In his Libyan speech, President Obama established the Obama Doctrine: America would intervene to stop a murderous tyrant from massacring their citizens. However, the President also stated that America would transfer responsibility to NATO allies and that the military action in Libya would stop short of removing Qaddafi from power. FrumForum asked experts from the intelligence community for their views on the Obama Doctrine and its application in Libya.
Many we spoke with noted that the official Obama Administration policy does not mesh with what is actually happening in Libya. Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FLA) argued that
the President had not clearly articulated what our mission is in Libya. What are we hoping to accomplish? What is the U.S. role in achieving those objectives? What is our endgame? I don’t think the President has sufficiently answered any of these important questions that should have been addressed before any action was taken.
Michael Hayden, former CIA Director, concurs and also feels that actions speak louder than words. Despite the talk that the U.S. will step back and take a secondary role, he pointed out that America is still playing a prominent part in handling surveillance, intelligence, indirect fire attack, electronic warfare, and refueling. Hayden explained that
usually we want the game figured out and I am not sure we have figured that out. The no fly zone has little relevance to the tactical situation. Libyan airplanes were not causing the problem. His air force was not winning the war for Qaddafi; it was the preponderance of ground power.
The Libya intervention also raises another question: should America turn against all despots, including those who were supportive against Al Qaeda? A national security decision was made to build a relationship with Qaddafi that chose to look the other way and forget about his past criminal actions in hopes of persuading him to eliminate his biological and WMD programs.
Pete Hoekstra, the former ranking member on the intelligence committee, pointed out that for the last eight years the official U.S. policy has been that Qaddafi is an ally, not an enemy: President George W. Bush re-established diplomatic relations, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton appointed an ambassador and President Obama doubled military aid to Libya.
Hoekstra also argued that the Obama administration’s Middle East policy is:
sending a very confused signal. America is bombing Qaddafi who was considered an official ally, yet did nothing when there were riots in the streets against the Iranian government. What are you going to do with tyrannical regimes around the world that have a revolt? Are we going to support those rebels? I don’t think so.
On the other hand, James Woolsey, President Clinton’s CIA Director believes that there is no clear-cut rule to decide when to take action against despots and when not to. He would like to see the Obama Administration stop using kid gloves with the regimes of Libya, Syria, and Iran. “Don’t fool yourself: what the President says matters. A change of government can only get better than the theocratic, genocidal maniacs in power now. We should do everything possible to help the dissents including arming and training them.”
All those interviewed disagree with one remark from the President’s speech. Obama stated that “broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” Those FrumForum spoke to strongly believe that once the President chose to go to war, the definite objective had to be to eliminate Qaddafi as Libya’s leader.
Hoekstra compared a wounded Qaddafi to a wounded bear, noting that:
he is the guy who ordered the bombing of Pan Am 103 and exploded a bomb outside a German nightclub that was directed against American troops. As long as Qaddafi remains in power you can bet he will be vengeful and target American interests. He had done it before so why wouldn’t he do it again?
Former CIA Director James Woolsey agreed and pointed out that:
Libyan civilians will not be protected without eliminating Qaddafi. It’s extremely naïve to believe that if we leave him in power he will be a nice guy. The worst thing America can do is to become tentative.
Woolsey further stressed that if Qaddafi is not eliminated, Islamic despots will be emboldened because the Libyan leader will be able to say he defeated the great Satan: America.
However, a former CIA official pointed out that replacing Qaddafi brings a multitude of problems since no one has any idea who will fill the vacuum or what the true allegiances of the rebels are. He noted that Abdel Hakim al Hasidi, a declared Libyan rebel leader, fought against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and recruited troops to fight against the U.S. in Iraq. Hayden confirmed that many Al Qaeda recruits as well as the largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq came from Eastern Libya.
A former CIA official explained to FrumForum that America should implement the Obama Doctrine only
when there is an abiding U.S. national interest at stake. I do not believe that America should send military forces to a country simply for humanitarian reasons or for human rights preservation. We should, however, commit only when there is a vital U.S. interest, such as nuclear proliferation, counterterrorism, or important economic interests.
Unfortunately, as Hayden pointed out, “By intervening we have unmistakably taken on an operational, political, and ethical responsibility. If Qaddafi is in any way remaining in power he wins,” and America loses.