Posts Tagged ‘Obama’s debacle in Libya’

Republican Senator John McCain Urges U.S. Military Attacks to Halt Atrocities in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #3 (March 5)

Monday, March 5th, 2012

For earlier articles on Syria by The Trenchant Observer, see the Articles on Syria page.

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“Therefore, at the request of the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army, and Local Coordinating Committees inside the country, the United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces. To be clear: This will require the United States to suppress enemy air defenses in at least part of the country.”

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), Speech on the floor of the Senate, March 5, 2012. The full text of the speech is found here.

Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate for the presidency of the U.S., called today in a forceful speech for U.S. bombing of Syria to halt the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other grave violations of fundamental human rights.

“What opposition groups in Syria need most urgently is relief from Assad’s tank and artillery sieges in the many cities that are still contested. Homs is lost for now, but Idlib, and Hama, and Qusayr, and Deraa, and other cities in Syria could still be saved. But time is running out. Assad’s forces are on the march. Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign airpower.

“Therefore, at the request of the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army, and Local Coordinating Committees inside the country, the United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces. To be clear: This will require the United States to suppress enemy air defenses in at least part of the country.

“The ultimate goal of airstrikes should be to establish and defend safe havens in Syria, especially in the north, in which opposition forces can organize and plan their political and military activities against Assad. These safe havens could serve as platforms for the delivery of humanitarian and military assistance – including weapons and ammunition, body armor and other personal protective equipment, tactical intelligence, secure communications equipment, food and water, and medical supplies. These safe havens could also help the Free Syrian Army and other armed groups in Syria to train and organize themselves into more cohesive and effective military forces, likely with the assistance of foreign partners.

Noting that the U.S. and many other countries appear to be hedging their bets on Syria, unsure whether Al-Assad will prevail, McCain criticized the utter passivity and lack of contingency planning in NATO and other countries, in the folllowing terms:

“The rhetoric out of NATO has been much more self-defeating. Far from making it clear to Assad that all options are on the table, key alliance leaders are going out of their way to publicly take options off the table. Last week, the Secretary-General of NATO, Mr. Rasmussen, said that the alliance has not even discussed the possibility of NATO action in Syria – saying, quote, ‘I don’t envision such a role for the alliance.’ The following day, the Supreme Allied Commander, Admiral James Stavridis, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that NATO has done no contingency planning – none – for potential military operations in Syria.

“That is not how NATO approached Bosnia. Or Kosovo. Or Libya. Is it now the policy of NATO – or the United States, for that matter – to tell the perpetrators of mass atrocities, in Syria or elsewhere, that they can go on killing innocent civilians by the hundreds or thousands, and the greatest alliance in history will not even bother to conduct any planning about how we might stop them? Is that NATO’s policy now? Is that our policy? Because that is the practical effect of this kind of rhetoric. It gives Assad and his foreign allies a green light for greater brutality.

“Not surprisingly, many countries, especially Syria’s neighbors, are also hedging their bets on the outcome in Syria. They think Assad will go, but they are not yet prepared to put all of their chips on that bet – even less so now that Assad’s forces have broken Homs and seem to be gaining momentum. There is only one nation that can alter this dynamic, and that is us. The President must state unequivocally that under no circumstances will Assad be allowed to finish what he has started, that there is no future in which Assad and his lieutenants will remain in control of Syria, and that the United States is prepared to use the full weight of our airpower to make it so (emphasis added).  It is only when we have clearly and completely committed ourselves that we can expect other countries to do the same. Only then would we see what is really possible in winning international support to stop the killing in Syria .”

Obama’s debacle in Syria has entered the 2012 presidential campaign.

Obama appears vulnerable on foreign policy issues. His bet that he could keep Afghanistan out of the election is looking increasingly dubious, as more and more Afghan military and police turn their guns on their U.S. and ISAF partners, and kill them. The assumptions on which the Afghan strategy are based–that we can hand over the military battle with the Taliban and other insurgent groups to the Afghan military and police, and that these will perform effectively and in a loyal manner under central government control–seems fatally flawed.

Obama, to some extent at least, has also left himself open to charges from the Republicans that through his inept diplomacy and failure to secure a status of forces agreement and other transitional arrangements with the government of Iraq, U.S. military forces were driven into a precipitous departure, leaving the future of Iraq very much in doubt, with the Shiite dominated government in Bagdad very much in danger of falling under the influence of the Shiite regime in Iran.

Meanwhile, Obama’s famous “reset” of the U.S.-Russian relationship has failed, spectacularly, as Moscow provides arms and ammunition, and most probably intelligence and other support, to al-Assad, enabling the continuing and wanton commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes thoughout Syria.

Unforeseen events, such as an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, could trigger events that cause the Middle East to spin out of control. It is entirely conceivable that Obama could lose the presidency in significant part because of his foreign policy failures.

The Trenchant Observer

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NATO Impotent: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #4 (April 28)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

The world’s greatest military alliance, NATO, has been issuing these pathetic public statements about having hit, e.g., six tanks and five “technicals” here or there.

NATO — impotent in Libya, in the sense that it is losing the battle.

We should remember that Osama Bin Laden was emboldened by the weak responses of the West to the terrorist attacks Al Qaída had launched, so emboldened that he set 9/11 into motion.

What would a real NATO attack on the armed forces of Qaddafi look like? Would we be talking about attacking six or seven tanks, as if that’s a good day’s work and that’s all that is required?

What’s it going to take to win this thing? And if we haven’t thought about winning it yet, we’d better start thinking really hard about the consequences of losing it.

For NATO, stalemate will be equivalent to losing it.

A widespread perception that NATO is impotent does not bode well in the Middle East.

If we blow this thing, “The Arab Spring” could turn into one of those moments in history where the hopes of new generations are dashed, as passions are crystalized into hatred of those who inspired their hopes–and stood idly by as they were crushed.

What would Obama have done at Srebrenice, if he were watching events through the cameras of a Predator drone?

Having committed so much of our word and honor to this enterprise, how can the United States stand idly by as the siege and destruction of Misurata continues?

See Ben Hubbard (AP), “Gadhafi forces pound rebel-held Misrata: Moammar Gadhafi’s forces shelled civilian areas in the rebel-held city of Misrata on Thursday, killing 10 people,” Seattle Times, April 28, 2011.

In domestic law, if a good Samaritan stops to assist another person in distress, the Samaritan owes that person a duty of reasonable care in providing assistance.

What is the duty of those who are seeking to carry out the mandate of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973–by “all necessary measures”?

Is their duty only to satisfy their domestic audiences and alliance partners that they are doing their part, hitting six or seven tanks every couple of days?

Or is their duty to halt the attacks on civilians by removing the person who is ordering those attacks from power? By all necessary means.

The Trenchant Observer

The Human Cost: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #3 (April 26)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

While the international coaltion hesitates to take decisive action to remove Qaddafi from power, the human cost rises.

Qaddafi’s forces unleased artillery attacks on Misrata’s civilian population Tuesday, with devastating effect. The following dispatch gives you a sense of what these words mean, in human terms. See

Charles Livingston (Misrata) and Richard Boudreaux (Tripoli), “Rebel Gains Fail to End Siege of Libyan City–Opposition Triumph Is Followed by Shelling of Civilians in Misrata; NATO Strikes Gadhafi Compound, Escalating Campaign,” Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2011.

For a critique of Obama’s foreign-policy decision making style, which has led to the current debacle in Libya, see

Michael Gerson, “Obama’s serial indecision on the Middle East,”
Washington Post, April 26, 2011.

In an op-ed in the New York Times this morning, James M. Dubik draws attention to the very obvious need for U.S. leadership in the Libyan campaign, as follows:

In war, leadership is not exercised from the rear by those who seek to risk as little as possible. Washington must stop pretending that we’ve passed the leadership for the Libyan operation on to NATO. We did so in Bosnia, claiming Europe would take the lead, only to have the 1995 Srebrenica genocide jolt us back to reality. Like it or not, America’s leadership has been crucial to most of NATO’s successes. The same will be true in Libya (emphasis added).

–James M. Dubik, “Finish the Job,” New York Times, April 25, 2011 (op-ed).

You almost have to pinch yourself in the arm to realize that the coalition acting against Qaddafi is comprised of the strongest military alliance in the world, plus other countries from the region.

Could U.S. leadership make a difference in the results, and the time and lost lives required to achieve them?

We may never know.

What is certain, however, is that the Republicans will use Obama’s “leadership…from the rear by (one) who seek(s) to risk as little as possible” against him in the 2012 presidential campaign.

The Trenchant Observer

Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #2 (April 23)

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Qaddafi’s troops are reported to have withdrawn from the siege of Misurata. See

Charles Levinson (Misrata), “Libyan Rebels Drive Army Out of Misrata,” Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2011.

Juan Miguel Muñoz (Bangasí / Enviado Especial) / agencias, “Las tropas de Gadafi se retiran de Misrata tras casi dos meses de ofensiva: Un portavoz rebelde confirma el giro en la estrategia de guerra del régimen libio, acuciado por los bombardeos de la OTAN,” 23 de abril de 2011.

Xan Rice (Misrata) “Libya: ‘If people in Misrata put down their guns, Gaddafi will kill all of us’: More than 1,000 people have died in Misrata since protests began in February, but its volunteer fighters remain defiant,” The Guardian (guardian.co.uk), April 23, 2011.

The breaking of the siege of Misurata is a very significant victory for the insurgents in Libya.

Possibly, it could be a turning point. But the need for foreign troops on the ground to end the assault on civilians by Qaddafi and his forces can not be excluded.

It is clear that the civilian population of Libya will not be secure from the bombardment of civilian populations, assassinations by snipers, extrajudicial killings throughout Libya, and being tracked down one-by-one by Qaddafi’s state security forces, often in the still of the night, until he is prevented from committing further war crimes and crimes against humanity by being removed from power.

The Trenchant Observer

Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #1 (April 22)

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

For vivid accounts of what is happening right now in Misurata, see

Andrew Malone, “The moment a Libyan sniper targeted two Mailmen, firing a bullet that tore into rebel guide’s side,” The Daily Mail, April 22, 2011.

Xan Rice, “Misrata rebels strike back against Gaddafi snipers: Libya rebels seize tallest buildings, favoured by pro-Gaddafi snipers,” The Guardian, April 22, 2011.

For an overview of the current situation, by the reporter providing perhaps the best day-to-day coverage of the war, see

Juan Miguel Muñoz, “La guerra de Libia se eterniza: Occidente descarta el desplome inmediato del régimen de Muamar el Gadafi — Los rebeldes resisten, pero no logran victorias para cambiar el curso bélico,” El País, April 22, 2011.

(The article can be translated by Google translate, at the bottom of this page.)

The U.S. has decided to send two drone aircraft to be used over Libya, but it is highly doubtful they they alone can turn the tide.

Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizes the use of “all necessary measures” to protect the civilian population of Libya. That includes the use of ground troops if necessary. It is the text of the Seurity Council resolution that has binding force. Consequently, any country is legally authorized to send ground troops into Libya to protect the civilian population, if it so decides.

Too little attention has been given by the nations of the world to the risks of failing to halt the attacks on civilians in Libya.

Coaltion governments agonize over the risk of inflicting civilian damage and hesitate to act, while hundreds of civilians die.

That is the collateral damage to the civilian population that the failure to act decisively has caused.

Senator McCain is in Libya urging stronger action, and also laying the foundation for a Republican campaign argument in 2012 that Obama is a weak leader on the international stage. In Libya, he stated,

“It is still incredibly puzzling to me that the two most accurate close air support weapons systems, the A-10 and the AC-130, have been taken out of the fight,” he said.

“I just came from a hospital where I saw the dead and dying, and it argues for us to help them and to get this thing over with and Gaddafi out.”

–Michael Brissenden, “McCain visits Libya to support rebels,” ABC News, April 22, 2011

So far, Obama’s debacle in Libia continues, unabated.

The Trenchant Observer