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Obama and the politics about Libya

He can take some well-deserved credit for helping to avert a humanitarian crisis


 

We all recall how the horrific events of 9/11 created a groundswell of support to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban. Support for overthrowing Iraq also became widespread largely because of the rumours—later proved false—that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction ready to unleash on the United States. Since then, Americans have soured on these two seemingly endless conflicts. So we can understand that Americans were not in a rush to intervene when the Libyan crisis erupted.

The current military operation was bound to raise doubts on all sides of the political spectrum. The fact that President Obama must address the nation suggests that Americans are concerned and are in need of some coherent explanation. From the outset, the president seemed the reluctant warrior. Clearly, leading the U.S. to invade a third Muslim country in 10 years was not part of his foreign policy plan.

Obama was initially provided with some cover when rebel forces tried to overthrow Colonel Gadhafi themselves. But once Gadhafi began importing mercenaries, shooting civilians and unleashing his superior weapon advantage, the president was faced with a humanitarian crisis reminiscent of the Rwandan civil war. The pressure to intervene was mounting as other so-called democratic forces were rising elsewhere. Finally, the rebels themselves cried for help.

The preferred course of diplomacy, somewhat successful in the Egypt crisis, began to produce dividends in the nick of time. The UN Security Council delivered a resolution, the Arab League asked for a no fly zone and were willing to help, and European leadership led by France and England resulted in an operation (albeit with heavy U.S. involvement) that halted the potential humanitarian catastrophe. Now there is an indisputable no fly zone with NATO leading the operation. Meanwhile, the rebels are regaining ground and Gadhafi forces are on the defensive.

Unlike the Afghan and Iraq wars, a spirited debate is emerging about Obama’s course of action. Republicans have led the charge but their criticism seems focused on process. John McCain says Obama should have imposed a no fly zone sooner, but the diplomacy was not up to speed and this would have resulted in a third U.S. led invasion of a Muslim country. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates clearly stated: imposing a no fly zone is a military operation.

Other Republican criticism ranges from questioning the end game, to how the U.S. proceeds if Gadhafi is not defeated, to why Congress was not consulted before U.S. aircrafts began flying. These are legitimate questions. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly said they want Gadhafi removed. What happens if he stays in power? Other Republicans like Senator Richard Lugar actually question whether it is in U.S. interests to be so involved. Meanwhile, presidential contenders have acted more like pundits criticizing the Obama style and character, rather than behaving like eventual policy makers.

President Obama does have a case in that his approach has avoided the costly unilateralism in Iraq, and the consensus among voters is supportive of an allied approach. It is in line with the Cairo speech calling for political reform in the Middle East and engaging in a multilateral action in support should the need arise. It appears the humanitarian crisis has been averted and the president can take some well deserved credit for it.

This weekend, Secretary Gates said Libya was not in the vital interests of the U.S. The humanitarian nature of the mission is consistently emphasized. As of now, there are no U.S. boots on the ground, which has always been an Obama objective. But as the conversation continues to unfold in America, events are occurring elsewhere in the Middle East. It is hard to predict the outcomes. The overriding question is: Is the Obama administration on the right side of history as the Middle East events develop?


 

Obama and the politics about Libya

  1. The bizarre thing is that first the Republicans are banging the drum for a so-called "No Fly Zone" and criticizing Obama for not acting more quickly, then they are criticizing him for acting rashly and intervening in a civil war. Why does anyone even listen to the hypocrites who created the quagmire in Afghanistan and Iraq? Does half of the US suffer from short term memory loss?

  2. The bizarre thing is that first the Republicans are banging the drum for a so-called "No Fly Zone" and criticizing Obama for not acting more quickly, then they are criticizing him for acting rashly and intervening in a civil war. Why does anyone even listen to the hypocrites who created the quagmire in Afghanistan and Iraq? Does half of the US suffer from short term memory loss?

    • The politics of selective memory.

  3. The Republicans are tools.

    American politics is a huge joke when it comes to public relations: just oppose anything the other guys does.

  4. The Republicans are tools.

    American politics is a huge joke when it comes to public relations: just oppose anything the other guys does.

  5. What do you mean Republican criticism? The calls to impeach him for not consulting Congress are coming from Democrats.

  6. What do you mean Republican criticism? The calls to impeach him for not consulting Congress are coming from Democrats.

  7. What's frightening is that it appears nobody in the Obama administration actually seems to know what's going on, much less have any kind of a plan.

  8. What's frightening is that it appears nobody in the Obama administration actually seems to know what's going on, much less have any kind of a plan.

  9. mcCain is suffering from an old age disease. What does he want ? Remove by force like Iraq?Yeah , the neocon rides again . Lol.

  10. mcCain is suffering from an old age disease. What does he want ? Remove by force like Iraq?Yeah , the neocon rides again . Lol.

  11. Then again, one can see why Parisella might be hesitant to write anything critical of the Obama administration…especially Biden

    And you people think Harper has contempt for the press?

  12. In the last few weeks, the more I look at Obama, the more I see Queen Elizabeth, while Hillary Clinton looks more presidential. Is there a position somewhere in which one only needs to orate (not necessarily communicate) as job specification? As for the war in Libya, what a muddle, no one (not even USA's new titular head) even wants to admit it's a war.

  13. In the last few weeks, the more I look at Obama, the more I see Queen Elizabeth, while Hillary Clinton looks more presidential. Is there a position somewhere in which one only needs to orate (not necessarily communicate) as job specification? As for the war in Libya, what a muddle, no one (not even USA's new titular head) even wants to admit it's a war.

  14. The politics of selective memory.

  15. Let the UN and the Arab League worry about the details of Libya as far future governing goes. They seem somewhat willing to carry the ball on this one.
    Until then the US (and Canada's) involvement doesn't need need to extend beyond enforcing the no-fly zone and prepare humanitarian assistance for civilians.

  16. Let the UN and the Arab League worry about the details of Libya as far future governing goes. They seem somewhat willing to carry the ball on this one.
    Until then the US (and Canada's) involvement doesn't need need to extend beyond enforcing the no-fly zone and prepare humanitarian assistance for civilians.

  17. GOP is all over the map on this . Lugar against , McCain for , Boehner wants to be consulted , Barbour does not care, Newt for or against . That is helping Obama.

  18. GOP is all over the map on this . Lugar against , McCain for , Boehner wants to be consulted , Barbour does not care, Newt for or against . That is helping Obama.

  19. Mr Obama's handling of the Libyan crisis has been “relatively extraordinary”. He has in a mere 31 days since the protests started imposed powerful sanctions, frozen Colonel Qaddafi's assets, secured a robust Security Council resolution, organised an international coalition, executed a near-flawless military campaign, rolled Colonel Qaddafi's forces back to the west, taken out the colonel's air defences and knocked out a good deal of his ground forces. All this has been done without having to put American boots on the ground, without American military casualties and with precious few Libyan civilian casualties. Better still, with all this now done, America's own contribution can decline, NATO can assume command (under an American general but with a Canadian deputy) and the European allies will take on more of the burden. Compare that, say senior administration officials, to the years it took to intervene in Bosnia in the 1990s.

    Taken from the Economist @ http://www.economist.com/blogs/lexington/2011/03/

  20. Mr Obama's handling of the Libyan crisis has been “relatively extraordinary”. He has in a mere 31 days since the protests started imposed powerful sanctions, frozen Colonel Qaddafi's assets, secured a robust Security Council resolution, organised an international coalition, executed a near-flawless military campaign, rolled Colonel Qaddafi's forces back to the west, taken out the colonel's air defences and knocked out a good deal of his ground forces. All this has been done without having to put American boots on the ground, without American military casualties and with precious few Libyan civilian casualties. Better still, with all this now done, America's own contribution can decline, NATO can assume command (under an American general but with a Canadian deputy) and the European allies will take on more of the burden. Compare that, say senior administration officials, to the years it took to intervene in Bosnia in the 1990s.

    Taken from the Economist @ http://www.economist.com/blogs/lexington/2011/03/

  21. well said Olivier .

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