill to swallow. But doing right, by American interests, their principles, and the Libyan people, is far more important than partisan brownie points. Republicans need to show their principles and their mettle and support the president.

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