Friday question answered
In response to my question about how Obama is handling Libya's civil war, and what, if anything, he should do differently, a few readers thought inaction was perfectly fine. Steveh46 didn't see anything wrong with observing a massacre from afar:
Obama's doing fine. He ought to keep doing what he's doing which is letting the Libyans fight it out on their own.
Daskinner seemed resigned to our inactivity, writing in part that "Obama really has no choice but to sit and hope nothing lands on him. By all means, however, the State Department and perhaps the CIA, absolutely dropped the ball on the cascade, was caught completely unprepared for events."
But other readers were aghast at Obama's paralysis. TheStatistQuo aptly summed up Obama's inactivity:
The President is actively observing. He is examining and re-examining policy options, hoping for a resolution without US input. It's hard to tell the difference between actively observing and his good old fashioned dithering (see Afghanistan). I believe he is still disoriented from the shambles of his Muslim Outreach. In 26 months Obama has watched Iranian and Syrian engagement fall apart in tatters. Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and now Libya are now in disarray. I think he expected his overseas popularity, coupled with his promotion of a more nuanced globalist vision, would trump a more traditional US foreign policy toward the Middle East. Instead, chaos reigns. Now he is stuck with traditional US foreign policy options and he fears making the wrong decision.
What he should do, is do what he says. If he's concerned about a refugee disaster, or mass slaughter, he should state it (not Hillary) and move supplies and equipment to the region accordingly. If a no fly zone is feasible he should publicly state it so, and implement it. If he does not think a no fly zone is feasible, he should say so, and keep his powder dry. We simply do not know what he wants (now that "smart diplomacy" is anything but) and he should assertively educate: the public, our adversaries and our friends of both his administration's strategy and attendant tactics. Otherwise, we will continue to be as confused as to Obama's Middle East intentions as the Libyan's already are.
The lack of decisiveness does, I agree, reflect an administration in over its head and adrift. There are, as other readers observed, many options for policymakers. As John Wohlstetter notes, a president determined to forestall further bloodshed would entail a number of steps:
(1) This means ignoring the UN, as Bill Clinton did re Kosovo. (2) It means putting Gaddafi's planes & tanks out of commission--if a "no-fly" zone is too burdensome, use specialized munitions to crater the runways (cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles), grounding Gaddafi's planes. (3) Take out his air defenses, then send in tank-killer air-strikes. (4) Use the porous border with Egypt to send in arms. (5) Establish a safe zone encompassing Libya's eastern oil-fields (most of Libya's oil), plus key ports (Tobruk, Benghazi) depriving Gaddafi of essential revenues.
But that would reflect a president confident in American power and fully aware that when America shrinks from its role as leader of the West, the world becomes bloodier and more dangerous, while the world's despots become bolder and more repressive.
| March 7, 2011; 10:04 AM ET
Categories: Friday question | Tags: Jennifer Rubin
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