Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Action in Libya is Justified but Raises Questions

Barack Obama inherited wars on two fronts when he became president: ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, he has initiated a third conflict involving United States troops in Libya.

We support the President, our troops, and their mission in Libya.

However, as with all matters of foreign policy, we think it's appropriate to ask questions along the way - and particularly at these early stages of our involvement - to determine the scope of American interests and to ensure we are on the right course.

The first question concerns the person at the center of this latest conflict, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Is American action aimed directly at removing Gadhafi from power, or is it simply aimed at blocking him from attacking his own people? We believe there is justifiable American interest in either action. However, we also think it is important to choose between the two, and right now we're not sure if that decision has really been made.

The second question also concerns Gadhafi, but it's a different one. What happens if, after an initial round of airstrikes, Gadhafi remains in power? What then? Is America prepared to escalate measures to remove him? Would the no-fly zone cease if Gadhafi remains but stops attacking his people? Military missions require clearly-defined objectives and terms of engagement to protect troops and determine success, and these questions are all important factors in determining our ultimate objectives and success in Libya.

Third, we wonder if the United States has adequately considered the consequences of this conflict. It's one thing to watch missiles flying on television and to see bombed-out buildings. It's quite another thing if American troops are captured or killed as part of the action. And then, there is the open question of whether Gadhafi will retaliate with terrorism as he did by bombing Pan Am Flight 103; or, more to the point, the question is how and when will he retaliate, and are Americans ready for those consequences? And, how will action in Libya affect our other foreign policy commitments, including ongoing commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan?

We reiterate our support for this action and particularly for the brave men and women now involved in enforcing American policy militarily. However, we think all these questions need to be answered satisfactorily before the United States gets deeper into conflict to prevent a protracted and more dangerous situation from developing.

The two places we are willing to be critical of the President are:

1. President Obama faces a number of foreign policy challenges around the globe. Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Egypt, and Libya name just a few areas that require urgent attention, and that doesn't even begin to address broader issues in the Middle East, China and Russia. However, taking all of these flash points together, it remains unclear what President Obama's foreign policy is. How does the American response to these foreign crises fit together into one theme? We fail to see a principled approach by the Obama Administration to these situations, other than a profound desire to keep each off of Page One of the newspaper. And that is something that we find deeply concerning.

2. We also find it concerning that, yesterday, mid-way through this crisis and with a mounting disaster in Japan, President Obama was attending a state dinner in Chile and meanwhile Vice President Biden was here in Boston at a cocktail party to raise money and rally party faithful. Who is in charge?


  1. Question - The Globe story says Biden was at the top of the John Hancock Tower. Was that the observatory? If so, isn't it weird that the Vice President would hold a fundraiser at a place that's been closed to the general public for almost a decade due to terrorist concerns? See this story from October:


  2. I don't understand....we have a no fly zone and he has no planes, airports, or aircraft control systems. So are we really enforcing this no fly zone or attaching the forces as they march towards the opposition. No end game, no overall direction, no US leadership... So, how do we end this one.....and I do not think the current leader is going to leave easily. The rebels are so disorganized.


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