By David Walsh
On March 21, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow offered a defense of the Obama administration and its role in launching a military assault on Libya. With tortured logic, Maddow attempted to show that the means by which President Barack Obama made public this new act of Great Power aggression revealed the chasm that separates his administration from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
The arguments offered by the MSNBC news program host, a principal voice of the American liberal-left in the mainstream media, are absurd and unworthy, but it is unlikely anyone in and around her circle will object. This social layer is fully committed to the Obama administration and, moreover, to the defense of American imperial interests, with which it identifies, in the final analysis, its own material comfort and peace of mind. This helps explain the collapse of the official anti-war movement in the US since the 2008 election.
Maddow began her program Monday in a typically flippant manner. “In the United States of America, we are used to thinking of ourselves as a superpower, as a world leader, as a country capable of throwing our weight around when we feel the need to. … We go to war all the time—big wars, little wars, medium-sized wars, weird wars, normal wars, wars. America as a country fights a lot of wars.”
Maddow’s cynical tone hints at criticism and a vaguely anti-establishment, even anti-war stance, while actually committing her to no position or analysis whatsoever. Why does the US government go to war so frequently? What has been the character of those wars? What is her attitude toward those conflicts? About that, nothing …
After showing clips of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and the most recent Bush announcing military actions from the White House (against Grenada, Libya, Iraq, Serbia, and Iraq once more), Maddow told her viewers, “Now that the United States has embarked on its latest new military intervention in Libya, I would love to be able to show you the current president’s Oval Office address on the subject, but there isn’t one.”
Maddow noted that Obama made his public statement about the latest US military action while in Brazil. She continued, “President Obama announced his own military intervention, but he pointedly declined the opportunity to do it in a way that US presidents usually do.” The current administration’s decision, the news program host explained, “to forego the chest-thumping commander-in-chief theater that goes with military intervention of any kind, that in itself is a fascinating and rather blunt demonstration of just how much this presidency is not like that of George W. Bush.”
In other words, Maddow treats Obama’s anti-democratic and unconstitutional act of declaring war behind the backs of Congress and the American people as a positive good.
From there, Maddow presented clips of past presidents, while running for office, posturing as humble, ‘peace’ candidates. She went on, “A candidate named Barack Obama promised that. The difference with Mr. Obama as president is that he appears to be walking more of that walk as well as talking that talk.”
But Obama has launched a military assault against a virtually defenseless country (and, of course, escalated the war in Afghanistan to unprecedented levels, while maintaining 50,000 US troops in Iraq). How is that different from Bush, who also launched such attacks?
Because Obama has gone about it differently, making no Oval Office address, “repeatedly stressing the limited nature of US involvement, promising there will be no ground troops, no matter what” (Maddow), bringing in European allies and various Arab regimes, etc. Obama’s empty phrase that the bulk of US involvement in the Libyan operation would last “A Matter of Days, Not a Matter of Weeks” appeared on the screen throughout the first portion of her program.
Maddow’s defense of Obama’s new war in Libya, which will result in the deaths of thousands and risks unleashing far wider and bloodier conflagrations, sheds light on her and the American liberal-left more generally. There is nothing remotely “progressive” about these people.