I watched our President say with conviction last night that our role in Libya was a success and is primarily over. He cited an example of a downed airman who was greeted on the ground by embraces and gratitude by the Libyan people. It reminded me of a story my brother Brian shared with me years ago when he returned from his deployment with the 82nd Airborne in Desert Storm. He was dropped 300 miles into Iraq and the mission was to head back towards the Kuwaiti border. As he and his fellow troopers parachuted in and came across not just civilians but also supposed troops of Saddam Hussein’s in that vast desert, he was in awe that the people were so happy to see them. Most were starving and in need of assistance. There was an optimism that they would be released from the tyranny and free to have a better future. Brian said he always felt bad as they moved forward to their ultimate goal, as the people along the way didn’t want to be left alone again.
Desert Storm was a deemed success. We went in with the goal of stopping Saddam Hussein from his pursuit of taking over Kuwait. However, we left a nation of people along the way to fend for themselves against a powerful and corrupt regime. I pose the question in hindsight, would 9/11 even had happened if we had stayed and helped the innocent in Iraq then? Would we have had to fight the war in Iraq? Would the hatred of our country and ideals taken hold in strengthening Al Qaeda had we taken out Saddam Hussein then?
When President Obama says we support the aspirations of the people, and our strength is derived from freedom, how can he claim that “nonmilitary means” has the best risk benefit analysis to take down Gaddafi, as it certainly did not work after Desert Storm in Iraq.
The key phrasing of “keeping American troops off the ground” as well as stating our limited role to transfer responsibility to NATO concerns me. I view it as a Pontius Pilate move washing our hands of the outcome. Though I truly do see military action as a last resort, I also see the value in completing a task once it has been started. By claiming we can now do nothing to enhance or speed up the pace of change and switching over to entirely diplomatic means in dealing with a dictator, unfortunately has been shown in the past to fail.
As John McCain said in response to the speech last night:
“I welcome the President’s clarity that the U.S. goal is for Gaddafi to leave power. But an equal amount of clarity is still required on how we will accomplish that goal. U.S. and coalition airpower has decisively reversed Gaddafi’s momentum, but the potential for a long and bloody stalemate is still far too high. That is not in America’s interest. As long as Gaddafi remains in power, he will increasingly pose a threat to the world, and civilians in Libya will not be fully secure. The United States and our allies must continue to take ‘all necessary measures’ to compel Gaddafi to leave power, as called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1973. That means providing material support to opposition forces in Libya while continuing to target Qaddafi’s forces in the field. We are not neutral in the outcome of the fighting in Libya. We have chosen a side against Gaddafi, and now we must help the opposition succeed.
“The mission in Libya is going well, but we have not yet accomplished our goal. I am thankful for our many friends and allies, especially our Arab partners, that are contributing to the mission. However, that is not a substitute for U.S. leadership. If our goal in Libya is worth fighting for, and I believe it is, then the United States must remain strongly engaged to force Qaddafi to leave power.”