COMMENTARY | As Moammar Gadhafi loyalist forces push into Benghazi, French Mirage and Rafale jets flew over the rebel capital in a show of force in order to prevent the Libyan dictator’s Air Force from bombing rebel positions.
Air strikes against Libyan armored units are considered likely to happen possibly in hours.
That the French rather than the United States seems to be taking the lead in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and possibly further measures provides a stark contrast between the leaders of the respective countries. Nicolas Sarkozy of France is considered a decisive leader, willing to take risks to prevent a humanitarian and military disaster from taking place in Libya.
President Barack Obama, not so much. Otherwise there would have been cruise missiles and bombs falling on Libyan targets long ago.
Even with the Europeans, the Arab League, and now the U.N. approving a no-fly zone, President Obama’s policy toward the Libyan civil war seems hesitant to the point of passivity. In his speech on the Libyan crisis, President Obama seemed stern enough, up to a point.
“Now, once more, Moammar Gadhafi has a choice. The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya, and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.
“Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action.”
It should be noted that President Obama seems to have dropped his demand that Muammar Gaddafy leave Libya immediately. The goal of the military intervention seems to be to partition Libya into a rebel held country and a Gaddafi held country.
Obama emphasized that his goals were limited.
“I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal — specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya. In the coming weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people with humanitarian and economic assistance so that they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully.”
It seems to be an odd strategy to inform ones enemy how far one is prepared to go in opposing him. Gadhafi now knows what Obama’s intentions are and should be prepared to act accordingly. So far that seems to be to thumb his nose at President Obama and try to finish off Benghazi as soon as possible.
Someone more skilled in the arts of war than Obama would not have been so direct, but would have implied that all options were on the table and that the ultimate goal was a free and democratic Libya without Gadhafi. That would have left the Libyan dictator with no notion of how far exactly the American led coalition was prepared to go, but would have informed him that there was only one outcome – Gadhafi leaving Libya. On his feet or feet first, it would be his decision.
Instead, President Obama vacillated again and showed weakness when he should have showed strength and fortitude.
Source: World leaders launch military action against Gadhafi’s forces in Libya, Matthew Lee, Cassandra Vinograd, Slobodan Lekic, AP, March 19th, 2011
Transcript of Obama’s Remarks on Libya, President Barack Obama, The Weekly Standard, March 18th, 2011