Potomac Fever is the blog of the Hamilton College Semester in Washington Program.
I understand Obama not wanting to admit that the goal is to remove Gadhafi because he does not want to commit to what could possibly be another war when we are currently involved in 2. But I worry about the signals we are sending to Gadhafi. I think the messages we are sending may make Gadhafi more likely to keep hanging on. The fact that he was put on the war crimes list makes it very unlikely that he will peacefully seek exile (not that this is something Gadhafi would probably ever do, but you never know). Obama and the U.N's reluctance to say that the purpose of military action is regime change highlights our weakness to Ghadafi, that we do not want to be involved in another long violent war. This too will make him more likely to hang on. Does anyone think there could possibly be a happy ending without regime change? It's hard to believe that the humanitarian rights of the Libyan people could be protected without regime change. I think the U.N. is shooting itself in the foot by not clearly saying that Ghadafi has to go.
I don't have any doubt that the preferred resolution here is the removal of Ghaddafi (what with all those comments about the possibility of 'accidentally' killing him and such). My guess is that they didn't think they'd be able to whip the votes on a Security Council Resolution that explicitly called for regime change. Susan Rice was considered to be pushing the boundaries a little simply by insisting on language that amounted to an 'any means necessary' approach to protecting the Libyan citizens, so I think calling for regime change would have not only possibly scared some countries off, but also would have raised all sorts of legal questions and possibly created precedents that we weren't comfortable creating. The vagueness of the Security Council resolution in terms of what is called for in protecting the Libyan citizens can be stretched to justify removal of Gaddafi though, as the coalition will make the case that nothing short of removing Gaddafi insured the safety of civilians. I'm taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach with this. All sorts of semantics games are being played here by the Obama Administration to avoid burdening themselves with domestic political fallout, but policy-wise I think they've made their intentions pretty clear. A fractured or even partitioned Libya won't speak well to the capability of international intervention and I think all the lead actors know it, and so I think they'll keep their sights on removing Gaddafi, even if they're not really allowed to shout it from the rooftops (though if I'm not mistaken Obama did make a remark the other day along the lines of 'Gaddafi has to go.').
Yes, the intention definitely is to remove Gadhaffi, I just think quicker action and a more aggressive stance could speed things up a bit, which is what everyone wants. I think this is the problem with needing U.N. approval. I think Obama's inconsistent and vague statements about Libya will ultimately be harmful. While he called for Gadaffi to step down, he also told Congress that the U.S. could be in Libya for "days not weeks" (I read this somewhere, but maybe it was taken out of context)Ultimately, I know the actual action not the talk is what matters, and I agree that we should wait and see. I, like most people, hope that we will be able to remove Gaddafi quickly and take a supporting role in the rebuilding of the Government. Perhaps Obama's pragmatic approach will prove to have been effective.
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