Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Obama's Speech on U.S. Involvement in Libya

A U.S. President's speech to the nation is usually pretty interesting, and tonight's Obama delivery was 7.5/10 interesting. At a time when there looks like a potential prolonged involvement in protecting Libyan citizens/getting rid of Gadhafi, there's a great deal of pressure on him, and a surplus of criticisms. Tonight he gave an engaging and convincing address on the recent U.S. role in Libya.

First, a little perspective on the political situation abroad, and pressures on Obama.

In addition to Libya, there's been similar unrests, protests, government crackdowns and murders in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and other nations in that area of the world. Good questions are asked of the U.S., and NATO, like, why back the rebels in one country, while not offering help to others seeking escape from dictatorial rule. There does not appear to be an easy answer, or at least quick one. So the pressure was on Obama to outline why the U.S. led a NATO force to neuter the Libyan air force, what their future role would be, and how they might afford this.

Well, for this far east Canadian blogger, he spoke the prepared words very convincingly, and answered some questions rather clearly. Obama's critics often say that he should have sent in military help three or more weeks ago. However, he tells his audience and critics that the decision of the U.S. and NATO to act in Libya was made in 31 days as opposed to one year in the 1990s for a similar involvement in Bosnia. So it was relatively quick, and needed at least that time to coordinate with at least a dozen other nations.

He outlines the rationale for going in, emphasizing Gadhafi's violent rule and crackdown of his people. As well, he reminded listeners that the Arab League, and opposition leaders in Libya were the ones in the first place to ask for help there - sometimes those same nations seem to forget that. The question of how involved will the U.S. be, was approached in a way that to this observer, would be generally agreeable for the audience. Obama said that the U.S. has done what it set out to do, i.e., disable Libya's air capabilities (though he did allude to other military weapons that Libya use on the rebels), and that it would be a mistake to escalate the involvement, like the experience in Iraq. He said the Libyan people were the ones to change the regime there.

One more thing that had to resonate with citizens, was the mention of the economic drain another "Iraq" type war would have on the already recession-healing U.S. economy. He said that one had already cost $1 trillion.

While he did not mention the other specific troubled nations experiencing democratic protests, he said that there were ways that the U.S. could help. One can guess that it might also be in similar ways to treatment of Egypt's Mubarak, and Libya's Gadhafi.. freezing assets, and sanctions, jamming communications, but perhaps also a limited role in a NATO unit. However, the first question that might come to mind, is, how is this possible for all the other countries simultaneously? And. Should they even expect this? Is is fair to expect it?

Obama has been very careful to not be perceived by the Mid-East countries as their usual target, the devilish Western aggressor. He seems to be playing out the whole involvement in a wise way so far. Certainly, he seems to have learned some history lessens from Bush's Iraq experience also. But there are other reasons to be careful with his words, and actions. The rebels in 2011's North Africa rebellions, are who exactly? Are there more dangerous elements among them, like a certain more established group in Egypt, who might influence change, but have not had a positive or democratic image themselves?

At this juncture, the rebels in Libya appear to have made progress in their fight to oust their tyrannic leader, and have acknowledged the U.S. led NATO coalition has been a major factor to help them. So, they are not asking for outside soldiers on the battlefield. From this viewpoint, it appears to be a model for involvement in other area nations. That is, say that you are going to help protect citizens by destroying the dictator's air force, and tanks, but then leave it to the rebels to continue their quest, while still providing a patrolled no-fly zone, and other intelligence support.

On CNN's Piers Morgan show, three political guests gave their opinions on Obama's speech. They were: potential Republican presidential candidate and tv star billionaire, Donald Trump, Republican Bill Richardson, and New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Donald Trump knows how to make money, but unfortunately, he is also learning dirty politics. He has been critical of Obama's recession measures of multi-billion dollar spending to boost the injured economy. Yet, he takes this opportunity to criticize the President for not saying that the U.S. will get more involved to force out Gadhafi. So when it is convenient for him, saving the U.S. some money is his ammunition, but to score political points, spending money for deeper involvement, not to mention, lives on all sides, is ok for him?

Anthony Weiner was very impressive in his defence of Obama's stance and speech, and his correcting Trump on a couple of points, like mentioning that other countries make up NATO. He also countered Trump by suggesting that the U.S. needs to fix it's own economic problems rather than further dig a deeper hole. Weiner was quick, convincing and seemed to be generally more informed on political matters. Bill Richardson is very informed as well on global politics, and did not agree with Trump's point of view.

It has occurred to more than one observer to be sure, that why aren't the ones who asked for the U.S. and NATO involvement, getting much more involved themselves, and also paying for costs of this? It's a good point that Trump did make, and it was repeated by others. There are some very wealthy oil rich nations in the Arab League, and why don't they pay for this "service"?

Finally, just an observation about the host Piers Morgan - it's fine to be devil's advocate to guests, but please, do you really have to interrupt so often when the person is already attempting to give you a very good answer to your first question?! It is irritating to watch! Sometimes, it's a wonder they just don't walk off the set. Otherwise, the comments that were not interrupted, were useful points of view, and it will be interesting to see how the American public reacts to Obama's speech tonight.


ViewPoint2010 said...

Good points Charlie. My question is why the NORTH ATLANTIC Treaty Organization is involved in Libya. Geographically, it's way outside their supposed area of jurisdiction (which apparently means nothing any longer). We hear about the enormous wealth of the Arab League - why aren't they intervening instead of letting the Americans and the Europeans and Canadians to a lesser extent do their dirty work for them? If Muslim extremists gain the upper hand in Libya, how long before the "western devils" are blamed for the destruction of the infrastructure?

I can't help but think of the countries in Africa where despots rule and there is no NATO presence - one can only wonder if there was oil in Zimbabwe if Mugabe would be a legitimate target. Instead the largely ineffective African Union is left to police itself. Perhaps it's time for the Arab League to do the same.

Charlie said...

Hear hear VP! Just a few days after the initial NATO strikes to specific strategic spots, the headlines were saying that the Arab League had doubts. It seems like always being against the west is a constant, which might put some or all of those leaders in some sort of good light to their citizens.

I agree that it about time that they policed themselves and paid for it too. Unfortunately, it seemed to be sacrilegious to attack a brother nation. Their sense of fairness and equality is still in the dark ages in many ways, especially when it comes to freedom and certainly the rights of women.