Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have done a great job of handling the diplomacy necessary for the Libyan crisis, setting the stage for tectonic shifts in world affairs. In one stroke they have reset international expectations about the Middle East, and set the world on a course for a better future.
For Americans watching the Libyan situation play out, it sure would feel good to see rogue Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi swallow a Tomahawk cruise missile as belated retribution and payback for the Pan Am Flight 103 victims. Many of us wish President Ronald Reagan, who was President when the tragedy occurred, had done it. Regretfully for this month’s innocent victims in Libya, the President of the United States cannot ignore the potential for chaos in the future of the Middle East, and its implications for the long term security of the United States.
Let us consider what has been accomplished by President Obama’s and Secretary of State Clinton’s diplomacy:
1) They have forced the Arab League to acknowledge unanimously that there is a point beyond which even Arab peoples cannot stand by and allow the massacre of innocent civilians. By the Arab League vote on March 12, 2011, even the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain, which are currently in the middle of suppressing dissent in their countries, have had to acknowledge that there is a point beyond which they cannot go, even in the eyes of their fellow Arabs.
2) By insisting on Arab participation in the “no-fly zone” over Libya, President Obama has avoided the canard that America considers itself the policeman of the world. Apparently United Arab Emirates and Qatar forces have agreed to participate in the U.N. action in Libya.
3) In his speech of March 18, 2011, President Obama told Arab dissidents that they need to look to themselves for change in their own countries. It is not reasonable for them to expect the United States to come to their rescue without very good reason. Muslims have roundly criticized Americans throughout the world for a decade for intervening in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the face of that criticism, dissidents cannot believe that the United States will save them without establishing their own legitimacy.
As the President rightfully said: “This is just one more chapter in the change that is unfolding across the Middle East and North Africa. From the beginning of these protests, we made it clear that we are opposed to violence. We made clear our support for a set of universal values, and our support for the political and economic change that the people of the region deserve. But I want to be clear that change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power. Ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab World. It is their right and their responsibility to determine their own destiny.”
4) He allowed President Nicolas Sarkozy to be front and center in the announcement of the actions United Nations forces are taking to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. This is appropriate because the French and Italians have the most to lose from humanitarian crises along the central Mediterranean coast of Africa. Conservative pundits criticized the President for being in Brazil during this time, but by doing that the President is emphasizing the importance of international trade with one of our largest trading partners, while not overshadowing other leaders, who do have much more to lose from an immediate humanitarian crisis. Perhaps the fact that the French began the “no-fly zone” over Libya will somehow rehabilitate France as an ally in the eyes of many Americans.
5) President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice proved that they could avoid vetoes from Russia and China in the U.N. Security Council. This may have been the Obama Administration’s greatest achievement, because it shows that even Russia and China must acknowledge that there is certain behavior beyond which the international community will no longer give a free pass to national leaders. Considering light of their histories of repression of their own people, this may well be seen as a turning point in human history.
Yes, the short-term situation in Libya is ugly, and may well be ugly for some weeks to come. I think there must be back channel efforts to get Mr. Gadhafi out of power quickly. The Libyan military, among many other interests, have to realize that Gadhafi’s days are numbered, and that they must go on with their lives and careers after all of this is over. Perhaps Gadhafi’s own children might like to continue with their own lives.
I have no doubt the President and Secretary of State struggled through many long and sleepless nights over what to do. The pressures from venal politicians, who took it upon themselves to take gratuitous shots against them on national television, must have been difficult to endure. In the final analysis, I believe that President Obama’s and Secretary of State Clinton’s diplomacy in this matter will be seen as nothing short of brilliant.
Skip Conover is an International Executive, Author, and Artist. He has written a novel, a published current affairs book, and a published journal. He turned his long time interest in Jungian Archetype into the Archetype in Action Organization.