President Obama addressed the nation with regards to the U.S. military intervention in Libya tonight. Yet he continues to receive criticism from both the left and right. I think it was predictable, for political and other reasons, that this criticism was forthcoming.
The republicans have had no better answer than anyone else to the question: How should the U.S. respond to this sudden revolution in the Middle East? In fact, they’ve largely been silent. So aside from the economy, they haven’t had anything to hit the president with, politically speaking, in the last month.
Now that military action is underway, the critics are coming out of the woodworks. The arguments that Congressional approval should have been sought, or that we should or shouldn’t have acted unilaterally are moot at this point. So is criticism of NATO and the UN. But the question “What’s the end game?” is a valid one. And an open ended one at that.
The fact is, there just wasn’t time to further deliberate over the possible outcomes while Benghazi hung in the balance. Instead of Gadhafi’s forces being stopped dead in their tracks, it would have been the whole region that suffered. Millions of people aspiring for a better way of life would have been silenced once again by the pragmatic choice of temporary regional stability over the optimistic hope of lasting democracy.
Had we gone in earlier, the rebels would likely have been in Tripoli by now. Unfortunately, due to indecision and political sensitivities, this is the situation in which we find ourselves. In the week since Operation Odyssey Dawn has begun, coalition airstrikes have paved the way for Libyan opposition forces to retake much of the territory they had previously held.
Which brings me to my point. The mission is clear, just not overt for political reasons. The fact is, we’re trying to take out Gadhafi without publicly saying so. Would Russia and China have allowed UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to pass if we said we blatantly said we’re going after Gadhafi? No. Would Turkey have signed on for NATO to enforce the no fly zone and protection of civilians? No.
I mean, what part of a U.S. cruise missile hitting Gadhafi’s Bab El Azizia compound isn’t clear? President Obama is 100% correct. An overt declaration that we’re trying to kill or capture Gadhafi would splinter the coalition. There wouldn’t even be a coalition. Furthermore, if we say we’re taking out Gadhafi like we did Saddam Hussein in Iraq, we then own that situation. With Afghanistan and Iraq sadly still on our plate, we can’t afford to own this. The nations of Western Europe should rightly take a greater role, as the Mediterranean is in their backyard.
Everyone knows the United States is the only willing country with the firepower to quarterback this operation. But the diplomatic and linguistic nuances required to pull off such a feat are being completely overlooked. Sometimes you have to attack and say you’re not attacking. That’s just how it is.
“The Way of War is
A Way of Deception.
When deploying troops,
Appear not to be.”
from – The Art of War – by Sun Tzu