Friday, 8 July 2011

John Bolton on the Libya mess

John Bolton (who served as ambassador to the United Nations in the administration of President George W. Bush) has written an excellent article about why there does not seem to be any end to the mess in Libya:

Obama set the tone for this exercise in Libya at the outset. He limited the military mission to protecting civilians; by his own admission, he waited to act until the very last minute when rebel strongholds were under imminent attack; he declared publicly there would be no U.S. “boots on the ground”; and he insisted on advance approval by the UN Security Council and the Arab League.
Then, after U.S. forces dominated the first days of the “kinetic military activity,” his administration abruptly ceased most U.S. strike missions, even as it continued to supply the logistical, operational and intelligence backbone for air operations by NATO. By pretending to abdicate to our alliance partners, we behaved as if NATO hadn’t from its inception been U.S.-led and dominated, leaving our allies shaking their heads.
On March 18, Obama expressly said he wanted Qaddafi removed from power, but that we wouldn’t use force to do so: “We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal -- specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.” This is the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, which countenances force for humanitarian purposes, at least as defined by those dropping the ordnance.

Subsequently, NATO strikes have killed one of Qaddafi’s children and three of his grandchildren, and the regime claims numerous other civilians have also died. NATO has admitted to mistakenly attacking rebel convoys on more than one occasion.
Even humanitarian interventions can cause tragedies.

This inherent confusion among our stated goals, the numerous restrictions imposed on NATO forces, and Obama’s unwillingness to do what is necessary -- namely, removing Qaddafi -- means that the Libyan operation has no end in sight.
The lesson for the U.S. is that it shouldn’t always ask permission from foreigners when pursuing its interests, but can ask forgiveness later if necessary. That, of course, is the conclusion Obama is least likely to derive. The absence of clear U.S. leadership on Libya has produced the current impasse, both diplomatically and militarily. Although NATO should ultimately prevail, it is wrenching that our president has caused so many of the problems we now confront.

Read the entire Bloomberg article here

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