Tales from the Trail

And today’s word from Washington is … stalemate

BRITAINCongress has it. Gaddafi wants it. And President Obama is trying to figure out how best to avoid it. What is it?  The answer: stalemate (noun \ˈstāl-ˌmāt\) … that unsatisfying state of affairs in which there can be no action or progress.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the four-star U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman, conceded the possibility of a stalemate in Libya way back on March 20, a day after U.S. forces and their allies started raining high explosives on Muammar Gaddafi’s military infrastructure and ground forces.

The acknowledgment raised worries that a stalemate would allow Gaddafi’s government to live to fight another day — in perpetuity – while delivering an embarrassing defeat to the U.S. and its allies.

The stalemate hobgoblin has haunted the U.S. debate on Libya ever since. The possibility is now increasingly palpable on the ground in Libya, where rag-tag rebel forces are demonstrating their inability to cope with pro-Gaddafi fighters, even as RTR2KFCB_Comp-150x150aircraft can be heard screaming overhead in prelude to the heavy thump of ordnance in the distance.

Obama and his advisers are said to be in a fierce debate about whether to arm the Libyan rebels in hopes of ejecting Gaddafi and avoiding a stalemate.

Obama defends Libya policy during hectic New York day

President Barack Obama followed up his speech to the nation defending his Libya policy on Monday night with a whirlwind visit to New York City. He explained the policy in three network news  interviews  (ABC, NBC, CBS)  — at the city’s famed Museum of Natural History.

Then he made a quick visit to a kids’ science fair, joking to the high school students that they are smarter than he is, before dedicating the new Ronald H. Brown U.S. Mission to the United Nations building.bill_barack

There his Libya strategy was applauded by a roomful of diplomats and endorsed by a Democratic predecessor, ex-President Bill Clinton, the husband of his secretary of state.

How bad was Intelligence Czar’s Libya “gaffe”?

USA-INTELLIGENCE/The columnist Michael Kinsley once quipped that in Washington a “gaffe” is when a political notable accidentally tells the truth. Intelligence and national security officials are describing the latest controversial statements about Libya by National Intelligence Director James Clapper as that kind of “gaffe.”

At a Congressional hearing on Thursday, Clapper said that rebels trying to oust Muammar Gaddafi from power had lost momentum and that the Libyan leader could well survive for some time to come. “We believe that Gaddafi is in this for the long haul…He appears to be hunkering down for the duration.”

“This is kind of a stalemate back and forth,” Clapper said, but added that, “I think over the long term that the (Gaddafi) regime will prevail.”

Dueling analyses over Libya’s future?

clapperThe  Director of National Intelligence dropped a bomb – metaphorically — in the  Senate on Thursday when he testified that Libyan rebels are not likely to oust Muammar Gaddafi and predicted that eventually “the regime will prevail.”

James Clapper’s  jaw-dropping prediction, as Washington, NATO and the United Nations search for a way forward and Libya lurches toward civil war,  prompted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to call for his dismissal.

And it prompted some flame-throwing from the White House.

Tom Donilon, Obama’s National Security Advisor, said Obama is happy with Clapper’s performance, but he had tough words for Clapper’s analysis.

Lugar warns U.S. against war in Libya

momarIn recent days  some U.S. senators have been urging President Obama to consider military intervention to help Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gaddafi.

Not Richard Lugar.

The top Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee said little  while a senior member of his own party, John McCain,  repeatedly urged the United States to pursue setting up a no-fly zone over Libya.

On Sunday Democrat John Kerry, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, suggested that Washington might want to  ”crater”  runways used by Gaddafi’s forces.

Top Navy officer hesitant to predict Libyan future

CNOU.S. Navy Admiral Gary Roughead lived in Libya as a child before Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969, and says the experience only underscored how difficult it can be to predict the region’s future.

“Having spent some time in the Middle East, to include actually living in Libya, I am always hesitant to predict what the future may be there,” Roughhead, the Chief of  Naval Operations told a Senate committee Tuesday. “It’s still a very uncertain period that bears watching.”

Roughead lived in Libya in the 1960s when his father worked for Standard Oil, the company that later became Exxon. He left to attend high school at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1969, just months before Gaddafi overthrew Libya’s King Idris. He returned to the country during his college years at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Washington Extra – Trying it out

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… oh wait… sorry, just some trial balloons floating around…

President Barack Obama took a harsh tone on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at today’s news conference.  USA/

The way he repeatedly emphasized “COLONEL” was an effective reminder that Gaddafi was not an elected leader like a president, but rather a military man who took power through a coup.

Washington Extra – Revolutionary wrath

Revolutionaries have a tough time dealing with revolutions.

LIBYA-USA/When Muammar Gaddafi took power in Libya in 1969, he was not yet 30. Today he faces an uprising from youthful protesters who want him gone. His response: You deserve the death penalty. So far it appears about 300 have been killed in the protests.

The United States has little leverage with Libya — the countries have not been on the friendliest of terms for most of Gaddafi’s rule.

So the administration is left issuing words like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s repetition that Libya immediately stop “this unacceptable bloodshed.” Is that enough? Others are calling for sanctions to military intervention.

from Global News Journal:

A world without nuclear weapons: Obama’s pipe dream?

U.S. President Barack Obama says he wants a world without nuclear weapons. But will that ever happen?
    
Obama showed he's serious this week. He chaired a historic summit meeting of the U.N. Security Council which unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution that envisages "a world without nuclear weapons".
    
It was the first time a U.S. president chaired a meeting of the Security Council since it was established in 1946.
 
John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, an advocacy group, identified serious weaknesses in the resolution, including the absence of mandatory disarmament steps for the world's five official nuclear powers -- the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia.
    
Some diplomats from countries without nuclear weapons said the lack of mandatory disarmament moves is not just a weakness, but a loophole the five big powers -- which have permanent seats and vetoes on the Security Council -- deliberately inserted into the resolution so that they wouldn't have to scrap their beloved nuclear arsenals.
 
An official from one of the five big powers appeared to confirm this in an "off-record" email to Reuters explaining the language in the resolution: "I would underline that creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons is not the same as calling for a world free of nuclear weapons." He added that "the spirit of the resolution is much more about non-proliferation than disarmament."
    
A diplomat and disarmament expert from a European country with no nuclear weapons said this was typical of the "cynicism" of some permanent Security Council members. He added that the U.S. delegation had made very clear that the use of the word "disarmament" meant total nuclear disarmament -- perhaps not today, but someday. 
    
China's President Hu Jintao said China was not planning to get rid of its nuclear arsenal anytime soon. So did French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
    
The resolution didn't name Iran and North Korea. However, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Sarkozy filled in the blanks and called for tougher sanctions against Iran for defying U.N. demands to halt sensitive nuclear work.
 
The resolution didn't mention Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, the four others known or assumed to have nuclear weapons. But it did politely ask "other states" to sign the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and get rid of their atom bombs.
 
Libya's Muammar Gaddafi was the only leader of a council member state that stayed away from the meeting. Several council diplomats expressed relief at his absence, saying they had been afraid the long-winded Gaddafi would have exceeded the five-minute limit for statements.

(Photos by Mike Segar/REUTERS)

Senate rebukes Libya, and it wasn’t for Gaddafi’s speech…

Coincidence? Maybe.

The U.S. Senate rebuked Libya Wednesday during the nearly two-hour speech that leader Muammar Gaddafi gave to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

While Gaddafi was excoriating world powers in his first address to the United Nations, the Senate approved a resolution condemning the “lavish” welcome home ceremony that Libya gave last month for a convicted Lockerbie bomber and demanding an apology for the celebration. UN-ASSEMBLY/GADDAFI

Gaddafi’s words, heard through the lively voice of the translator, went on for nearly two hours at the U.N. podium, raising some questions about whether the U.N. had time limits on speeches.