Give It To Sarko


Anne Applebaum argued that Obama's near silence on Libya is an asset. Judah Grunstein seconds:

President Barack Obama's relative silence leading up to this intervention not only lowers those barriers to exit that Scoblete, like so many others, is concerned about, but also widens the scope for politics in finding an end-state even now that military action has been engaged.

Larison builds on this thought:

Grunstein is right that there are relatively low barriers to exiting Libya right now, but pressure continues to build for a more ambitious mission that involves toppling Gaddafi. British and French political leaders seem to take it for granted that this is the objective. If Obama does not publicly commit the U.S. to achieve this, there is still a way out, and Obama should take it. The U.S. may be able to hand off running the no-fly zone to another government or to NATO. This is uncertain at the moment, but it may happen. The U.S. could then fairly quickly end its participation in the war before it escalates.

Tom Ricks likewise thinks other nations should now maintain the no-fly zone:

We have done what we set out to do in Libya. We kicked the door down, and with radars and SAM sites degraded, have made it possible for lesser air forces to patrol the skies over Qaddafi. We should now say, OK, we have created the conditions, time for you all to have the courage of your convictions. The goal now for the United States, I think, is a negative one: To not be conducting a no-fly zone over Libya 5 years or even 5 months from now.

Count me in. Since this impulsive and reckless decision was driven by the allies, Britain and France, they should now take full ownership of it. I prefer a non-NATO command structure, to reduce the American imprint. And good luck, Sarko, with the Arab states.

It's also a way in which Obama can argue that this is not simply an "on-the-fly" action to salve the Clintons' conscience over Rwanda, or encourage Samantha Power's notion that, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, "We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move." That's awful advice at home, but lethal advice abroad.

The key thing is to avoid leadership in this case. Yes, I just wrote that. If the French and British take ownership of this selfless act of imperial compassion, Obama can claim to be advancing American values but not enmeshing US troops in a third endless war. Many on the right will hate this, but some on the right will see its logic. My own view is that the American conservative public (not the neocons) would love for the allies to take more military responsibility for their own backyard. I have no problems with the EU or France or even Britain pursuing the same kind of self-defeating, fiscally crippling, decade-long wars that the US, under Bush-Cheney, so helpfully innovated. They're sovereign nations. If they want to fight such a proxy war for an unknowable amount of time, let them.

I don't expect wiser, more focused powers, such as India and China and Russia to do much more than revel in Schadenfreude. At this point, they have gotten quite good at it.

(Photo: France's president Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech after a summit on enforcing a UN resolution against Moamer Kadhafi's forces, on March 19, 2011 at the Elysee palace in Paris. Sarkozy told Kadhafi to stop attacks on Libyan rebels 'to avoid the worst' as French warplanes began overflying Libya. By Lionel Bonaventure/Getty.)