I’m glad that President Obama finally and belatedly has acceded to the urgent pleas of our British, French, Libyan and Arab allies, all of whom have been urging the United States to stop Gaddafi’s mercenary army from crushing the rebel forces there.
Unfortunately, Obama’s statement this afternoon shows that he is prepared to do far less than what might be required in Libya. This is in large part because Obama, like most of our political elites, is spooked by misplaced concerns about “nation-building” and “ground combat.”
And so, the United States will not deploy ground troops to Libya, Obama said. Nor will we “impose” change on the Middle East and Africa.
But why not deploy ground troops to Libya to assist the rebels there? Why, for instance, would it be wrong to deploy a contingent of Green Berets to help train Libyan rebels fighting to overthrow Gaddafi?
At the very least, even if you have ruled out such a move, why tell the enemy that? Why take that option off the table?
Because Obama’s goal is not regime change in Libya; it is to protect the Libyan people from further violence.
That’s a nice and laudable humanitarian goal; however, the United States doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) go to war for strictly humanitarian reasons. We go to war to protect and promote the American national interest. And the United States has a vital national interest in getting rid of Gaddafi and supporting Libya’s democratic protesters.
It’s not that Libya itself is so important, because it’s not. But Gaddafi is important. (He’s been a terrorist thorn in our side for years, although neutered by the Iraq invasion.) And what happens in Libya will send a clear and unmistakable message to friend and foe alike throughout the region, especially in places like Egypt, which really do matter.
Obama doesn’t seem to see this, unfortunately. He lacks strategic vision. He lacks sufficient appreciation for the historical significance of the democratic revolution now underway in the Middle East and North Africa. Thus his misplaced concern that the United States not be perceived as “imposing” change in Libya or elsewhere.
But this is a red herring that Obama uses to justify his dithering, indecision and inaction. The British, the French, the Europeans, Libyans, Arabs and Muslims all know that the United States has absolutely no desire to “impose” anything on anyone save for their right to chart their own destiny. Indeed, that’s why they want, and have requested, American leadership in Libya.
Would that our president understood this and acted accordingly. The goal in Libya, Mr. President, is not simply to do good; it is to get rid of Gaddafi.