Regarding our military combat role in Libya, a few simple questions:
1. One of the raps on President Bush was that he “rushed to war” in Iraq. This, of course, was not true. There had been numerous UN resolutions to constrain Saddam Hussein’s brutality, all of which he cavalierly blew off over the years. Saddam had fired for many years at US and coalition aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone. Bush spent countless months working diplomatic channels so war might be avoided. He also spent those months getting military advice in the event force was needed, and consulting Congress and assembling a coalition of the willing. During those many months, public debates were conducted in congressional districts and on the House and Senate floors, as well as on television, radio, and in the nation’s op-ed pages. There was plenty of time to air out the issue, all of the pros and cons of going to war in Iraq. In the case of Libya, we have had none of that. The question of whether we should be intervening was not given a chance to be debated, to breathe publicly. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am: we’re in combat in Libya. Rush to war?
2. Another rap on Bush in Iraq: that we did not have a clearly articulated exit strategy. Does Obama have one here?
3. More importantly: does Obama have a VICTORY strategy, and if so, what is it?
4. If Qaddafi is removed, what then? Are we then going to protect a new government (whatever that might look like) interminably? Are we going to be engaged in nation-building in Libya?
5. Whom, exactly, are we defending in Libya? So far, I’ve heard references to “the Libyan people” and “the opposition,” also known as “the rebels.” Who are they, anyway? Muammar Qaddafi’s most organized opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood. Are we now intervening on behalf of this virulently Islamist, anti-American group? We also know that al Qaeda has been trying to gain a foothold in Libya for years. Are we defending them? Are we helping to open up a new territory for them to launch terrorist strikes against us?
6. Isn’t Libya a sideshow? The US doesn’t have any real strategic interests there. Yes, Libya is an oil producer but a relatively minor one. Isn’t the real crisis in Yemen, where the government just slaughtered over 50 protesters and which is now the world’s premiere locale for al Qaeda’s operatives to plan and launch attacks against the United States and the West?
7. Speaking of the Libyan sideshow, what about the crisis in Bahrain, where Iran is stoking major Shia protests to overthrow the government in order to get the US Fifth Fleet out of there and to destabilize neighboring Saudi Arabia. This is an epic battle between Tehran and Riyadh. This is the war. It’s not in Libya.
8. There are brutal dictators all over the world who are detaining and killing their own people: in Iran, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Russia, and China, to name but a few. If Obama’s standard for intervention is the “responsibility to protect,” then is he prepared to intervene in those countries to protect those peoples? Is he prepared to demand the removal of those governments? Is he ready to call for and then actively support regime change in those capitals as well?
9. Does Obama know all of this or not? If he doesn’t, he’s got no business being Commander-in-Chief. If he does, then he’s either completely incompetent or he’s up to more sinister motives. Example: he hid behind the Arab League and the UN to authorize the use of force in Libya. If Iran and Saudi Arabia blow up, he can justify not intervening there by saying, “Gosh, golly. I’d really love to help y’all, but the UN/NATO/Arab League/Congress/American people just won’t let me!” Let the Middle East fall to the Islamists. So what? Who cares?
10. Related: Is there an Obama strategic doctrine, or is it an ad hoc mess? Is America’s foreign policy being done on the fly, or is it all part of a deliberate grand strategy to reduce our influence in the world, take us down a notch or two, and encourage the world’s dark forces to advance?
It would be helpful if Obama would address these simple questions. Unlike the nebulous “Libyan people,” the American people are clearly good and decent and paying for this thing. We’d like some answers, please.
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