There’s a reason why the Obama administration isn’t taking a victory lap to celebrate Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s fall. Because it isn’t over yet.
Some are already claiming vindication for Obama. E.J. Dionne’s column today declares that Obama’s strategy on Libya “worked,” because Gaddafi seems to have been defeated:
What NATO and its allies did do, as Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller reported in The Post, was to help the rebels “mount an aggressive ‘pincer’ strategy in recent weeks, providing intelligence, advice and stepped-up airstrikes that helped push Moammar Gaddafi’s forces toward collapse in Tripoli.”
Sounds like a successful policy to me.
The policy was “successful” in helping remove Gaddafi, but that’s hardly the end. It’s not as though the Iraq war was over after Saddam Hussein was defeated — years of violence and terrorism followed. Indeed that’s been the fate of all American executed or backed military interventions over the past decade, not just Iraq but in Afghanistan and Somalia as well. Are Republicans being reflexively critical of the president? Sure. But that’s no reason for premature celebration.
What comes after Gaddafi’s fall is much more important, and much more uncertain. Now it should be said that Obama’s strategy means that one of the key factors in the emergence of suicide terrorism — a foreign occupying military, typically of a different religious background than the occupied — isn’t present in Libya. But because Gaddafi essentially built Libyan society around himself, the rebels will have to start almost from scratch in constructing a new Libya. And it’s far from a safe bet that the one that will emerge will be the kind of democratic, pluralistic state that would be ideal.
The rebels were united by a desire to oust Gaddafi, they’re less united in their vision for what Libyan society should be. Whatever ultimately happens, it’s far too early to declare the intervention in Libya “successful.” What we can say is that months after the president initiated a war without Congress’ approval, one he said would last “weeks, not months,” the most straightforward part of the mission is almost complete.