Monday, March 28, 2011

The Speech: There is no Plan A

By Donald Sensing

"Hope is not a method, and wishes are not plans."

When I was assigned to the Army Operations Center in the early 1990s at HQDA, the chief of staff was Gen. Carl Vuono. He sometimes found occasion during our briefings to him about current and planned operations to hammer home a point: "Hope is not a method and wishes are not plans."

Don't tell me what you hope will happen, don't tell me what you wish you could do, he repeated. "Give me a plan that makes it happen."

A man with no plan
How I wish Gen. Vuono, long retired now, could have coached the present commander-in-chief about Libya and the speech about it tonight.

As my internet service went down in the middle of the speech (great timing, eh?) and it's late now where I live, this is just a quick summary analysis.

1. President Obama said that there would have been a massacre in Benghazi if Qaddafi's army had not been turned back. This is a reasonable assumption - but it is no more reasonable (or necessarily more accurate) than President Bush's assertion that Saddam Hussein possessed stocks of WMDs that would be turned against Iraq's neighbors or even the United States. On such assumption war is made in the 21st century, one must suppose.

2. The president simply hopes that Qaddafi will step down, flee for his life, pack it in, retire,take an extended vacation, whatever. Obama is certain that this will take place in the near future. Yet he offered us no reason whatsoever to think it will come to pass. And the president reiterated that NATO is not going to do anything to make it happen.

This assumption is nothing but hope. It is the merest wisp of fog, a vapor in the night, resting only on the president's unwarranted assertion that somehow, ever-thin's gonna work out all right.

3. There was no mention of what a post-Qaddafi Libya will look like politically if Qaddafi does trip, fall down the stairs and break his neck. The rebel alliance is -- what? Who? Obama didn't offer a glimmer. But once again, don't worry, be happy, there is no cause for alarm. Everything's gonna work out all right because our intentions are pure. And we are being careful not to hurt anyone when we drop those bombs.

This is supposed be be the plan - but it's not a plan. It's just hope and wishes. So let's proceed to another, equally possible eventuality: Qaddafi decides that he would like to keep on dictating because that is what dictators like to do. And if he can't dictate over all Libya, he'll take the western part with Tripoli and environs to use as a base to wait NATO out, then roll up the rebels.

If this is Case B, does Obama have a Plan B? No.

Or, supposing that somehow (hoping that somehow, that is) that the rebels do take Tripoli, then what is our plan if Qaddafi's band goes guerrilla? Guerrilla warfare is the most brutal of all and the most lethal to civilians - because, definitionally, there really are no non-combatants in guerrilla warfare.

So then Libya becomes a north Africa version of Northern Ireland during The Troubles, Case C. If there is no Plan B, be assured there is no Plan C.

This was the president's speech in a nutshell: There is no Plan C, no Plan B, and for that matter, there is no Plan A, either. He knows what he wants to happen, but shrinks definitively and certainly away from making it happen. He hopes Qaddafi will play nice and beat feet outta there, and wishes Libya the best in the meantime. Or as Josh Trevino tweeted after the speech,
This is the first time in American history that a President has simultaneously set a war aim and disavowed means to obtain it.
But hope is not a method and wishes are not plans.

My friend David High, Marine Iraq combat field-grade infantry officer with three years there and later, civilian service in sub-Sahara Africa, called me tonight and said, basically, that Obama got rolled by the Europeans.

"It's their mess," David said. "This is an after-affect of French and Italian colonialism. The Libya war is neo-colonialism by the Europeans. And the United States is like fraternity pledges that the brothers make mop up the frat house floor on Sunday morning after an all-night kegger that they didn't attend."

And what is puzzling, if not actually astonishing, is that Barack Obama, who reputedly is of such deep anti-colonialism that he kicked Winston Churchill's bust all the way from the Oval Office to London, fell for it.

Or maybe it's not so puzzling after all, but to be expected.

Here's the speech:

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