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Blog Buzz: What the president should say

Liberal blogger Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic said he wants President Obama to address the cost to the United States of the Libya offensive in his 7:30 pm address to the nation tonight.

A president addressing the nation on a war should be quite explicit on how it will be funded, under a range of scenarios. Some reports this time around suggest that the Saudis may pay the bill. Fine, but tell us. And each year of the costs needed for Afghanistan and Iraq should come out of some other part of the defense budget or require cuts in domestic spending elsewhere. Of course, none of this would be necessary if the Congress just did its job - and demanded fiscal responsibility from the increasingly trigger-happy executive branch. 

On the right, Victor Davis Hanson at NRO asserted that the United States has two options: take Mummar Khaddafy out immediately or patrol the skies of Libya endlessly, eventually earning the resentment of the rebels and enabling Khaddafy to overpower them. He also laid out some other assumptions about ground and air intervention that he said have been established in previous engagements in the Middle East. Regardless of what the president says tonight, Hanson wrote that he should be working to remove Khaddafy from power.

● Those we are seeking to help are usually the weaker of the two parties, and may at some point make deals with our enemies by deprecating the hand that feeds them.

● With the exception of Britain, any allies, European or Arab, will not stay to the end, and reappear only when it is in their interests, either in the financial or political sense.

● We can take whatever level of public support there was in the beginning and after three months halve it; the most prominent politicians and pundits who championed the intervention will be the most likely, as support withers and the unexpected becomes the norm, to claim the intervention was a mistake, they were misled, or their brilliant original intervention was screwed up the administration’s disappointing (fill in the blanks).

● When it is all over, the president always takes a hit: Carter’s screwed-up rescue operation, Bush I with Kurds in the cold on the hills, Bush II with the Iraq insurgency, Clinton with American bodies dragged through Mogadishu, Reagan’s empty shelling after the Marine barracks, etc. Democratic presidents operate without much of an antiwar movement either in Congress or in the public, but their failures tend to confirm, fairly or not, inherent ill-at-ease with and incompetence in the use of force.

● Gas prices will either rise or be predicted to rise.

Given the above, and given the fact that this intervention was a bad idea, poorly articulated and not thought out from the very beginning, the best denouement is to get Qaddafi and get him quickly. Let us hope that, whatever the president says, he has advisers who see what must be done.