‘shrewd caution on libya’

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.

20 Responses to “‘shrewd caution on libya’”

  1. 1 Shirley
    March 18, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Yeah Chips, what we have Is not only a President, but a President who “IS” Commander and Chief, and Is “LEADING” our Country, as “SAFELY” as he can, but also Is using “WISDOM”, and Is “Carefully”, making “GOOD” decisions.

    I also would like to say a word for our Ambassador of the UN, Susan Rice. I do believe that she knows her stuff. In other words, I believe she’s a little piece of Leather, but well put together, IMO 🙂

  2. 2 Dorothy Rissman
    March 18, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Now that is one hell of an editorial. They totally get it. The Tribune is not always so kind to the president, so this means a lot to me. Since I have been wringing my hands over this issue, this analysis means that some people really do understand what the president is trying to accomplish in his roll as commander and chief. Thanks Chipsticks. Great work.

  3. 3 aristac
    March 18, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    This is ari

    He did the best he can do in the situation. Let’s hope it all works out well. I wonder if he is going to delay is trip to Brazil?

  4. 4 Andogriff
    March 18, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks Ms. Chipsticks, I loved this editorial, and will pass it on. I thought President Obama’s address today was strong, intelligent, and unapologetic. He has been carefully managing everything behind the scenes at the UN (with the superb help of Susan Rice), and has negotiated the best possible strategy, IMO. Dorothy, you are so right…. some people are finally (hopefully) starting to understand.

  5. 5 majii
    March 18, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I’m soooo ashamed of myself! After I finished reading this, I said, “Hot d@mn! without realizing it because I was so impressed with the article. This is an excellent analysis of the goals and effects of PBO’s technique of using smart diplomacy. Yahoo!!!!!

  6. 6 Proud of Obama
    March 18, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Yep, cool, calm and collected wins every time.

    Hey, Chipsticks, did we report on the latest PPP poll out of the “all-important” swing state of Ohio that shows President Obama’s numbers getting stronger? If we did, excuse the post. But here’s the link.

    “Obama leads all of the top Republicans in the state by margins greater than his 4 point win over John McCain in 2008. Mitt Romney is the most competitive, trailing Obama by 6 points at 46-40. After him it’s Mike Huckabee trailing by 7 at 48-41, Newt Gingrich down 12 at 50-38, and Sarah Palin at a 16 point advantage, 52-36.”


  7. 10 Mae who love our CIC
    March 18, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Yes President Obama is the greatest Commander-in-Chief!

    • 11 NewCenturyWoman
      March 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      Yes, Mae, he is the greatest CIC and definitely the finest one we’ve had in my lifetime. 🙂

  8. 12 Janine
    March 18, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Said very well, very well indeed. I love that this President uses his intellect and diplomacy and collaboration to make decisions rather than shoot from the hip cowboy-style. I am proud of how he has handled this Libya situation. I know the criticism has been tough to hear but his measured, calm approach worked. This is what we need for these times.

  9. 13 barb
    March 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    This shows that he is his own person and cannot be coerced into actions that he is not comfortable with. Working behind the scenes with our partners to bring together a coalition of UN and Arab nations. He has however been very vocal in his articulations directed toward Col. Ghaddafi. This is known as “broken record.” which is used in psychology to aid people
    to synthesize information. He has used the same words to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and now Yemen and to the press. Some figure it out and others don’t esp. most of the US msm.

    Cut and paste from an earlier response:
    This is about the empowerment of other nations that we may interact on a more equal basis. This is smart policy. I am just wondering how Arab League will be involved? It’s time to step back and give others the oportunity to take on leadership as we act in a supportive role. The Libyan rebels do not want us on the ground. This is their fight but they do need an equal fight which they lack because of Gaddafi’s military resources. God bless them.

    Eat your hearts out McCain and Libermann. Your ideas would wind up causing a horrible crisis both her and abroad.

  10. 15 V C prezOfan2
    March 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    😀 😀 😀

  11. 16 anniebella
    March 18, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I am glad to see that if other countries wants to get rid of that nut in Libya, they will have to do something and not count on America to do it all. Like so, so, so many times before.

  12. 17 jaleh
    March 19, 2011 at 1:46 am

    I just sent this article to Fouad Ajami (he was on Anderson Cooper bad mouthing President Obama). Let’s hope he can read.

  13. 18 Twinx
    March 19, 2011 at 9:18 am

    From the UK Parliament, yesterday

    “Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): May I also congratulate the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on the action they have taken? I hope the Prime Minister will join me in also congratulating President Obama, who by his cautious deliberations has allowed the Arab states to come to the fore, and, unlike his predecessor, has shown proper respect for the United Nations, thus giving a major boost to the rule of international law.

    The Prime Minister: The right hon. Lady makes an extremely good point and is absolutely right. I had a very good conversation with President Obama last night, and I think he has shown great leadership on the UN and what is proposed in the new resolution, and on being able to bring together its various elements. The right hon. Lady is right that allowing the Arab League the space and time to come forward and make its own views clear has helped to create a sense of consensus at the UN, where we have the ability to act. But the clock is now ticking, and we now need a sense of urgency, because we do not want to see a bloodbath in Benghazi, and further repression and taking of innocent civilian life in Libya.”


    • 19 Eleroy
      March 19, 2011 at 9:28 am

      Great find Twinx, thanks for sharing!!!

      • 20 Twinx
        March 20, 2011 at 5:13 am

        Well I happened to be watching that session of Parliament on TV when it happened, so I knew it would be in Hansard (which is the official record of dbates in Parliament).

        For some reason the wingers love to dig around in the British right wing tabloid rags for critical articles, so I was able to make very good use of that exchange elsewhere, too 😉

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