It appears that military action by the French is under way in Libya. I find myself in agreement with the decision to take action, even if some of the potential risks do worry me. I’ve seen a lot of chatter in various places trying to make comparisons to how we went into Iraq, but this really isn’t comparable. Besides the fact that the war we launched in Iraq was promoted disingenuously in a number of different ways – and was designed from the outset to be an occupation – this is a military action for which the Arab world is largely welcoming our involvement.
That’s not to say that it couldn’t backfire, it sure as hell could. While it still appears to me that Gaddafi has next to no support among the Libyan population, a misstep or two could cause some Libyans to rally around him. And the Obama Administration’s mishandling and misunderstanding of the situation in Afghanistan always makes me nervous about their willingness to be optimistic when optimism isn’t warranted. But overall, I think Fareed Zakaria’s point here is the one thing that overrides everything else:
Now the U.S. has the opportunity to break the dysfunctional dynamic that produces anti-American hatred and violence. The Obama Administration has properly aligned itself with the hopes and aspirations of the Arab people, and it has called for governments in the region to engage in serious reform. But right now all these efforts have been sidelined. Libya is burning. Its people rose, and the tyrant gunned them down. Unless something changes, Muammar Gaddafi and his sons will be able to reassert control over the country amid a mass slaughter of its civilians.
This would be a terrible outcome. President Obama has made it unambiguously clear that he wants Gaddafi to step down. The U.S. is actively seeking his ouster. To have him survive would be a humiliation for Washington at a moment and in a region where its words still have great impact. It would also send a disastrous signal to the other rulers of the region — in Syria, Algeria, Iran — that Mubarak made a mistake and that the way to stay in office is to engage in mass slaughter, scare the U.S. away and wait out the sanctions and isolation. America would lose its opportunity to align with the rising forces of the Arab world.
This is a crucial moment for the Obama Administration, and how this is handled will go a long way towards helping our hurting the more serious problems in the region. Like Bahrain.