To get a sense of how President Obama’s Libya (and Mideast) strategy is stuck in a foreign-policy rut, one only needs to look at how French president Nicolas Sarkozy seems to be the only formidable leader on the world stage. He proposed over a week ago pinpoint strikes targeting key Qaddafi military installations and a no-fly zone over Libya.
Moreover, his government was the first country to diplomatically recognize the Libyan opposition as the political successor to Qaddafi’s pariah regime.
Yet Western indifference prevailed and Qaddafi’s bloody air and ground campaign to wipe out opposition groups pressed forward at an astonishingly brisk pace. In the wake of yesterday’s U.N. Security Council vote authorizing military force, perhaps there is still a strong chance to evict Qaddafi and his gangster sons from power.
One highly disturbing footnote to the U.N. vote: The Merkel administration in Germany joined those “models of democracy,” Russia and China, and abstained from the vote to greenlight a no-fly zone over Libya and open the dam for possible military strikes. A second alarming footnote is that Germany’s immature foreign policy does not bode well for a showdown with stopping Iran’s drive to go nuclear. Iran’s rulers are closely monitoring the West’s reaction to Qaddafi’s crimes against humanity.
There was a time when French heads of state (and Germans like Gerhard Schröder) would publicly parade their anti-Americanism and destructive radical pacifism. “I have one simple principle in foreign affairs. I look at what the Americans are doing and then do the opposite. That way I can be sure I’m right,” former French president Jacque Chirac famously said. He and his foreign minister Dominique de Villepin made vehement efforts to sabotage George W. Bush’s plan to dislodge Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein.
So there is a certain amount of historical irony and role-reversal to be relished. Sarkozy is extending Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” and Obama has ostensibly embraced (over the last few weeks) the advice of Chirac. Sarkozy once said that the French secretly admire the Americans. He certainly appears to be a fan of American-style military force playing a prudent role to advance Western values and democracy.
The ever cagey Qaddafi, sensing France’s pivotal role, seeks to discredit Sarkozy’s government, claiming Sarkozy’s campaign relied on a Qaddafi slush fund to finance his election.
Lastly, Andrew C. McCarthy has made extraordinarily powerful arguments against intervention in Libya. In the final analysis, however, the U.S. has to reclaim its role as the leader on the global foreign-policy stage. The Qaddafi bloodbath is inherently linked with the Iran’s desire to continue with its lethal repression and nuclear-weapons program. And U.S. military power has proved the only reliable method to eradicate mass fascistic movements, whether Nazism, Soviet-style Communism, radical Islamism, or Qaddafism.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.