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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Obama's Three Enormous Ifs

I have been doing a bunch of reading and listening today, and from what I can piece together the president's plan for victory in Libya relies on some major ifs--things that are not impossible, but each quite risky.

If the United States Air Force can successfully complete its part of the NATO mission by this weekend,

and If England and France can successfully lead NATO and the Arab League to unite in the next week around an ongoing structure to the ongoing mission in Libya that does not rely on United States military playing a leading role,

and if this structure can lead to an eventual transfer of power from Quadaffi,

then President Obama will have achieved three enormous victories:

1.     He will have realigned American strategy in the Arab world and placed it much more clearly on the side of human rights and political reform.
2.     He will have utilized multilateralism to effect a significant foreign policy achievement, thereby strengthening regional and international institutions to play a role in world affairs that allows America’s military spending and footprint to decrease in ways necessary for our fiscal and political sanity.
3.     He will have defeated a decades long enemy of America, proponent of terrorism and supporter of nuclear proliferation without having committed America to another open-ended military occupation of a Muslim country.

President Obama has certainly shown a boldness many doubted he had in him. He is engaged in an extraordinarily delicate balancing act internationally and domestically. If he fails he will have taken what most observers viewed as a likely reelection and turned 2012 into a genuine battle for his political survival, and he will have confirmed doubts about Democrats’ ability to manage foreign policy any better than George W. Bush had. If he fails he will either have been humiliated by Qadaffi or have been forced to engage in another ground war in a Muslim country with all of the moral, strategic and fiscal consequences that we have felt in Iraq. The stakes are high for the people of Libya, for the war weary men and women of our armed forces, for our country, and for the president and his party. Every bit of the president’s intellect, focus and nerve will be called upon in the days and weeks to come.

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