by Stephen Brown
Washington finally broke its silence Wednesday over the crisis in Libya when President Barack Obama issued a statement before television cameras in the Grand Foyer of the White House. Until now, the Obama administration had been making only bland declarations concerning the Libyan turmoil in order not to endanger American diplomats and citizens who had yet to be evacuated to safety. Before Wednesday’s statement, Obama had only given out a written declaration regarding Libya last Friday.
But while the cause for the administration’s diplomatic reticence was resolved by a sea evacuation, Obama’s statement nevertheless contained only empty words. Instead of threats or a hard-hitting warning to Gaddafi from the leader of the world’s only superpower concerning the raging violence, the American public was treated to Obama’s well-known multi-polar approach for solving world problems, even when they involve American interests. With Wednesday’s statement, Obama once again demonstrated his continued intent to keep American power off the world stage.
“The entire world is watching, and we will coordinate our assistance and accountability measures with the international community,” Obama declared. “To that end, Secretary Clinton and I have asked Bill Burns, our Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, to make several stops in Europe and the region to intensify our consultations with allies and partners about the situation in Libya.”
Hillary Clinton will also travel to Geneva next Monday for more talks with other foreign ministers, all of which ought to scare Gadaffi into reining [sic] in his bands of killers and mercenaries.
Hundreds of these soldiers-for-hire, principally from Sudan, Chad and Niger, were reported to be heading to the Tripoli area, Gaddafi’s stronghold. According to an analysis by Stratfor Global Intelligence, the oil wealth in that area and the oil around Benghazi, the center of the anti-Gaddafi revolt, could see the current fighting develop into a protracted civil war between the two geographic regions.
Such a prospect would constitute a heavy setback for American and Western interests. With oil already over $100 a barrel for the first time since 2008 and expected to reach $120 within weeks if Libya’s oil ports are not reopened soon, the United States and other Western countries are facing severe economic consequences. One report sums up this dismal financial forecast by warning high oil prices would end America’s and the world’s economic recovery, which is just getting underway. Like with Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which, Obama seems to believe, is caused by the building of Israeli settlements, reality is once more being ignored.But Obama’s decision to send his diplomats on a world tour first before taking any action regarding Libya, if any is taken at all, is in keeping, as one analyst states, with his leftist world view, one in which there are no superpowers. Or at least in America’s case, a superpower that refuses to act like one. Early in his administration, Obama signaled the days of America unilaterally using its power to defend its interests were over when he told the United Nations General Assembly in September, 2009 “power is no longer a zero-sum game.”
“No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation,” he said. “No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed.”
These words must have gladdened the hearts of tin pot dictators, like Gadaffi, around the world. Under an Obama presidency, they would not have to fear unilateral American military action for their misbehavior, like the air strike Ronald Regan ordered against Gadaffi in the 1980s. Due to his leftist egalitarianism, Obama has leveled American power down to that of Benin’s, restricting his country’s options in any world crisis. Hillary Clinton, reflecting this approach, said on Tuesday the United Nations Security Council was where action on Libya should be decided.
While Obama’s multi-polar approach was expected, what was most surprising, though, about his Wednesday White House statement is that he announced no course of action at all. With criticisms that he was not being tough enough on Libya, it is baffling that his administration appears not to have even started working on a plan to deal with the crisis. With the Libyan revolt already days old, his words indicated his government is only now developing a course of action, even though he said “my national security team has been working around the clock to monitor the situation there.”
“I’ve also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis,” he said. “This includes actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we’ll carry out through multilateral institutions.”
Obama ended his statement by quoting a Libyan who said: “We just want to be able to live like human beings.”
But for that to happen, what is needed immediately is for the United States and NATO to use their airpower to stop the fighting. Bombing Gadaffi’s forces would cost less lives in the long run than a civil war fought “to the last drop of blood,” as the Libyan leader has promised. This also would allow the all-important oil exports to resume.
Discussions have taken place regarding establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and that is probably what Clinton will take up with her counterparts next Monday. But while this will stop Gaddafi’s mercenary pilots from bombing the opposition, it will not stop the killing on the ground. The only thing that would cause an old executioner like Gadaffi to stop killing is if an American aircraft carrier were to appear before the Libyan coast. But with Obama in the White House, don’t expect such a show of American power, even if it would allow people to start living like human beings.
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