Showing a steady hand in foreign crises, President Barack Obama took the right amount of time to intervene in Libya, working closely with NATO and the U.N. to help facilitate regime change in Libya. Showing that political season is ramping up, Barack’s critics haven’t wasted any time, blaming the president for acting too slowly or, on the other hand, intervening at all. You know Barack’s done something right when his left wing and right wing critics find themselves on the same page, though for different reasons. Barack’s measured intervention in Libya, supported fully by Secretary of Sate Hillary Rodham Clinton, demonstrated that the man conservatives like to call the most liberal and dovish president in U.S. history, acted wisely. DespiteU.S. commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Barack couldn’t ignore the very real chance of ridding the region of Col. Moammar Kadafi.
Barack followed in the footsteps of late President Ronald Reagan who showed the world the meaning of U.S. terrorist policy bombing Kadafi Aug. 24, 1986. Leaving office Jan. 20, 1989, Reagan never responded to Kadafi’s horrific Dec. 21, 1988 terrorist act of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Obama’s Republican critics had nothing but praise for former President George W. Bush who attacked Saddam Hussein’s Iraq March 20, 2003 for allegedly possessing weapons of mass destruction. Obama’s decision to stop Kadafi’s massacre of pro-reform protesters parallels former Bill Clinton’s 1999 bombing of Slobodan Milocevic’s Kosovo for well-publicized “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovo’s Albanian population—the Balkan’s largest Muslim population from the old Ottoman Empire. It’s beyond ironic that Kadafi supported Milocevic’s genocide of ethnic Albanians.
Clinton’s air war in Kosovo proved that you could topple a government without putting boots on the ground. Obama ruled out today placing any ground troops in Libya, continuing the air war with a broad international coalition, especially NATO. U.S. and NATO forces intervened just in the nick of time before Kadafi’s son Seif steamrolled the Eastern Mediterranean rebel port city stronghold of Benghazi. Obama’s GOP critics, especially his former presidential rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), know that Hillary worked round-the-clock to gain U.N. approval for military intervention against all odds, particularly veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s recent critical remarks about U.S. and NATO intervention pander to anti-American sentiment on the Arab street. Putin knows getting rid of Kadafi is no easy job.
Barack defied his conservative critics, blasting the president for not getting Congressional approval. He’s been criticized for not asking Congress to declare war, despite following the modern tradition of not declaring war for focused military interventions. Bush never asked Congress to declare war in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite getting an Oct. 15, 2002 Congressional Iraq resolution approving possible military action. “We began a military action at the same time that we don’t have a clear diplomatic policy, or a clear foreign policy when it comes to what’s going on in Libya,” said Sen. Jim Web (D-Va.), knowing full-well Kadafi was about to massacre Libya’s pro-reform movement. Webb’s pointed comments mirror Obama’s GOP critics who demand exist strategies only for Obama. They know there’s no need for an exit strategy where there’s no commitment of ground troops.
Barack’s conservative critics have no problems with a lack of exit strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan but insist, at the early stages of a U.N. approved multinational air campaign, on a Libya exist strategy. While there’s nothing wrong with asking to clarify the mission, there’s something very wrong with playing politics. It’s one thing to let Putin criticize the coalition’s mission but yet another to hear the same arguments from Congressional liberals and conservatives. Those same critics blasted Clinton’s 1999 air war against Kosovo, lasting from March 22, 1999 to June 11, 1999, ending when Milocevic was driven from Belgrade. In the current Libyan operation, protecting civilians involves getting rid of Kadafi. No Libyan citizen can rest until the dictator goes down or seeks exile. Obama’s statements regarding U.S. deference to NATO reflect a more balanced U.S. role.
Obama made the right decision leading a U.N.-approved broad coalition to protect Libya’s fledgling pro-reform movement. Kadafi made it clear he would attempt to annihilate over 50% of the Libyan population opposed to his authoritarian rule. No worldwide body, like the U.N., born in the ashes of WW II, can sit idly by while dictators promise genocide on millions of political opponents. Whether or not it’s next week, next month or some other future date, Kadafi will eventually go down or into exile. While we don’t know yet about the future governance of Libya, we know about Kadafi’s history of terrorism, mass murder and brutal authoritarian rule. Using the U.S. military to help bring about Libya’s regime change lends prestige to the world’s last remaining superpower. Doing nothing would have invited an unspeakable civilian massacre and damaged U.S. prestige.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.