President Obama failed to make the case for intervention in Libya. He never addressed the issue of his warmaking powers. He failed to distinguish between Libya and other cases like it, such as Syria, Yemen, or Bahrain. And he didn't adequately address the question of the overextension of our military, and the distraction from the crying needs that face this country.

Instead, he stressed the humanitarian justification for the action, using the word "massacre" four times and oddly echoing George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice's phraseology about the "mushroom cloud."

Whereas they said they couldn't wait for the "smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," Obama said he refuses "to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."

Like Bush, Obama spun a justification for preemptive or preventive war, a dangerous doctrine which future presidents may invoke any time they wish.

Nor did Obama forswear his predecessor's unilateralism.

"I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies, and our core interests," Obama said.

He actually used the military so swiftly he didn't bother with Congress or the Constitution.

On top of defending "our people, our homeland, our allies, and our core interests," Obama added other occasions for intervention "when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are." (Though by "interests" here he must mean something less than "core interests," which were in his primary list.) In this secondary list, he lumped everything in from "preventing genocide" to "ensuring regional security" and "maintaining the flow of commerce."

If the Pentagon is going to go on bombing raids every time the flow of commerce is threatened, then we can expect perpetual war.

Obama tried to fob off the obligations such a doctrine imposes by amending JFK's "pay any price"/ "bear any burden" rhetoric. Now it's not the United States that will do all the paying and bearing; our allies are going to have to "bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs," Obama said.

But the fact remains that his expansive doctrine will be enormously costly and burdensome to the United States.

Our government always has money for war; never the money for universal health care or for wiping out poverty or for ensuring full employment.

And when Obama said, in the midst of running three wars, that "we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges," he must have been kidding.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Dirty Tricks in Wisconsin."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.


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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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