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Posted at 9:09 PM ET, 02/24/2011

What will Obama do?

By Jennifer Rubin

The paucity of action on Libya by the Obama administration has been roundly criticized by pundits and politicans. Today I asked State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley what, other than going to the U.N. Human Rights Council, we were doing about the carnage in Libya. He responded by e-mail, "It is not all we are doing. It happens to be first. More will emerge." When I asked when those other steps might "emerge," he answered at 7:24 p.m. "within 24 hours."

Much speculation about the president's muteness has centered on U.S. citizens in Libya and whether we are pulling our punches for fear of their safety. On that score, I asked if we had communicated any warnings to the Libyan government about harm to U.S. citizens? The cryptic reply was that "multiple folks" have spoken to the Libyans.

We'll see if the Obama administration picks up the pace. But if it finally does, we'll be trailing and not leading. Elliott Abrams explains:

China is sending a warship, among other planes and ships, to evacuate its citizens from Libya. . . . In recent days, the White House has been saying that the United States had to watch its words and actions because American citizens were at risk in Libya. So instead of acting, we are building a diplomatic coalition. China has taken a different tack: to use power. Instead of biting their tongue, the Chinese appear to be making it clear to the Qadhafi regime that no danger to Chinese workers will be tolerated.

Moreover, he makes the case that bold U.S. action would serve as more than a rescue mission:

Today there are no doubt many Libyan officials and military officers who are on the fence. They know that a victorious Qadhafi will take vengeance against those who opposed him, so they won't jump until they are confident he will lose. American power can help them make that decision. We too should be moving ships and planes, and visibly taking the steps that show our own power. The message should be that we want Qadhafi to lose and will help ensure that he does. The sooner we do this, the fewer Libyans will lose their lives to Qadhafi's murderous machine and the sooner the violence in Libya will end.

But we seem to be going on bended knee to whatever is left of the Gaddafi regime:

The number three ranked State Department official, William Burns, who was heading from Algiers to Rome Thursday, spoke twice with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa to express gratitude for cooperation shown in helping with the evacuation, Crowley said.

Are we then reduced to haggling with the Butcher of Tripoli (or his bagmen) for the safety of our citizens in lieu of action that would extract our citizens and impress upon the regime (and others in the region) that we will defend and advance our interests? Looks that way.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 24, 2011; 9:09 PM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

This is the first time in my lifetime that the Chinese response to an international crisis has been more correct than that of the United States. Mr. Obama is not just a failure, but a failure of global proportions.

How long is the American media going to continue to prop up this failed president? I feel like we are witnessing the story of the Emperor Who Had no Clothes, with the self-appointed media elitists playing the part of the emperor's lackeys who until the very end, insisted that the imagined finery was real.

Posted by: SameOldTiredThinking | February 24, 2011 11:08 PM | Report abuse

From the BBC: Donald Rumsfeld readily quotes Al Capone to air his views on international diplomacy. "You get a lot more with a kind word and a gun than you do with a kind word alone."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/profile/donald-rumsfeld.shtml

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 24, 2011 11:12 PM | Report abuse

All I know is what I read in the papers -- maybe Penn is cooking up a Grenada casserole in the kitchen for the dinner party. But he wouldn't Teller.

Posted by: aardunza | February 24, 2011 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Can Obama's leadership get any worse?

Lets hope we don't have the opportunity to find out

Posted by: mikem23 | February 24, 2011 11:18 PM | Report abuse

So that's where that Koch Murphy guy got that baseball bat...

Posted by: aardunza | February 24, 2011 11:23 PM | Report abuse

If Obama were to send in armed forces, he would have to get them from somewhere. Where can he find them? Can he remove them from Iraq? No... the number of American soldiers in Iraq seems to be about right. How about Afghanistan? If you've been reading the papers, you know that we need MORE American soldiers in Afghanistan. So where can Obama find American soldiers to go to Libya?

Short answer: he can't.

So why suggest Obama do something he obviously cannot do?

Posted by: michael_chaplan | February 24, 2011 11:29 PM | Report abuse

michael_chaplan -

Look up Marine Expeditionary Unit. We probably have one in or near the Mediterranean.

“To the shores of Tripoli…”

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 25, 2011 12:34 AM | Report abuse

SC Mike1 says:

Look up Marine Expeditionary Unit. We probably have one in or near the Mediterranean.

Not that I could see. And how big would the unit be? How would such a unit operate against Kaddafi's mercenaries and loyal troops? Does the MEU have a plan to attack these forces, or just throw them in the meat grinder and hope a few are standing afterwards?

Posted by: michael_chaplan | February 25, 2011 2:22 AM | Report abuse

Michael_Chaplan, you know very little about the force projection/emergency response capabilities of the three services, not to mention the contractors who support our IC. It's not worth educating you because you are fitting observations to opinion, not building opinion based on fact.

Anyway, the question I have is are we being blackmailed by Gaddafi? We know the guy has pictures of our president, and our president's minister of two decades. Does he have more?

I really don't understand why we don't have a few boats from the Sixth Fleet drifting at anchor outside Tripoli.

Posted by: IowaHawkeye | February 25, 2011 6:21 AM | Report abuse

Barack Obama's Middle East policy has rendered America irrelevant to the area.
Obama has reduced American military influence there to zero, Obama has betrayed so many allies that his diplomatic influence is less than zero, and Obama's embrace of the really dictatorial regimes like Syria has destroyed his credibility.
However, there is a European military answer to the Libya crisis in the region.
Ha, Ha, just kidding!
The Europeans have all traded in their armies, air forces, and navies for a welfare state and can no longer even adequately defend themselves militarily much less project their power even in the Mediterranean basin.
The Europeans have taken American military power for granted for so long, that neither Great Britain nor France has a functional air craft carrier. Italy, which has the most to fear from anarchy in Libya cannot even patrol it's own coast to prevent the mass influx of refugees fleeing the Qaddafi massacres.
Barack Obama has castrated the American military and destroyed American diplomatic influence everywhere, the Europeans have long since stopped even having a military option even for self defence, and thus neither America nor Europe has the forces or the influence to directly affect anything in Libya or North Africa at all.
Ah yes, another stunning foreign policy success for the Boy Wonder, Barack Obama!

Posted by: Beniyyar | February 25, 2011 6:29 AM | Report abuse

I figured out what we are doing in Libya. We are voting "present."

Posted by: IowaHawkeye | February 25, 2011 6:41 AM | Report abuse

IowaHawkeye -

Lewis and Clark knew how to influence folks merely by appearing to have superior firepower and used it to their advantage while on their odyssey some years back.
http://www.network54.com/Forum/451309/thread/1296928404/This+is+just+to+c=ol

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 25, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Oh, let's give credence to the views of Elliot Abrams...a guy whose neocon fanaticism drove him across the line into criminality! The ability of neocon mythology to weasel itself into so many media outlets is astounding...especially since so many of their allies within the populist right wing feel they are sooooo abused in this very same media!

So I ask the readers and commenters on this blog, quite possibly the most neoconic of sites within the so-called mainstream media; are your panties all twisted up because change is coming to the Middle East and North Africa...without American military intervention? That Obama is ignoring your snivelling and exercising the far more prudent tactic of speaking softly while still wielding the big stick? That we may not have to sacrifice thousands of American lives while this change occurs? So sorry, we tried your way...2 leftover wars with no more progress than what is happening in weeks today...that's the comparison to consider.

Will any of these countries achieve functioning democracy? Maybe. Will democracy in Iraq last more than 1 or 2 election cycles? Possibly. Will the Afghan/Pakistan situation continue to be unsolvable? Yes, no solution in sight. Will all of the aforementioned be vehemently anti-Israel? Absolutely!..So Jennifer and fellow neocons...back to the drawing board. As I said...no solution in sight!

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | February 25, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

SCMike1, I do think a few 500 mph buzz jobs at 100 AGL by an echelon of Hornets might stir Mr. Gaddafi's memories of a certain evening around 1983. And then a few Blackhawks to keep Gaddafi from loosing his mercs in their Toyotas to shoot people who are standing in 1000 meter lines just to try to buy some food.

Evidently, however, the ongoing slaughter is an "internal matter", in the delicate morality of our administration.

I'm trying to think of the last time a government turned helicopter gunships on its own people, and I'm thinking it was Saddam.

Posted by: IowaHawkeye | February 25, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

For a month and a half now there have been riots and very serious turmoil in Northern Africa and the Middle East. As soon as it started everyone knew, or should have known, that the whole region was a tinder box, with Americans at risk in all of the unstable countries.

Not to have established a military presence in the Mediterranean at soon as trouble was sensed was just plain irresponsible. However, here it is a month and a half later, and we are no more prepared to deal with any contingency than we were at the beginning of these troubles

Of course, we all have, or should have, known by now that Obama is incapable of being responsible –that is exactly what his resume said, for anyone cares to consider it. Most of the country understands this by now; but among the Liberals and especially the Liberal media who cares? Those on the Left who resent being called anti-American and traitors, might pause a moment to consider how Obama’s irresponsibility contributes to such impressions as his Leftist admirers continue to heap praise on this nincompoop while the rest of the nation wonders who on the left cares about how he is debilitating and humiliating the country.

When Obama selected Biden as his running mate, many people were aghast; but someone explained to me that Biden was Obama’s assassination insurance. At the time I thought that was a rather cheeky quip, but consider: What if Obama is forced to step down because of his incandescent irresponsibility. Then we would be stuck with President Biden who, with his extremely loose mouth, would be an absolutely awful president. On the other hand, it appears that he would be definitely better than Obama

Posted by: nvjma | February 25, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

You will not read about USNaval deployments in the mainstream media. You have to know the names of the ships and then search for local news bits about deployments and port stops.

beniyyar: France still has the carrier DeGaulle. Both Italy and Spain also have two active aircraft carriers each. Looks like the Mediterranean is an EU/Turkey responsibility these days. China has/had 35,000 citizens in Libya. I assume any Chinese war ships were in the Med to keep the Suez Canal secure.

The USS Enterprise carrier group WAS in the Med until Feb. 17 when it transited the Suez Canal. It was in the Gulf of Aden on Feb. 21 between Yemen and Somalia.

The USN has MEU on the USS Kearsarge, still stationed with two other USN ships in the Great Bitter Lake just south of the Suez Canal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Kearsarge_(LHD-3)"...Kearsarge is fully capable of amphibious assault, advance force and special purpose operations, as well as non-combatant evacuation and other humanitarian missions. ... Additionally, Kearsarge is fully equipped with state of the art command and control (C&C) systems for flagship command duty, and her medical facilities are second in capability only to the Navy's hospital ships, USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) and Mercy (T-AH-19). ..."


Still, the U.S. State department really bungled evacuation of American citizens. Non-embassy Americans actually have to pay for their passage on the ferry that finally left Tripoli for Malta today.

US Naval assets, including three aircraft carriers are patrolling the Arabian peninsula, with a fourth (USS Reagan) deployed from San Diego on Feb. 2.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 25, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"I'm trying to think of the last time a government turned helicopter gunships on its own people, and I'm thinking it was Saddam."

So obviously the right thing to do is go all bleeding heart socialist and pour American troups and about a trillion dollars into Libya.

Let's transfer more of our tax dollars to another Arab country. Iraq, Libya, any other Arab countries you'd like to help put?

Man, leftist/liberal policy to the BONE. You all care not one iota about REAL Americans.

Posted by: mfray | February 25, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"Europeans have long since stopped even having a military option even for self defence, and thus neither America nor Europe has the forces or the influence to directly affect anything in Libya or North Africa at all."

Yes, easy to say when YOUR country isn't the one pouring money and lives of REAL Americans down the sinkhole for neo/non-con leftist socialist foreign policies.

Care to chip in a little Tzedakah towards the cause Beniyyar? Didn't think so...

Posted by: mfray | February 25, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

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