At his press conference the other day, President Barack Obama said of the war in Libya that “there’s no risks of additional escalation. This operation is limited in time and in scope.” That is, the kinetic military action begun over three months ago that was originally supposed to last “days, not weeks.”
The words by themselves are an indictment. They reveal a way of looking at warfare that is both arrogant and naive. There can be no such thing as a war that entails no risk of escalation. It is a reckless perspective for a commander-in-chief, and history has shown how costly it can be. There’s no joy in recognizing that this is the current president’s perspective.
“Colonel” Muammar al-Qaddafi today threatened—not for the first time—to take the war beyond the borders of Libya.
These people (the Libyans) are able to one day take this battle … to Europe, to target your homes, offices, families, which would become legitimate military targets, like you have targeted our homes.
The bluster of a dictator, to be sure, but it needs to be remembered that Mr. Qaddafi/Gadhafi/Khadafy has a history of using terrorism to avenge himself on the West. In a war that, after all, is aimed at making him extinct, why should Qaddafi follow some limits set by outside parties, let alone the very parties who are trying to kill him? The more he realizes that nothing will satisfy his enemies but his death, the less he has to lose.
With the Europeans already running out of available jets, ordinance, and the single aircraft carrier which they have to offer, any crisis or escalation that develops in future months would be something that America would be expected to step in and handle, simply because no one else could. President Obama, having gotten the U.S. involved in the violence in the first place, would not be able to simply disclaim responsibility.
It’s way past time for Congress to exercise its responsibility and pull back this President from his ill-conceived foreign adventure. It is a war where no vital American interest can be said to be at stake; it’s a war that President Obama was apparently backed into via his own rhetoric (demanding that Gaddafi “must go”) and further encouraged to enter by a Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) who was played by the French and the British—parties who have considerably more at stake in terms of economic interests.
The bill that came up for a vote in Congress a couple of weeks ago (and failed), involving the cutting of funds, was poisoned by including express authorization for certain kinds of “non-kinetic” military activities in the same theater; so effectively it would have legitimized substantial aspects of the operation, and would have continued to leave the U.S. in the position of being vulnerable to escalation of some kind. There’s no question that a cleaner bill would garner much more support. The fear is of exposing NATO as a sham. Better to expose it now than to suffer the harsher consequences of its being a sham when the enemy being confronted is better equipped than Muammar al-Qaddafi.