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Obama's Women of War

Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power pushed Obama into accepting the demands of neoconservatives and enter the civil war in Libya.

The following article first appeared in the Nation. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for theiremail newsletters here.

So Obama’s women wanted war against Libya. We’d like to think that women in power would somehow be less pro-war, but in the Obama administration it appears that the bellicosity is worst among Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. All three are liberal interventionists, and all three seem to believe that when the United States exercises military force it has some profound, moral, life-saving character to it. Far from it. Unless President Obama’s better instincts manage to reign in his warrior women -- and happily, there’s a chance of that -- the United States could find itself engaged in open war in Libya, and soon. The troika pushed Obama into accepting the demands of neoconservatives, such as the Weekly Standard 's Bill Kristol, Joe Lieberman and John McCain, along with various other liberal interventionists outside the administration, such as John Kerry. The rode roughshod over the realists in the administration.


The press is full of reports about how Clinton, Rice, and Power pushed Obama to war. The New York Times , citing insiders, reports that Obama shifted to intervention in Libya only under pressure from the trio: “The change became possible, though, only after Mrs. Clinton joined Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, who had been pressing the case for military action, according to senior administration officials speaking only on condition of anonymity.”


Similarly, the Washington Post reports that yet another administration woman, Gayle Smith, joined Ben Rhodes and the troika of other women to push for war: “Obama’s decision to participate in military operations marks a victory for a faction of liberal interventionists within the administration, including Rice, Rhodes and National Security Council senior directors Samantha Power and Gayle Smith.” Opposed, or leaning against, were Secretary of Defense Gates, Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, and John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism chief.


Did the United States win legitimacy through the vote at the UN? Hardly. Five huge world powers abstained: India, Brazil, Germany, China and Russia. Using its enormous clout as the world’s last, if declining, hyperpower, the United States had to dragoon tiny little countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, and Portugal to vote yes, or it couldn’t have won the nine votes it needed to pass the resolution. At one point, Susan Rice had to scurry out to find the South African ambassador, who’s apparently tried to avoid the vote. The vote almost didn’t pass, since the United States, the UK and France ended up with only 10 votes in the UNSC.


Did the UNSC resolution that passed demand that Muammar Qaddafi step down? No, it didn’t. While it gave open-ended permission to the United States, the UK France, and other powers to attack Libya (short of an invasion), it has nothing whatsoever to say about regime change. It calls for “the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians,” demands “ a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people,” and “demands that the Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law.” That, however, hasn’t stopped President Obama from acting like he has a mandate for regime change, and US officials are making it clear that even if Qaddafi accepts the UN's terms, he can't survive. Susan Rice says that the United States is prepared to go beyond the UN resolution, by arming the anti-Qaddafi forces.

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