While channeling his inner W on the obvious benefits of democracy, everywhere, our president agreed with the UK PM that things in Libya could take some little while:
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that military operations in Libya will be a long slog that continues until Col. Moammar Gadhafi leaves power, a shift from the president’s initial stance that the military intervention in Libya would be limited in nature.
Mr. Obama’s remarks—first in a news conference with Mr. Cameron, then in a high-profile speech before both houses of Parliament—made clear that the U.S. and its allies are bracing for a long battle not just to remove Col. Gadhafi from power, but also to guide the burgeoning democracy movement in other Arab nations to a successful conclusion.
Within Westminster Hall, the 900-year-old hall that fermented the early development of Britain’s democracy and law courts, Mr. Obama used his speech to set the Libyan effort–and U.S. assistance in the so-called Arab Spring–against a backdrop of the West’s historical fight for democracy, free enterprise and innovation. In that process Mr. Obama said the U.S. has had no greater ally than the U.K.
There’s been a bit of buzz and stir across the pond about the sincerity of the president’s Anglophilia, given his various miscues, gaffes and trompes over the years.
Whatever the situation with the mother country, across the channel France – in the past decade the moral touchstone for the president’s party in international and military affairs – certainly isn’t feeling the love:
France is seeking to hasten the downfall of Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi by targeting military installations more precisely and reaching out to dissidents in Tripoli, as it laments that the U.S. hasn’t played a larger role in the military intervention.
France wants to target some of Col. Gadhafi’s military headquarters in Tripoli and other urban areas with helicopters, Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said in an interview on Wednesday. But he said France wouldn’t count on such contributions from the U.S.
“We regret that, of course,” he said. “We would be more efficient if they joined us.”
Here at home, the WaPo cannot help but notice the inconsistency of President Obama’s message on Libya:
Mr. Obama apparently remains unwilling to rally American resources that are readily available and that Britain and France have repeatedly requested. The allies have asked for the resumption of strike operations by U.S. warplanes that Mr. Obama pulled from the fight in early April. But immediately after acknowledging that more resources are needed, Mr. Obama talked down the prospect of “additional U.S. capabilities,” saying “there are going to be some inherent limitations to our airstrike operations.” He added: “There may be a false perception that there are a whole bunch of secret super-effective air assets that are in a warehouse that could just be pulled out and that would somehow immediately solve the situation in Libya. That’s not the case.”
In fact no one we know of is making that claim — much less Mr. Cameron or French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose appeals for help Mr. Obama is ignoring. What the allies are seeking is no secret: eight or so U.S. AC-130 and A-10 planes, weapons that exist only in the American arsenal and that are ideal for the close ground-support operations that are much needed in Libya.
Mr. Obama appears to take the long view, hoping that eventually Ghaddafi’s regime will succumb to a desultory air attack. But while hope may be a good campaign slogan it is not a strategy, and neither Britain nor France have the political will or military power to afford patience.
“Do or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda