Washington Post Criticizes Obama Libya Strategy

Apr 18, 2011
Defense Drumbeat
Editorial Echoes McKeon, Says President’s Strategy Leads to Stalemate

This Sunday, the Washington Post published an editorial titled “The Libya Stalemate.” In it, the editorial board acknowledged that the contradictions at the heart of U.S. policy in Libya are becoming more acute. The editorial wrote of the inconsistency in the president’s strategy:

“Mr. Obama is insisting that NATO’s air operation, already four weeks old, cannot end until Mr. Gaddafi is forced from office – but he refuses to use American forces to break the military stalemate. If his real aim were to plunge NATO into a political crisis, or to exhaust the air forces and military budgets of Britain and France – which are doing most of the bombing – this would be a brilliant strategy. As it is, it is impossible to understand.”

Chairman McKeon was similarly skeptical in an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post almost a month ago. Insisting sound strategic planning mandates that military actions are used to support clearly delineated objectives, McKeon predicted a stalemate in Libya:

“The president’s strategy seems to consist of two mutually exclusive parts. The first is to protect Libya’s civilians from the fury of a terrorist dictator…The president has, however, also stated that Gaddafi must be removed from power. That is a political consideration. Such a mismatch is a strategy for stalemate.”

Sunday’s Washington Post editorial went further to describe how the president is using the Libya crisis to pursue an ideological agenda:

“Mr. Obama appears less intent on ousting Mr. Gaddafi or ensuring NATO’s success than in proving an ideological point – that the United States need not take the lead in a military operation that does not involve vital U.S. interests.”

National security strategy is not the proper forum for ideological point scoring. The Post editorial points out that the president has denied NATO the two most effective ground attack airplanes in the world, the U.S. Air Force’s AC-130 and A-10 Warthog. Since that decision was made in early April, rebel forces have been on the run from Gaddafi’s tanks, which have gone on the offensive as NATO’s effectiveness dwindles.

After weeks of American involvement, it is time the president do what he should have done from the beginning – identify America’s strategic objectives and provide all the resources necessary to achieve those objectives. Unfortunately, as the Washington Post wrote this weekend, “Mr. Obama seems determined to limit the American role even if it makes success impossible.” 

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