When I first read the news that Obama had ordered the U.S. to intervene in the Libyan rebellion, I was quite concerned. While I agreed with the humanitarian basis behind it, it did not make a lot of sense that we would choose to intervene at that time (why not sooner?) considering the other crises that the U.S. did not get involved in (see Darfur or Ivory Coast). In addition, the financial costs were a concern given our financial crisis and how close we are to a government shutdown due to conflicts about the budget. But I was most worried about this conflict being a long, drawn out affair in which the coalition wilted and the U.S. was compelled to take the lead in a situation that could quickly devolve into something like what we have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. We simply cannot afford (in every sense of the word) that right now.
I feel better about the situation now that I have read Obama’s speech on the subject, which he gave last night. He made a strong case for intervention and outlined his own view of foreign intervention that, true to form, seems very pragmatic and reasonable. That said, I am still concerned about the scope of the conflict and how our end game will be achieved. I understand the “long-term” end game to be having Qaddafi removed as President so that the Libyan people can go about reforming their government in a more democratic mode. The potential thorn in the plan, and it is a large thorn, is that Qaddafi has shown no interest in stepping aside and military intervention on the ground may be needed to oust him, which Obama had pledged the U.S. will not do.
How will Obama proceed if the coalition cannot remove Qaddafi simply through political means? Will he be able to stand firm with his plan and commitment in the face of pressure from hawks at home who will label him “weak” for not going all the way to Tripoli, with ground troops, to get rid of Qaddafi? Will he stand firm when his critics deride him for being powerless to achieve his goals in the event Qaddafi does not step down?
I now feel like his decision was quite reasonable and I like the means in which he has chosen to intervene. But I am deeply concerned the U.S. will be forced to carry this burden in the end, and will do so for years to come. And of course I worry about the political issues Obama may face if this conflict gets uglier and as feared, we do in fact need to get more involved. Adding another war to our plate wil