Over the weekend, forces loyal to Moammar Qaddafi showed the world why enforcing a no-fly zone against them is so important. The Associated Press reports they “pounded opposition fighters with helicopter gunships, artillery and rockets to stop the rebels’ rapid advance toward the capital.” The opposition has been stalled in its effort to take Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, viewed as a key to breaking the regime’s morale and preparing the way for the capture of Tripoli.
Refugees are streaming out of Libya, with a thousand of them coming ashore in Italy on a single night. A humanitarian tragedy is developing in areas targeted by Qaddafi’s military and hired mercenaries. If you’ve had to fill your car with gas recently, you’ve noticed the effect Libyan turmoil is having on the global price of oil. We were on our way to four-dollar gas anyway – virtually every domestic policy decision of this Administration was designed to guarantee it – but we’ll get there much faster with Libyan production collapsing.
In light of these developments, the editors of the Wall Street Journal profess themselves puzzled as President Obama “seems to have retreated into a bizarre, but all too typical, passivity.” This behavior is “bizarre” because “the U.S. has already announced its preferred outcome, yet it is doing little to achieve this end.” They conclude Obama’s passivity is “more ideological than practical,” because he “seems to believe U.S. leadership is morally suspect,” after drinking deeply from the bitter cup of Bush hatred.
Another aspect of Obama’s ideology is his belief that merely announcing a “preferred outcome” is equivalent to taking action. This President is not a leader, and has no executive skills or experience. He is good at two things: giving speeches and writing books about himself, and he needs help with the latter. Early in his tenure as President, he gave a wildly hyped speech in Cairo calling for peace and justice. Any peace and justice that happen to ensue, over the course of the next few decades, are due to the speech; turmoil and bloodshed come from people who didn’t listen to him carefully enough. His words are the fulcrum of history, either because they were heeded, or ignored.
I think there is a practical component of this passivity as well. The key to understanding Obama foreign policy is that he wants the world to go away and leave him alone, while he presses ahead with his grand crusade to transform America. His glib, long-abandoned campaign promises on foreign policy amounted to disengagement: pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, close Guantanamo Bay, roll captive terrorists through the Tasty Bake Ovens of civilian courts and hope the American people can swallow the resulting legal cupcakes. He promised to make the world go away, and it is one of the few promises he really wants to keep.
Look at the way Obama responded to the murder of four Americans by Somali pirates, and the attack on American servicemen by a jihadist in Frankfurt. The former was met with absolute silence, because Obama knows that if he says anything, he will be expected to do something. The latter merited a quick statement expressing sorrow, and a promise to give the German police any assistance they might require in wrapping up the investigation. He didn’t discuss the attack in the context of the War on Terror, because any such discussion would lead to public expectations of a counter-attack. Obama’s media allies tried to provide cover by working diligently to avoid mentioning the words “Allahu akbar,” the battle cry of the jihad killer, which rang through that Frankfurt bus along with the gunshots. To this President, the attack in Germany was the latest in a long string of unfortunate isolated incidents, a tragedy akin to a hurricane blowing into the bus and spitting out bullets.
The Administration’s ever-changing stance on Egypt was thick with the weary frustration of people forced to have an opinion about something they would rather ignore. Every press conference was the product of a brain trust trying to figure out what the next development in the saga would be, and get out ahead of the news so they could take credit for it.
Speaking of Egypt, did you know the vaunted Egyptian Army spent part of the weekend shooting at demonstrators? Did you know there were any demonstrations going on? Indeed there are. The public is restless because the military is madly shredding documents from the Mubarak regime. The people understand that tyranny is a team sport, and want to know who played offense for the deposed dictator. Meanwhile, CNN reports that “pro-Mubarak gangs” have made a comeback, and showed up to serve Molotov cocktails to the protesting crowd. Does the Administration have anything to say about the chaos boiling through the streets of Cairo after its “great diplomatic triumph” in ending Mubarak’s thirty years of rule?
Of course not. Obama virtually disappeared after the fall of Mubarak. He knows the people of the United States are resisting his attempts to re-define their relationship with the State, and views his remaining political influence as a tightly rationed resource. He’s not going to spend any of it on foreign crises. His only significant act over the past month has been asserting a disturbing new presidential power to usurp the courts and declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional – a transparent effort to restock his supply of political capital for the next stage of forced transformation. Now he’s got a call from Judge Roger Vinson holding on line 1. The world will have to fend for itself.