Editorial: Get in, get out, let rebels rid Libya of Gadhafi

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

President Barack Obama is between a rock and hard place, with no good options between ignoring the moral imperative to do something as Col. Moammar Gadhafi made good on his promise of producing "rivers of blood" to maintain his hold on power, and committing a financially strapped U.S. to its third war against a Muslim nation in the last eight years.

The White House may have taken the best of the bad alternatives available in joining with Britain and France in missile strikes aimed at taking out Gadhafi's air defense and command-and-control functions - with a green light from the U. N. Security Council - while giving the rebels holed up in Benghazi and Misurata a decent shot at winning what amounts to a civil war.

And yet we're still uneasy.

Despite the U.N.'s infatuation with no-fly zones, history is not exactly on board, as those accomplished next to nothing in Bosnia nearly 20 years ago, and certainly didn't stop the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. Meanwhile, "The president has been very clear we're not going to put boots on the ground," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Sunday. Color us relieved. Why? Because we're at war in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of our troops remain in Iraq. Taken a gander at the national debt recently? There is a budgetary limit to how much we can wage war, and we're at it.

Beyond that, the administration is insistent that regime change is not the mission, though they could fool us. Evil as a Gadhafi who seemingly would not hesitate to engage in genocide is, can anyone argue that his departure from Libya is critical to America's national interest? In retrospect, was a Saddam Hussein sitting on significantly more oil in Iraq that critical in 2003? Can we live with the occupation afterwards? Are we willing to turn more Arabs against us, as they view any intervention as Western colonialism? (Already the Arab League has called an emergency meeting, though Qatar may join our effort.) Are we prepared for the fallout when we kill innocents because bombs aren't discriminating? Are we ready to deal with others who might enter the fray, even if indirectly - China, Russia?

We are not being critical of a president who's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't with parts of the U.S. public. Already we're hearing he didn't act quickly enough, didn't pounce when the rebels had the momentum, but that's the speculation of armchair quarterbacks. Those who'd compare Obama unfavorably to Ronald Reagan on Gadhafi also have convenient memories. True, in 1986 Reagan ordered what turned out to be a near-miss bomb attack in order "to alter his criminal behavior." Gadhafi was so cowed that two years later he participated in the bombing of Pam Am Flight 103, murdering 270 innocents, among them 189 Americans. And here he still stands, 23 years later, defiant and bombastic as ever, using human shields for protection.

Finally, we're flying a bit blind here, as it's unclear whom we're climbing into bed with in this civil war. Alas, what choice do we have? If Gadhafi won't take the out Obama has given him - a negotiated departure that may spare his life - we are now committed to getting those rebels to Tripoli to take Gadhafi out themselves, as quickly as possible. Then we need to get out.

Peoria, Ill., Journal Star