Right now, pretty bad:
In an escalating crisis little regarded hitherto outside the oil markets, output of Libya’s prized high-quality crude oil has plunged from 1.4 million barrels a day earlier this year to just 160,000 barrels a day now. Despite threats to use military force to retake the oil ports, the government in Tripoli has been unable to move effectively against striking guards and mutinous military units that are linked to secessionist forces in the east of the country.
Cockburn won't say it directly, but his alluding to militias in the east of the country means that these are militant Islamist brigades with varying degrees of connections to al Qaeda and similar militant Islamist groups. The epicenter of this activity is Benghazi, where our consulate was hit by a terrorist attack last year and where the Obama administration subsequently lied about the nature of the attack during a heated presidential race. As with Egypt, this administration has confronted dictatorial leaders but has done to little to nothing with dictatorial Islamists, militant and otherwise, who have stepped into the vacuums after those strongmen were removed from power. This should be a lesson for Syria. If you weaken Assad through military action, there should also be a similar weakening of the militant Islamist groups opposing Assad. If not, then don't intervene. Obama has said little about that side of the equation, at least that I can see. As further evidence of his blundering, his comments that "I didn't set a red line" and "my credibility is not on the line" are sadly laughable.
So, even if Congress does authorize an intervention, it still violates international law and I have no confidence in this administration that strikes on the Assad regime will improve the situation on the ground. I don't trust a man who won't call a coup a coup or a war a war or hostilities hostilities, or who says things like "they set red line, not me!" I would like to be wrong in predicting failure, but I don't think I am.
The bottom line, to me, is that Obama does not seem to understand that this is a War Against Militant Islamism, and militant Islamism is spreading across this globe. This is just another mark that points to a failing presidency by an uncourageous man. Drone strikes have killed al Qaeda members but have enlarged the number of militant Islamists, most notably in Yemen. Afghanistan is no better, Pakistan is no better, Iran is no better, Yemen is no better, Iraq is no better, Libya is no better, Egypt is worse, Turkey is worse, Mali is worse, Nigeria is worse, Syria is much worse. I had dinner last Saturday with this wonderful Nigerian family. They are Christians living in the north, and Boko Haram is a militant Islamist organization in northern Nigeria with ties to al Qaeda and related groups, and they are murdering Christians and others they don't like.
An excerpt from Taranto:
In that speech, it is worth noting, Barack Obama rejected precisely the moral argument he made so powerfully on Saturday:
Now let me be clear--I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied U.N. resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.
He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
In 2007 Obama asserted that American troops should be withdrawn from Iraq even if that would result in genocide:
"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now--where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife--which we haven't done," Mr. Obama told the AP. "We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done. Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea."
These past statements indict the president for hypocrisy, but they do not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In his defense one might claim that his moral sensibility has matured over the past six years. Perhaps, that is, he has grown in office--though he has not grown nearly enough by other measures that one can say he is up to the job.
Regrettably, I don't think he is up to the job.
While my dander is still up, here's another thing that pisses me off: The ones (such as Jennifer Rubin) who favor striking Syria calling their opponents "isolationists", which is both false and dishonest. Opposing a certain military intervention does not make one an isolationist, as Ed Rogers explains.
UPDATE 1: Jon Stewart weighs in, and offers a name for upcoming military action against Syria: Operation Just The Tip.
UPDATE 2: Here's more on that red line that Obama says he didn't set.
We go on to reaffirm that the President has set a clear red line as it relates to the United States that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups is a red line that is not acceptable to us, nor should it be to the international community. It's precisely because we take this red line so seriously that we believe there is an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria.
On your red line question, it is absolutely the case that the President's red line is the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups.
And the people in Syria and the Assad regime should know that the President means what he says when he set that red line. And keep in mind, he is the one who laid down that marker. He's the one who directed that we provide this information to the public. And he's the one who directed that we do everything we can to further investigate this information so that we can establish in credible, corroborated, factual basis what exactly took place.
Emphases mine, spoken just over four months ago. This is a president that cannot be trusted.
Meantime, the Free Syrian Army is fragmenting and tilting more Islamist.