Washington — John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tells National Review Online that President Obama is dithering on Libya. “Every hour that goes by shows me how [Obama] is not ready for this,” he says. “I am feeling sick to my stomach that we are into something where the president does not know what he is doing.”
The president, in a short speech at the White House this afternoon, called on Moammar Qaddafi, Libya’s embattled leader, to step down and cease fire on civilians or face military action from the United States and its allies. Obama’s remarks focused on a U.N. Security Council resolution, passed Thursday, that authorizes military action.
Bolton notes that the president did not establish a deadline for Qaddafi or explain how he would proceed militarily. This lack of a clear strategy, he worries, could inflame the situation.
“We have lost a huge opportunity by waiting to act so late,” he says. “A real president would have had his military plan ready to go the minute that resolution was adopted, and he would have implemented it.”
“It sounds like [administration officials] are still talking, still considering,” he continues. “The conclusion Qaddafi may draw from this is that he has more time. If that’s right, and we are not prepared to act, the position of the opposition will be even more difficult than it already is.”
Earlier this week, Qaddafi allies said that they would institute a cease-fire. However, reports of attacks against civilians continue to emerge. Obama, in his speech, said that any potential military action will be based around his desire to protect civilians.
“I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing,” Obama said. ”The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal — specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.”
Bolton is uneasy about Obama’s tack. The “well-defined goal,” he says, should also include more language about ousting Qaddafi. “I am worried that Obama’s thinking is so fuzzy, that those who say we are getting dragged into something with no end in sight may have a point.”
“Forget the cease-fire for a minute,” Bolton says. “Why not, right at the outset, take out his air defenses? That makes the point, too. And it’s not mere symbolic over-flight. That would make it clear that we have military force in-theater and we are capable of using it and we are not fooling around. That, at a minimum, sounds like something we could have done. It is an absolute prerequisite to a no-fly zone, as people have been saying. Why didn’t we do that right at the beginning? All I can say is, I’m nervous and I hope we take action quickly.”