If you read Austin Bay’s column this morning, it painted a bleak picture for the Libyan rebels. If Gaddafi takes Tobruk, it’s all over but the mass reprisals — and there’s little reason to think Gaddafi won’t take Tobruk.
We’ll have a pariah state with nothing to lose and lots of anger to vent against the US. But it didn’t have to be quite that way.
Normally, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Libya is small and mostly inept and thoroughly corrupt. But two things stand out. First, Gaddafi has a history of terror attacks against American and European targets. Second, President Obama demanded that Gaddafi step down, but then proved feckless when it came to taking any concrete steps to either mortally wound the regime or to materially aid the rebels.
Obama has, through his strong words and weak actions, enraged and emboldened an unstable terrorist sitting on top of vast oil wealth.
It was easy to laugh at Gaddafi’s comic-opera madness, back when we used the occasional airstrikes to keep him in line, and when he was busy taking the example set by initial Iraq invasion very earnestly.
Now, I remain opposed to American involvement in the Libyan Civil War, after some early and short-lived hoo-rah impulses. What happens in Libya does not effect US interests. But if we aren’t concerned, then it is incumbent on the President — follow me closely here — to act as though we are not concerned. If you strike at the king, you must kill him. Well, Obama struck. Weakly, briefly and hesitantly. And the king of Libya still lives.
The counter-argument is that Obama used strong words in public for domestic (and limited international) consumption, but behind the scenes worked against any strong measures — precisely because he agrees with the non-intervention position. This would be with Gaddafi’s tacit understanding that we mean him no harm, and that we should therefore expect no reprisals. And I suppose that’s fine, so far as it goes.
But others will certainly take note that, yet again, this President talks big, acts small, and can’t help himself but pee in everyone’s soup.
The inescapable conclusion is that this is a tiny man in a big office. The only comfort I can find is that the conclusion was already reached around the world long ago, and that the President’s Libya “policy” is just another confirmation of it.