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.