Why have a press conference on Libya at all?
Unfortunately, it was not a Saturday Night Live routine. Wednesday afternoon, after being roundly criticized for saying so little and doing nothing on the slaughter in Libya, the president announced -- hold on to your hats! -- that he has asked his staff "to prepare the full range of options." And if that doesn't have the Butcher of Tripoli quaking in his boots, President Obama is going to get Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to call "a session of the Human Rights Council." I kid you not.
As Bill Kristol asks, where's the "fierce urgency of now" that Obama spoke about during his campaign? Bill observes: "So Qaddafi flies in mercenaries to kill people. And Obama flies diplomats around to consult with other diplomats about whether at some point we might possibly stop Qaddafi from flying in mercenaries to kill people."
We've run out of adjectives -- pathetic, inert, confused, etc. -- to describe the hapless Libya policy. Moreover, Obama's words are so imprecise that one would hardly know who is perpetrating the violence. He told us: "Yesterday a unanimous U.N. Security Council sent a clear message that it condemns the violence in Libya, supports accountability for the perpetrators and stands with the Libyan people." Who are the perpetrators? Do tell, Mr. President.
It's hard to fathom why he resorts to language as obtuse as this:
Like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.
I think we can all agree the "Libyan government" -- that would be Moammar Gaddafi -- has shirked that responsibility entirely. In fact, you might say -- unless you were the overwhelmed president -- that Gaddafi by slaughtering hundreds of his own people has committed crimes against humanity. (To quote Gov. Chris Christie, "Whoa ... I said it, and I didn't vaporize into the carpet.")
If there is some purpose to Obama's abject showing of weakness, I can't figure it out. But history won't much care about the reason for his paralysis, only about the tragedy that unfolded while he remained idle.
| February 24, 2011; 9:25 AM ET
Categories: foreign policy
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