Since before the Obama Administration began its confused Libyan campaign, I argued against American involvement for several reasons. For instance, America has no vital interests in Libya and it imported very little of Libya’s oil. I also argued that America’s bombing of Libya would harm America’s broader regional non-proliferation efforts. By showing others that once America defangs a nation’s WMD programs, there is little to stop it from bombing that country shortly thereafter, America sent a mixed message to future proliferators.
I also had major problems with the President’s approach to the campaign. For instance, he ruled out ground forces at a time when he should not have been taking any options off the table.
Furthermore, the President engaged in the campaign without knowing much, if anything about the opposition he would be supporting.
Even today, the rebels do not agree who is in charge of their forces. General Khalifa Hifter recently told a reporter:
“I control everybody, the rebels and the regular army forces…I am the field commander, and Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes is chief of staff. His job is to support us in the field, and my job is to lead the fighting.”
However, the rebels’ civilian leadership insisted that Hifter’s claim was “not true” and that “General Younes is over him, this is for sure, and General Hifter is under him.”
To make matters worse, the first weapons shipment of 400 AK-47s went to neither general. Instead, the Arab nation donating these weapoons sent them directly to a civilian petroleum engineer, who was training other civilians.
The bottom line is that two months into the campaign, things appear to be more confused than ever. By not assuming any leadership in the endeavor, the President now presides over a NATO that is both confused and divided about what to do next.
The sooner the President can force a diplomatic solution, the better.
I get the impression that Obama really didn’t want this fight, and Secretary Clinton and the Europeans (especially the French) did. It will be very interesting to see the memoirs of the inside bureaucratic politics during both the run up and now the continuation of the campaign. For Obama now a lot rides on how this plays itself out, which includes wildcards like what happens in Syria and elsewhere in the region. I think the last thing the US and NATO can do is panic or make it seem like they don’t have the stomach to keep this going. Gaddafi will ultimately only give in if he doesn’t think he can outlast NATO.
Yeah. I think this was basically a NATO alliance thing. The Brits and the French probably told the President to support them because they both supported the US in Afghanistan.
However, I think if the President communicated that, more Americans would have been onboard — maybe even me. Additionally, the US could have maintained a distance and done much of its work covertly instead. The Canadians did as much for us in Iraq.
But this squishy responsibility to protect stuff is no way to sell a policy.