Just like a school yard bully, Moammar Gadhaffi tried to call a time-out recognizing that his fortunes were changing as Europeans and the Arab League prompted stabilizing initiatives in response to his terroristic behavior. Alas, it was too late as it began raining Tomahawks over his forces in Libya.
He still owes Japan a huge debt of gratitude for temporarily distracting a media already known for their short attention span while he caused his own tsunami of death and destruction half a world away. Cable and network news journalists using experts du jour on speed dial evoked Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and picked apart heretofore hidden design flaws of Fukushima Daiichi while a madman hired mercenaries to complement his military in openly murdering his own people.
We knock ourselves out rushing to the microphone to extol our virtue in lending much needed humanitarian assistance for our Japanese friends. We tend to elbow all contenders when it comes to assuming leadership when the pathway is clear, the need is manifestly evident – and the beneficiaries are our friends. But in Libya the story was dreadfully different.
Libyan opposition leader, Essam Gheriani summed it up: “Everyone here is puzzled as to how many casualties the international community judges to be enough for them to help. Maybe we should just start committing suicide to reach the required number”.
The ‘we’ is the international community. But more specifically, what has happened to us, the United States? Is our new tack to simply sit back and watch the United Nations and their counterparts in Brussels…. sit back and watch? – all while hoping they will do something they haven’t been able to do since their inception: act quickly and decisively with strength, determination, and courage?
We receive different versions of reality and interpretations of policy on a daily basis from the State Department, Pentagon, operatives within the intelligence community, and the White House. While the pedestrian pace, vacillating and confusion goes nicely with how the UN conducts it’s business it does not cultivate confidence in those that could desperately use some right now. Following recent uprisings in Egypt, Iran, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, et al, it appears that stern words, and vague policy coupled with yielding the debate and decision making to the United Nations is how the administration envisions the US role in terms of global leadership. This would be a very sad development. The America I know is defined by action, humanity, and strength; not threatening words, higher ideas and capitulating leadership to the next best candidate in times of distress. History would show us to be leaders, not followers. Today, we find ourselves as following the pack and of all the ironies, it is the French that are leading.
Contrarians to this position would be quick to say, “What would you have had us do, it’s not as easy as you think ….”
Leadership isn’t easy, well defined, or well received many times. If one has any doubts; read up on Winston Churchill and the thanks he received from his countrymen for successfully navigating them through WWII. Having said that, there are a lot of smart people at the Pentagon, a lot of sly ones plying their surreptitious skills in Langley, willing partners in the global financial community, and untold numbers more underground that are more than capable of making Moammar’s life a living hell on a moments notice if someone had the cajones to give the word. Bringing their specific talents to bear in concert with a European coalition of the willing (of which there are many within the region) would have seriously restricted Gadhaffi’s military advantage whereas for two weeks he moved and killed his own countrymen with impunity.
Had there been a clearer sense of direction and urgency from the outset, the UN’s recent action against Colonel Gadhaffi would have provided much needed support to his beleaguered opposition that rightly feels left out in the cold without an ally. Clarity, direction and urgency are the products of leadership and as such they were absent from anything emanating from the United States. Valuable time and ground was lost. Waiting for an increasingly impotent UN to act has become laughable and the epitome of an abdication of humanitarian responsibility conveyed on all leaders.
Today it seems we have a class of leader more in line with Neville Chamberlain. Taking a ‘let’s talk this thing over and just see what happens’ approach behind the scenes while using aggressive rhetoric in public when dealing with global rogues is not only naïve and meek but beneath the mantle of American leadership and exceptionalism. It speaks volumes about things have changed when the Arab League, France and Germany take the forefront in Libya because their sense tells them it is time to act.
Leadership within the international community is in need of some serious self examination for the dithering aspect they lent to this travesty. But more specifically, we Americans need to reexamine who we have become, why we find ourselves following instead of leading, and then come to terms with how we will likely be chronicled when the sordid story of Gadhaffi’s Libya is written.
The Middle East and North Africa remain battlegrounds between forces for freedom and those represent oppression. When the Colonel is defeated (and he will most assuredly lose), another nations’ people will rise up and fight the same battle for the same reasons. As it stands since the beginning of 2011, we have been a failure of colossal proportion in terms of support for those oppressed people that desire the freedom we enjoy.