President Obama took the right course in joining (even perhaps pushing behind the scenes for) the multinational effort to impose a “no-fly-zone” over Libya and to send missiles against Dictator Qaddafi’s military facilities as well as against Qaddafi’s army attacking Benghazi. Clearly, the overwhelming force of the air attacks by the French, British and American military demonstrates that the small Libyan military is no match for the United Nations sanctioned effort.
I do not know if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alone changed Mr. Obama’s hitherto opposition to U.S. participation in this coalition, but it would appear that her role was major and laudatory. No little credit should also go to the Arab League’s unprecedented plea for this action against one of its own member states. In short, the very visible and monstrous suppression of the Libyan revolt, including Dictator Qaddafi’s murder of so many of his subjects, stirred the conscience of the whole world, including the Arab world.
Of course, now that the first part of the UN’s goal has been achieved, the criticism of the effort has begun. This is what George W. Bush faced after the Iraq War ousting Saddam Hussein. Let us remember that Democrats and Republicans, our allies and many of the middle eastern Arab leaders broadly supported Mr Bush initially, and then peeled off his coalition to attack and criticize him. Mr Bush and his colleagues, ofcourse, did make mistakes, and over time these made the criticism more and more credible until he finally authorized the “surge” that ended the conflict and established the young Iraqi democratic republic.
So now Barack Obama knows even more what it’s like to be president of the United States, and make decisions about war and peace, military action and military inaction. It was easier for him to be a critic in 2007-08 when he sided with far left Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Now Mr. Kucinich want to impeach Mr. Obama.
The criticism of Mr. Obama in this matter comes from the left and the right. The pacifist left automatically opposes any military action. The conservative right wants to know what Mr Obama’s plan and goals are, remembering when liberals raised similar questions about Mr. Bush, and also having concerns that the U.S. is in another armed conflict. The latter is a legitimate concern.
Mr. Obama, who has been more visibly concerned with golf, attending Democratic fundraisers, following the national collegiate basketball tournament (apparently from the White House war room), and being a tourist to Rio de Janeiro during the critical moments of the Libyan crisis, has not shown himself to be particularly involved with the new U.S. actions, and thus feeds the doubts of those in his own party as well as the party of his opposition.
The second part of the UN goal in Libya lies ahead. That is to remove Dictator Qaddafi from power in Libya. This is much more complicated than the first, and already achieved first goal. Since it is very unlikely that U.S. troops will be sent to fight in Libya on the ground, and probably almost as unlikely that French and British (or other European troops will get into the battle), it is up to the Egyptians and other Arab nations to supply the Libyan rebel forces so that they can defeat Qaddafi themselves. This will involve also encouraging more and more Libyan soldiers to change sides. This is a very real possibility inasmuch as numerous Kaddafi-appointed diplomats and military figures have already abandoned him. (In fact, it appears that it was a regular Libyan air force pilot who gave his life to bomb the Libyan barracks, resulting in the death of Qaddafi’s son.)
Of course, members of the Arab League are now having second thoughts, and UN security council members who abstained of the resolution to stop Qaddafi are openly critical of the action. Sorry, boys, there is no going back. Play your predictable propaganda games, but that is all they are.
It is vitally important that President Obama, hitherto so sensitive to international criticism, learn from this “George W. Bush moment,” gather confidence in his own actions, and see this matter through to his own often-repeated goal, i.e. the removal of Dictator Qaddafi from power in Libya.
That is the only outcome allowable now.