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Friday, March 18, 2011; 01:35:00 AM

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Sudden American Aggressiveness Offers Late Hope for Libyans

Will it Be Enough?


Everyone here is puzzled as to how many casualties the international community judges to be enough for them to help.  Maybe we should start committing suicide to reach the required number.

-Essam Gheriani, Bengjazi rebel spokesman


As of late, even reporters friendly to the president since his days on the campaign trail have been questioning his diffidence in the face of Middle East upheaval and the recent disasters in Japan.  His insistence on sticking with his planned trip to beautiful Rio de Janeiro, complete with scenic tours,  even as developments are proceeding rapidly and are at critical stages in both these areas has not helped his public image.  We thought it unlikely that Obama would change course.  Yet, with the fall of the rebels predicted to be within hours, the pressure of the consequences of possibly losing Libya has apparently not been lost on the president


According to Colum Lynch, reporter for the Washington Post covering the United Nations, Wednesday night at the world body, American policy on the Libyan rebellion abruptly (but discreetly) stepped on the gas.  Interviewed in the NewsHour show, Mr. Lynch was asked “has the American position [regarding Libya] changed in recent days, or even in recent hours?”  He responded:  “The American position has been very difficult to read over the last two weeks.  Suddenly, last night, they became very assertive, introduced language [into the UN resolution on Libya] calling for…operations on land, sea, and air [our emphasis] and have now tried to associate themselves with a more combative approach to this problem.”


President Obama seems to remain insistent, at least publicly, that this must be an international effort.  And, there is merit to that view.  Unfortunately, like the feeble and hapless Jimmy Carter, he seems to harbor some naïve illusions of how the world ought to be and how it actually works. Fortunately, unlike President Carter, he seems to learn, and has apparently decided that, at least behind the scenes, Americans still have to lead the call for action.  The question now is: does he learn fast enough?  American prestige, psychological power projection, strategic gains, and the freedom of millions hang in the balance.


Nevertheless, the United States efforts at international consensus will not gain an ounce of goodwill if the rebels fall, and very little of any negotiable value if they win without visible American leadership.



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