THE DAILY BEAST
How Obama Bungled The War In Libya
June 27, 2011 3:18 PM EDT
……the growing problems in Libya, where thanks to presidential incompetence and congressional confusion, our policy remains in utter disarray.
Last week, when asked to support U.S. military activities in the oil-rich nation, the House of Representatives voted “present.” The House overwhelmingly rejected an explicit authorization of force, but also rejected an effort to prohibit its funding. If anyone needed evidence as to why the founding fathers did not give Congress the authority to “make war,” this was surely it.
If we consider what to do next, the answer seems to be not much. The House’s contradictory signals left our allies in dismay, and seemed to encourage Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan strongman, to continue to hold out. The end result could be negotiations, followed by a stalemate or the country’s partition, and the eventual empowerment of Islamist elements within the Libyan opposition.
With the prospects for Congressional action now remote, what we need is leadership from our president, but Obama has little credibility. Critics have savaged him for his military intervention—from his basic rationale and laughable interpretation of the War Powers Act, to the constraints he imposed on our military and his refusal to directly target Gaddafi.
These criticisms are essentially correct. Obama’s rationale for intervening--protecting Libyan civilians--tugs at the heart strings, but conveys no strategic U.S. interest. In fact, Obama undercut his own logic last week, saying in his Afghanistan speech that it was now “time to focus on nation building here at home.” Going forward, I’m certain he will rue that cheap and irresponsible line, which his opponents will surely use against him in the lead up to the 2012 election.
Of course, there is a strategic interest in toppling Gaddafi, as the Libyan leader has threatened to re-engage in international terrorism and resume his quest for nuclear weapons. But Obama missed it. After months of dithering, NATO is now clearly targeting Gaddafi, yet Obama is unwilling to say so, even though killing the brutish dictator is precisely the way to protect Libyan civilians. Instead, Obama seems more interested in pursuing an ideological abstraction, the gauzy “responsibility to protect” doctrine, rather than concrete U.S. interests. And we are now paying for this ideological frolic.
From the beginning, Obama erred initially in his failure to get congressional authorization for the use of force. ……
Getting Congress onboard is not constitutionally required, but it would have been politically prudent. When things get rough, as they have, it’s always good to have an insurance policy. Inexplicably, Obama didn’t, as his political instincts seemed to vanish. Even worse, before the House voted last week, the White House did precious little lobbying to salvage its position.
Adding insult to injury, Obama tried to address the War Powers Act by twisting words beyond comprehension. Arguing that the United States was not engaged in “hostilities” ruffled nearly every feather on Capitol Hill that he had not already ruffled to begin with. As Humpty Dumpty once said, per Lewis Carroll: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”
Operationally, Obama also erred by imposing self-defeating constraints on the U.S. military. Although American forces dominated the initial attacks, they were later restricted to mainly intelligence, logistical and support functions, while our allies carried out the bulk of the subsequent strikes. This display of multilateralism has unquestionably extended what could have been a short, sharp encounter into one that has now lasted more than 100 days.
……And while the Libyan opposition undoubtedly contains more desirable alternatives to Gaddafi, opposition leaders admit there is a substantial terrorist presence within their ranks, and our blunders have increased the possibility that Islamic extremists will take over.……