Obama keeps his promise in Libya
The fighting in Libya is far from over. As of yesterday though, the US military role switched from the lead offensive role to a support role. According to an article published on NPR.com, in Washington, Defense Department spokesman Navy Capt. Darryn James said U.S. activity will formally end at 6 p.m. EDT.
The majority of the fighter jets and aircraft used to enforce the no-fly zone will now be primarily from other UN nations.
The role switch for the US military is exactly what president Obama promised when addressing the nation two weeks ago. Also during the address Obama said, “We are not putting any ground forces into Libya.”
The decisions that president Obama has made thus far are justified, and they’re in exact accordance with what the US should have done. The president averted a situation that would have been exponentially worse without US intervention.
The intervention — our airstrikes — was also exactly what the rebel troops were desperately calling for. Up to this point, the decisions made by Obama do not deserve the outright criticism that he is receiving from those on the right or left.
Despite our airstrikes and the support of other NATO allies, Qaddafi remains a dangerous force and is still claiming the lives of Libyans every day. The airstrikes of our NATO allies must continue at full force in order to support the Libyan rebels.
Arming the rebels however, would be a bad idea. The Obama administration has signaled that putting troops on the ground in Libya along with arming the rebel fighters is something that they’re not in favor of nor are there any plans to do so.
In an article published in The New York Times last Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “training and weapons is not a unique capability for the United States, and as far as I’m concerned, somebody else can do that.”
France is the only country thus far to announce plans of providing weapons and training to the Libyan rebels.
Arming the Libyan rebels and providing them with training on how to use those arms would require that US troops be placed on the ground in Libya. Due to the number of troops we have in Afghanistan and Iraq, our resources simply should not be used in other places. There is no need to place American forces in harms way when NATO airstrikes are still enforcing the no-fly zone.
When asked directly about whether or not US ground troops would be deployed in Libya, Gates said, “Not as long as I’m in this job.”
It is also too soon to be arming a force that doesn’t yet have an established identity. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has also echoed similar sentiments about arming and training a group that has so many unknowns.
For now, the best thing to do is to remain the supporting role to NATO airstrikes and to nurture the relationship with the Libyan rebels. This is a civil war they must fight on their own when it comes to ground battles.
While assisting them through the enforcement of the no-fly zone, we must maintain a high level of communication and intelligence gathering, something the US is already doing in conjunction with other NATO allies.
Another criticism that has been present since the beginning is whether or not we should have intervened at all. In an article by Nick Kristof, published on Saturday in The New York Times, Kristof correctly called the critic’s fears possible.
“Critics from left and right are jumping all over President Obama for his Libyan intervention, arguing that we don’t have an exit plan, that he hasn’t articulated a grand strategy, that our objectives are fuzzy, that Islamists could gain strength. And those critics are all right,” Kristof said.
But Kristof then followed the confirmation of the critic’s with the most important part of the whole issue in Libya. “But let’s back up a moment and recognize a larger point: Mr. Obama and other world leaders did something truly extraordinary, wonderful and rare; they ordered a humanitarian intervention that saved thousands of lives and that even Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s closest aides seem to think will lead to his ouster,” Kristof said.
The claims that US foreign policy is inconsistent are valid. Yes, there are other situations like Yemen, Iran, Darfur and others that are brutal and ugly just like Libya, but we must be aware that when intervening every factor must be considered before taking action.
In his address two weeks ago, president Obama said, “the United States should not — and cannot — intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world.”
In the case of Libya, there was wide support from other nations, and very little time to waste. While US foreign policy does often seem inconsistent in terms of military intervention, it is better to be inconsistent and sparse with force as opposed to consistent and often.
Using military force is something that brings ugly losses in both life and resources, something every American should be learning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s a good thing that Obama isn’t trying to intervene in every ugly situation around the world.
Even if the US had the resources to do so, it wouldn’t be in our best interest. As Obama said when addressing the nation on Libya, “As Commander in Chief, I face no greater decision than sending our military men and women into harm’s way.”
The president has stuck to his word and the US has reduced its military role in Libya. At the same time, he has demonstrated that as commander in chief, expecting assistance from other nations in order to spread the responsibility for situations like this one is something that he plans to do.
If Obama motivates other nations to take more responsibility in terms of humanitarian efforts by using this strategy, then his decisions thus far will be significantly greater than the critics make them out to be.