Obama sees Libya successes, but is end in sight?
Published: March 28, 2011
When President Barack Obama addresses the nation Monday evening on the subject of Libya, he’ll be able to point to a list of recent successes:
- Under the cover of American and allied air power, the Libyan rebels were on the verge Monday of capturing the hometown of strongman Moammar Gadhafi as they continued their westward push toward Tripoli.
- Over the weekend, they captured the oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf, and even reportedly worked out a deal with Qatar to begin marketing Libyan oil again. Oil futures slipped as a result, giving drivers the prospect of relief at the gas pump.
- NATO, meanwhile, has taken over responsibility from the United States not only for overseeing the arms embargo and the no-fly zone — not very tall orders given that international partners aren’t exactly rallying to Gadhafi’s side, and his limited air defenses were utterly shattered by the initial U.S.-led attack — but also has accepted the far stickier mission of protecting civilians.
But that’s unlikely to stop his critics in Congress and elsewhere — both right and left — from reacting to the speech with their own list of several key points they’ve been making for the last week:
- The president spent more time coordinating the attack with the U.N. and the Arab League than with Congress.
- The country can ill afford to fight on a third front in a time of economic weakness.
- There was no clear U.S. security interest that got us into Libya, and no clear plan for disengagement.
Obama will repeat that by wading into the fight, the United States likely saved thousands of civilian lives. How much ice that cuts with the American public is an open question. The real question may be, how many more successes in a row can the president rack up, and will the last one be a timely U.S. exit from Libya?