Conservative writer Philip Terzian, backed up by Jennifer Rubin, is ripping President Barack Obama for not attacking Libya “to advance democracy in the Middle East” while hundreds of American citizens were stuck in the war-torn country.
Obama can be criticized for many shortcomings, but in this case he got it right. Nothing that has transpired in Libya’s response to the February 17 uprising against the dictatorial government of Moammar Qaddafi would justify risking the possibility of hundreds of Americans being held hostage by Qaddafi (or other players) in response to American military action in Libya. It would be lunacy and a gross dereliction of duty for an American president to make such a move–especially against a man with a history of wantonly slaughtering Americans.
Yet, writing at The Weekly Standard Thursday afternoon, that is precisely what Terzian proposed:
“President Obama has been manifestly more concerned about the welfare of U.S. citizens in Libya–or put another way, the political implications of a hostage crisis–than about the welfare of American national interests. When asked about the feasibility of a “no-fly” zone in Libya, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has described in detail the difficulties inherent in such a course of action, and the secretary of defense has implied that U.S. military power may not be equal to the challenge of the Libyan air force. Nobody, especially those within Libya pleading for Western help, can fail to comprehend the meaning of such talk.”
To repeat how blithely Terzian (and Rubin) dismiss the lives of Americans:
“President Obama has been manifestly more concerned about the welfare of U.S. citizens in Libya–or put another way, the political implications of a hostage crisis–than about the welfare of American national interests.”
Rubin wrote of her agreement with Terzian in a blog entry at The Washington Post Thursday evening, quoting the aforementioned passage and saying that Terzian “writes persuasively.”
Rubin laments that the Obama administration wants to avoid military intervention in Libya “at all costs, it seems.”
The Iranian hostage taking of Americans in 1979 following the overthrow of the Shah lasted 444 days. The United States paid a huge price on the world stage. Being perceived as a paper tiger was a major cause of Jimmy Carter losing his presidential reelection bid to Ronald Reagan.
The primary American national interest in Libya was to ensure that an Iranian style hostage situation, or massacre, of Americans did not transpire. Terzian and Rubin propose that Obama should have risked that scenario, or worse risked losing the lives of such hostages, in exchange for what? Some nebulous concept of Libyan democracy? We have no idea who is behind the efforts to overthrow Qaddafi. For all we know the Muslim Brotherhood and like-minded actors are for whom it is proposed we risk American lives. Terzian and Rubin don’t say.
Fortunately, there are not too many Americans left in Libya to be recklessly sacrificed by Terzian and Rubin. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley posted on Twitter Tuesday about 30 Americans were trying to leave Libya after hundreds were evacuated last week.
“We are working with other countries on travel options so roughly 30 more American citizens who have contacted us can evacuate #Libya.”
Robert Gates did not imply the Air Force is not up to the task of taking on the Libyan military, he implied it would take an act of war to ensure a no-fly zone.
“Let’s just call a spade a spade, a no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone.”
It is disappointing that Americans like Terzian and Rubin can be so cavalier about the lives of their fellow Americans in harm’s way. Opining from inside the beltway gives one a certain distance from the price paid by others for one’s ideas.