So let me get this straight.
We are taking action against Libyan dictator Moammer Gadhahi for his atrocious crimes against the Libyan people. But that action is not going to include committing US troops to the ground in order to expedite a regime change by force. At least not force by US hands.
The role of the United States, according to President Obama in his speech on Monday night, is to take political steps, such as enforcing no fly zones and freezing billions of the dollars that Gadhafi has stolen from his people. Furthermore after leading efforts to “defend the Libyan people from harm”, the United States will take a step back, entrusting our allies in the UN Security Council to support rebels as they attempt to reclaim a country that has been held in Gadhafi’s tyrannical grip for over 40 years.
You mean to tell me that the President of the United States isn’t using the situation in Libya to flex his war mongering muscles? Obama, with the opportunity to go on national television, bang his fists angrily on the table at this horrific injustice while spewing grammatically incorrect, inflammatory catch phrases meant to spur the collective cowboy in all of us, took a road that is so infrequently traveled by modern US Presidents that it kept me riveted for nearly all of his thirty minute speech.
JFK said that the US would pay any price, meet any burden, in the defense of liberty.
Teddy Roosevelt liked the West African proverb, ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’
George W Bush was more of a speak really loud, and carry a huge stick that you wield so awkwardly it pokes innocent bystanders in the eye, causing them to turn against you, kind of guy.
Obama, who points out that the US’ involvement in Libya is a part of an international coalition that even has Arab countries on its side, seems to be saying what many of us have been saying for years. Speak in a firm tone, own a big stick, but make sure you consider all of the possible consequences before carrying it around.
Most people, whether up to date on their current events or not, know something about the war in Iraq. Despite arguing six ways to Sunday about the need and or justification for the war, we can agree that at its core, it was a military action to remove a bad, bad man from power and return the country to its people right? Good.
The problem with that scenario is that no one bothered to ask the people if they wanted that, or if they were ready for it should it eventually happen. Is the world a better place without Sadam Hussein in power? Absolutely. But is the day to day life of the average Iraqi citizen better than it was twenty years ago?
As kids we complain about the oppressive rules that our parents force us to abide. We bitch and moan about the homework our teachers hand out and the countless sprints that our coaches force us to run at practice. But imagine if someone swept in and took away our parents, teachers and coaches, then looked at us and said, “Well there you go. Happy now?”
It would be a disaster. We would be eating candy and spaghetti three times a day, staying up all night watching TV, while abandoning all conventional forms of personal hygiene. We would be completely unprepared to contribute to society and would run completely out of gas at the end of the game.
So is shattering the infrastructure of a country, basically leaving it in a state of infancy, for the sake of removing a leader really the way to go? From his speech it appears that Obama doesn’t think so.
President Obama, who has been criticized for not being the strong beacon for change we elected, seems to be taking a position here that I hope he can build upon. Many Republican leaders have condemned Obama’s stance, saying that he is for regime change but doesn’t want to go in and get his hands dirty. John McCain has said he agreed with the President’s reasoning for intervening in Libya, but was confused at how he could condemn the actions of Gadhafi, butrefuse to commit ground troops.
I can see McCain’s point, and on the surface it seems like hypocrisy, however for our president to seize this opportunity to truly change the way we handle ourselves in international affairs is, if nothing else, refreshing.
By taking the lead and standing up for the Libyan people, Obama has shown that this kind of aggression will not stand. By not jumping at the chance to strap on his boots and go to war, Obama even avoided saying the word war in his speech on Monday, he has shown the ability to act how the people want him to act.
A good leader should be strong, just, and able to sacrifice it’s ego to do what’s best for the people. Saying we are going to be a world leader means leading by example. It doesn’t mean being a bully, rubbing the other kid’s noses in the dirt, and then saying it was for their own good.
Obama suggesting that we can still be a world leader, while taking a strong yet supporting role in conflicts like the one in Libya, is a radical change from the way the US has done business in the world.
It is the kind of change that can be debated, argued, analyzed and eventually judged as a success of a failure.
But it is also the kind of change we wanted to believe in when we elected him.