Obama's problem from hell
Jackson Diehl discusses how President Obama's 'leading from behind,' which Diehl overly generously refers to as a 'light footprint
,' is likely to plague the President in the second term.
A new report
by the Rand Corporation concludes that “this lighter-footprint approach
has made Libya a test case for a new post-Iraq and Afghanistan model of
nation-building.” But the result is that, a year after the death of
dictator Moammar Gaddafi, Libya is policed by what amounts to a mess of
militias. Its newly elected government has little authority over most of
the country’s armed men — much less the capacity to take on the
jidhadist forces gathering in and around Benghazi.
The Rand study
concludes that stabilizing Libya will require disarming and demobilizing
the militias and rebuilding the security forces “from the bottom up.”
This, it says, probably can’t happen without help from “those countries
that participated in the military intervention” — i.e. the United
States, Britain and France. Can the Obama administration duplicate the
security-force-building done in Iraq and Afghanistan in Libya while
sticking to the light footprint? It’s hard to see how.
team may be betting that it can control the jihadist threat in North
Africa the way it has countered al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula — with
drone strikes and training for local special forces. But the drone leg of Obama’s strategy is looking shaky, as well. Opposition to drone strikes is growing steadily domestically and among U.S. allies — not to mention in the countries where the attacks take place.
by Robert Chesney of the University of Texas points out that if strikes
begin to target countries in North Africa and groups not directly
connected to the original al-Qaeda leadership, problems with their legal
justification under U.S. and international law “will become
increasingly apparent and problematic.” And that doesn’t account for the
political fallout: Libyan leaders say U.S. drone strikes would destroy
the goodwill America earned by helping the revolution.
Libya will be a steady, low-grade headache for Obama in his second term.
But the worst blowback from his policies will come in Syria. What began
as a peaceful mass rebellion against another Arab dictator has turned,
in the absence of U.S. leadership, into a brutal maelstrom of sectarian
war in which al-Qaeda and allied jihadists
are playing a growing role. Obama’s light footprint strategy did much
to produce this mess; without a change of U.S. policy, it will become,
like Bosnia for Bill Clinton or Iraq for George W. Bush, the second
term’s “problem from hell.”
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Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, leading from behind, Libya, Syrian uprising