On Thursday March 17th, the United Nation’s Security Council authorized the establishment of a no-fly zone in an attempt to stop Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s attacks on his own citizens. This 10-0 vote of approval was the international community’s reaction to the “no mercy” war that Gadhafi has waged on his own people. While many of Gadhafi’s own commanders defected and decided to support the rebels fight for democracy, Gadhafi has vowed to die for the cause. The violence in Libya is cited as a primary reason for the recent and dramatic spike in oil and gas prices.
On Friday, the day following the vote, Libya’s Defense minister announced a cease fire, essentially declaring the attacks on the citizen rebels would end. However, on Saturday, the attacks by air resumed causing France to send fighter jets to enforce the no-fly zone. By that afternoon, France announced that one of its planes had fired on a Libyan military vehicle, and by the evening, the United States, Italy, and Great Britain all joined the French in attacking Gadhafi’s forces. The United States alone launched 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit Tripoli and Masrata (Libyan cities), several hitting the compound of Moammar Gadhafi.
The ambiguity of the extent of the US military involvement and the desired outcome in Libya has proven to be perplexing to US citizens, who have grown skeptical of military involvement after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many people are simply asking if we have been brought into another war, one started by a President who two years ago was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Just this past Saturday, President Obama, in remarks from Brazil on the situation in Libya, was clear that this was not going to turn into another expensive, decade-long war. In fact, the word “War” noticeably absent from his remarks.
As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners. And as I said yesterday, we will not — I repeat — we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground.
The President explained this military action as necessary for the security of the innocent Libyan people who are speaking out and calling for change.
I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.
In response to the President’s justification for involving the US military, critics have renewed the commonly debated question of “why the US needs to be the savior to all internationally, when we have so many problems domestically.” Critics point out that we entered Iraq under mission name “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and have escalated our mission in Afghanistan under the pretext of improving the conditions of the Afghan people, and both operations are costing too much money and are both putting an enormous strain on our military.
*Opinion Starts Now*
While this may seem true on the surface, when looking more in depth at the situation, it becomes clear why the US must be involved and why this time looks more promising. The United States has set a precedent around the world as being willing to aid the fights of repressed and silenced people who are calling for a democracy around the world, especially when being attacked by a hostile dictator. The reason why the US must become involved in Libya is because the US sees itself as having a moral obligation to help oppressed people.
Think of it like this: A woman, who is a victim of an abusive relationship is getting publicly and physically abused in the middle of NY’s Central Park. This woman is on the floor, being stomped on by a man of average build who is demanding that she silences herself; however, she continues to cry out for help in both an act of defiance and an act of desperation. While she is getting beat, three former WWE wrestlers are in the Park and hear and see the desperate woman being beaten to near death. Although each wrestler has their own problems(lets say one has a broken arm, the other a sprained ankle, and the other a sprained wrist), they know they can take out this average man with minimal effort damage to themselves. Not to mention, everyone else in this park is watching the situation unfold, and will witness the men if they turn a blind eye.
This is the scenario of countries like the United States, Britain, and France. They must act to not only stop Gadhafi and his weakened regime(the average size man), but they must also help the Libyan people who are crying for change(the woman on the floor screaming for help).
With the situation as it is, and the near-obligation that the US has to help the Libyan people, I believe that President Obama has managed the situation extremely well. First, I think it is extremely important to note that it was France and Italy who were the first to enforce the no-fly zone, not the United States. Secondly, it is important to note that this action has substantial international support with its 10-0 vote(5 countries abstaining) and even the support of two Muslim countries in the Arab League. And lastly, the President has stated, in clear terms that no ground troops would be committed to this mission titled “Operation Odyssey Dawn.” These three factors illustrate why I am confident in this mission, and why I am not critical of the President’s actions. The President clearly was strategic about his approach to the situation, and unlike in Iraq, has the strong support of the International community. He even came out yesterday and said that our allies will begin to take the lead role in a matter of days, not weeks. This, I find encouraging.
I want to end with this paragraph from an article by Romesh Ratnesar on Time.com. In the article, Romesh does a great job at contextualizing the overall foreign policy of President Obama during the past two years. This article makes it clear that although Obama’s actions appear to counter his campaign positions, they are truly in line with the end game of each of his short term actions. If you have time, read the full article here.
In his two years in office, Obama’s approach to foreign policy has emphasized the limits of American power more than its reach. He has wound down the American engagement in Iraq and stated a desire, if not a concrete plan, to withdraw substantial numbers of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. His Administration has tried to soothe relations with potential rivals like China and Russia rather than confront them. It has resisted calls for military action against Iran. As a candidate in 2008, Obama talked of the need for aggressive international efforts to alleviate suffering in other countries caused by “poverty, genocide and disease.” Since then, political strife and armed conflict have caused untold miseries in places such as Sudan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast — and yet the U.S. has stayed out of all of them. (See exclusive photos of Libya’s rebels.)
Such restraint reflects the President’s personality. “He is by nature a prudent, cautious, measured person,” says David M. Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian who has met with Obama. “He’s not an enthusiast. He wants to be deliberate and careful, and the way in which he looks at the world reflects that.”
Tell me what YOU think. How do you view the situation? Comment to this post!