So Mr. Obama finally decided that the American people should be informed about his reasoning on why he has started a third war in the Islamic world. For Obama, it is incomprehensible why he did not do this earlier. Two weeks into this mission, opposition to the policy is hardening not only on the right, but on the extreme left as well.
But in any case, Obama’s moment to educate us is here. What questions must he answer?
1. Is there any American vital interest in Libya?
I think the answer was given by Sec. Gates yesterday: No. But I would like to hear the President’s opinion, which ultimately is the only one that matters.
2. What are our military objectives?
The UN resolution, as well as the diplomatic talk after, have been scattered. If this is purely a humanitarian mission, then haven’t we already achieved our goals, by stopping the massacre in Benghazi?
If defending Benghazi was simply the beginning of the ‘humanitarian mission’, that is fair. But then, the President must delineate to what extent we will carry through on humanitarian grounds. For example, will we help march into Tripoli, to protect those that are being oppressed there?
3. Are our military objectives even achievable?
This is a dire question. I think that one can argue about the morality of protecting the civilians on the ground. No one wants to see women, children, and innocents dying because of the insanity of a sociopath.
However, no one in this mission has explained what the end game is. It has been clearly stated that it is NOT the removal of Qaddafi. Well, that is fine; then what is it?
There is no scenario that I can picture in which Qaddafi survives, and we walk away. That simply is no longer a choice. We either remove the regime, or we are in it for a long, hard slog, which will entail nation building in one manner or another. The only other option is peacekeepers on the ground, and no one in the current coalition is willing to do that.
Benghazi has been saved, and Obama can take solace that at least that much has been achieved. But now, after achieving the short term goal, what is the next step? If the rebels are unable to take Tripoli, does the war continue? How does that line up with Obama’s denial of seeking regime change? Simply put, the goals so far stated do not coincide with one another. It is illogical en face. And that leads to the next question…
4. Is there a scenario that leaves Qaddafi in power? Is there a definition of success that does not include regime change?
Obama’s has come under the most criticism, arguably, for both supporting and denying support for the ouster of Qaddafi. Obama runs away from the term ‘regime change’ like is the plague. But after proclaiming several weeks ago the he is an illegitimate leader of his people and must go, can Obama walk away from that, regardless of the United Nations mandate?
It seems that Obama has drawn a line in the sand: Qaddafi, but not one dictator farther. It is an embarrassment of a doctrine. Obama has already stepped over the theoretical line. If, for example, Assad kills tens of thousands of demonstrators in Syria, will we simply wash our hands of it? We could have, honestly so, before the attack on Libya. Now? It is unlikely the Arab street would forgive the West, and America in particular, for ignoring such an event.
5. Was this mission constitutional? And did the President meet the minimal requirements necessary for foreign military intervention?
I won’t go into thorough detail on this because, frankly, the issue has been beaten to death. But Obama should be held to account. He himself stated that exactly this type of intervention required Congressional approval 3 years ago. He should have to defend his current position, and if he has changed his mind, at least admit he has done so.
Simply, Obama must do tonight what most Presidents do on the initial night of such a conflict: explain to the American people why we should risk our blood and treasure in a foreign land. The American public will not always believe the President’s assertion, or his policy, but they have the right to hear the reasons directly from the mouth of the Commander-in-Chief.
In this case, Obama hurt his own credibility by not doing this sooner. Regardless of his answers to the above, I think he will have to accept that much, if not most, of the country does not support this mission, for any reason.