Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday, March 21st, 2011
Read the transcript from the Monday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Jim Maceda, Jim Miklaszewski, Jack Jacobs, Hisham Melhem, Gregory Meeks, Juan Cole, Steve Kornacki
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Welcome to the show. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
Tonight, we start with the latest developments in Libya, of course, on day three of Operation Odyssey Dawn. They always have cool names. Of course, it‘s unfortunate, because we‘ve got serious violence, and that continued today.
Just hours ago, we received reports of an explosion in the capital of Tripoli, followed, of course, by anti-aircraft fire. These reports follow last night‘s second round of allied air strikes which involved coalition forces firing 12 missiles at Libyan military targets, including one inside the Gadhafi compound. That‘s very interesting.
Now, the U.S. commander in the region said today that the mission had so far succeeded in its goal of stopping Gadhafi loyalists from storming rebel-controlled Benghazi. He also announced that the coalition plans to expand the current no-fly zone to eventually include most of the country.
Meanwhile, President Obama is on the Chilean leg of his South American trip, but addressed the situation in Libya today, commenting on the U.S. plan to hand over the control of the mission to other coalition members.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, the situation is evolving on the ground, and how quickly this transfer takes place will be determined by the recommendations of our commanding officers. But let me emphasize that we anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days and not a matter of weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, that‘s very interesting news. We‘re going to get back to that in a second.
The president also maintained his administration‘s emphasis on the narrow scope of the mission, despite the fact that the United States wants Gadhafi to leave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Gadhafi to his people. Now, I also have stated that it is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go. And we‘ve got a wide range of tools in addition to our military efforts to support that policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That‘s very interesting. I don‘t know how we‘re going to get him to go in a couple of days, or at least hand it over in a couple of days, but we‘re going to talk to people about that in just a minute.
But meanwhile, reports suggest that Gadhafi loyalists unfortunately still have the upper hand on rebel troops. They surrounded the westernmost rebel stronghold of Misurata today and opened fire, killing at least nine people. Also today, eight rebel fighters were reportedly killed in an attempt to retake the town of Ajdabiya, about 100 miles south of Benghazi, after coming under fire from Gadhafi forces. Opposition troops were ultimately forced to retreat.
So is our effort in Libya working?
Well, let‘s bring in two NBC reporters covering the story. Let‘s start with Jim Maceda first, live from Tripoli tonight.
Jim, what is the latest on the ground?
JIM MACEDA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Cenk.
Well, the latest on the ground is that it‘s quite here in Tripoli now, but there have already been, since it turned dark, three rounds of explosions, followed by anti-aircraft fire and tracer rounds. We understand that the last one was lethal.
It hit—there were 10 -- at least 10, perhaps more—cruise missiles that landed in the Tripoli naval base and Tripoli naval port area. That‘s a certain distance from where we are, but we could see some of the aftermath of the explosions, a bit of bursts of light and what have you. And then, of course, the skies lit up with all of that anti-aircraft fire that has now become routine after three nights.
Elsewhere, you mentioned Misurata. That‘s very important to underscore, that we may be seeing in Misurata the beginning of a different approach, of a strategy that Gadhafi could be using more often now to deal with these air strikes.
You mentioned earlier in your lead about pro-Gadhafi forces going into Misurata. That‘s the third largest town in this country. They went in with tanks and snipers. About nine were killed.
But while they were inside, they apparently changed from their uniforms into (AUDIO GAP). Then they brought in several hundred, we‘re told, other civilians, all supporters of Gadhafi, as human shields, basically neutralizing any possibility of attacks from the air. Human shields now, of course, are becoming more and more prevalent here as you see groups of them, bands going around of people who are clearly with green flags and with the posters, the ubiquitous Gadhafi posters, grouping up into potential sites and potential target areas in Tripoli.
Back to you.
UYGUR: Jim, one last question for you. And I don‘t know if you know this, but I know we‘re taking out some tanks, as well as the planes and the air defense system mainly of Libya and Gadhafi. But in Misurata, did we just not have an opportunity to get to those tanks yet? Or did we make a decision not to fire on those tanks?
MACEDA: No, that‘s a very good question. What‘s happening in Misurata and what‘s happening in Tripoli is very different than what‘s going on in the east.
In the east, you already have a no-fly zone in effect with French and American fighter bombers and jets taking out units. They‘re not just taking out heavy armor and tanks, they took out a heck of a lot of pro-Gadhafi troops as well who were exiting Benghazi.
Here, around Tripoli and in Misurata, that has not been set up. Th at no-fly zone really isn‘t in effect yet. They‘re setting the conditions for that no-fly zone as they continue to take out air defenses, air bases, fuel storage tankers, and targets like that. And also, a command and control center, apparently, over at the Gadhafi compound late last night.
Once that is established, then they will begin to enforce the no-fly zone over Misurata, and then you will see a very different situation in terms of the reaction, in terms of the counterattack coming from the air, as well as the ground. So that‘s why Gadhafi and his forces in Misurata are desperate to get in there and control that town before that no-fly zone is really set up there.
UYGUR: Right. And that makes exact sense. And that‘s why they‘re trying to get into those areas as quickly as possible before their tanks are taken out.
UYGUR: NBC‘s Jim Maceda, live from Tripoli, Libya, tonight.
Thank you so much for your report.
All right. Now let‘s go to NBC News Chief Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.
Jim, tell us what the military is saying right now. Do they feel pretty good about what‘s happened? Are they accomplishing their goals so far?
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS CHIEF PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far they are. They claim that since this operation started, not a single Libyan military helicopter or plane has flown.
They‘ve pretty much destroyed most of Moammar Gadhafi‘s anti-aircraft defense systems. There are still a few nodules left here and there, a few radars that they would like to take out, but so far they‘re pretty satisfied that in terms of the no-fly zone, at least, that they‘ve accomplished most of what they set out to do.
The problem, of course, as we just heard from Jim Maceda, is that there are still some areas where U.S. and coalition forces, primarily U.S.
let‘s not kid ourselves about that—are not flying on a regular basis.
And that‘s where some of these ground forces, Gadhafi ground forces, are taking advantage of those blind spots, at least for the time being. But apparently not for long—Cenk.
UYGUR: All right. So how about the idea of handing this over in a couple of days? Who do we hand it over to? And do you get a sense from the Pentagon of what they would consider mission accomplished to be able to do that handoff?
MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, here‘s the scenario. The U.S. military has obviously been in the lead here.
There have been some strikes, a minimal number of strikes from the British. The French launched an air strike on the first day, according to one military official, because they wanted to be first. But since then, they‘ve only been flying and not involved in any of the air strikes themselves.
And one scenario is that you turn this operation over to a British military commander, for example, the U.S. military would be comfortable with that. And the U.S. military would still carry the majority of the load.
Now, that load could be considerably lightened once all the radars and anti-aircraft systems are out, once they have spread their footprint a little wider in terms of those no-fly zones, so that the movements by the Libyan ground forces will be held to a minimum. Hopefully, there will be little left to do militarily, but nevertheless, things like command and control, the Mount Whitney, the command ship, the aircraft carriers, that‘s pretty much going to be the domain of the U.S. military for some time to come.
UYGUR: All right. And one last question for you, Jim.
We understand there might be—of course there‘s a propaganda war going on, but they might be taking dead bodies from morgues, the Gadhafi forces. What would they be doing with that?
MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, that was a report. Intelligence had intercepted some information that Gadhafi‘s chief of staff ordered military forces to round up dead bodies from morgues and hospitals to place them at some of the sites that had been bombed out by the U.S. and coalition forces, and then take international media to those sites to point out what they would claim were American atrocities in killing Libyan civilians on the ground there.
So far, we haven‘t heard that they‘ve actually done that. The fact that many of us started reporting it this morning may have made them decide that‘s probably not going to work, and hopefully they‘ve withdrawn that ruse.
UYGUR: All right. Jim Miklaszewski, thank you for your time tonight.
We appreciate it.
MIKLASZEWSKI: OK, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right.
Now joining me is MSNBC military analyst Jack Jacobs, and Hisham Melhem. He‘s the Washington bureau chief for Al Arabiya news channel.
I want to thank you both for coming here.
Colonel Jacobs, let me start with you.
What‘s our long-term plan here? I mean, are we really going to hand this thing off in a couple of days? That seems—I don‘t know, it seems a little unrealistic, doesn‘t it?
COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Kind of a short-term plan. I was thinking about the name “Odyssey Dawn.” It‘s a very unfortunate name. Odyssey means, like, a long, long voyage, so --
UYGUR: Yes, I don‘t know how that jibes with two days.
JACOBS: I think that we want to turn it over in a few days, but it‘s going to be turned over to us. It‘s going to be turned over to NATO.
UYGUR: Well, that seems a little silly, doesn‘t it?
JACOBS: Yes, it is silly. Well, it‘s just as silly as the fiction on the first day that the thing is being run by the French. I mean, it‘s just not true.
To be honest with you, I don‘t think we have a long-term objective in any strategic sense. We have a military objective which we are achieving, and that is to set up no-fly zones, no-drive zones, no-crawl zones, no-anything zones. We can do that. We‘re really good at that.
But translating this military action into some long-term political international strategic objective, it ain‘t going to work. And I don‘t think we have a long-term plan to do it. We are going to turn it over to NATO, it appears, but I‘m not convinced it‘s very much different than moving from one side of the store to the other.
Hisham, let me ask you about that.
I know that on Friday when we talked, you were in favor of this action by the United States. Do you think that the French and the British can mainly handle it on their own a couple of days from now, or does that concern you?
HISHAM MELHEM, AL ARABIYA: Well, it does concern me because there are certain things only the United States can do. And unfortunately, or fortunately, this is one of them.
But look, there has to be American leadership of some sort. But I understand also the reluctance of this president not to appear as if he‘s actively, aggressively engaged in attacking a third Muslim country in one decade. So that should be understood.
I mean, of course the president is talking to more than one audience. You have your domestic audience, and then you have the audience in the Middle East. So they have to be careful.
Now, they have—as the colonel will tell you, it will fall on the shoulders of the Americans, because they have specific certain capabilities that only the United States possesses, and not the French and the Brits. I think the Americans, as we‘ve heard, would probably be comfortable with the British leadership, but not necessarily French leadership, because they think that the French are opportunistic, and in part they are out there to claim some credit.
But in the end, look, we may not have absolute certainty about the outcome, obviously. This is in the nature of these adventures, if you will.
But I think if the capabilities of Moammar Gadhafi have been destroyed, especially air power, and there are certain attacks on his ground troop, this will embolden the rebels, this will create dynamics whereby you might see army officers defecting, you might see even the tribes are supporting Gadhafi. When they see that the wind is shifting, they may change loyalty.
All of these things are—these are some of the valuables that we have to watch carefully. But I think we‘ve seen in the first few weeks that the majority of the Libyan people do not want to be ruled by this man any longer. And I think this could give them the chance to express it. And this is lending a helping hand to the Libyans so that the Libyan themselves will do the job.
Colonel Jacobs, what if we do as much as we can from the air, as it seems we‘re doing now, and we get to a couple of days from now where we bombed all the tanks, we‘ve bombed all the anti-aircrafting (ph), and Gadhafi is still obviously going to be in control of Tripoli, the rebels are in control of Benghazi? What do we do then? I mean, are we going to split the country? What are we going to do?
JACOBS: Well, we‘re not going to do it, but it may split itself just by virtue of the fact that we are not interested in entering the country, and NATO isn‘t either, and going down to finish what the air power has done, and that is to forcibly evict Gadhafi, eliminate completely people who are loyal to him, and turn everything over to the rebels, whoever they are. We‘re not going to do that.
And as a result of that, the most likely event seems to be a drift toward kind of a bifurcated country where you have—there‘s a cease-fire now that‘s being maintained by allied air power. Gadhafi still has his forces. We‘re not going to—if they‘re not moving towards the rebels, we‘re probably not going to bomb them.
So they‘re going to be sitting there. And there‘s this eerie, something of a cease-fire. And then you have a country that‘s divided more or less in two.
UYGUR: All right. So I want to ask Hisham about that.
Number one, Colonel Jacobs brought up an interesting point. Who are the rebels? I mean, we know they‘re a tribe in Benghazi, certainly in that city. But does anything else unite them? Do they have an ideology? And would how the region feel about splitting Libya in two if it turns out you just can‘t get Gadhafi out of Tripoli?
MELHEM: Nobody wants to split Libya into two or three parts, or whatever. And as far as the rebels are concerned, again, this is not being driven by a huge metanarrative or driven by one ideology.
It is somewhat similar to what happened in Tunisia and Egypt. It was a spontaneous, popular movement. People have had enough, and they went to the streets to express their opinions and to get rid of this autocratic leader, in the case of Egypt and Tunisia. And here in the case of a despot, because there‘s a difference between autocrats and despots.
And we are learning more about the rebels. We know most of the representatives abroad, but we are discovering those who are inside.
Some of those who are under the rebellion now, people used to be part of the old regime, Gadhafi‘s regime, members in the military, members in the civilian government before, tribal leaders, students and others. And I think the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, met them. We are learning more about them.
I agree that we should not bank everything on them, but definitely this is not a movement that is driven by the Islamists, although necessarily you will find them later on. I mean, they are part of the social fabric in most other countries, and that‘s a fact of life you have to deal with.
But I think this movement is not driven by Islamism. It‘s not driven by one overarching ideology. It is driven by people who have had enough of 42 years of the rule of this man. And I think they should be given a chance to express their opinion and to get rid of him.
UYGUR: All right.
Colonel Jack Jacobs and Hisham Melhem, thank you both for your time tonight.
Colonel Jacobs is going to be back in a little bit to discuss how we can—what lessons we can learn from our mistakes in the past in military intervention and the successes that we‘ve had.
JACOBS: We learn from mistakes?
UYGUR: Well, we‘re going to try.
JACOBS: All right.
UYGUR: Now, also, the political debate on Operation Odyssey Dawn is raging inside the Democratic Party. Some are for it and some are totally against it. Congressman Dennis Kucinich has even raised the specter of impeachment.
Now, it‘s hard to find someone fully backing the president on this one, but we have. Congressman Gregory Meeks supports President Obama‘s actions, and he‘ll tell us why, next.
UYGUR: As we‘ve seen already, the debate over Libya isn‘t shaking out along party lines. There are liberals and conservatives on both sides of this one.
For those who support the campaign, it‘s seen as a necessity aimed at preventing the mass human casualties that take place in instances when the U.S. doesn‘t intervene, like in Rwanda in 1994. But detractors say that our involvement comes at a time when the U.S. military is already stretched way too thin.
Already, we have nearly 100,000 ground troops in Afghanistan and close to 50,000 soldiers in Iraq. Now, that‘s a point that Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich made on this show on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: We don‘t have the money to pursue this, Cenk. We don‘t have the resources militarily to pursue this. We‘ve got great pilots, we‘ve got people who can do their job, but essentially we‘re spreading ourselves way so thin already. And one has to ask, what are they thinking?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, one thing Congressman Kucinich is definitely right about is that Operation Odyssey Dawn is quite expensive. It‘s estimated that the first day of strikes cost coalition forces well over $100 million in missiles alone.
Now, on top of that, there‘s also a growing chorus of progressive congressmen who feel that the president needs congressional authorization to even be involved in this conflict. Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio has said, “Our allies in Britain and France and the Arab nations have sophisticated military and they are capable of carrying out the orders from the U.N. If the president intends to engage the U.S. forces, he has an obligation to recall Congress and ask for such authority.”
So was this the right move? Well, let‘s bring in my next guest who takes a different position.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman from New York and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Gregory Meeks.
Representative, great to have you here.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you.
UYGUR: First, let‘s have clarity on your position. What do you think? Is this the right move?
MEEKS: Well, I think that the president, he did deliberate. He made sure that this was not a go-it-alone type of operation. He made sure that we had the United Nations, all of our allies.
There was after 10-0 vote. Russian and China abstained. They could have stopped it if they thought, you know, that it was not the right thing to do. The Arab League was involved. And so the president did exactly what I think he should have done.
Now, would I have preferred the president to come, if there was time to come, to Congress and talk to us? Of course I would have preferred that. But there‘s an immediate need also because we saw innocent individuals, civilians, being killed, and the world came together.
He talked to some of our leaders. He said that because of the unique assets that we have, we would be doing this for a short duration and then giving over the leadership to someone else. I think that‘s the appropriate thing to do.
UYGUR: I hear you, but some of these Democratic congressmen say, hey, look, we criticized Bush for not getting the proper authorization, if we‘re going to go to war, the Constitution is clear, you need Congress to authorize it.
Now, what do you say to that point?
MEEKS: Well, I say, you know, I‘m looking at situations in the past, especially post the Cold War. We had two such situations in Bosnia and Kosovo. And I looked to see whether or not there was pre-authorization at those interventions, where there was specifically a no-fly zone that was requested by the United Nations, exact similar circumstances.
And there was not a prior resolution of Congress at that time. And I know previously there‘s been a lawsuit gone through war powers and the Supreme Court has ruled on it.
UYGUR: Right. So there‘s no question this happened in the past. I know some want to put an end to it, both Republicans and Democrats.
You have got a long list. You‘ve got Jason Chaffetz and Ron Paul and Justin Amash on the Republican side. You‘ve got Kucinich, Nadler and DeFazio on the left side.
It‘s an interesting question, no doubt about it. But to go to the substance of these strikes, you know, other things that people are saying, including Congressman Kucinich, is, wait a minute, we‘re in the middle of two others wars in the Middle East. What are we doing getting involved in a third war? How are we going to handle all of that?
That seems a fair point.
MEEKS: Well, yes, but we are in this world together. And one of the things that I‘ve talked about previously, and people are comparing it to George Bush, is that this is not it‘s my way or the highway. Remember when George Bush was going, and the French wasn‘t there? Even on the Hill we changed the words “French fries” to “freedom fries.”
MEEKS: We went against all of our allies and we didn‘t want to work together with them.
This is the exact opposite of what‘s taking place right now. The president had made sure that we are working together, all of Europe, all of the Arab League, that we‘re moving in pursuit together. And that‘s a whole different scenario.
UYGUR: What if we get more entrenched in this? What if it turns out, hey, look, we couldn‘t take Gadhafi out. That‘s an embarrassment, and the president says he‘s got to take Gadhafi out. And we start getting mired in the muck here and it doesn‘t take a couple of days, it takes a couple of months, and the costs start to add up.
Would you change your position then, or what‘s your thought?
MEEKS: We saw Admiral Mullen yesterday. He said that the operation -
and I‘ve heard continually—it‘s not about taking Gadhafi out. The operation is about saving lives of innocent civilians.
And if that operation—and the president has said that we‘re going
to be here for a short period of time. And if that operation should change
it‘s going to be a long-term situation—then I think it would be appropriate—the president then must come to Congress to get that authorized. And I think that we, as members of Congress, if we see that this president has not kept his word, then we have in our authority to cut the funding, and we‘ll make that decision appropriately.
UYGUR: Now, that‘s clear. That‘s clear.
MEEKS: That‘s absolutely clear.
MEEKS: And that would be our remedy. But this president has said—and I‘m going to take him at his word until he shows that his word is not accurate—that we‘re not going to be in the leadership of this no-fly zone after a short duration of time.
UYGUR: Right. Right. And we‘ll have to see how it plays out, too, because we could technically not be in the leadership, but at the same time, they‘re using our planes and our forces. But we‘ll see how that plays out.
Your position is clear. Thanks so much for joining us, Congressman Meeks. We really appreciate it.
MEEKS: Good to be with you.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, we‘ll have more on the attacks on Libya. But first, the story at the Fukushima nuclear plant is far from over. Workers force out today as plumes of smoke came pouring out.
Now, what‘s really going on? Because the Japanese government doesn‘t seem to be playing it straight with us. We‘re going to try to get at the truth there.
And pictures showing American troops posing with dead Afghan civilians have surfaced. The United States apologized, calling it repugnant. But can this be the Abu Ghraib of Afghanistan? Let‘s hope not.
We‘re going to come right back.
UYGUR: Welcome back. Japan is still struggling to control the Fukushima nuclear plant that was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami. Today, plumes of smoke billowing from two other reactors force repair workers to flee the plant, stalling their efforts to reconnect power lines and restore cooling systems. Officials say, the cause of the smoke and its radiation levels are being investigated. Now remember those power lines were supposed to be connected a long time ago. Again, raising the question of the veracity of the information being shared by the Tokyo Electric Company and the Japanese government.
Meanwhile, the broader scope of the disaster is becoming more defined. Police estimate them more than 18,000 people died in the earthquake and tsunami and that it left more than 450,000 living in shelters. And in a report released today, the World Bank estimates the disaster caused $235 billion worth of damage. They say it could take five years for Japan to rebuild. But economists are saying that despite initial detrimental affects to the Japanese economy, the expensive recovery effort will likely end up as a good thing for the economy in the long term which honestly, I don‘t believe. On the logic, natural disaster always have to look at the economy which is simply not true and Japan is a crushing debt burden and this cannot help that.
It‘s interesting. Me versus the economists of the world. Let‘s see who‘s right. All right, now, what is the acceptable amount of military power in Libya and will operation odyssey dawn work? We look at examples of U.S. military intervention in the past to the see what worked and what didn‘t work to help us determine what we can do right in Libya. We‘ll get answers from Colonel Jack Jacobs and University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, next. So you have five brothers. Tough being the only girl.
UYGUR: The end game of the operation in Libya is far from clear. Even American officials acknowledge it could end with Gadhafi still in power. But from past conflicts, we can find clues about when the U.S. military might succeed in its objective and when it won‘t. Now for most of the last decade, of course, we‘ve been in Iraq and Afghanistan, long messy wars where we used massive amounts of ground troops. There‘s still big questions hovering over the outcomes of those conflicts, but it seems safe to say that it does not appear to be a model we would like to emulate. I would certainly not like to emulate it. But there are big difference between those wars and what‘s happening in Libya. Iraq was supposedly about weapons of mass destruction.
Afghanistan was hunting about down al-Qaeda. At least it was like a decade ago. But the rational for action in Libya is essentially humanitarian, the protection of civilians from the wrath of Moammar Gadhafi. And in the past, the U.S. has sometimes succeeded in such missions and sometimes it hasn‘t. So, what lessons can we learn from those conflicts? Well, let‘s take a look. In 1983, U.S. forces were part of a multinational peacekeeping effort here in Lebanon‘s civil war. On October that year, an attack on barracks killed 241 American troops. Shortly later, Americans withdrew ground forces, this civil war dragged on for seven more years. Lesson, those send in troops that are sitting docks in the middle of a civil war with no plan.
The U.S. intervened in the early ‘90s in Somalia as part of the United Nations coalition. Operations there included the battle of Mogadishu in which 18 Americans were killed and two Black Hawk helicopters were shut down. Afterwards, President Clinton direct the military to stop all fighting in Somalia except in self-defense. Somalia‘s civil war continues to this day. Hundreds of thousands have died. Lesson, don‘t send in troops and Black Hawk helicopters into a middle of a civil war with no plan. Now, the U.S. didn‘t take action during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. And estimated 800,000 people were killed in the span of just a few months. Lesson there, if you sit it out, be prepared to deal with the fact that you did nothing as hundreds of thousands of people died.
Now, the Bosnian war was one conflict in which international efforts did eventually put an end to genocide. Peacekeeping missions intensified over a three-year period, stating in 1992. NATO finally brought the conflict to an end by enforcing a no-fly zone with air strikes. But not before thousands of civilians had been massacre, -- sign date in accords that brought peace in 1995. NATO‘s no-fly zone and air strikes played a decisive role in the Balkans again just a few years later in the Kosovo war in 1999. In that case, NATO‘s bombing campaign led to Serbian forces withdrawing from Kosovo and eventually the down fall of Milosevic. Lesson? Well, turns out no-fly zones can work even if they are sometimes messy and take a while to enforce. The question is, when they work, why do they work?
With me now is MSNBC military analyst and retired army Colonel Jack Jacobs and Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan. They‘re going to help me try to answer that question. So, Colonel, let me start with you, what do you think we gained from those lessons in Bosnia and Kosovo. What did we learn from that success that we can apply to Libya?
COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, if we remember what we did and what we didn‘t do, it‘s useful, but we frequently don‘t do that. There are couples of lessons here. The first is that air power and air superiority are very useful and sometimes essential and they can really have a big impact on whether or not your goals are achieved but they can‘t do it by themselves. More likely than not we have a situation like we have now, and a lot of these other places we‘ve seen, you have to put boots on the ground. That means that you‘re going to be involved in whatever is taking place on the ground and you don‘t want to do that unless you‘re prepared to wait it out for a long period of time. So, you have to start at the end and work backwards. It‘s the objective first, what are you trying to achieve? And until you answer that, you can‘t employ—use military force in any case, because you don‘t have an objective. And sometimes, when we fail, it‘s because we used military force without an objective.
UYGUR: Right. Now, Professor Cole, let me go to you. You know, I know that General Clark when he was enforcing the no-fly zone in Kosovo says that ground troops, at least the threat of ground troops on the border made a big difference. Do you think we can pull this thing off without at least the threat of ground troops?
JUAN COLE, PROF. OF HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Well, depends on what you want to pull off. If what you want to do is protect the people of Benghazi from being concurred, from having tanks fired into civilian crowd from being massacred, then yes, we can do that from the air. Because smart relations can take out Gadhafi‘s tanks near to Benghazi. And that‘s what the French did on Sunday. If the objective is to overthrow the Gadhafi regime, then doing that kind of thing, taking territory, getting rids of regime without boots on the ground is almost impossible.
UYGUR: See, OK. So we have agreement on that. And we‘ve seen, and as we‘ve shown in the intro there, once we have troops on the ground, it‘s a disaster, nine out of 10 times it seems like.
JACOBS: Until you‘re willing to put lots and lots of troops on the ground.
UYGUR: Which we did in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was still a disaster.
JACOBS: Well, we never put an off, and we didn‘t, the objective did not match the force that we had but you‘re right, that‘s why we had to start the...
UYGUR: So, if you guys are both say, hey, ground troop are a disaster, but we can separate them, and it looks like we‘ve begun to separate them, right? So Colonel Jacobs, what do you think is the ultimate answer here? Do we have two different states? Or how long can we go with a no-fly zone if they‘ve got a long war as Gadhafi is promising?
JACOBS: Well, no fly zone, it costs lot of money to shoot tomahawks. They cost almost a million and a half bucks apiece. And we can fire at them with the munitions on planes and we can wait them out. We can do this for a long, long time. The politics aside. The fact of the matter is, it‘s not going to change things on the ground. What really has to happen is that the rebels have to get arms, they need ammunition, they need training, they need leadership, they need an objective. Just encouraging them to do better, giving them impetus because we‘ve removed a lot of the forces that are against them is not going to make them successful.
UYGUR: Professor Cole, real quick. So, what‘s our actions here? Is it realistic to think about assassination? Is it to get a mutiny from the troops, the mercenaries that are supporting Gadhafi? Or do we just say, hey, you know what, Gadhafi is going to stay there, we‘ll just separating the two sides?
COLE: Well, I think it‘s unpredictable. And when you go into this kind of situation, you don‘t know what‘s going to happen. What I would say, is that we should stick to the mission. To the extent the U.S. is involved in it, and may not be involved that long, its mission should be humanitarian. If Gadhafi looks like he‘s going to massacre people, he should be stopped from doing that. How the Libyans work out their subsequent political arrangement should be up to the Libyans and I‘m not so pessimistic about the possibility that the rest of the Libyans will throw Gadhafi under the bus over time. We should be remember, just two weeks ago, even three weeks ago, it looked like Gadhafi was toast. So many people in the country had turned against him. It‘s only the deployment of his tanks and air force that turned that around for him. If you take those out of the equation, which is what the U.N. is doing, then it may well be that he can‘t survive.
UYGUR: All right. And we‘ll, of course, follow it. Very interesting. Colonel Jacobs and Professor Juan Cole, thank you both so much.
Now coming up, the 2012 wannabes are predictably ripping President Obama for Libya. I thought they loved bombing. What happened? Well, some are saying, he‘s bombing too much, and some are saying, he‘s bombing too little. We‘re going to play the board game Republican always wins at. Everyone is a critic.
UYGUR: Republicans have found creative ways to criticize President Obama over Libya, even when they said they agree with him. How in the world do they do that? We‘re going to explain that, next.
UYGUR: Now, there‘s an old expression, all roads lead to Rome. For the Republicans, it turns out all roads lead to criticism of President Obama. Every propose policies eventually declared a failure. The only question is figuring out why. So, I give you everyone is a critic, the board game edition. Let‘s start here, you‘re a republican, President Obama a democrat, has authorized action in Libya. You know what you have to do. Criticize. But you have a lot of ways to make the case that President Obama is failing. There‘s the Obama is dithering line. That‘s the criticism of choice for the old 2008 GOP ticket.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He waited too long. There is no doubt in my mind about it. But now it is what it is. I regret that it didn‘t—we didn‘t act much more quickly and we could have. But that‘s not the point now. The point now is let‘s get behind this effort.
SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I won‘t criticize what his foreign policy has been, but to answer your questions, certainly there would have been more decisiveness, less dithering, more decisiveness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: She says, she wouldn‘t criticize it and she just criticized it. She struggles with the meaning of words sometimes. Do you remember when conservatives used to loss their minds, when Democrats with the Dixie chicks criticized our president while they were abroad, well, Palin was abroad there in India. Apparently, they stopped caring about that the minute Obama got into office, then there is the Obama is not doing enough line of critics, voice by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the president has coveted this way too much. It‘s almost like is a nuisance. This is a great opportunity to replace a tyrannical dictator who has not a legitimate leader. Who is an international crook, and we should seize the moment and talk about replacing him, not talking about how limited we will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: There‘s the inexplicable claim that Obama isn‘t launching enough attacks on enough countries, which seems to be the argument from Newt Gingrich who says, he would understand our actions in Libya much better if Obama were taking military action in more countries. Quote, “it‘s impossible to make sense of the standard for intervention in Libya, except opportunism and news media publicity. Iran and North Korea are vastly bigger threats.” Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe has killed more people, the Sudanese dictatorship has killed more people and there are lots of bad dictators doing bad things. I guess according to Newt, watch out Zimbabwe, we‘re coming! You know they‘re struggling to come up with criticism when they blamed him for not solving all the world‘s problems all at once.
Oh, yes. Talking about—I hear there‘s an outbreak of malaria there. And yet, Obama attacks Libya. Look, then there‘s wannabe Commander in Chief Mitt Romney who‘s so lacking in convictions that he has to, according to Politico, quote, “avoid weighing in or offering specifics.” How very, very bold. But in lieu of actual policy, Romney did offer a one sure fire head with the republican primary voters, criticized Obama for quote, “tiptoeing behind the Europeans.” Gee, I wonder what that refers to. So, you see, you can follow any line of criticism, but just remember, when you‘re playing the republican game, what the country should actually do in Libya is entirely irrelevant. The only thing you know for sure is that failure for President Obama is the only option in this game.
Now, let me bring in politics editor for Salon.com, Steve Kornacki. Now, Steve, come on, am I seeing this wrong, or have they found every conceivable way to criticize?
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: I think you missed point actually.
UYGUR: Oh, is that right?
KORNACKI: My favorite one is let‘s use this as an opportunity to emasculate President Obama. Because you also have Lindsey Graham coming out and trying to make this, you know, oh, this is a case where the president didn‘t want to intervene but Hillary Clinton did. And he says, thank goodness for all the strong women around President Obama, otherwise we wouldn‘t have ever been involved. The writer for the, the national reveal of all sides today that basically said, thank goodness, there was a woman nagging President Obama to go do this.
UYGUR: That‘s perfect. You hit women, you hit Hillary Clinton, you hit Obama all the same time.
KORNACKI: And you can get that—Hillary 2012 stuff going again while you‘re at it. So, that‘s another angle. And of course, there is actually one somewhat legitimate strain from a few voices you mentioned it earlier on the show, and it‘s fair we should point out. I got like Rand Paul, I got like Jason Chaffetz, they all raising the legitimate sort of constitutional concern, but that‘s not what Newt Gingrich is talking about, that‘s certainly not Sarah Palin is talking about.
UYGUR: You‘re right. And look, to criticize President Obama over his actions, that makes sense. What we do it sometimes. And it depends on what your perspective is. But it seems like he can‘t catch a break from these guys. He can‘t, like, is there anything he could have done in Libya where those republican presidential contenders so called would have come out and said, you know what, he nailed it.
KORNACKI: Well, I mean, you got it, in Romney‘s quote there right away, you see sort of reverse logic it worked here. When you go back to, you know, the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003, the French were enemy number one in this country because they wouldn‘t go along with us. Now, we let the French take the lead in this, instead of celebrating that, oh no, you‘re tiptoeing behind the French.
UYGUR: No, no, that‘s perfect. No, because, you‘re right, whether you‘re with the French, you lose. Whether you‘re against the French, you lose, you know.
KORNACKI: Are you surprised by this? By this point, in two years into these. It‘s interesting, because you bring up the Hillary Clinton thing that Lindsey Graham brings up. There was a moment somewhere in 2008 campaign, where it became clear that Obama was going to supplant the Clintons as the face of the Democratic Party. And before that, the right would portray Obama as the sympathetic character running against the Clinton machine, and the minute Obama supplanted them, a switched flipped. And since then, this is the logic has been at work and it will persist, I‘m sure on that.
UYGUR: And then one last thing on this, after they do all this, then they will say well, he gets attacked so much, he‘s a divisive figure. But no, you were the ones doing that attack.
KORNACKI: How dare you not unify us, right?
UYGUR: Right. Exactly. All right. Salon‘s political editor Steve Kornacki, thank you so much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
UYGUR: All right. Now, a ridiculous piece of legislation is now headed to the house for a vote. If reaffirms our faith in God. Is that needed to be reaffirmed? Will God be angry with us if we don‘t? We discuss that, next.
UYGUR: Fifty five years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law legislation that officially declared the motto of the United States, quote, “In God We Trust.” Just last week, the house judiciary committee passed a resolution to reaffirm “In God we Trust,” as the national motto, and that ridiculous piece of legislation is now headed for a full house vote. Yes! Because we had nothing better to do. It‘s not like Libya is any trouble at all. It‘s not like we have a couple of worst in the Middle East. It‘s not like we have an ailing economy. We have to reaffirm that God rocks. Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes, the founder of the congressional prayer caucus introduces the legislation that would encourage the public display of the motto in all public building schools and government institutions.
Forbes said that he wants to reaffirm the motto because he‘s troubled by a pattern of omitting God from our nation‘s heritage. Really? Who‘s omitting it? Every time I see a politician, they can‘t stop talking about God and how much he loves America. Do these goof balls really believe God plays favorites and likes America more than China or Bermuda? Bermuda ever true to God. Of course, the bill already has a number of supporters including Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana who said, quote, “I think God is, and he rewards those, including nations who earnestly seek him.” Now, in their view, God is so small that if we do not constantly sing his praises and reaffirm them, he‘ll be a little hurt. He‘ll be like head reed, I‘m hurt dog, and help other countries more. Come on, who could be childish enough to believe that, other than congressmen. What do you think that‘s bad? Get a load of Senator Jim DeMint who thinks we can actually affect the size of God.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I say that often, and I believe that the bigger the government gets, the smaller God gets. As people become more dependent on government, less dependent on God, and you cannot have a free society that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Is the size of God really tied to the size of our government? Is God that small and dependent on us? If the EPA adds one more regulation, does that shrink God, is God go, oh, no, I‘m shrinking. Because of the EPA? What if the post office adds one more zip code? Who know the post office was that powerful? Look, if you‘re a true Christian, isn‘t this an incredibly disrespectful way to look at God? God is supposed to be all knowing and all powerful, he doesn‘t need Jim DeMint or Randy Forbes to protect him or—come on man, you got elected because you told the people, you were going to improve the economy. So for the love of God, stop wasting our time and go do your job.
All right. Thank you for watching the show. I‘m Cenk Uygur. You can always catch me on theyoungturks.com. And, you know, what, “HARDBALL” is next. And that‘s going to be a fantastic show. So, you‘re going to stay right here.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Transcription Copyright 2011 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is
granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not
reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or
internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall
user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may
infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or
interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: