Saturday a coalition of troops began a military intervention in Libya to enforce a no-fly zone. This action came after weeks of diplomatic wrangling. The resolution was approved by the Arab League and the United Nations. The U.S. wasn’t the first country to attack, it was actually France. Marc Ambider argues that we’re actually seeing an outline of an Obama Doctrine.
It was important to the U.S. that Libyans and the world understand that this coalition of the willing was more than a U.S. rhetorical construct. An hour before bombing began Saturday, Clinton spoke to the press in Paris. Asked why military action was in America’s interest, she gave three reasons and implied a fourth. A destabilizing force would jeopardize progress in Tunisia and Egypt; a humanitarian disaster was imminent unless prevented; Qaddafi could not flout international law without consequences. The fourth: there’s a line now, and one that others countries had better not cross.
The development of a new doctrine in the Middle East is taking form, and it could become a paradigm for how the international community deals with unrest across the region from now on. The new elements include the direct participation of the Arab world, the visible participation of U.S. allies, as well as a very specific set of military targets designed to forestall needless human suffering. Though the Libyan situation is quite unique – its military is nowhere near as strong as Iran’s is, for one thing – Obama hopes that a short, surgical, non-US-led campaign with no ground troops will satisfy Americans skeptical about military intervention and will not arouse the suspicions of Arabs and Muslims that the U.S. is attempting to influence indigenously growing democracies.
A lot of smart people have argued that the action in Libya should not be judged in the context of Iraq but in context of Kosovo. The deliberations described above are definitely a step-change improvement from the Bush Doctrine. I’ll have to admit to huge reservations about this military action. While I do support stopping a slaughter in Libya, it feels like we don’t have clear goals. We’ve already said no ground forces and we are not toppling Gaddafi. So, are there going to be two Libyas? What will we do if Gaddafi moves ground forces against Benghazi rebels? How long do we plan to be there and what is the end point?
I do think that we need to stop being the world’s policeman but can we stand on the sidelines when people are begging for action? Why Libya and not Yemen, Bahrain and Ivory Coast?