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Monday, August 22, 2011

Obama and Libya

As regular readers of this blog will recall, I vehemently opposed Obama’s initial efforts in Libya, but the more I understood of it the more it made sense to me. What his political opponents derisively dismissed as “leading from behind” was what actually intrigued me about Obama’s Libya policy. My initial opposition to American involvement was rooted in a reflexive opposition shaped by President Bush’s types of military interventions where America always had a heavy military footprint and a resulting long-term commitment of blood and treasure. I commented early on that Obama could turn into the “crown prince of pragmatic progressivism” if his goals for Libya could be met with the kind of minimal, though decisive, military involvement he envisioned. Although the results took longer than he had hoped, it is a remarkably short, low casualty result when we consider the decades of military dictatorship Gadhafi subjected the world to. It is further evidence that Obama’s presidency is not on the “Carter trajectory” that his political opponents are trying to convince us of. I gave Obama the benefit of the doubt in Libya based on the strength of his operation against bin Laden, and now I am very much prepared to defend his wisdom in how he has acted with regard to Syria. This is also a moment to acknowledge the foresight of Samantha Powers, a key adviser to Obama and the leading voice for American military involvement in Libya. These are remarkable times in the Arab world and the Obama administration is working in unchartered territory in the midst of a seriously weakened economy.

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