After almost a week and a half of the start of U.S.-led air campaign against Libya to enforce UN-authorized no-fly zone, President Obama has outlined American goals and strategy. Though belated his address to the nation on Libya has at least clarified the objective his administration has sought to achieve in partnership with allies. In so doing Obama has presented his vision of dealing with crises around the world but not necessarily everywhere.
While he has been persuasive in trying to convince that the U.S. has to act selectively and choose to prioritize its military action in tune with national interests, Obama has also sounded hypocritical in paying scant attention to crises in Libya’s neighborhood. If prevention of humanitarian disaster justifies international intervention and accordingly the allied air attacks against Libya, it is surprising to learn why Obama turns his back to Yemen and Bahrain where people clamoring for political freedom are being killed by their autocratic leaders.
His explanation in the address that U.S. is opposed to violence directed against its own citizens, its support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders and support for goals that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people, hardly becomes credible in light of American approach to ongoing crises in the Middle East.
Drawing lessons from Iraq war, president has decided to limit the role of the U.S. in Libya. Its military is shifting the leadership of enforcing UN resolution 1973 that has authorized a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians to NATO shortly. More importantly he has made it obvious that regime change in Libya is not the goal of the allied intervention though at times his administration has vacillated on this front. But Obama said on Monday, ”We went down that road in Iraq, regime change there took 8 years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives and nearly a trillion dollars. This is not something we can afford to repeat.”
Even with limited roles there will be costs to the U.S. and it will be ironic and even tragic as opined by Richard N. Hass, president of Council on Foreign Relations if the suffering of the Libyan people rises rather than diminishing. If human losses pile up with prolonged war in the country it will be a mockery of intervention justified on humanitarianism.
It is difficult to predict about the outcomes of the Libyan intervention albeit a new doctrine seems to be in offing which is premised on what president Obama articulated regarding U.S. position on managing global threats. In his first address concerning Libyan intervention on March 28, 2011 Obama has said, “If we can, if there is a moral case, if we have allies, and if we can transition out and not get stuck, we will move to help”. These conditions may be the essence of Obama Doctrine in the opinion of Aaron David Miller, a State Department Middle East negotiator during Clinton presidency.