Victor Davis Hanson gave the breakfast keynote address at the West Coast Retreat on Saturday, April 2nd. And out of a long day of many outstanding presentations, this one was truly special. I think Hanson’s talk provided the weekend’s biggest “Ah-Ha! Factor.” That’s the moment when all the pieces of the intellectual puzzle snap together and you say to yourself, “Ah-Ha!” It’s a gleeful flash of recognition. The loose ends have been wrapped up and you really see things in a new light.
Hanson described President Obama‘s approach to policy (both foreign and domestic) as a postmodern problématique. Over the last couple of years, Obama has made promises of public policy completely abstracted from reality: on energy (cap-and-trade, eventually abandoned), on health care (ObamaCare, riddled with waivers), and on foreign policy (from Guantanamo to Libya, one brush with reality after another).
Simply put, every single claim President Obama has ever made has been completely divorced from reality.
On Libya, for example, Hanson cracked wise when he compared President Obama’s demands that Muammar Gaddafi step down — “You gotta go” — to the thought of Winston Churchill demanding of Hitler — “Adolf, you gotta go.” Seriously. History’s tyrants aren’t going anywhere unless removed by raw power. But American policy toward Libya’s been soft-and-squishy, dithering and excruciatingly multilateral. And in the end, the goals of the mission remain unclear to this day.
Are we going to remove Gaddafi from power? Well, Obama pledged no to regime change. Are we sending in ground troops? No, but the CIA’s been activated for potential covert operations. The possibility of a quagmire was made all the more likely by the ease of military action in Libya: It’s right there in the Southern Mediterranean. Britain and France can deploy without needing permission from allies for territorial flyovers and Anglo-French expeditionary forces won’t be trudging through barren terrain halfway around the world–like American troops have been doing for nearly ten years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately, Gaddafi’s not going quietly, and victory in Libya is now in question.
Hanson laid out a number of scenarios to finish the war:
- The U.S. could mount a massive land invasion similar to the Iraq deployment, with the goal of deposing the Libya dictatorship and establishing a constitutional regime;
- The U.S. could pull out of Libya altogether, like we did in Lebanon or Mogadishu, basically washing our hands of a costly mission seen as a rash mistake in hindsight; or
- The U.S. could implement an extended bombing campaign targeting the center of Gaddafi’s power, much like during the Kosovo war in the late-1990s that sent Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague.