Zelinsky: Too little, too late

During the 2008 election campaign, Hillary Clinton ran an ad suggesting that then-Senator Barack Obama would not be capable of handling an emergency call at 3 a.m. Recent events in the Middle East have proved her right. During the past few weeks, Mr. Obama has time and again failed to lead. His waffling policies on Arab rebellion have left the world unsafe, America’s international position unstable and millions at home disappointed. In 2008, voters thought they were electing a charismatic president who would move the country into a global future. Instead, they got an incompetent figurehead who cannot make tough decisions in dangerous times.

Consider Obama’s reluctance to take any action in Libya until the last moment. He looked consistently to inept international organizations to lead the way, from the U.N. to the Arab League. The second body, the majority of whose members are dictators, only belatedly sanctioned their fellow authoritarian — by then Gaddafi had essentially crushed the rebellion. The end result is too little too late to help the rebels in Benghazi. Now, the Arab League has started condemning the western involvement in Libya, suggesting that they alone can dictate our actions.

Obama sends a dangerous message: America’s foreign policy plays second fiddle to despots. Gone is John Kennedy’s conviction that the U.S. will “bear any price” in the defense of liberty. The new mantra: We only “oppose any foe” when the Arab league says so.

In choosing to let others take the lead on Libya, Obama signals that the United States will turn off the shining beacon on a hill. We will not aid those who fight a regime antithetical to our core beliefs. The result will be a global environment in which states supporting terrorism and leaders who murder their own people do not fear American scrutiny. It is reprehensible that the U.S. has not furnished even a single bottle of water to the Libyan rebels fighting the dictator responsible for the PanAm 103 bombing.

Unfortunately, we can expect China, Russia or another state to step into the power vacuum that Obama has created. These countries protect their own interests. And Yalies who support humanitarianism around the globe should cringe. The president has effectively handed power to the same nations and organizations that accepted genocide in Sudan to preserve oil contracts.

It’s no surprise that Obama waits on the beck-and-call of the so-called international community. This has been his policy from his first day in office. He doesn’t believe in an America that leads. He doesn’t think America has a unique role to play in the world. Say goodbye to Lincoln’s last, best hope of mankind. It says something when French planes were the first to fly peacekeeping missions over Libya.

But, some might retort, by creating a multinational coalition with a mandate and letting others take the lead, Obama shields the U.S. from global criticism. Unlike with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the rest of the world will view our actions in Libya as legitimate and legal. Regrettably, this has not been the case. Protests against western military action have already begun cropping up around the globe, most recently in Greece. What is more, in the time it took Obama to rally an international posse, Gaddafi’s forces had reclaimed almost all rebel-held territory. The new, seemingly fierce, American bombardment is really just an attempt to make up for lost time.

Thomas Jefferson ordered naval ships forces into Tripoli two centuries ago in order to end the tyrannical rule of the Barbary pirates. It’s time Obama sent them back in force. Imposing a no-fly zone is a good start, but we need more. While recent strikes against Libyan ground forces have indeed begun, comments from the White House and the Secretary of Defense suggest they will soon stop. This would be a mistake. America should remove all of Gaddafi’s offensive military capabilities so that he poses no threat to the rebels, his own people, or the rest of the world. A good place to start would be the over 11 tons of mustard gas, a deadly chemical weapon, stockpiled in Libya.

Obama and our allied partners also maintain that no ground forces of any kind will enter Libya — a concession to the Arab League. Today, there is a humanitarian crisis developing on the ground before our eyes, with few having access to adequate medical care and many in need of food. How do they suppose we help these starving and hurt civilians without peacekeeping forces to protect Western doctors and aid workers? The unreasonable restriction on American use of force will hamper our humanitarian efforts in the days to come.

President Obama has failed to inspire this nation. His listless policies create an impotence from which America watches the slaughter of innocents. Obama has handed over the protection of the earth to crackpot organizations, two-bit dictators and the French. His legacy of lateness will be a weaker U.S. and an unstable world. Remember these moments when you head to the polls in 2012.

But then again, what did we expect when we put a community organizer in the White House?

Nathaniel Zelinsky is a sophomore in Davenport College.


  • The Anti-Yale

    *America should remove . . .A good place to start would be the over 11 tons of mustard gas, a deadly chemical weapon, stockpiled in Libya*

    Blow it up?
    Sean Connery intrigue?

    Such fantasies are glib, macho, military posturing, i.e. U.S. triumphalism.

  • ignatz

    Zelinsky is right on the money — we made a big mistake in 2008, and we’ve only begun to pay the price for that flirtation. Just yesterday, the U.S. went out of its way to insist that the missile that destroyed Col. Quaddafi’s compound was NOT ours, but someone else’s. As if the main point was not the destruction of the compond, but the non-American origin of the attack! Years from now, Bob Woodward will write yet another book, this one detailing how the White House insisted that Quaddafi’s compound be taken out by someone else — anyone else — and not by the U.S. What’s next — Obama awarding the Purple Heart to a conscientious objector?

  • justayalemom

    Great article Mr. Zelinsky!!

    Very happy to see someone at Yale speak the truth and is knowledgeable of what they are saying.

    There is hope for us yet.

  • commentator

    “It’s no surprise that Obama waits on the beck-and-call of the so-called international community. This has been his policy from his first day in office. He doesn’t believe in an America that leads. He doesn’t think America has a unique role to play in the world.”

    All I can say is: thanks God for that!

    Thanks God that we finally have a president who doesn’t have the crazy narcissistic idea that America should manage world affairs on its own. The belief that “America has a unique role to play in the world” is just another name for the Messiah Complex. No, America is not super-mega-giga-ultra-special, and no, America does not need to save the world. In fact, the world is sick and tired of the US as it is, and the last thing we need is another cowboy president.

    The supposed moral imperative of helping the rebels in Libya is nonsense. Lockerbie? Lockerbie was in 1988! If fighting oppression is such a big deal, why don’t we drop some bombs on Saudi Arabia for a change?

  • The Anti-Yale

    America IS special. It has developed under the Warren Court a self-purging mechanism in its Constitution. The U. S. Supreme court administers the medicine and we vomit out the rotting food: racism; sexism; and perhaps soon homosexual-ism.

    Prior to the Warren era we had the rather embarrassing centuries of slavery and; single-gender suffrage; institutional anti-semitism.

    We have just emerged from half a century of Judicial Enlightenment. It will be interesting to see if the Roberts era returns us to the world of Judicial Shadows.

  • xijhing

    Two weeks ago America managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the UN by getting China and Russia to both vote in favour of sanctions.

    Today, at the eleventh hour, they managed to pull a second rabbit out of the hat: the UNSC passed a resolution authorizing the use of force to protect civilians, which, in effect, means to protect and support the rebels.

    That is no small achievement.
    The French and the British deserve no small credit for standing up and being counted, without question.

    But from America’s viewpoint?

    Well, near and dear to President Obama’s heart, there is international authorization for intervention.
    America is not the main spear-carrier.
    America is not the main fundraiser.

    Somebody got the Chinese on the right side of history. Perhaps the mad Colonel should have treated the Chinese evacuees better? Perhaps China likes being seen as a responsible nation?

    India abstained – maybe India didn’t like the way its workers were left standing in the cold rain for a week and preyed upon by bandits? Maybe India wants to be on good terms with America?and

    Brazil abstained – maybe Brazil also wants to play in the big leagues. Maybe Brazilians have had experience with dictators. Maybe Brazil sees not need to irritate America?

    Germany abstained – France and America are Germany’s two closest allies. Maybe Chancellor Merkel remembers growing up in East Germany and has had experience living in a police state.

    Russia abstained – Not clear why. There was a lot of haggling, and Russia seemed not to be getting whatever it wanted. In the end, maybe there was nothing in casting a vote for a friendless murderous madman, and they gave it up.

    Other than the US, UK, France and Lebanon, the sponsors, the following nations voted in favour:

    Bosnia-Herzegovina (like they were going to vote no? Not likely.)
    Columbia (thought the resolution read “Venezuela”)
    Nigeria (a little reminder to a neighbour in Cote D’Ivoire?)
    Portugal (long time ally of Britain)
    Gabon (France can count on us. Remember us when it’s our turn?)
    South Africa (a hint to a neighbour that it’s time to go?)

    The most controversial vote was perhaps Lebanon’s.

    The support of the Arab League seems likely to have been related to being allowed to suppress dissent in Bahrain and elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula.

    In any case, America not only got what it wanted, it got it in almost the best possible way, and it got it in a way that bolsters the UN as an international institution that (at least sometimes) can actually be made to work.

    By any standards, that is a significant diplomatic achievement, and, once again America comes out smelling like a rose.

    It was done in record time, under significant pressure, while other crises were also pressing.

    Contrast that with almost anything the previous American administration did on the international stage.

    Yes, quite an achievement.

    Take a bow, Hilary Clinton.
    Take a bow, President Obama.