US involvement in Libya unclear
Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 17:03
Up until Monday it seemed the entire American population was scratching its head and wondering the same question: What exactly is President Obama's intent in Libya?
After being left in the dark since March 19, Obama appeared on television Monday night and gave a speech regarding our involvement in Libya. Although the speech was much needed, it left a lot to be desired.
According to the president, our current mission is a humanitarian one to protect the people of Libya from their dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who has been using weapons against his own people.
To recap: The people of Libya, which is located in Northern Africa, followed the example of their neighbors in Egypt and Tunisia and decided to start their own revolution and try to rid themselves of their 42-year dictator.
The Libyan people hit a major problem when Gadhafi, unlike Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, decided to fight the revolution and suppress the rebels, which has resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of citizens.
Taking all this into account, the United States took several measures to stop Gadhafi in his tracks, including freezing his assets and pairing with the United Nations in issuing a no-fly zone in Libya to prevent Gadhafi's forces from launching air attacks against civilians.
In his speech, Obama highlighted all this along with the fact that these efforts didn't work which is why he chose — without the approval of Congress — to intervene.
There are no U.S. ground troops in Libya and our main goal is to support the rebels so they can effectively oust Gadhafi, which Obama seems confident will happen.
Now that we've gotten you up to speed we'd like to point out that Obama's speech on Monday night did help us in understanding what exactly we're doing in Libya, assisting rebels, but we're still shaky on the whole question of why we're involved in the first place.
The term "humanitarian effort" was extremely prevalent in Obama's 28-minute speech, a phrase that's been bounced around since this whole mess started. The question this seemingly simple phrase has provoked is "What sets Libya apart from Sudan or Bahrain or any of the other countries in the world where things are awful but we're not intervening?"
This question really wasn't answered, other than Obama saying this situation is "unique." We need some sort of standard in evaluating what countries deserve our help in "gaining democracy" and which don't because the term "unique" just doesn't cut it. There are countries all over the globe facing atrocities every day, we can't just randomly pick and chose our battles. The American people need concrete answers as to why Libya is so different.
Another thing we're still contemplating is what will happen when Gadhafi is forced to step down; or, what will happen if he doesn't?
Obama stated that we would help Libya establish a democracy and use the $33 billion in frozen assets to help rebuild Libya once all the fighting is done. Obama seemed confident that Gadhafi would step down, but how long or at what cost was not mentioned.
We've already had to up our ante from issuing a no-fly zone, to actually intervening and now there is talk about providing the rebels with weapons. How much will we have to do before Gadhafi finally steps down?
Obama, however, did take the time to weaken any parallels between Iraq and Libya. The whole reason there are no ground troops in Libya, he stated, is so that we don't end up like in another situation like Iraq that has cost us "thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars." He also stated that in Libya, the U.S.'s role is more of a supportive one rather than an expressive one.
Really, it seems like this situation is a Catch-22: On one hand there's the lives and well being of the Libyan citizens, without intervention it was feared that Gadhafi would attempt to kill them all. On the other hand, we're spending money we don't really have on an uncertain battle.
Obama's speech did a pretty decent job of explaining what we're doing in Libya but the reasons behind intervention and the long-term repercussions are still unclear.
There is a lack of transparency in this Libya situation and until the reasoning behind Obama's decision as well as the future consequences are clear, we cannot fully support intervention.