Today is a sad day for the Observer, as America abdicates its moral leadership in world affairs by adopting the role of mere spectator of the life-and-death struggle for freedom in Libya. Having boldly stated that Qaddafi has to go, President Obama has now taken to the sidelines as Moammar Qaddafi’s murderous regime commits torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in its no-holds-barred battle to retain power.
President Obama, timorous, a prisoner of his own intellectual analytics and lack of prior foreign policy experience, doesn’t take sides when it comes time to act in the struggle for freedom around the world.
It is a sad day not only for the Observer, but also for all of those around the world who believe American foreign policy should be guided by more than 19th century Realpolitik and Staatsräson (Reason of State), for all those who are attracted to the ideals embodied in the American Revolution and America’s two centuries of constitutional government under the rule of law.
For days, the administration has been signaling its unwillingness to act. First, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tilted the scales by weighing in heavily against the approval of a no-fly zone. A day of two ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed the administration’s decision not to act by stating that no action would be taken without United Nations Security Council authorization, which given the well-known Russian and Chinese opposition to any military action, amounted to dismissing the possibility of any forceful action that would stop Qaddafi. Finally, today, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, stated in Congressional testimony that Qaddafi was likely to prevail given his advantages in troops and hardware. It is difficult, to say the least, to understand the logic that could have underlain such a tone-deaf and politically maladroit statement. Perhps it was just inexperience and lack of foreign policy coordination. But it was disastrous in its impact.
Altogether, a most shameful spectacle.
History may well mark the month of March, 2011 as the decisive turning point in America’s leadership in world affairs. America has always been more than a state pursuing its self-interests. That era now seems past, at least under Democratic presidential leadership.
The world will take note. Tyrants will relax. As Qaddafi loudly proclaims, they have nothing to fear from the United States, NATO or the United Nations.
Without American leadership, the world will go adrift. The consequences are likely to be enormous and unpredictable.
Despite its cynical record of dealings with dictatorships in the past, it is now to France, that other beacon of human liberty–since the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the defeat of Fascism in 1945 (made possible only with American help), that advocates of democracy and freedom must look.
If America does not want to be a champion of liberty, at least the French, drawing on their own deep traditions, have a possibility of articulating a clear moral vision that might guide us forward toward achievement of the goals of democracy and the rule of law which so many have fought for, at such great sacrifice, for over 70 years.
One of the saddest vignettes from the last few days has been President Obama’s intellectually arrogant and factually incorrect declaration that most revolutions succeed because they come from within and do not rely on outside help. That would come as quite a surprise to George Washington and the Marquis de la Fayette.
The Trenchant Observer
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