Mission Creeps

John Yoo and Robert Delahunty’s tortured logic on Barack Obama’s Libya strategy.


John Yoo and Robert Delahunty — two lawyers who owe their reputations to the key role they played authorizing torture while working in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, have taken President Barack Obama to task in Foreign Policy for the "erratic, improvisational, and amateurish character" of his operations in Libya. Robust criticism of foreign policy in general, and war-making in particular, is a good thing (I’ve taken Obama to task over Libya operations myself), but there is something fundamentally dishonest about this article.

Yoo and Delahunty open their barrage by criticizing Obama’s unwillingness to commit ground troops to Libya. Their timing couldn’t have been worse: Shortly after their piece was published, Reuters’s Mark Hosenball reported that Obama had signed presidential findings perhaps as long as three weeks ago that would authorize covert action supporting the rebels. Other stories quickly appeared confirming that there were, in fact, U.S. "boots on the ground" in Libya — at least in the form of CIA agents establishing contacts with the rebels and assisting the military in targeting operations. Moreover, Obama himself told Diane Sawyer that the option of arming the insurgents was on the table; it would be less than shocking if it turns out that the Obama administration has been shipping weapons to Benghazi for weeks. So, on this point, Yoo and Delahunty present us with an administration far more timid about the use of military force than the facts allow.

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