Monday, March 7, 2011

Obama's Dithering Dilemma Part One- President Indecisive on Libya as Oil, Gas Skyrockets

The Obama Administration continues to dither on Libya intervention as the steady rise in the price of oil and gas on the international market continues to threaten the nation's economic recovery, (click here for gas increase news). Indeed, as of press time the price of oil was up to almost 107 dollars a barrel, with gas up almost 34 cents on average across the U.S. in the last two weeks alone, largely driven by events unfolding in Libya (as well as Mid-East unrest generally).

While Britain, France and Germany have already indicated they would support a “no fly zone” to protect anti-government rebels on the ground, the U.S. Administration has delayed taking action in order to await broader international consensus, and, some would say, intentionally avoiding making any difficult decisions or unambivalent pronouncements on whether it will actually support instituting such a ban to prevent the African nation from descending further into a brutal civil war. 

Indeed, the response of the Administration has been less than encouraging, with former Chicago Mayor and now White House Chief of Staff Richard Daley stating “this is no video game” and Defense Secretary Robert Gates claiming it to be a “very difficult” action tantamount to declaring war on Libya. (This in spite of the fact that the oil-strategic nation is already in a de-facto state of war and others such as Vietnam war hero and Republican Senator and presidential nominee John McCain have stated we can indeed impose such a ban without too much difficulty and need to act promptly to avoid unspeakable human tragedy).

On this latter point, and on the effects of delay generally, most observers and military experts agree that short of swift action to balance the military scales against the much better-armed pro-Gaddafi forces-- who have modern fighter jets, helicopters and artillery-- the rebels, who are largely trying to stave off Gaddafi's forces with small arms and some antiquated anti-aircraft weapons manned by poorly trained operators, will by all accounts lose and lose badly.

Such an outcome would squander an opportunity to quickly end the conflict and calm world energy markets ahead of more Mid-East “protests” scheduled for Saudi Arabia on Friday. It would also likely doom the rebels hopes at Democracy in Libya and result in a protracted and bloody civil war in that country with according human suffering on a scale that would make the thousands of refugees already fleeing into neighboring Egypt and Tunisia look tame by comparison.

In our view, this is inexcuseable. It is the leader of the free world's duty to, when necessary, take decisive action in the national interest as well as in the interest of Democracy and freedom worldwide.

 However, continuing the pattern of an Administration which initially refrained from even sharply calling for the Gaddafi regime's removal-- ostensibly for fear of the fate of Americans whom the Administration had placed in a ferry anchored in the Libyan harbor for days instead of sending military forces in to rescue them-- this doesn't seem likely for a President who rather seems disposed to proclamations in the United Nation's security council than taking action which could upset the liberal and pacifist wing of his own party.

 This will unfortunately likely result in a full scale civil war with devastating casualties among the populace and rebels alike, who, until the Libyan government utilized fighter planes and artillery against them, were steadily gaining ground on pro-Gaddafi forces who have gripped the nation in an iron fist of dictatorship for almost 40 years. (Indeed, prior to the regime's use of heavy weapons such as fighter planes, the rebels had been making swift progress taking large swaths of territory in the East including critical areas where oil refineries are situated).

 It also raises broader questions in many other areas forcing us to ask, is there something innate to President Obama's character that prevents him from taking decisive action, perhaps grounded in his ivory tower beginnings or some other facet of his personality? (Indeed, who can forget the President taking six months to choose a puppy for his family upon moving in to the White House?)

Such an inquiry reminds us that, contrary to the beliefs of some, character and the basic makeup of a man is equally and perhaps more important in a President as the ability to persuasively and charismatically engage in oratory, (a matter which will be more fully developed in Part two of this post).

 Unfortunately it is a lesson in civics that will fall on deaf (literally so) ears of the soldiers fighting for freedom in Libya as daylight fades on their efforts and time runs out for effective intervention that would save thousands of lives. That, to us, is a tragedy not only terrible, but completely avoidable.

  Further, and closer to home, it is estimated that for every penny more Americans pay for a gallon of gas it takes a billion dollars out of the economy, money that could be spent to start businesses, invest in factories, and create jobs, (a significant amount of money in light of the more than .30 cent increase in the price of gas over the last two weeks). 

When taken in conjunction with the President's accompanying failure to take swift action in deciding to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, (an action that when done by President Bush resulted in an immediate drop in prices at the pump of 30 cents a gallon), the effect of such a drag on our nation's still fragile recovery could, if prolonged or increased in severity, presage a "double dip" recession that Americans can ill afford.

 In part two of this article we shall look at other examples of such dithering on the part of the Administration and the possible sources of this troubling tendency of the President.

 Until then, we, like all of the free world, stay glued to the news and pray for the people of Libya, even as we pay for it at the pump. jp

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