- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There is no doubt that Col. Moammar Gadhafi is a ruthless, megalomaniacal dictator who will commit genocide on his own citizens without any qualms. In the past, he has been a key player in supporting international terrorism, jihadists who came to Iraq to fight the U.S., and insurgent anti-U.S. movements.

However, President Obama’s advisers should point out that Col. Gadhafi, under strong U.S. pressure in the past decade, has muted that support, given up his nuclear weapons and focused internally. Within the administration, there is a debate about whether U.S. interests would be better served by his removal or allow him to remain in power as a weakened autocrat.

We have no reason to believe that, like Egypt and Tunisia, the rebels here are motivated by Democratic aspirations. Instead, they are conservative, strong Islamists with loyalties to their own tribes. Removing Col. Gadhafiwould require deep U.S. intervention, including ground forces to bring some semblance of stability to this important oil-exporting nation.

Given Libya’s lack of institutions, its tribal culture and its small middle class, some form of international peacekeeping force would be necessary. The president’s advisers are concerned that the only well-organized force in this region is made up of radical Islamist groups who will be poised to take advantage of the chaos of transition. Many pundits will proclaim the necessity of removing Col. Gadhafiand how simple it would be. In addition, they will paint a rosy picture of a post-GadhafiLibya that would be a Democratic beacon in this troubled region. I’m sorry, but their rosy picture is far from reality.

It appears that protecting allies (including Israel and Saudi Arabia) and securing the Persian Gulf’s energy resources loom large as reasons for continued U.S. commitment to these conflicts. The president probably thought through this as a matter of strategy when he prepared to take office. His approach — taking pragmatic steps to reduce our dependence on foreign energy supplies and trying to coerce Israel into coming to the table with Hamas — bore all the fresh optimism and smug intelligence of a college term paper. As always, though, the map differs from the territory. Or, to put it in the more blunt terms of boxer Mike Tyson, “Everybody’s got a plan till they get hit.”

My recent harshness about the president comes as a bit of an “own goal.” We did not have to get involved. An Arab dictator is oppressing his people — that is hardly news or, unless our interests are directly involved, not our issue. Also, given the perilous state of our finances and our already full military plate, it is simply not prudent to indulge in superfluous actions. There I go again — once I get started on any logic train of thinking about this, I find myself banging the keyboard and crying out loud in frustration.

What is obvious is that our president is making all of this up as he goes along and is clearly not listening to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Having been talked into easing the consciences of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Mr. Obama is now dealing with the fallout.

Having made a rash proclamation that Col. Gadhafi must go, Mr. Obama is being pulled to inevitable conclusions: An American president always seems bound to back his statements; if he’s protecting the Libyan people from Col. Gadhafi, the only real solution is regime change; if the rebels can’t do it, then he’s got to do it. This “doubling down” effect is obvious in the new debate about arming the rebels. Arming rebels we don’t know or understand, but who we know have an al Qaeda component, is insane. This whole episode is borderline ludicrous. With the basics of the strategy so awful, I find it hard not to be very, very critical.

I don’t see how this was handled “well,” nor do I see Egypt as being in the “well done” category. The long-term implications of undermining an ally will not be lost on this region — not by the Arabs and not by the Israelis. Mr. Obama now has an established track record as an unreliable partner. It’s already bitten us in Bahrain. And, if we’re looking for places ancillary to our interests to “do good,” how about the Ivory Coast, where a brutal dictator is engaged in killing his people. I am also increasingly angry about the sheer mendacity on display: “kinetic military action”; “we won’t be involved on the ground” (when we have CIA operatives there now); “humanitarian mission” when we’ve moved in A-10s and AC-130s to fly close support for the rebels. And please, please don’t forget the abuse of the War Powers Act (to say nothing of Congress’ sole discretion to authorize military action) as we were not threatened with imminent attack, and his “notification” efforts were perfunctory in the extreme.

Waste and sheer, utter, unmitigated incompetence always disappoint me. When they involve the treasure of the nation, and potentially the lives of our service members, it is unconscionable. Sorry, but this just boils my blood.

Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.

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