Obama’s Lybia Decision – The Right Call?

By YeOldeScribe ~ March 22nd, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

In 2001 and 2003, President George W. Bush talked a lot about how important it would be to bring democracy to the Middle East. Bush was referencing Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries were we fought “wars” to topple corrupt governments. Critics will argue that the governments that replaced those that fell were not much better than the ones they replaced. Especially in Afghanistan, the government appears to be as corrupt as the previous one, and even more dependent on the drug trade than the Taliban was. In short, we didn’t exactly do the greatest job instilling democracy in these two countries.

But that’s not to say that the Middle East democracy project failed. Tunisisa was the first Middle Eastern country to topple a dictator recently. Next came Egypt. And now, Libya has taken center stage for Act III of our little drama. Muammar Gaddafi, dictator of the country, said that if his citizens didn’t calm down and accept that he was in charge, he’d kill them. And he did. Then the rest of the world (including the US) stepped in. NATO forces responded to Gadaffi’s use of air attacks on rebels by imposing a no-fly zone over the country, and bombed strategic Libyan defense targets, including a headquarters base in Tripoli.

That’s the 30-second rundown of what’s been happening in Libya over the last week or so. But what we’d like to take a look at today are Obama’s decisions related to Libya: His first moves, his support of the UN resolution, and his endgame for the area.

In the lame duck session of Congress late last year, Obama grabbed the reins of the government and whipped both parties until they came out with agreements on at least four major policies. Ever since that time, it seems like Obama has taken lessons from the John Kerry School of Decisiveness and the Al Gore School of Excitement (Pre-Inconvenient Truth Campus). In the new year, the best word you could use to describe the president would be lackluster, followed by disinterested. Obama had a chance to change all that when Gaddafi essentially threw him an 80-mph fastball across the heart of the plate (one even our writer could send out of the proverbial ball park) – which Obama didn’t swing at for strike two. (For those of you keeping track at home, strike one was not supporting the labor protesters in Madison, like he promised.) Obama had the chance to take a stand against Gaddafi the same way he had a chance to take a stand against Murbank in Egypt, which he also failed to do. For a president that has had such success at increasing our foreign relations with Allied countries, Obama is woefully pitiful at setting international standards of acceptable governmental practices. We feel that if you’re going to take a stance against someone or something, taking stances opposing and condemning dictators who refuse to give up their power and promise to kill their own citizens are pretty safe bets. Yet Obama didn’t take solid stances on Egypt or Libya until the decisions were already made – the former by Murbank and the latter by the UN.

As far as Obama supporting the UN resolution, we’re fine with it – we just have two questions for the president. First, why didn’t this decision come sooner and with more gusto? The idea of a no-fly zone was being kicked around for weeks before the UN took action on it, and it wasn’t until after the UN made their decision that Obama came out in favor of it. If this was something he was planning on doing, why not take the lead on the issue and show some backbone? Instead, Obama let France officially lead the assault (which has actually worked out quite well for their military, for a change…). Second, why didn’t Obama at least consult with Congress first? The idea that Congress alone can declare was is about as illusory as the idea that NFL players and owners are friends. As commander in chief of the armed forces, Obama can send our troops pretty much anywhere as long as it’s not for a crazy long time – but should he? Many Democrats are peeved that Obama didn’t consult them (start at the 12th paragraph), and Republicans are taking their shots as well. And both sides are right – if this is what Obama wanted, he should have had the common courtesy to ask for support. It’s not like either side was going to say no – that would be political suicide. Even if Obama had thrown the idea to Congress just for a day, it would have acknowledged the fact that Congress should really be the branch making these decisions in the first place. Sadly, Obama pulled a Walker, and just did whatever the hell he wanted without so much as asking for a 2nd opinion.

Finally, what’s the president’s endgame in Libya? Does he even know? Some of the previous articles linked to would suggest that even he doesn’t know. Obama has repeatedly said that US involvement in the attacks would be over by the end of the week and that the US was not going to play a major role in the UN’s enforcement of their resolution. But to us, it kind of sounds like saying you won’t drink any more milk once the gallon is already half gone. How many missiles have been fired already by US ships? How many US planes have been launched? The damage – as you can see by looking at any of the pictures coming out of Libya – has already been done. And haven’t we learned anything from the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? That if you’re going to either invade or attack a foreign nation, you better have a plan for picking up the pieces? But it seems to us like Obama doesn’t have a plan. It seems to us that Obama doesn’t really even have an opinion (or at least not a passionate one) separate from the UN.

In short, we agree with President Obama and the UN’s decision to attack Gaddafi and impose a no-fly zone in Libya. That being said, Obama made the right decision for the wrong reasons, and without thinking his actions through. We’re flat-out surprised that someone as politically savvy as Obama hasn’t figured out that he either needs to get a better grip on non-peaceful international affairs or let someone take the lead on these issues besides him – and besides the UN. In politics these days, you don’t get many pitches you can belt over the wall, so when you see them, you have to swing with everything you’ve got – not keep your bat on your shoulders, or worse, stay in the dugout.

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1 Response to Obama’s Lybia Decision – The Right Call?

  1. Constructive Critic

    I know it is poor form to comment on old posts, but I thought it worthwhile to offer a line of reasoning justifying Obama’s delay on acting towards Libya.

    Many other countries see the US as a bully because we have acted unilaterally (or with small enough support that it’s practically the same thing) to intervene in countries that don’t really want us there. Could you imagine how much better our standing would be with the world if right now we were intervening in Iraq to help them oust Saddam instead of doing it ourselves?

    What Obama did was to show the world that we valued their opinion instead of saying, “This is what we think is right, we are doing it with or without you.” If you wanted faster action be mad at the UN not Obama. If they took a look at Libya and moved to get involved right away the US would have jumped in immediately.

    While I do think we should have acted sooner, I know that Obama moved just as soon as he knew he could do so without furthering the image that the US thinks itself more important than the rest of the world.

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