Posts Tagged ‘Kaddafi’

While Carthage Burns, Obama Dithers

Monday, March 14th, 2011

If we think of Carthage not as Tripoli, but as Libya, our title makes sense.

Supremely calculating, President Obama doesn’t seem motivated to do anything to prevent large numbers of Libyans, caught up in the fever of peaceful revolution that swept through Tunisia and then Egypt, from either being massacred or being slowly picked off, one by one.

Given the playbook telegraphed to the world, bets are Moammar Qaddafi will avoid the large-scale masacres that might be picked up by NATO surveillance planes and other capabilities, in favor of a slower though no less ruthless policy of picking off his opponents one by one. We know the routine: men with guns arrive at a residence in the dark of the night, and drag someone away.

Nonetheless, massacres remain a possibility, particularly when Qaddafi seeks to retake Benghazi.

Whatever the means, the use of state terror may enable Qaddafi to rule by fear, for a while longer.

Meanwhile, Obama demonstrates once again his lack of sense of the historical moment, and his apparent inability to act quickly to avert disaster.

It is now apparent, if it wasn’t earlier, that we need a president who comes to the office with a lifetime of thinking about and participating in international affairs. The world is far too complicated to figure out what to do in a certain situation through purely analytical means, by asking those around you for their views.

What a president needs, it turns out, is a large repertory of foreign policy issues considered and worked through, before he or she becomes president. He or she needs to have taken stands on fundamental moral issues, and worked through crises involving great consequences either way, before entering the Oval Office.

However brilliant you think you are, you can’t do this by grinding out an analysis of what other people tell you. Indeed, the foreign policy experience alluded to above should have informed your very selection of those who surround you and offer their advice.

Tom Ricks writes:

The more I study President Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War, the more nervous I get about the Obama Administration.

I don’t think President Obama is excessively congressional in his outlook. But I fear Vice President Biden is. What’s more, they’ve compounded the error by stocking the White House staff with like-minded people, such as a national security advisor who was a lobbyist and a deputy national security advisor who was a Hill staffer. That comes on top of a president, a vice president and a secretary of State who all came directly from the Senate. That is a very narrow, very peculiar range of experience to bring to the task of dealing with the world out there…

Most of all, the congressional mentality sees little danger in inaction. On Capitol Hill, there’s always the next term. That’s not the case in foreign policy, where opportunities slip away never to return. Lost time is not found again. I think Obama handled Egypt well, but he didn’t have to do much there except speak well, which he does consistently. On Libya, though, dithering is dangerous. If you wait for an international consensus to emerge, it probably won’t…

If we have a foreign policy disaster on Obama’s watch, I think historians will zero in on the dangerous lack of diversity in the backgrounds and viewpoints of his key national security advisors….

The policy is set. Obama is scheduled to travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador this weekend. There he will find ample balm to soothe his mind from the critic’s sting.

Meanwhile, those poor souls who listened to what he said about the Egyptian revolution, and who assumed that some actions would follow his repeated declarations that “Qaddafi must go,” will have to face the war machines of a modern state, or the stealthy visits of its state security apparatus in the pit of the night, on their own.

The impact of Obama’s actions on the minds of the Arab masses in the Middle East and North Africa who live under dictatorial regimes, should not be dismissed or underestimated.

Here, Obama had a chance to get out in front of history. But to get out in front, you have to lead, not bring up the rear.

The Observer

Comments are invited

Libya—America Abdicates Global Leadership in Struggle for Democracy

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

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

Comments are invited

Zawiyah 2011 = Srebrenice 2005

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

While the international community moves to develop a consensus to intervene with a no-fly zone in Libya, Zawiyah is being reduced to rubble.

The population of Zawiyah could be wiped out by Qadaffi’s modern weapons of war, while the international communitiy moves slowly toward possible but far from certain approval of a no-fly zone.

Events on the ground in Libya are moving very fast, not at the speed of diplomacy. Action in the air and on the ground is needed, now, if only to preserve the options of the international community.

It is all too reminiscent of Srebrenice in 2005, when the U.N. stood by and watched 7,000 people, mostly men and boys, massacred by Serb and Bosnian-Serb war criminals.

Given the weapons under Qadaffi’s control, we can expect many massacres to occur in the coming days.

What difference will the eventual approval of a no-fly zone make to the citizens of Zawiyah who are dying as we speak?

Srebrenice, Srebrenice, Srebrenice!

This is the cry that rings loudly in the ears of the Observer.

The Observer

Comments are invited.

Libya and “The Audacity to Act”

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

The Audacity to Act

We are watching in Libya an authoritarian state use the weapons of modern warfare to put down protests which were peaceful, in the beginning, until the force of the state was turned against unarmed people.

President Obama appears to be, once again, suffering from “analysis paralysis”.

One thinks of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, poised to invade Europe at Normandy, receiving bad weather reports that put the mission into grave danger. After delaying the launch of the Allied invasion of Europe for a day, with a slight opening in the weather forecasts, he acted decisively in the face of enormous risks. But he acted.

For a succinct summary of Eisenhower’s decision, see Valerie Hausladen, Professional Destiny.

If it had been Obama making the decision, he would in all likelihood have waited for another couple of weeks of weather reports, during which time the secrecy of the operation might have been compromised.

During the crisis in Afghanistan following the massive fraud in the August, 2009 presidential elections, Obama flinched and allowed a unique opportunity to gain leverage over the corrupt and disloyal Hamid Karzai, through insisting on the constitutional process of performing a proper counting of election results and complying with decisions by the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission in accordance with the law.

Obama temporized, and at that precise moment, the democratic project of the West, including NATO, the UN, and the United States, was abandoned.

It was a fleeting moment of opportunity. As has happened so often in the Afghan war theater, the president called for more analysis, and the opportunity was lost.

Today, with all of the advances of technology, it is as if we are personally witnessing the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, or the 1968 Prague Spring, being crushed by Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks and weapons of war, and standing idly by.

But the world has changed since 1956 and 1968. We do not face the risk of nuclear confrontation with the Soviets if we oppose Qaddafi’s military and state security forces as they put down a democratic revolution in Libya. In fact, NATO and the U.S. face a military opponent who in all likelihood would fold if ever confronted by a serious outside military force.

Are we prepared to watch Qaddafi butcher all of those who have risen in rebellion in the name of democracy? How will such a stance affect perceptions of the West in the Middle East, at this decisive moment in the region’s history?

To be sure, we have acted to produce a unanimously-approved Security Council resolution condemning Qadaffi’s military assaults on his population and referring the commission of potential war crimes and crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court for investigation. The ICC has moved quickly to implement this mandate.

But is this enough?

The challenge for the West, and the entire international community, is to find an effective means to act in Libya which does not at the same time establish a precedent that might create pressures to act to support democratic rebellions in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia.

The establishment of a no-fly zone would be immensely helpful, now.

The massive provision of humanitarian assistance, even within Libya, would be immensely helpful, now.

The provision of gasoline and other fuel to the forces defending Benghazi and other towns in the East, in order to prevent the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes against a civilian population would be immensely helpful, now.

How might these actions be squared with the requirements of international law and the authority of the Security Council to take actions to maintain international peace and security?

The United States and the NATO countries, together with other states, should now openly debate whether the 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution recognizing the “Responsibility to Protect” civilian populations against the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity is applicable, in the current circumstances in Libya.

The world has changed since 1956 and 1968. At this moment the United Nations and other international organizations demand that Laurent Gbagbo step down from the presidency of Ivory Coast because he clearly lost free elections to his opponent Alessanne Ouattara.

In deciding what actions to take in Libya, the international community needs to focus like a laser on the spectacle of United Nations forces standing idly by while some 7,000 people were massacred by Serb and Bosnian Serb forces at Srebenice, in Bosnia, on July 11, 2005.

President Obama has written eloquently of “The Audacity of Hope”.

Hundreds of thousands if not millions of Libyans have demonstrated the audacity of hoping for and fighting for a democratic future.

The question now facing President Obama is whether he can move beyond his customary “analysis paralysis” and lead.

Facing the prospect of another Srebrenice, will he move beyond words and demonstrate “the audacity to act”?

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited.