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The Obama doctrine: The limits to American power

Mark Mardell | 20:52 UK time, Friday, 18 March 2011

There was a recurring rhythm to President Barack Obama's speech about the no-fly zone over Libya. But it wasn't a drum beat of war - it was a chorus about consensus, an insistence on internationalism.

Sure, there was an ultimatum, the threat of military action. Those are the headlines. And there was an explanation why America might have to fight.

Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Gaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilised, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.

But the subtext is more important. Read the last sentence in that quotation again. In a speech of just over three pages he repeats this point. Not once:

The US has worked with our allies and partners to shape a strong international response.

Not twice:

The US is prepared to act as part of an international coalition. American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting alone.

Not three times:

It is not an action that we will pursue alone. Indeed, our British and French allies, and members of the Arab League, have already committed to take a leadership role.

But more:

So I have taken this decision with the confidence that action is necessary, and that we will not be acting alone.

So you might have gathered, the US is not going it alone. Throughout his declaration Mr Obama makes it clear how different this is to the Iraq war. Not only the international consensus, but the limits on action.

I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The US is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal -- specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.

The limits he sets out are not just practical, they are limits to ambitions and objectives.

I want to be clear: The change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the US or any foreign power; ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab World. It is their right and their responsibility to determine their own destiny.

Mr Obama is only a reluctant convert to action, and you could argue he's merely disguising his feet-dragging with noble rhetoric about the international community. It's certainly noticeable that he didn't mention the killings in Yemen (although he earlier issued a statement condemning them) or the unrest in Bahrain, stiffer tests of American power and resolve.

But I think we are seeing something new. He is using a crisis thrust upon him to set out an Obama doctrine of sorts, to make a statement about America's relationship with the world. While he is in charge, he is saying, America will not go it alone, will set limits on what it does, and won't impose its will. Some will not like this,
and the world will find it difficult to adapt to a president who almost seems determined to lead from behind.

The Obama doctrine is a tightrope walk: Acting, but within limits, leading only as a first among equals.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    "... Acting, but within limits, leading only as a first among equals."
    As did Caesar Augustus. This could be interesting.

  • Comment number 2.

    Bolding expanding..oops...I mean retreating from American interests around the world...

  • Comment number 3.

    It is fantastically well-balanced, a masterpiece from Obama and his team.

    Leaving nobody in any doubt whatsoever that the crude Bush binary doctrine of 'you're either with us or against us' has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

    And that now America only works in conjuction with a broad range of partners to achieve geopolitical objectives ... it is a subtle version of an iron fist in a velvet glove.

    In this specific case, Obama instantly switched his approach once the Arab League had made its move, that really was the crucial piece of the jigsaw that bestowed genuine legitimacy on America's participation in the Libyan crisis.

    Also, the EU members, Britain and especially France, clearly took the lead on this.

    Something good is happening, members nations of the UN are beginning to mandate some of the UN's ideals on those member countries who have only really paid lip service to its principles.

    Broadly, if you want to stay in the club, you must obey the rules.

  • Comment number 4.

    Probably don't want another disaster like wars on Iraq and Afghanistan started almost 10 years ago and still unable to win yet. Is it better not to involve? We are doomed whether we fight or not and the cost is monumental if the war on Libya became as long and fruitless as Iraq and Afghanistan. So maybe it's wiser to let the people of Libya to sort themselves out.

  • Comment number 5.

    Speaking as an American, we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. The US is accused of imperialism if we take military action alone. We are accused of standing by in the face of atrocities if we don't. I admire Obama's position on this no-fly zone and I'm excited that our allies are accepting their responsibility as well. Together, let's set realistic goals for this military intervention and accomplish it quickly and decisively.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Talk softly, but carry a big stick." Obama's speech immediately brought to mind the tenet coined by one of his predecessors. The stategy appears to me to be one of isolating Gadafi, preventing him from attacking his opponents in Libya, whilst simultaneously giving the opposition the time to grow in strength and numbers and overthrow him. Let's see of it works

  • Comment number 8.

    3. JohnConstable:

    An "iron fist in a velvet glove"? Well, definitely a velvet glove, but one that he's placed on the iron fists of others.

    And insisting that America will only act one way -- in this case, as part of an international coalition -- seems naive to me. What is to be gained by this? Whom, exactly, is he explaining this to?

  • Comment number 9.

    More like a case of realizing more and more, he was beginning to look like an indecisive leader to the rest of the world and finally had to shift gears.
    Now the decision's been forced upon him, suddenly both he and Clinton have got their voices back and are spouting off as if they had been the driving force behind this resolution, instead of one of the rest who got dragged in kicking and screaming.
    One thing is for sure, Cameron has improved his credentials dramatically with this bold move.

  • Comment number 10.

    JohnConstable wrote:
    "It is fantastically well-balanced, a masterpiece from Obama and his team."

    It's only well balanced and a masterpiece because Gaddafi had not yet managaed to overrun Bengazhi. Had this happened all the noble rhetoric from the west would be hollow and cynical window dressing.

    I wonder what horsetrading was necessary to do behind the scenes with China and Russia to make them abstain from vetoing the UN resolution. Surely we in the west would rather prefer not to know.

  • Comment number 11.

    What is the final outcome? East and west libya? We support East since they have oil? I wish there was a UN organization back in 1860, we could have ended with North and South USA today!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    There's a danger in reading too much into this speech without a taking the context into account. The USA is heavily committed in Afghanistan & is still in the process of withdrawing troops from Iraq. Iran may attempt to take advantage of events in Southwest Asia. Special operations forces in particular have been very busy for the last 10 years, in little known operations as well as widely publicized ones. In short, there aren't enough troops to commit to a situation where both the requirements & the duration are unclear.

  • Comment number 13.

    Eminently sensible Foreign Policy direction concerning Libya by the US President. A wake up call for other nations that they cannot keep expecting the US to lead the cavalry charge every time there is an international incident. Hopefully PM Cameron will take note and sheath his sabre.

  • Comment number 14.

    It's the right wing ability to carp that is so astounding. Read the "Hot Air" (how aptly named) blog in Mark's link. These people have no clue whatsoever.

    Let's consider:

    There's an old saying: "The truly successful general is the one who compels his adversary to surrender without having to fight."


    America has just managed to get something done that it wants done.
    Without having to do it itself.

    Other people have committed to supplying armed force.
    America's armed forces may possibly be kept out of it entirely.

    It looks like it is going to cost America essentially zero dollars, so he isn't blowing the budget on yet another expensive war.

    He is getting allies to behave like allies - and adults - instead of dependent children.

    He forced some perennial bush-sitters to stand up in the light of day and be counted.

    He apparently faced down a Russian bluff that was entirely posturing.
    He got quiet co-operation from China practically from Day 1.

    He is advancing the cause of human rights and democracy that lies at the heart of the US Constitution.

    He is turning around America's unpopularity in the Islamic world - and probably elsewhere.

    He managed to get a fairly disparate group of skeptics on-side, or as close to onside as necessary - China, Russia, India, Brazil, Germany.

    He has bolstered an international institution that he may yet be able to use again.


    He has hugely advanced America's interests in the world in umpteen different ways.

    A sign of weakness?
    What are these people thinking?
    It is a long, long time since America demonstrated this kind of strength.
    America is coming out of this looking golden.


    It is one of the most brilliant demonstrations of subtle and effective US diplomacy, and, yes, leadership, that has been seen in my lifetime.

    He didn't lead - he herded!
    He jiggled all the marbles into place.
    I don't care whether it appears accidental - it was genius.

    Yes, he's plainly uncomfortable with using hard force.
    He's not a military guy.
    He will be better and more sure-footed next time.

    But on the diplomatic side?
    Amazing.




    These "Hot Air" people have not got the beginnings of a hint of one half of one tenth of 5% of a clue of what their President has just done. Some people can't tell "up" from "down".

  • Comment number 15.

    ' establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.'

    What about Gaza ? Israel blockaded Gaza ?

    What about a no fly zone over Gaza, so no Isreali Missiles go in, and no Gazan fireworks go out ?

  • Comment number 16.

    This is really the height of hypocrisy. I wonder who will protect the 40 Yemenis killed today by Saleh, or the 40 killed yesterday by Obama in Pakistan? If a NFZ is meant to protect the killing of innocent civilians, there is definitely an urgent need for one in Pakistan's tribal areas.

  • Comment number 17.

    Bush thought that by invadig Iraq he was just attacking Saddam, and saw himself as a comic-book superhero coming to the world's rescue - with a bit of personal revenge on the side. But the US neocons' ultimate target was I think the UN. By acting as a vigilante and bypassing the UN over Iraq, they did the UN's standing a huge amount of damage. And deliberately - they hate the UN more than Russia, China and Islamic terrorists combined (or think that's exactly what the UN is!).

    So it is precisely because the UN has worked swiftly and successfully to impose sanctions - and now an ultimatum - on Gaddafi that they have been opposing military action.

    The most important thing that Obama has signalled with this speech is support for internationallaw, and the UN and its processes - and the neocons will be spitting blood about it.

  • Comment number 18.

    robson90, (#15. At 11:19pm on 18 Mar 2011)

    "... What about a no fly zone over Gaza, so no Isreali Missiles go in, and no Gazan fireworks go out ?"
    How do you propose implementing a NFZ of that nature?

  • Comment number 19.

    Most ppl I talk to do not want to commit our military to Libyan Civil War and truthfully I see this as UK and France's baby...so I hope u guys really want to go bad b/c u own this, not us...

    We are merely helping our European allies and that's the only reason why we are really going...

    I hope it doesn't last very long, but its all about the strategy and I was disappointed that President Obama did not clarify our objective- is it to remove Gaddafi or is it to simply protect the protesters for short period of time, then leave?

    It just shows how powerful the Presidency really is- I mean, Obama doesn't even have to ask Congress- he can simply commit our troops to places within the blink of an eye...

    From two wars to three wars, this one's for Europe...

  • Comment number 20.

    Andrea: And insisting that America will only act one way -- in this case, as part of an international coalition -- seems naive to me. What is to be gained by this? Whom, exactly, is he explaining this to?
    -------------
    I believe this is entirely for hte foreign audiences...b/c the truth is if America were attacked by another country tomorrow, we would not care if another country joined us or not, we would go after the ppl who harmed us, even if it was just us ourselves alone taking action!!!

    So I agree with u, Andrea, that this statement by Obama is naive, b/c we should always insist we have all options ont he table and ultimately we are beholden to no foreign country...if we want to do something out of hte kindness of our hearts, then okay, but u should never say we are not going to go it alone, b/c sometimes u hafta go it alone if its something u truly believe is needed for whatever reason, but especially defending ur country's national security...

    I believe President Obama in his own mind is trying to make 'amends' for Iraq...

  • Comment number 21.

    17. At 11:29pm on 18 Mar 2011, Cloud-Cuckoo wrote:
    “So it is precisely because the UN has worked swiftly and successfully to impose sanctions - and now an ultimatum - on Gaddafi that they have been opposing military action.”

    I can’t agree with this. The UN did not work of itself, the US and our allies had to cajole and persuade the dictators and their friends into going along. Unless there is a restructuring, such as only democracies on the security council, the UN will be a chancy tool.

    “The most important thing that Obama has signalled with this speech is support for internationallaw, and the UN and its processes - and the neocons will be spitting blood about it.”

    Yes and no. The UN is dysfunctional, but it’s the only tool to hand. The neocons are behaving like people with a phobia, but the main reason for the increase in volume and venom is that every success of President Obama puts them further away from retaking the Oval Office. Red Staters are also simmering because the Crawford Town Incompetent is looking worse by comparison every day.

    Really patriotic Americans [as compared to those who only wear a pin and fly made in China flags on their SUVs] are happy that the prestige of the US is on the rise. We are happy that our president can orchestrate the international community to accomplish these things. We are ecstatic that we can obtain results without losing our young people in uniform and without further damage to our economy.

    The frothing and thrashing about are sure signs that the right-wingers are reading the handwriting on the wall, and not liking what is written there.

  • Comment number 22.

    JohnConstable, (#3. At 10:33pm on 18 Mar 2011)

    "... the crude Bush binary doctrine of 'you're either with us or against us' ..."
    Actually, that would be the current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbYGYiGjpUs

  • Comment number 23.

    Obama seems almost too determined to tear up the Bush playbook on international relations, possibly as cover for the not-as-different-as-some-think domestic policies (which will be more similar yet now there is a ferociously cut-centric GOP majority in the House).

    With the help of Cameron being more willing to play the aggressor (perhaps trying to copy Thatcher in 1982), he appears to have got the diplomacy right, and a successful piece of diplomacy is even better than a successful war.

    Only just in time, mind. Gaddafi might have been less than 24 hours from taking Benghazi.

    Now Obama has more dilemmas to face in the region. We can but hope that he plays his cards right there.

  • Comment number 24.

    Libya is in the hands of the military now.

    It's time to more the diplomatic forces on to a pretty serious humanitarian disaster in Cote D'Ivoire. There are 450,000 - 500,000 people who have been driven out of their homes by fighting, and the civil war seems about to re-ignite.

    Again, at root, like Mad Muammar, the problem in Cote D'Ivoire is a criminal law enforcement problem, and an arrest needs to be made.

    A bit of diplomatic coalition building would come in handy there, too. Nigeria and a few like-minded friends could probably use a hand, maybe a little help with logistics.

  • Comment number 25.

    The problem has become a moral problem. If the world community intervenes against Colonel Gaddafi and his conflict with Islamist insurgents within Libya, it puts into question where the new lines are to be drawn. Does this mean that the world community must now intervene similarly in Yemen, Bahrain, and anywhere else that Islamist insurgency steps forward against its government ? Must the that community now, for the sake of political consistency, always support these types of movements and their claim that they are for democracy ? Does that mean supporting the Chechens ? Does that mean supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan ? Does that mean supporting the Islamist pursuit of sharia law in Pakistan ? Where are the new lines and what are they ? It is now very unclear what the western world really stands for. Does it really support conservative Islamist, Jihadist, principles and their pursuit of religion dominated nations under strict sharia laws ? It is a problem. Supporting the insurgents in Libya is a very dangerous move. It implies that the west is caving in to Islamist pressures, and that it is willing to accept Islamist politics, laws, cultural, social, economic and political practices, retrogressive as they are to more than a thousand years ago, as "democracy". If people are pushed or convinced, into expressing their support for that type of totalitarianism, is that still democracy ?

  • Comment number 26.

    I think the word 'doctrine' implies a grand strategy, but I think you afford far too much credence to the idea that the US actually knows what its doing in world affairs anymore.

  • Comment number 27.

    New, except the NY Times in 1990 quoted Obama as saying "But as president ... I have a limited role as only first among equals."

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9c0ce2dc1631f935a35751c0a966958260

    Concerted action with UN sanction is the better way - I hope the nations agree and stop the violence in Libya against what started as peaceful demonstrations

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgWFxFg7-GU

  • Comment number 28.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 29.


    Why are the UK now firmly embedded as the policemen of the world, but only when it suits
    our economic interests, ie oil. And for cameron and his bunch of crooks a useful destraction
    from cut backs here. Disgraceful, the oldest trick in the book.

  • Comment number 30.

    Mr.Mardell, I think you're growing into this job. Some comments well articulated the foreign policy repercussions of the President's strategic circumvolutions. It has been and stil is an ongoing Obama puppet show. A drama unfolds with the full gamut of emotional reactionary outbursts, and finally leads to an outcome that makes heroes out of drum beating foot solldiers.

    One, by instinct, applauds the puppets in a brilliantly enacted puppet show; the puppet master made it be so. Just as a brilliant General never wins a war an enemy has lost on its own, or lose a battle an enemy has won on full merit. Obama is a construct of 'either everyone wins or everyone loses, and we pick it together for I will not'...!

    There is really only one star ...and many star struck supporting roles on this 'Show'.

    Obama is infusing a critical mass dynamics into the Arab world, Africa, the third world, the Western political culture, ...the world at large. The excesses of tyrants the world over will be swept away soon by a raging fever for People empowerment that was incubated on the community stumping grounds of Chicago.

  • Comment number 31.

    19. At 00:02am on 19 Mar 2011, LucyJ wrote:

    "I was disappointed that President Obama did not clarify our objective- is it to remove Gaddafi or is it to simply protect the protesters for short period of time, then leave?"

    -- It is not currently up to Obama to clarify objectives as this is UN-led. The idea that the US or UK can go in to "remove Gaddafi" because they don't like him is naive. This is not Iraq, when the UN was bypassed. The role of this mission is to protect civilians. It is arrogant to think otherwise.

    "From two wars to three wars, this one's for Europe..."

    -- There are several EU countires that are also helping with Iraq and Afganistan. Several countries, particulary the UK, backed the US to go into Iraq and Afganistan. So when the UK & France come calling it is only correct that the US help out, and not pick and choose based on its own interests. Thankfully Obama has done the right thing.

  • Comment number 32.

    #28 It is North Africa, not the Middle East, at the moment

  • Comment number 33.

    #28 liking the link
    and sum north african resistance music with multi-cultural American assistance
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCkSX6Kl3ig&feature=related

  • Comment number 34.

    there are always a better means to end conflicts peacefully, all parties should look for it to save people from more sufferings,

  • Comment number 35.


    money talks....and BS walks...is the how the saying goes..

    ....the Obamabots are claiming victory....when the terms of victory have yet to be established....What exactly are we trying to do over there?

    Has anyone clearly explained this?

    What about all the other countries ME under revolt...are thier lives not as important? What is being done for them..??.

    What is the STATEGY??????

  • Comment number 36.

    Were Obama and others who supported the UN Security council vote sleeping when the Sri Lankan President Rajapakse's forces alleged to have committed war crimes, human rights abuses and other attrocities that are worse than the casulties in Libya?

    Shame on these leaders who have a thirst disire for OIL than humanity!

  • Comment number 37.

    Mark, I think it has less to do with an "Obama doctrine" and more with his recognition that the American public is in no mood for another military adventure right now and especially one in which the U.S. has no vital strategic interest. American participation has less to do with supporting an "international order" than it does with the fact that Mr. Cameron is calling in a marker and we owe him one.

    People here feel sympathy for the Libyan rebels, perhaps enough to supply them with arms and supplies but not enough to send their sons and daughters to fight there, and certainly you will find not find many Americans willing to fight and die for the UN.

    What Obama can get a grudging consensus on from the American public is the need to support our allies; after all, we can hardly do less when we've complained about the tepid response from some of them to our call for assistance in Afghanistan. Supporting our friends and allies is something the public can understand and acknowledge as a duty even if the cause wouldn't otherwise motivate us to take action ourselves. If things go well Obama can claim credit and if the thing turns out to be a political embarassment he can justify it by saying "Hey folks, I didn't like it either but we owed one to our friends and we had to make good."

  • Comment number 38.

    The president's statement dodges the question of who is the real power behind this and what its objective is, and, as so often is the case with Obama, only deals with the PR ramifications. To my mind he is saying, look its okay, because we are doing what the chicken hawks want, and we will be far enough in the background so that no one can blame us, nor a single US serviceman be wounded or killed. He might also have added that, fortunately, Britain and France have interests there we don't have. But also note that he assumes that self-determination overrides sovereignty. He has not felt that way about Bahrain or Yemen, where the US does have interests and no such surrogates. We can perhaps better judge his intentions by looking at the statements of Clinton, who continues to say Qaddafi must abdicate, and John Kerry who said the U.N. resolution “leaves the coalition a lot of flexibility to be able to protect life . . . and do what we need to do to shift the balance,” and, of course, Susan Rice... As I recall the BBC News broadcast tonight, all these points were made in the first few minutes.

  • Comment number 39.

    re. #20. At 00:11am on 19 Mar 2011, LucyJ wrote:
    "I believe President Obama in his own mind is trying to make 'amends' for Iraq..."


    Or perhaps he feels a need to earn that Nobel Peace Prize he won.


  • Comment number 40.

    After 3 years in office, Obama appears primarily as a rhetoric leader rather than a powerful leader, while GWB was neither. So, its a big change of style for the US and the rest of the world. When it comes to the Middle-East/North Africa states, the approach to go in as a West-Arab coalition is clearly the best one. While Bush/Cheney made a mocquery of the UN, Obama takes the opposite stance. Resolution 1973 is a perfect exemple of the US foreign policy supportive of the UN, although France and UK should be given all of the credit for getting the approval. The US is not going alone in Libya, however, there is nothing in Obama recent speech that alienates the US to act alone elsewhere. It should also be noted that contrary to the situation in Iraq, Gaddafi is a terrorist and half of the civilians have already taken arms against him; these concrete and simple facts that are proven and widely known by the international community (unlike the WMD in Iraq!). With respect to the potential dichotomy between "values' and "interests", the West has certainly taken notice that supporting dictatorships is no longer "a la mode" and brings major risks. The question is, can people in these "liberated" countries peacefully change from an oppressive regime to a democracy without civil war and without some type of neo-colonialism involvement from the G20.

  • Comment number 41.

    #35 I don't hear anyone crowing about victory...I mean no one has even engaged in a conflict yet. Mostly hearing various war laments.

    Unless you're talking about victory in some public PR popularity propoganda contest. That would be in the strata-sphere of shameful, frivolous, arrogant, ignorant immunity to physical pain, suffering, empathy and compassion (see also money). Maybe its the new moon

  • Comment number 42.

    Plenty of lessons to learn from the debacle that is America's involvement in Iraq. Any intelligent and forward-looking leader would not want to repeat the same mistake again. This time president Obama wants to make sure that action on Libya commands broad international support especially NATO members and the Arab league for this will be absolutely vital to the success of the mission.

  • Comment number 43.

    If America were directly attacked, there is no doubt that any US President, including this one, would be out in front leading, and wouldn't wait for permission for anyone.

    But in the kind of world that is most advantageous to America - an open, Rule-of-Law, Free-Trading kind of world things aren't usually like that.

    Usually you are trying to build a coalition behind this economic treaty or that trade agreement. That kind of work takes a lot of patience, a fair bit of humility, and a good deal of careful diplomacy over many years.

    America's share of the world economy, and world trade has been falling, steadily, for 65 years. Yet America now leads a world that is far more dominantly in America's camp, so to speak, than ever before.

    How can that be?

    Because the number of nation states whose generally strategic interests align with the interests of the United States, and the percentage of the world economy of those states, combined, has been climbing just as steadily for the last 65 years.

    ----------

    The pugnacious, short-sighted unilateralism of Junior Bush did so incredibly much harm to America's interests around the world. It's really odd, because of US Presidents, his father, George Bush Sr., was one of the more careful diplomatic coalition builders, and, overall, a far, far better President.

    President Obama is slowly and carefully putting the pieces back together. At the start of his term he was snubbed by the leaders of both China and Russia. They viewed him as young and inexperienced. Which he was. But they show him respect now.

    He and Hilary Clinton have done more to restore America's standing in the world than most Americans appreciate. And they have done it despite the American economy wallowing in the trough of the worst recession in 70 years.

    His predecessor came into office with the country in good shape, largely at peace, with a budget in surplus, and good will around the world as the only superpower left standing. And then squandered all those advantages in less than three years.

    Barack Obama came into office with the cupboard bare, and an in-basket from Hell - very much as did Charles the Wise in France so long ago. He still has the in-basket, and the crippling financial legacy of his predecessor, yet slowly and surely, bit-by-bit, he and Hilary Clinton have been building up America's diplomatic and political capital in the world.

    I have read a lot of US and international news today, and I have the distinct impression that many Americans have no idea how well they are being served by Hilary Clinton on one hand, and President Obama on the other.

    You are incredibly fortunate to have these two outstanding public servants.

    ----------

    A better result might have been achieved if military intervention had taken place three weeks ago - as I and a few others called for repeatedly (and in the face of much criticism, I might add). At the time over 70% of Americans were opposed.

    Anybody can check the old strings. There were very few of us consistently writing in favour of humanitarian intervention. In the delay, much of what I feared has come to pass. There have been far more than a thousand needless deaths that could have been prevented.

    Nonetheless, of the people who are now criticizing President Obama, I do not recall a single one who joined me in calling for intervention earlier.

    Other than if he had taken my good advice more quickly, how could President Obama have achieved any better result than he has done here?

    What possible result would have been better for America than the result he obtained?


    Yet these buffoons keep criticizing him.
    You have no idea how lucky you are.

  • Comment number 44.

    Neat footwork by Obama (I voted for him, but have not been overly impressed so far.....). At long last it looks (at the moment.....) as if the regional powers are going to have to step up to the plate, with the US mighty military in the rear, rather than the van: UK, France etc etc to the fore (and I speak as a Birkenhead lad by origins..)! How unlike the whole former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; the former Yugoslavia; Afghanistan; Iraq..........

    If the Euro powers can do something positive here, all credit to them. But let's never forget how very unusual that has been these past 50 years or so.

    AGB

  • Comment number 45.

    The Obama doctrine:

    Speak softly and hope everyone decides to be nice.

  • Comment number 46.

    It’s good that the international community is now going to try to actually Do Something to stop Gaddafi from killing his people. But posters are crazy to assume any certain kind of outcome, in the very short or the long run. Who has that crystal ball? Has the ME been that predictable, and now you can predict an exact (opposite) peaceful, free future? Don’t you want to wait, to avoid an instance where you might be inserting the foot? Some of you act like you know every possible motive for things that people do, people who you only see via a monitor/TV screen. In fact, the same people who confused you less than a week ago.

    Has team and player rivalry become that idiotic? Since when did all people have to become polar opposites of each other? It’s like dysfunctional family rule number 1. I'm sorry to say that it appears many of you are believing what you see on TV, and I don't think you're watching PBS, exactly. And you're believing the silliest of posters, too. The ones that fit your pre-conceived notions.

    Btw, I know more people who distrust both Bush and Obama, than I know people who are head over heels with one or the other, so come on and get with the program. This blog is behind the times and Mardell you are feeding it and driving me bananas!

  • Comment number 47.

    According to the sycophantic Politico.com, the vague Lybia goals BHO articulated are as follows:


    "... protecting “innocent civilians in Libya” and holding Qadhafi accountable for human rights violations, including the killing of unarmed civilians. A third longer-term objective, he said, was ensuring that stern warnings for leaders to stop wholesale, unjust violence against their people won’t “ring hollow” in the future."

    (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51561.html)

    If Qaddafi clings on to power, what exactly will be the measurable outcome of a "stern warning"?



    The problem is, Col Qaddafi/Khaddafi/whatever's troops are facing not only unarmed civilians, but some armed ones nobody in the administration or the leftist media wants to talk about. Or, if there's any talk, they are generously and broadly described as rebels, freedom fighters, etc. And BHO, according to the lyrical waxing of the pundit IF (#14):

    "...is advancing the cause of human rights and democracy that lies at the heart of the US Constitution"


    Woah!


    It turns out, the eastern Lybian "rebel" cities (Benghazi and Darnah/Dernah) have been traditional al-Qaeda strongholds and major suppliers of suicide cannonfodder and fighters ever since the involvement of AQ in Iraq started. Actually, Lybian nationals formed the second largest contingent of foreign AQ fighters in Iraq (after the Saudis), while Darnah and Benghazi residents formed the bulk of the contingent (84 per cent combined):

    http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/03/17/libyan-rebellion-has-radical-islamist-fervor-benghazi-link-islamic-militancyus-milit

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8391632/Libya-the-West-and-al-Qaeda-on-the-same-side.html

    "... The man running Dernah's defences, Abdelkarim al-Hasadi, was arrested by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002, but says he does not support a Taliban-like state." Oh, what a relief, at least for the time being he sounds like a Jeffersonian democrat.




    As in Egypt, the BHO administration - by trying to oust Qaddafi - is doing the dirty work for an eventual radical Islamist takeover. Allahu Akbar, Akh Obama!


  • Comment number 48.

    Sigh. No mention of the UN or international law.

  • Comment number 49.

    47. At 03:25am on 19 Mar 2011, peterbo wrote ...

    .... the usual nonsense.

    And what would you prefer, that the citizens of Miserta, Tripoli, Benghazi etc., be left to be murdered by Mad Muammar? Simply because you are afraid that, of the many possible outcomes, you're really afraid of one?

    When, exactly, then, would you ever have these people have any opportunity to pick their own government and rule their own lives?

    But I'm not surprised.
    You've been repeatedly in favour of undermining basic democratic rights in your own country, too.


    Give your head a shake.

  • Comment number 50.

    #47 Gaddafi is accused of radical islamist terrorism, so you are describing just a transition of the same power. Maybe the new guys will be better maybe not - does the UN take sides intervening in a civil war, or is it an uprising, or mass murder of nonviolent protestors? Isn't it a little like Bosnia Herzegovina? Mabe there will be war criminal trials on both sides after. What will be the new country's name I wonder.

  • Comment number 51.

    Have to disagree that Obama's remarks were a masterpiece. What complicated his policy toward Afghanistan was his statement that American troops there would begin to withdraw this year despite the surge. That undercut his message.

    He's right to not want to put troops on the ground in Libya. But, he should not have said publicly that he wouldn't do it. That undercuts his message and plays into Gaddafi's hands.

    Obama has called for regime change in Libya. Can that be done only with air and naval power? Will Obama and his allies do whatever is necessary to get Gaddafi out?

    Meanwhile, has Obama's masterful foreign policy drastically improved the situation in Afghanistan?

    None of this criticism is intended to make Bush look good. Bush made serious mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can only hope that Obama will do better in Afghanistan and now Libya.

  • Comment number 52.

    To call it an "Obama Doctrine" is an insult to Sarkozy of France and an utter distortion of history.

    He consistently stalled from taking any action and only very reluctantly has agreed to interfering in Libya till it is perhaps too late, and only when his hand was forced by France and Britain.

    To give him any credit for the decision is a travesty.

  • Comment number 53.

    #52 Aw, I think Mr. Mardell was just quipping contra the popular phrase the "Bush Doctrine" which I think went along the lines of "..the policy that the United States had the right to secure itself against countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups using preventive war."

    A lot of people thought this doctrine was offensive.

    I don't think he really meant Obama was establishing a novel doctrine.

  • Comment number 54.

    goldangit wiki already has the country's new name up I am so behind the times - the Libyan Republic. Nice name.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya

  • Comment number 55.

    Mardell might have praised Obama for saying it is incumbent upon Mediterranean & European countries to police Mediterranean countries. As a partner by treaty of those countries, of course we should participate. Mardell is a bit stupid and patronizing toward a president attempting not to be imperial if he is to blog for BBC.

  • Comment number 56.

    Neil Kitson (48), the UN was mentioned by Mr. Mardell in his thread previous to this one.

  • Comment number 57.

    How is the Obama Doctrine any different from earlier US doctrines? Could not find any. How similar? Found several. If friends (eg: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain) shoot their citizens at pro-democracy -- it is okay, part of the evolution of democracy.

  • Comment number 58.

    Thank you so much for cutting through all the political hype re- weakness, temerity, and "what took him so long?" I did not watch President Obama's speech but feel that you have distilled the essence. I am encouraged by your observation that he has, at last, stepped off of the platform and onto the highwire.

  • Comment number 59.

    All Libya is doing is regaining control of parts of the country held by armed gangs. In any country in the world you attack army bases u get shot at. Gaddafis forces are only bombing Military bases over run by protestors. Peaceful protestors dont carry guns or rpgs. In london a few thousand people took part in g20 protest and the police killed a guy.Imagine if the Protesters had taken over london and began trying to force their way into mi6 building then bombs would go off

  • Comment number 60.

    US Ambassador John Roos in Tokyo tweets: "The US Military has conducted 132 helicopter and 641 aircraft missions to assist with recovery and relief efforts in Japan."



    And that's the area U.S. military -incl. prominently USAF - should concentrate on.

    Not Libya.


    [Yemen perhaps at some point, in a limited way (UAVs, SpecOps, etc.]

  • Comment number 61.

    I guess Floridian Mr. Rubio is not too happy with the President's speech/position on Libya hence his asking why the relevance of the United Nations in this decision. Could he be testing the waters for a "Cuban" liberation under a future Republican administration...never know what these guys are up to

  • Comment number 62.

    The Obama doctrine as you put it does sound a more European type 'principled multilateral' approach than previously - a far more considered and forward looking response that might be indicating a maturing USA? Whether this would be the same in less contentious regions though remains to be seen...

  • Comment number 63.

    John Constable (at 3.) and Interested Foreigner (at 14.) have gotten the point about Obama - he is much much smarter than conventional thinking (whether in the US, the UK, or at the BBC) give him credit for. He is not "standing on the sidelines" - after the disastrous years of the Bush Jr Administration (did we forget these already?) and the resulting criticism of the US, and the preconceived, and ill-conceived, notions (largely among Europeans) about Americans and their President being loud and in-your-face, here is a President who confounds them ALL! by being quiet, clever, and very intelligent. And in this instance, by requiring the rest of the world - including the Arab States - to put their money where their mouth is first, and not last. How much stronger a position America is now in - if only the American people themselves would, or could, recognise this. Commentators on the American Situation in the Obama 21st Century need seriously to re-think where they (the commentators) are coming from - and make some attempt at understanding the sophistication of Obama's approach. He promised Change - he IS delivering Change - it will be good when everyone else catches up.

  • Comment number 64.

    LucyJ #19:

    "Most ppl I talk to do not want to commit our military to Libyan Civil War and truthfully I see this as UK and France's baby...so I hope u guys really want to go bad b/c u own this, not us..."

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Lucy,

    Just as a matter of interest how would you have felt on the day after 9/11 if the UK had said to the US:

    "Sorry, guys, you are on your own. You own this"?

    We didn't. We went to Afghanistan alongside your boys. We are still there, having expended much blood and treasure along the way. The war wasn't (and still isn't) popular in Britain, and there is a good case to say that the London bombings of 7the July 2005 were a direct result of our involvement. Then again that's what true friends are for. Why do you seem to feel that it should be a one-way street? Much as I like the US as a friend and ally, attitudes like yours do give me pause for thought.


  • Comment number 65.

    You are quite right, Mr Mardell, to point out that a very deliberate and systematic method is being applied to create a contrast to the Bush-Cheney approach to Iraq.

    It is almost to the point of overkill, and I think therein lies another sad reality of this moment in US history. This American President is painfully aware -- give him credit for that -- that a significant portion of the American electorate struggles to comprehend complex syntax, cannot absorb information unless it is repeated many times over... and over again, and has a tendency to lose its focus quickly.

    Alas, these traits are not consistent with being "the first among equals," as you so generously put it.

    To be sure, plenty of Americans are well on top of their game and are themselves in shock over the rapid decline of their national capacity to think effectively about serious matters and come up with plans within an appropriate timeframe. But as a nation, the USA is increasingly mired in internal debates aggravated by the need to explain simple maths or basic history to large numbers of voters, or as we now see, to freshmen Congressional representatives who want the impossible, or don't actually understand how government works.

    Unlike his predecessor, President Obama is a man of learning and good at explaining things to the American taxpayers and voters. And this is already an election year, so it pays to make the effort to explain things thoroughly.

    But the rest of us need to worry.

    And we need to be grateful that we have Western leaders cast of the same mettle as some of the greatest European & British leaders of ages past.

    The equality that the chivalric traditions of Europe were predicated upon -- the equality of brothers-in-arms (and I would add sisters-in-arms) in which the distinct gifts of each individual were beautifully framed by the greater context of the Virtue of All, amplified by acting in concert -- is what we may look to in tempering your eloquent and tactful paean to "the first among equals," by saying: Good to have you back, Brothers, Sisters, and good to see a few young new faces amongst you... "First" here, however, is not any one person or nation -- not even Columbia -- but the Cause Itself.

    So let's get going, as the bombs are already touching Benghazi districts; the vampire's lies are once again starkly exposed for all the world to see "for the Great Deceiver is his father" (not an inappropriate allusion under the circumstances, and one the Libyan people, Arabs and most Africans would endorse): it is time to get the job done. And not a moment too soon, from the looks of it.

    Let the poets and the minstrels and the playwrights and the screenwriters write the stories of your heroism and high intelligence, in the years to come. Today is for fighting, and winning, with no losses to our side.

    That is the critical mission and let it begin.


  • Comment number 66.

    Gaddafi's tanks are already in Benghazi, BBC (inter alia) has confirmed.

  • Comment number 67.

    Actually brilliant. Obama seems to be saying that it is not the place of the USA to act arbitrarily, and that agreement with other nations about intervention in Libyan affairs requires substantial international consensus before acting. In this way, the USA is not playing the bullying superpower role.

  • Comment number 68.

    Gaddafi has violated the cease-fire and his forces are now pushing into Benghazi.
    He obviously wants to finish his war in the hope that it will render any international intervention 'unjustified'.

    When one tries to do things the 'right way' (with UN approval), there's always the risk of ending up doing things the 'wrong way' (by being prevented in going in when one should, because of endless red tape).

    With regard to Obama's commitment, or lack of it, it's all very well to 'wash one's hands' of the outcome, by claiming that 'whatever the people want has nothing to do with us', but that could also be interpreted as an invitation to many others who defend radical ideologies to influence the course of events after France, the UK, and above all the opposition forces have done all the work. The opposition will need more support than that, even after the fall of Gaddafi.

  • Comment number 69.

    CuriousAmerican wrote:
    Bolding expanding..oops...I mean retreating from American interests around the world...




    Sounds like Monroe Doctrine being replaced with Marilyn Monroe Doctrine. [scr.d by everybody]

  • Comment number 70.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-National_Force_%E2%80%93_Iraq#List_of_nations_in_the_coalition

    What's new now?

    An overstretched USA with a degraded military with gesture politics led by a lightweight.

    The last flicker of American power, perhaps

  • Comment number 71.

    MM wrote:

    "It's certainly noticeable that he [BHO] didn't mention the killings in Yemen."


    Despite the fact that Yemen (half of which is already de facto ruled by al-Qaeda) poses much greater threat to U.S. vital national security interests than Libya ever could.

    Just like an anarchy on these United States' southern border.

    About which BHO has done nothing so far.

  • Comment number 72.

    In actual fact, however -- with Obama in Brazil visiting a new government (albeit one allegedly extending the Lula term) that has refused to endorse action against Q/G/K in the UNSC & (thankfully) Hillary Clinton in Paris -- no one is going to try to muscle in on what is quite obviously a campaign led by the Entente powers, UK+France or France/UK. Maybe a couple of lower-level troublemakers from the Yank side will be rude, but I doubt anything serious.

    Keep in mind that when I attended high school in SF in 1974, all the high school textbooks referred to American forces capturing Berlin to end WW2. This offended me no end, because I knew perfectly well it was my father, with the Soviet Army, then a vital ally in the war against Hitler, who was there, in the gun turret of his tank, and not the people writing or publishing US high school textbooks.

    So don't be surprised if in the upcoming election it is the Democratic Party of the USA and its leader, Barack Obama, who take the credit for the UN-approved liberation of Libya.

    That would be "normal" for Americans.

    But it means nothing.

    The record is clearly written, and witnesses to it abound. Kudos to the actual people who actually got the job done. Let us not forget that were France or the UK currently being administered by someone other than Nicolas Sarkozy or David Cameron, with their able teams, it is quite likely we would not have gotten this far.

    Credit also to Amr Moussa and the Arab League; to the African Union; to many other world leaders and diplomats. To the people of Tunis and Egypt, the young people who started this, the journalists who covered it, the clerics who supported it, the professional soldiers who took their people's side, the children who prayed with the effective simplicity of children...

    Honour to the memory of the martyrs... And yet: no Sarkozy, no Cameron -- no free Libya next week.

    And we must also remember that it was the White House that took forever.

    And no, we won't abandon the others, but it is sorely to be hoped the other incumbent leaders are considerably more tractable than Brand Q.

    But those are all details. The important thing to do is to start, and to tell anyone getting in the way of starting -- for whatever reason -- to sit down, zip their lips and get busy with their Facebook account if that is more their speed.

    Or if they prefer they can watch some college basketball. Might be more their speed.

  • Comment number 73.

    Another, more indirect reason for Obama to press the international cooperation point might be this:
    He doesn't want his European allies to cut even more of their military capabillity. All major European partners are making serious cuts in their defence budgets. So serious that ongoing and future operations are in danger because entire capabillities are being lost. Historically lost capabillities (such as carriers; tanks; types of aircraft) once lost are not regained. This is a serious danger for the US and European diplomatic, and this macro economic position worldwide. Certainly in the face of rising stars like China, India, Brazil and such. They're certainly not cutting their military budgets!

  • Comment number 74.

    InterestedForeigner at 14 really says it all for me. I sometimes feel in awe of Obama's ability to take really complex issues and explain them to the rest of us in simple terms. Speaking as a Brit, I feel the USA is very lucky to have him (and Hilary Clinton) in charge.

  • Comment number 75.

    No. 74, There's only so far one can get with simple terms.

    Consider the US tax code, insurance documents, investment contracts, or legal proceedings, or health care.

    Sometimes stretching is good for people, on many levels. We expect others to exert themselves for us -- so we should on occasion exert ourselves for others' sakes. And that includes becoming informed.

    In a world where we crave considerable comforts, assured security, advanced degrees of sustenance for all our needs, we must all be prepared to go a little further along the knowledge spectrum.

  • Comment number 76.

    I know this may be irrelevant to the topic, but today I'm proud to be an Egyptian. It was definitely a huge positive step towards the future. The voting today was really a marvelous scene.

    I think if the USA is willing to support the democratic change here, it would be really a good idea to help push the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and negotiations. This would be the best way to stop any extremist or radical group from using citizens of their own countries as tools or like a political pressure card... (as it happened in Gaza and Lebanon before) It is also a fair demand.

    (take a look back in history, specifically in October 1981.. Anwar El-Sadat assassination..
    Why did the Egyptians lose much of their freedom and many of their rights for the past 30 years? Why did Mubarak's regime stay for 30 years? What are the reasons that many people regard the USA with much distrust? Why is the Brotherhood so jumpy about taking charge? Who is paying the price in the end?)

  • Comment number 77.

    The US has a choice to make: either stay out and let the warring factions within the various ME countries sort themselves out, or go in heavily and remove all the dictatorships. Obama is not the leader for the latter option and the former will leave perpetual civil wars throughout the region. Sooner or later one of these dictarships will seek to fulfill their promise to slaughter the Israelis. A US President will be required, in due course to take the latter action, and this will be costly.

  • Comment number 78.

    Remember Iraq? Remember Afghanistan and Vietnam.
    Obama's corrupt and rascist war-spin against cultures different to ours is incomprehensible to those cultures and peoples, who, just like us will have their own rates of progress, their own civil wars, all of which are none of our business.
    The sad fact that we and our children are daily oppressed and depressed by the ghastly happenings that have gone on since Creation yet have nothing to do with us, because they are forced into our consciences by the BBC et al, is an extremely good reason not to buy newspapers or watch TV at all, because such grotesque speeches and such grotesque analyses point to the sad fact that the wrong people are doing both jobs, in tandem, and of course are not in uniform getting themselves killed on their own say so.
    Until the cult of personality is no longer a part of human consciousness and those who would destroy this planet like this are themselves made into the real orchestrators of our misery, we will be stuck with M.Obama and M.Mardell.
    What would you think of a nation you were not at war with going half way round the world and bombing and killing your wives and children, on the say so of yet another nutter?

  • Comment number 79.

    Mr Obama is only a reluctant convert to action, and you could argue he's merely disguising his feet-dragging with noble rhetoric about the international community. It's certainly noticeable that he didn't mention the killings in Yemen (although he earlier issued a statement condemning them) or the unrest in Bahrain, stiffer tests of American power and resolve.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    Mark, it's understandable Obama doesn't mention Yemen and Bahrain here, he is talking only about Libya. As you've said yourself, he mentions those elsewhere.

    Also understandable is Obama and Cameron's stance of only taking action under a UN resolution after the criticism the US and the UK took - and continue to take - over 'going it alone' in Iraq.
    Has the UN dragged its heels over Libya too long, though?
    If Gaddafi prevails in Libya and thousands of innocent people die, who will the world seek to blame?
    The only answer can be Gaddafi and possibly the UN, in that order.
    Let's be clear on this. It's Gaddafi who's doing the killing, and it's not Obama who's dragging his feet, it's the 'international community' - led by Ban Ki-moon.

  • Comment number 80.

    #77 Another option is to leave everything to the 'international community' - the UN - and let each country determine its own future (under whatever leader) and let each country defend itself as best it can.

  • Comment number 81.

    As for America's stance on Libya, and diplomacy of late, all credit to Hillary Clinton. A US President in the making. A quite brilliant stateswoman.

  • Comment number 82.

    No, 81, Aries22: I could not agree more.

  • Comment number 83.

    Well done Obama!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    #78 Re your final paragraph. See #80.

  • Comment number 85.

    With respect to the suggestions that there must also be an appropriately consistent view taken of other sitting governments applying outright violence to crush opposition protests:

    If the UN-sanctioned coalition of the willing, led by the Entente (with Nato we hope, but let's not get too bogged down in details or this will take forever, and more people will die) with the much-heralded participation of enlightened Muslim Arab states and African Union members etc. etc., is to get the job done quickly and efficiently -- and send a clear signal to any others considering using extreme cruelty to intimidate those who seek peaceful & orderly & Honest democratic development for their societies -- then action should be swift and of a scale sufficiently impressive to make the point unambiguously, loudly and clearly.

    If you do it on the right scale the first time, you won't need to keep going back to do it again and again.

    This will of course also lend weight to the military spending agendas, and continued enhancement of professional military capabilities -- as well as correspondingly the urgency of preventing such enhancements from falling into the wrong hands.

    Please remember the facts (not the propaganda) about the wars launched under Bushes and Cheney: these were meant to churn out money for special interests, not actually get the job done. And the dreadful consequences for all are in plain sight.

    Only just now, with Petraeus, are Nato forces within sight of an outright win. Meanwhile, the situation in Iraq remains fraught.

    Watching those conflicts from a front-row seat, Stateside, I was mortified to watch the actions of American officialdom at the time, directed not to preventing a long, drawn-out ineffective war, but in fact altogether conducive of such an outcome, papered over with lies and shameless banalities repeated ad nauseam by the apologists for Bush & Cheney & Halliburton & black ops & & secrecy & torture & more secrecy & denial...

    Unsurprisingly, great damage was done to the American self-concept as well as US reputation everywhere.

    But today we are the diametrically opposite extreme of exigent military action that is really and truly essentially a hygienic law enforcement operation whose aim is to disarm and disable a sociopath and his gang of terrorists and sadists from hurting the people he has held in slavery for 42 years.

    And I fully expect that we will get the exact opposite of what Bush & Cheney sought and at great expense achieved: the ruin of an Arab nation.

    We will get an actual liberation, support for genuine transparent democracy, the efficient use of resources (that is not so "economical" mind you that it costs three times more than it need to because we take five times too long to get the job done).

    Godspeed, then, God bless you all, and let's go. Allons-y!

  • Comment number 86.

    Now trying reading the "Obama" statement again with Cameron's voice.
    As you do so remind yourselves that they probably composed it and passed it together, and that Obama's stated insistence on invasion as with Iraq etc is to be with the backing of this UK Quisling government; and realise how many of our citizens will die as a result, and how many, as a result of the Obama Declaration, will be killed in Libya. His statement labels all of them there as enimies, certified by Obama and Cameron.

    They hope for this because it provides the excuse you will all condone, for invasion.

  • Comment number 87.

    Mahler, (#78. At 10:18am on 19 Mar 2011)

    "... Obama's corrupt and rascist war-spin..."
    What specifically is corrupt and racist? Why do you describe this as "war-spin?"

    "... against cultures different to ours is incomprehensible to those cultures and peoples ..."
    Why do you claim that these actions are "against cultures different to ours?" Why do you claim that these cultures and people cannot understand these actions?
    ...
    "... What would you think of a nation you were not at war with going half way round the world and bombing and killing your wives and children ..."
    While no foreign nation has yet done that in Libya, Col Gaddafi's military has.

    "... on the say so of yet another nutter?"
    About whom are you speaking?

  • Comment number 88.

    45. Colin Wright:

    "The Obama doctrine:

    Speak softly and hope everyone decides to be nice."

    **************

    Yes. He does much better thinking about how things "should be", and his words are music to the ears of those who share his views. He's less effective in situations wherein (a) leaders could care less what he thinks, and (b) they are intent on doing truly dangerous things. In other words, problem arise when his words have no effect.

    This is where Hillary and/or our military come in. If it hadn't been for Hillary "shouting and throwing rocks" at his window (as he quipped at the recent Gridiron dinner), one has to wonder whether he would have engaged on Libya.

    I wish he hadn't openly ruled out US ground troops at the same time he was demanding a ceasefire. He's speaking to too many audiences at once and showing his hand, naively in my view.

  • Comment number 89.

    Mahler said "this UK Quisling government"

    Quisling as no doubt everyone knows, was the Norwegian collaborationist who supported the Nazi occupation of Norway. The term came to mean any national of a country who actively assisted the Germans in their occupation. So I don't really get how Cameron's governemt is a Quisling government unless the UK has been occupied by someone else unknown to me. Mahler please explain.

  • Comment number 90.

    86 Mahler again (sorry!)

    -uses the word 'invasion' of Libya. Having carefully checked the news I can't see any mention of invasion by the UN-backed air forces. A NFZ however will hopefully help to stop the massacre of Libyan civilians by their erstwhile ruler but they must hurry: the tanks are rumbling into Benghazi as we speak. That's the real invasion.

  • Comment number 91.

    I had purposely stayed away from commenting more on this subject for a while because it was looking like MQ would win outright. I was rather disheartened & ready to assign blame to Pres. Obama & the UN once the end finally came for the rebels, but I held my tung. It would seem that I was right to wait until now. I want the international community to stop the bloodshed & coax MQ to step down; & if they succeed, I will tip my hat to the President for making the UN relevant again against all odds.

  • Comment number 92.

    What Obama doctrine?

  • Comment number 93.

    #86 Pure nonsense on your part and not a shred of evidence.

  • Comment number 94.

    #91 How would you have assigned any blame whatsoever to President Obama? If you haven't got it by now, it is not for the US to police the world's troubles. That is what the UN is there for. If you're going to blame anyone, blame Gaddafi first of all and then the UN.

  • Comment number 95.

    "Nobody ever surrendered to an airplane"

    This alleged return to Wilsonian internationalism is all well and good when the situation has been stabilized somewhat and putting any motion for unilateral international action through Congress would be difficult to say the least. It'll be interesting to see what happens if Gaddafi doesn't play by the rules and nobody has the will to offer the ground troops, however.

  • Comment number 96.

    There is no right and wrong here. Just 2 wrongs. One course of action is the UN Resolution which should be equally applied to all states who act in a similar fashion - Bahrain and Yemen included (where next?). For this to happen huge resource and committment is required.

    The other course of action is to do nothing and watch a human tragedy unfold.

    You can not select both and then use/apply them as you wish. This will only confuse an already complicated Middle East.

  • Comment number 97.

    91. Bien

    What I'm wondering is why it is taking so long to get going?

    Hasn't the military been working on contingency planning for three weeks?
    Isn't being ready for different alternatives supposed to be the hallmark of good military staff work?

    Isn't the ability to adjust rapidly to changing circumstances, supposed to be something that modern military command and control spends a lot of time practicing?

    Generally speaking, if they held the vote on Thursday evening, what was the point of not having the aircraft ready to go five minutes after the votes were counted? Isn't that why you prepare? So that you're ready to go?

    There has been some astonishingly slick diplomatic footwork this week, but some painfully slow military follow-up. Why?

  • Comment number 98.

    #97 Because military action won't begin until the diplomatic process is completed, and that won't be completed until today's meeting in Paris has taken place - and what the agenda for that meeting is I am not sure. Yes, Anders Fogh Rasmussen readied the Nato forces to cover all eventualities, but until the UN resolution was actually passed Nato would do nothing. It was in fact the diplomatic process that took so long. Wording of a resolution has passed backwards and forwards until it was acceptable to both those who voted for it and those who abstained (any unacceptable wording would have led to vetoes). The Arab League and the African Union also had to come onside. Thus we had to have (a) demonstrable need, (b) wide regional support and (c) the lawful backing of the international community - adoption of UN resolution 1973 - before any military action could commence. It's taken the UN until now to get to this point. The further meetings in Paris today are presumably to decide actual deployments of military assets. The diplomatic process has been maddeningly slow.

  • Comment number 99.

    Obama seems intelligent and justifiably reinforces the point that the U.S. are not solely responsible for attempting to prevent further carnage in Libya. There is no reason for them to feel obligated as the nation primarily responsible. Apart from having sigificant military commitments already, the U.S. has substantial economic problems and a population who are suffering consequently. But on a wider level, international consensus is clearly important regarding Libya to avoid the false impression that a U.S./Libyan war might result. The U.S. has no more obligation to Libya than any other country. The Arab League supporting a no fly zone was essential, and the idea that the U.S. is the country expected to 'police' Libya is absurd. Any action should be with international consensus and through the U.N. The situations is Afghanistan and Iraq were entirely different reasons (rightly or otherwise) for war so there is no comparison there anyway.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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