So the world is finally doing something about Gaddafi’s murderous rampage against his country’s rebels (and many innocent civilians). I’ve recently stated that Obama had two options when the killing began. He could have asserted that America would do nothing because it isn’t our problem, or he could have taken action to stop the killing. Instead, he did neither, taking a politically safe position by calling the violence “unacceptable” but doing little more. This is classic Obama. Throughout his legislative career, he failed to take a firm stand on issues and, instead of voting yea or nay, voted present.
In the absence of American leadership, the world has taken action following a U.N. Security Council vote that authorized a no-fly zone and strikes on Gaddafi’s air defenses. This is, of course, after the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of innocents. Great timing, morons.
The Obama Administration isn’t leading on this issue. Rather, they are following the lead of France and the Arab League and going along with air strikes and a no-fly zone simply because it would look bad for America not to. An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily argues this decision has been made purely because of politics:
As is often the case, the president’s Libya strategy looks politics-driven, as senators get privately briefed while the public is left guessing. The public deserves more.
The president strikes the match, as he did in his 2009 Cairo speech criticizing U.S. allies like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and implicitly apologizing for U.S. actions in Iraq and Iran. But as the fire grows, Obama is unable to direct the flames or put it out.
The United Nations has now given the U.S. permission to intervene in Libya, but waiting to create that “partnership” allowed Moammar Gadhafi to crush rebel forces, perhaps definitively.
And can Americans be blamed for asking why the U.S. even needs permission to act against the regime behind the 1988 Pan Am 103 massacre and the 1986 Berlin disco bombing killing two U.S. servicemen?
Politics seems to saturate Obama’s entire national security policy. As Bob Woodward revealed in “Obama’s Wars,” the president answered Graham’s question of whether July 2011 was a conditional or unconditional withdrawal date for Afghanistan with the incredible response that “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”
Testifying before Congress Wednesday, our Afghan forces commander Gen. David Petraeus was asked why we should stay in Afghanistan. “Two words, and those are 9/11,” he answered.
But in “The Promise,” Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter says regarding Petraeus and others advocating that the deadline be conditional: “Obama’s attitude was ‘I’m president. I don’t give a s— what they say. I’m drawing down those troops,’ said one senior official who saw him nearly every day.”
The “most striking omission” Alter found in Obama’s December 2009 West Point speech announcing the new Afghan strategy was “any definition of victory.”
What we’d like now, and we don’t think is too much to ask, is a clear definition of the strategic objective in Libya and why this mission is in the national interest.
Yes, Mr. President, what is the objective in Libya? Will Gaddafi be taken out of power, or will the terrorist tyrant of Tripoli get to stick around a while? The American people deserve to know more. Perhaps he could interrupt his spring break in Rio to tell us.
Clearly, this is all bad politics. Obama’s “do nothing” strategy, which guarded him from comparisons to Bush, was running out of gas. Luckily the rest of the world picked up the slack and gave Obama some cover. To avoid looking like an interventionist war-monger (how Obama sees Bush), he let America sit on the sidelines while France saved the day. On one hand, I’m glad the rest of the world is actually doing something useful, but on the other hand, I’m sad to see America’s presence on the world stage diminished.
But we shouldn’t be surprised. Since day one, Obama’s foreign policy has consisted of apologizing for America’s past actions and limiting America’s current and future actions. Obama and his Peace Corp of diplomats think that America shouldn’t lead. Instead, we must work in concert with the other nations of the world, or even let the other guys lead. After all, it is unfair that the other countries haven’t gotten a chance.
Dan Henninger, in his wonderful “Wonder Land” column for The Wall Street Journal, has the source of Obama’s foreign policy pansiness pinned down:
The new Democratic theory of the proper U.S. role in the world was articulated in a July 2008 document, “Strategic Leadership: Framework for a 21st Century National Security Strategy.” It described itself as “an intellectual and policy blueprint for the next administration.”Its authors included James B. Steinberg, who is now Mr. Obama’s deputy secretary of state; Ivo Daalder, now U.S. ambassador to NATO; and Anne-Marie Slaughter, until a month ago the State Department’s director of policy planning. Susan Rice, who is now our ambassador to the United Nations, wrote the preface.
Their blueprint, a tour of the world’s regions, counsels constant multilateral cooperation, institution-building and consultation. While it admits U.S. preeminence, it is largely a meditation on the limits of American power and authority. This is the document’s final, summarizing sentence: “And such [U.S.] leadership recognizes that in a world in which power has diffused, our interests are best protected and advanced when others step up and at times lead alongside or even ahead of us.”
In the Middle East, no one has stepped up, no one is leading alongside and our allies are in the rear, accomplishing nothing while they wait for . . . America.
This was a test case, and what we have seen is that a world in which the U.S. doesn’t unmistakably lead is a world that spins its wheels, and eventually the wheels start to come off. When the U.S. instructs the Saudis not to intervene in Bahrain, and the Saudi army does precisely the opposite, the wheels are coming off the international order.
So not only is the Libya strategy (although can you even call it a strategy?) motivated by bad politics, it is also motivated by bad ideology! Politics and ideology kept Obama from doing anything. Part of Obama tells him to avoid making a firm decision because doing so could prove politically disastrous, and the other part tells him to avoid making a firm decision because “our interests are best protected and advanced when others step up and at times lead alongside or even ahead of us.”
By waiting it out, from a political standpoint, Obama can eventually get to his reelection campaign, when he expects that his animal magnetism and lack of firm positions will win him another term (that’s pretty much how he won the first time). By waiting it out, from an ideological standpoint, he allows the rest of the world to step up and fill the leadership vacuum (that’s pretty much how he thinks the world should work).
But Obama has miscalculated.
Americans want a President and a government that show leadership in times of crisis. They see through the bad politics and the bad ideology, recognizing Obama’s strategy for what it is: bad for America.