Chicago Tribune: For the Obama administration, the crisis in Libya represents more of a risk than an opportunity. Moammar Gadhafi has always been a tyrant, but in recent years he has given up his nuclear program and stopped sponsoring terrorism, defusing threats to our security. Already fighting two major wars, the U.S. can ill afford to join a new one.
But when armed rebels rose up to fight the regime, provoking a brutal response from Gadhafi, President Barack Obama nonetheless found himself under pressure to take military action. Calls to intervene came not only from Republicans like Sen. John McCain but from Democrat John Kerry. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the president looked “weak and uncertain.”
In fact, he was neither. What he exhibited was shrewdness. Obama was not about to be pushed into a commitment fraught with uncertainty in a country that presented no clear danger to the U.S.
He didn’t affect cynical indifference. He accused Gadhafi of “appalling violence against the Libyan people” and called on him to step down. Obama left open all options. But he let the world know that if military action were going to be taken, other nations were not going to get to cheer on the sidelines while the U.S. did the work.
And what do you know? Someone stepped up. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for air strikes against Gadhafi’s forces. The Arab League, which is historically loath to turn on one of its own, endorsed a no-fly zone.
Britain announced it would deploy warplanes to the region to “take the necessary action.” On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military steps, including enforcement of a no-fly zone. All this without Washington promising to play anything more than a supporting role.
We’re still skeptical about this mission. In effect, the world has declared war on Gadhafi, ordered him to give up power, but telegraphed that it won’t send ground troops to complete the task.
Hours after the UN vote, Libya announced a cease-fire in an evident attempt to head off an attack, but it pretty quickly became apparent that Gadhafi wasn’t abiding by his own truce.
Best case, the cease-fire becomes real, the bloodshed stops, the rebels get in a position to negotiate. If not, Gadhafi will encounter outside force that could doom his rule. Either way, the U.S. will not be terribly exposed at a time when it is already stretched thin.
All in all, Obama played his cards well. Prudence is an underrated virtue in a national leader. A president like this one who finds a way to advance worthy foreign policy goals without taking big risks is not showing weakness. He’s conserving strength.
Peter Fenn (Democratic media consultant: Cool, calm, collected and deliberate wins over impetuous and knee-jerk, every time. Presidnet Obama was right not to act precipitously and to get the U.N. and nations around the world to join together.
Arthur ‘Jerry’ Kremer (Chairman, Empire Government Strategies; former member, New York State Assembly): The president’s far-right critics were itching for there to be another incursion into a foreign country at a time when the country doesn’t need another war. Their desire for another war has more to do with the president being embarrassed in the next election than anything else. It is obvious that the U.S. government wanted the Arab League to get on board and approve a no-fly zone, which it did. That precipitated a U.N. resolution that also turned up the heat on Qadhafi. It is clear the president’s strategy was totally correct and today’s events prove it.
Sens. McCain and Lieberman were “trigger-happy” for the country to get into another war. Luckily no one was listening to either one. You can score this as a big victory for the president.