Despite losing the majority of his air defense capabilities, multiple command and control bases, including the critical Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, and a top military general, Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi has reason to be confident in his war against Western-backed rebel forces.
This week, while unloading thousands of pounds of ordnance on Qadhafi strongholds, allied leaders began debating a new command structure for the coalition. In addition to arguing about who should lead the campaign, dissension also arose over the strategic objective of Operation Odyssey. Some allies, such as Britain and France, believe removing Qadhafi is a paramount objective, while others, most notably the United States, argue that this does not fall within the UN mandate for Libya.
Doesn’t this seem a little odd?
One doesn’t require the military genius of Napoleon to see that it’s a bad idea to undertake a major military campaign without agreeing on who will lead or what its strategic objective is.
The confusion began Monday when America, after two days of conducting air strikes on Libya, said it will soon hand the reigns over to nato. Problem is, France and Germany oppose nato running the mission, while Britain and Italy are adamant that nato must lead (Rome even threatened to restrict access to vital air bases unless nato is given charge). On Wednesday, Germany, frustrated by the infighting and the plan to hand over control to nato, announced it was pulling two frigates and a surveillance plane from the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, France and Italy have stationed aircraft carriers in waters adjacent to Libya, while Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Canada have all dispatched fighter jets to the region.
If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. It seems the only party participating in this conflict who is not confused is Colonel Qadhafi. The war against him is less than a week old and he sees an enemy that is headless, confused and paralyzed by bickering.
Amid the arguments and murky unknowns, however, one important reality has become crystal clear: America has no interest in playing a leadership role in Libya. The U.S. was one of the last to join the fight and wants to be the first out. On Monday, President Barack Obama stated that the U.S. is ready to transfer its responsibilities in Libya to someone else, preferably nato. This transition, he emphasized, will happen over “the next several days, not weeks.”
All sorts of experts have all sorts of explanations for the confusion handicapping the Western alliance and the merits of America’s involvement. Some believe Libya is not America’s fight and that the U.S. ought to have stayed home. Others say U.S. intervention should have come earlier and been more intense. Some argue that America simply cannot afford to fight another war; others say it has moral and/or financial obligations to intervene.
Whatever side you are on, Libya has exposed this reality in the world order: The United States has no interest in taking the lead on an issue of extreme global import!
And it’s not just Libya where America appears disinterested. Consider Washington’s conduct in all the major crises lately, be it the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, or the grave and significant struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia being fought in the likes of Bahrain, Syria and Yemen. In each instance, Washington’s record for displaying leadership, at least by American standards, is nothing short of dismal.
In every case, the United States has acted like a third-rate power. It has failed to tackle the issues with force and determination, with clarity of vision and purpose, with the confidence and vigor of a superpower. Instead, its response in virtually every case has been late in coming, ill-informed or hastily conceived, morally or politically shallow, or downright irresponsible.
And, most significantly, in virtually every crisis, America has willfully abdicated leadership to someone else.
One of the most significant lessons from the traumatic events thus far in 2011—and a reality that has surely been seen around the world—is that the United States no longer possesses the desire to be a global leader!
Experts have given a number of reasons why. They say Washington has multiple domestic problems to deal with, that it lacks the resources to lead on every issue, and that America is bankrupt and can no longer play its leading role. Some few others believe the cause runs deeper: that abdicating global leadership has become a fundamental goal of U.S. foreign policy.
This is understandable when you consider some of the statements coming from the White House. This is the “Obama conception of the U.S. role in the world,” stated White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes last week: “to work through multilateral organizations and bilateral relationships to make sure that the steps we are taking are amplified.” In other words, the days of America standing alone to single-handedly pursue a policy in its best interests are over.
Then there’s the “Strategic Leadership: Framework for a 21st-Century National Security Strategy.” Published in July 2008, this report outlines an “intellectual and policy blueprint for the next administration.” It was developed by individuals now serving in the Obama foreign-policy team, including James B. Steinberg, Mr. Obama’s deputy secretary of state, and Ivo Daalder, America’s ambassador to nato.
Current U.S. foreign policy, as Daniel Henninger noted in the Wall Street Journal last week, is most aptly summarized in the report’s concluding sentence: “And such [U.S.] leadership recognizes that in a world in which power has diffused, our interests are best protected and advanced when others step up and at times lead alongside or even ahead of us” (emphasis mine throughout). Put simply, the primary foreign-policy objective of the current administration is to refrain from exhibiting unilateral leadership, and to step aside and allow others to lead.
The problem with this strategy, which Henninger says is on full display in the Middle East and North Africa, is that “no one has stepped up, no one is leading alongside and our allies are in the rear, accomplishing nothing while they wait for … America.”
America’s decision to abdicate leadership is having a disastrous effect on the Middle East, and has resulted in what Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick terms “strategic dementia.” Motivated by a deeply rooted anti-imperialist agenda, “the overarching goal of Obama’s foreign policy has been to end U.S. global hegemony.”
The result? America’s president “looks to the UN as a vehicle for tethering the U.S. superpower” and “views U.S. allies in the Middle East and around the world with suspicion because he feels that as U.S. allies, they are complicit with U.S. imperialism,” writes Glick. This explains why Washington supported the ousting of long-time U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, and why America continues to refuse to lift a finger against Iran’s mullahs. It also explains Washington’s relative silence over the hugely significant struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran currently being fought on the streets of Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.
Today, it is a sad but evident reality that the United States has abandoned its post as a world leader.
As the world’s only superpower over the past two decades, and its leading power since World War ii, America has not been above reproach. Despite its shortcomings, however, over the past 200 years it has given mankind some terrific blessings and, for a long while, strong, stable, and compared to most others, charitable leadership.
For Americans, this legacy of leadership ought not be a cause for arrogance. Instead, when the truth about the source of America’s existence as the single greatest power in history is known, it ought to arouse a sense of humility and contrition, and of submission to the Source of that greatness. The central reason for America’s wealth and global preponderance is that it has been the recipient of a promise God made to Abraham 3,000 years ago. You can study that promise in Genesis 12.
Also, this promise—one of the most far-reaching and important God has ever made—is a theme in our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. If you haven’t already studied this book, request it now. Truly, nothing explains America’s calamitous, yet God-ordained, fall from the heights of global power and affluence like this groundbreaking work. •