I have to confess that I was surprised that UN Security Council authorized a ceasefire with provisions for a no-fly zone over Libya yesterday. After all, the no-fly zone over Iraq was undertaken at the initiative of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, not the UN.
So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that the UN not the US had to take the lead with regard to a no fly zone on Libya I don’t think she envisioned the UN Security Council would actually go ahead and take the lead.
Which is why I find it curious that some like Mark Krikorian thinks the United States is in for an open-ended commitment in Libya. Not only do I think an open-ended commitment isn’t in the plans but I also think President Obama is still reluctant to commit to any action at all as evidenced by his declaration this afternoon that he will not send in ground troops despite his threat of military action. Let’s not forget that this is the same man who a year ago wouldn’t let our flag at U.S. military compounds in Haiti because it would “send the wrong message.” If President Obama was afraid to send the wrong message while providing relief supplies to earthquake victims in Haiti you can be sure he is worried about sending the wrong message where it concerns Libya even if it would prevent a mass slaughter of innocent civilians.
The other thing to consider here is what kind of military commitment the U.K., France and the Arab League are prepared to make and for how long. If David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Amr Moussa are prepared to take the lead and are willing to see things through to a satisfactory resolution then by all means. But if that were to be the case then I think it would reflect poorly on President Obama and the United States if Britain and France and members of the Arab League were willing to protect innocent civilians from a tyrant while we sat on the sidelines. We should never forget that this was the tyrant whose regime was responsible for the deaths of American civilians on Pan Am Flight 103. So even if the Obama Administration doesn’t want to take the lead in Libya I don’t think it can sit it out altogether.