That’s not to say the president won’t talk about Libya over the next few days, aides say, but he’s not likely to succumb to pressure to deliver a long, explanatory address to outline his elusive endgame to the nation until the path ahead becomes clearer.
Clearer, you say?
This is rather extraordinary, from the New York Times this morning:
From the start, the administration insisted that it was acting to avert the imminent slaughter of civilians in Benghazi and other rebel-held cities, and that the goal of the military operations was clearly spelled out in the United Nations Security Council resolution.
Mr. Obama’s administration, however, has clearly tried to avoid the debate over a strategy beyond that by shifting the burden of enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force on to France, Britain and other allies, including Arab nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which on Thursday said that it would contribute warplanes to the effort. In other words, the American exit strategy is not necessarily the coalition’s exit strategy.
“We didn’t want to get sucked into an operation with uncertainty at the end,” the senior administration official said. “In some ways, how it turns out is not on our shoulders.”
Not too extraordinary, to those who think things are OK if they look good on paper,
In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation — a dismaying expression of Obama’s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to … what? Save Third World people from massacre?
Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarrelling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still can’t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.
This confusion is purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely “one of the partners among many,” he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him. Even the Clinton administration spoke of America as the indispensable nation. And it remains so. Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead — no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources — America is led by a man determined that it should not.
A man who dithers over parchment. Who starts a war from which he wants out right away. Good God. If you go to take Vienna, take Vienna. If you’re not prepared to do so, better then to stay home and do nothing.
Civilian planes will likely start failing out the sky, as did the one over Lockerbie; assassination attempts will multiply, like the attempted Libyan-backed murder of the Saudi king in 2003; al-Qaeda and affiliates might be aided and abetted to do Lord-knows-what to the Italians, the French, the British and, of course, to us. With nothing to lose, and way beyond the threshold of worrying about sanctions and such, Qaddafi could well become more dangerous than ever. If I were Silvio Berlusconi, in particular, I’d pick my future whorehouses with extreme care.
The Hard Truths on Libya amount to this:
A ruler like Qaddafi is part Milosevic, part Saddam, part Noriega, and part Kim Jong Il. They stay in power for years through killing and more killing (to paraphrase Dirty Harry, “They like it”), and they do not leave, ever, unless the U.S. military either bombs them to smithereens or physically goes into their countries and yanks them out of their palaces. Period. They most certainly do not care much for the concern of the Arab League, the U.N., or a contingent from Europe, or a grand verbal televised threat from a U.S. president — again, even if his name is Barack Hussein Obama and he is not George Bush.
Sorry, but that is where we are and where we’ve always been, so we can either quit, as in Lebanon and Somalia; send in the Marines to take charge of postwar stabilization, as in Afghanistan and Iraq; target Qaddafi and bomb him incessantly until he is broken, as in Clinton’s Balkan air campaign; or schedule a multiyear, Iraq-style no-fly zone, with ample latitude to bomb now and then to carve out sanctuaries within Libya. Those are the options, and one will be chosen one way or another, even if the president thinks he can once again vote present on all of them.
In the meantime, the Libya farce goes to 11.