The front of the New York Times Sunday Week in Review features a think-piece by the paper’s foreign policy maven David Sanger, “Halfway In With Obama.” The subhead: “In Libya, America lets others command. By letting allies pick up the burden, is its credibility on the line?”
Sanger was a harsh critic of Bush’s foreign policy philosophy, mocking the president as an incurious George overseas, so his blunt lack of confidence in Obama’s Libya intervention is significant.
When the battle for Libya seemed to be slipping into stalemate last week, the British, French and Italians sent “military advisers,” a phrase that to much of the world suggests the first step on the slippery slope to ground forces.
President Obama offered up his administration’s favorite weapon: armed Predator drones.
The difference said much about the Obama way when it comes to intervening in armed insurgencies -- and his comfort in letting someone else lead the intervention. Caught between two searing experiences in the past two decades -- America’s failure to do anything in Rwanda and its insistence, over the objection of key allies, on going into Iraq eight years ago -- Mr. Obama has spent much of the past month experimenting with a third way.
In Libya, he has committed the United States, but only from the air and only from afar. The Europeans, and some of Mr. Obama’s political opponents at home, sense a lack of commitment. Inside the White House, the opposite argument is made -- that after a bruising decade of misadventures, the United States is preserving American power for the moments when truly vital interests need to be protected, while teaching the rest of the world that it will have to police its own backyards.
But is this any way to fight a war?