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Monday, March 28, 2011

A Few Words in Support of Obama, on Libya

Given the chaotic and confused conditions in the MENA region--and in Libya above all--I don't blame President Obama for not intervening unilaterally [despite my earlier blog that urged such action] and hastily.  In fact, I think he did the right thing. He's already got two U.S. wars on his hands, one for  which he volunteered to end our active involvement and another which he more or less promised to win. His Defense Secretary  was sensibly lukewarm about further military commitments, especially of the open-ended kind, and his nation's allies were divided on what to do.

In the end, Obama decided to intervene--which was the right decision--after making some effort to obtain a diplomatic consensus, within the region and within the international community,  for meaningful action (a) to keep the rebels from being massacred, and (b) to coordinate with NATO allies who were willing--if not eager--to take that action.

Irrefutably, as a consequence of intervention,  many Libyan lives have been saved.  And the U.S. cannot plausibly be accused acting like a Lone Ranger.   

On the other hand, it was ill-advised for Obama to state that  Gadhafi had to go.  First, Only the Libyan people could make that judgment, one way or the other. Second and more importantly,  it sent a signal to those supporting Gadhafi--who might have been induced to remove Gadhafi, his family and innermost circle from Libya, if not this earth, in exchange for amnesty or safe conduct out of the country--that there was no deal to be had from the U.S., and that they had no choice but fight for Gadhafi until the bitter, dead end.  And the last thing we want is unwittingly to create a legion of 'dead-enders',  a la the Baathists in Iraq.

In the future, however, Obama will be put to the test,  and circumstance will oblige him to commit U.S. military force without benefit of lengthy deliberation.  I hope and pray that is a test he will pass.

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