March 15, 2011

Libya - an American and European disgrace

In an unconscionable and unbelievable abdication of foreign policy leadership, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have joined their European counterparts in condemning the Libyan people to continue to live under the oppressive government of Mu'amar al-Qadhafi. The United States refused to support a British and French call for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, and instead referred the issue to the United Nations Security Council.

Referring the issue to the United Nations Security Council is the diplomatic equivalent of doing nothing. It's going through the motions, making it appear that you are doing something when in effect you have decided to ignore the situation and hide behind the institution that is the poster child for inaction.

Perhaps I am being too hard on Obama and Clinton. After all, Mrs. Clinton flew to Paris to meet with a senior Libyan opposition official. Of course, she made vague promises of support, but not any commitment to concrete action. Now that the no-fly zone is almost certainly off the table, she is now joining calls for the United Nations to come down hard on the Libyan leader. She even raised the notion of tougher economic sanctions. Whoa - you can almost hear al-Qadhafi's screams of fear all the way to New York. Oh wait, that's not fear, it is contemptuous laughter.

For his part, the French foreign minister chimed in and asked the Security Council "to increase the pressure, including through economic measures, for [al-Qadhafi] to leave." He further welcomed "measures under way at the Security Council as a matter of urgency to protect Libyans from the fighting between rebels and forces loyal to [al-Qadhafi]." The minister hoped for a resolution by the end of the week.

Here's a news flash for the Frenchman. Nothing the Security Council does in New York this week will protect Libyans. The time line is also a joke. By the end of the week, it will likely be over. Government forces flanked the rebels in the city of al-Ajdabiyah and cut the road behind them, cutting them off from the main rebel group in Banghazi.

The opportunity to support a group of Libyan rebels with the courage to stand up to al-Qadhafi's superior forces is fast slipping away, if it has not already. While Clinton and her counterparts are drafting words, al-Qadhafi's pilots are dropping ordnance. His forces have cut the road between al-Ajdbiyah and Banghazi, and are moving to the east. When Banghazi falls, the rebellion will be over.

At that point, the world will witness the results of its failure to act. It will be a bloodbath, despite al-Qadhafi's offers of amnesty. There is almost no independent reporting allowed from inside the country. The world will have no way of accurately assessing just how dire the situation will be for those who dared to fight for freedom.

The absolute fecklessness of the U.S. government, in the persons of Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, has signed the death warrants of hundreds, even thousands of the rebels who waited in vain for help from the West. Despite unprecedented support from the Arab League for the imposition of a U.S. and NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Libya, these so-called leaders sat on their hands, effectively doing nothing until it was too late. The two Americans talk a good game, but come up short when it's time to actually craft coherent foreign policy.

The Democratic campaign rhetoric of the 3:00am phone call keeps coming back to haunt both Obama and Clinton. Either they forgot to pick up the phone, or they keep passing it back and saying, "It's for you."

The failure of the United States and NATO to act has led to a higher body count in Libya. President Obama's demands that al-Qadhafi step down, and repeated statements that al-Qadhafi must be removed emboldened the rebels to fight on in the face of overwhelming odds. Just who did Obama think was going to support the rebels?

If the President of the United States is going to make these kinds of statements, he needs to have the courage to back them up with effective action. He watched and waited as al-Qadhafi took advantage of his control of the skies and superior weaponry. The blood of Libyan patriots is, and will be, on his hands.

It is not our finest hour. What a disgrace.