So now, President Obama has his own war, not one that he inherited. One that raises a lot of questions – and not just about Libya.
First, it appears that, unlike the Iraq invasion, this one actually is mandated by UN resolution. Though not everyone agrees.
The Arab League says the coalition is providing cover for rebel troops. So does, predictably, the Libyan government. Both argue that this exceeds the UN authorization – which primarily establishes an enforceable no-fly zone.
Yet, one would be hard-pressed to not see the justification in bombing military vehicles closing in on cities held by rebels. As the former Libyan ambassador to the United States said, the “cover” provided by U.S. and other warplanes saved thousands of Libyan lives.
Still, the Republican Party is miffed because the action took place with no congressional consultations or authorization.
The president is getting squeezed a bit from some in his own party as well. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) argues the military action, absent congressional approval, is an impeachable offense.
Republicans are asking, too, about the end game. What exactly is the objective?
Is it merely to enforce a no-fly zone? Is it to assist the rebel troops on the ground? Is it to remove Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi from power?
If it is the later, and some of Obama’s comments suggest that it is, the U.S. has set itself up for the possibility of failure. One can declare that a mission to keep Gaddafi’s warplanes grounded has already succeeded. But only time will tell if Gaddafi ultimately survives. And if he does, then why did the U.S. get involved?
Of course, the United States government insists that Gaddafi isn’t the target – even though his presidential compound was pounded Sunday night by U.S.-fired missiles.
If this is a humanitarian effort, to prevent a leader from turning against his own people, does this signal a new U.S. policy? Because, as we have seen, heads of state and government are slaughtering their own people elsewhere as well.
Hardly anyone is focusing any longer, for example, on the carnage in the Ivory Coast.
What about Yemen? Do we look the other way simply because the alternative might be a government that is reticent to partner with the United States in thwarting al Qaeda in that nation?
Bahrain provides an interesting contradiction as well. The United States is on record as opposing using force against demonstrators. But then, there’s the little issue of a U.S. Naval fleet based there. We wouldn’t want to upset the apple cart too much.
Even when it happens in a country where it’s easier to vilify the leadership – problems are presented. Best case-in-point: Iran. No one in the Obama administration I’m sure is seriously advocating an invasion there.
The attacks on citizens by their own governments in these nations and others is pretty horrific, reprehensible and worthy of condemnation. But whether they warrant outside military intervention is another question altogether.
Perhaps the ultimate outcome of the Libyan action will help define future U.S. policy toward other governments that turn their might on their own.