Indecisive commander in chief is shamed into action by France and Hillary

Tuesday, March 22, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

UNITED NATIONS — French Air Force jets roared into action over Libya attacking military targets, American cruise missiles fired from offshore Navy ships crippled Col. Gadhafi’s command and control communications, and coalition forces from Canada to Qatar began to tighten the noose on the tyrant of Tripoli. It appears the game is over for the desert dictator.

The military thrust against Gadhafi’s Libya was given the political benediction by a tough UN Security Council resolution which is intended to support and protect Libyan civilians and rebels under attack in Eastern Libya. But is this too little, too late?

Beyond the originally planned No Fly Zone envisioned by the Europeans over the last few weeks, the six page UN resolution (1973) brings the game to the next level by authorizing “all necessary measures,” to protect Libyan civilians.

The vote in the fifteen member Council was interesting in itself as ten countries voted in favor but with the abstentions of China and Russia (both holding a decisive veto) as well as Brazil, Germany, and India (three countries angling for permanent seats on the Council).

For the United States and its allies, grounding/neutralizing Libya’s fourth rate air force with swift surgical strikes belies the bigger picture; what is the strategic focus of the Allied military mission; “protecting civilians” or really necessary regime change?

Quick overview; Libya’s ruler has been a clear and present danger since the 1970’s. This is not news, just look at the record. Gadhafi’s support for global terrorism, the Pan Am #103 bombing over Lockerbie, and now vicious crackdowns on his own people has brought this rogue regime into the throes of civil war but now threatens to send destabilizing droves of refugees into Italy and southern Europe.

Thus the refugee spillover from the civil war and the threat to the oil industry, eg British Petroleum, Italy’s ENI, and others presents a clear and present danger for Europe.

French diplomatic decisiveness while welcomed, nonetheless may be a first move in the election campaign by President Nicolas Sarkozy who says the international intervention is aimed at stopping the “murderous madness” of Gadhafi’s rule.

But even as the Libyan revolt gained steam and the rebels nearly reached the gates of Tripoli, Barack Obama was holding his rhetorical fire on the Gadhafi regime. Only when Col. Gadhafi, like a cornered desert jackal, lashed back and counterattacked the opposition, did Obama begin to air his opprobrium towards this thug.

The timeline is in itself interesting as the point when the Libyan revolt reached its climax, the Arab League voted in Cairo to support efforts to topple the tyrant of Tripoli. Both Britain and France redoubled their diplomatic efforts at the UN to get a no-fly resolution past the Security Council, a move aimed at neutralizing Gadhafi’s air force and thus to protect Libyan civilians.

If there had been sufficient American support at that point, a draft resolution could have been voted on in quick follow-up to the Arab League move as a one-two punch. But well into the week, the USA was still not supporting such efforts. Indecisive dithering by President Obama who wanted to avoid what would be a clear military option, (and has since become a bigger one) began to crumble after both Britain and France forced his hand under the moral suasion to protect Benghazi’s embattled civilians.

Given that Gadhafi’s forces had the momentum of the offensive and were recapturing rebel strongholds, the clock was ticking louder. Then in a last minute turnaround, and less than two days before the actual vote which was forced by strong French pressures, the United States decided to support measures well beyond the No Fly Zone and for all practical purposed insert the USA into a North African civil war.

The Obama administration’s lack of leadership and indecisiveness cost many lives among those very civilians we are purportedly protecting. His volte face, came in response as much to being politically shamed by the British and French as it did by strong protests by his own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to at last take a decisive stand.

Importantly the USA formed a military coalition with Britain and France with the political blessing from the Arab League in Cairo and the UN in New York. Yet, has there been a sufficient consultation with the U.S. Congress in Washington?

The script Obama appears to be following speaks about “protecting civilians” in far off Libya, a noble mission but not a clearly defined national interest for a president facing large military deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Removing Col. Gadhafi’s odious regime would be the best way to protect Libyan civilians and to stop this wounded jackal from spreading terror ever again. To allow this operation to drag on will mire us in a sandstorm of mixed and muddled intentions.

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