Libya intervention: Praising President Obama
As Doyle McManus pointed out in his Thursday column, leading voices from both parties supported intervention in Libya -- even if now they can't agree on the details of how the mission should be carried out. (McManus offers more analysis on Friday's "Washington Week," which will be posted on PBS' website.)
Politicians and pundits, mostly from the right, are bent on criticizing President Obama for not acting quickly enough and for making the U.S. appear weak. But Timothy Eagan flipped the script in Thursday's New York Times Opinionator, offering praise to Obama for "dithering" rather than succumbing to impulsive decision-making under pressure.
In his deliberative fashion, Obama ultimately saved countless lives in the short term, and will allow the rebels in Libya to own their revolution in the long term, if they can push ahead — a big if, of course. In the meantime, the economic and diplomatic noose will tighten around [Kadafi] and the people he pays to kill on his behalf.
Still, Republicans can't cope with a president who tries to think before he leaps. Mitt Romney, who wakes most mornings in a groggy scramble to find his principles, faults Obama for the nuance of his Libya policy. How dare the president see shades of gray instead of black and white!
A poll just published by Reuters/Ipsos found 48 percent of respondents describing Obama's military leadership as "cautious and consultative." Another 36 percent chose "indecisive and dithering."
I would argue that the combined 84 percent are basically saying the same thing — that this president is anything but impulsive. And next year, with an improving economy in a world where the United States is held in much higher regard, most people will probably choose a president who takes time to get it right, rather than one who is afraid to dither for a good outcome.
In our editorial pages, the board also applauded Obama. Beyond reasoning that "the wait was worth it," it supports the decision for a multilateral intervention. From The Libya calculation:
Unlike the Iraq war, which smacked of go-it-alone cowboyism, the Libyan intervention has been for the most part a multilateralist's dream: an idealistic granola bar of an operation, carefully orchestrated to win broad support from nations around the world. Not only did President Obama seek and receive the blessing of the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League and many of America's traditional allies before signing on to the no-fly zone, he even allowed the French to lead the charge.
The truth is that modern-day war is a serious business that concerns the entire globe, and should not be undertaken lightly or entered into willfully. Americans have learned over time that they don't have a monopoly on truth, justice or good judgment. There are also practical reasons to work within an international coalition. The U.S. today is not the only great power in the world, and its resources aren't unlimited. Buy-in from other nations and international institutions such as the U.N. lends moral legitimacy to a war, spreads the cost (financial as well as human) and, as an added benefit, makes it more difficult for opponents to respond with rote anti-Americanism.
We didn't support the no-fly zone, and we have plenty of concerns about the Libyan intervention, which is far too open-ended and undefined for our taste. But if it's going to move forward, we are pleased that it is a multilateral effort. Sure, wars are more complicated when they're fought by committee. The solution, however, is not to give up on the coalitions and consensus-building that help create legitimacy, but to employ the mechanisms needed to make decisions in a timely and effective manner.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: President Obama speaks about Libya in a news conference during his meeting with Chile's President Sebastian Pinera at La Moneda Palace in Santiago. Credit: Jason Reed / Reuters