Since the conflict in Libya began in the middle of February, the U.S. has been an integral part of the NATO alliance in defending the Libyan rebels. Obama has reassured the American people that the U.S. is merely a part of the alliance and would not take a leadership role in the conflict.
But is the U.S. really only taking a back-seat to in this conflict as Obama has been claiming in the media by contributing a supporting role? Italy and other nations are contributing, but according to defense officials, the U.S. Navy and Air Force have a unique capability in regards to air operations. NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was optimistic that allies who have not already contributed forces would “step up the plate.” He did not specify what counties he was referring to.
In early April, the U.S. committed eleven jets to NATO used solely for the protection of civilians and to designate a no-fly zone. Of the 134 air defense sorties, 97 were flown by U.S. jets. Making the U.S. responsible for 72% of the “fighting” since no NATO troops are on the ground in Libya at this time.
The current situation in Libya brings to mind the war in former Yugoslavia during the Clinton administration where NATO was used to end the war and made possible the creation of the Republic of Kosovo.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon chaired a meeting on Libya and set three goals: reaching and implementing a cease-fire, delivering humanitarian aid and starting a dialogue on Libya’s future.
Arab League countries who are offering support include; Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Kuwait who is offering logistical support. Clearly missing is Saudi Arabia. But as always, it seems, the U.S. is taking a leadership role because we have the means to do so. Although it appears Obama would rather the U.S. take a back seat to the Libyan conflict, what other country has quality, trained personnel in the numbers that the U.S. has?
Obama stated in the speech he gave to the American people on March 24th:
“…The U.S. should not and can not intervene every time there is a crisis somewhere in the world. I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized, when someone like Gadhafi threatens a blood bath that could destabilize an entire region. And when the international community is prepared to come together to save many 1000’s of lives, and it is in our national interest to act, and it’s our responsibility—this is one of those times...”
One might question who the Libyan rebels are. With Egypt it was clear that the people who took over the reigns from Mubarak were ordinary middle class Egyptian citizens tired of extreme inflation and government corruption. Today there is a clear level of stability there—without U.S. intervention.
With Libya it is unclear who the rebels are, what they want and how they can maintain stability once the conflict is over. And what if Gadhafi prevails? Will he resort to overt terrorism similar to Lockerbie where he ordered that a bomb be placed inside a civilian jet that exploded and killed 270 people? Will Al Qaida take over? These are scenarios we need to consider.
Liberation from a cruel and ruthless dictator is understandable, but with Gadhafi we know who we’re dealing with. We could be dealing with someone much worse.
It seems that we do intervene every time there is a crisis.