In his speech on the turmoil in Libya, President Obama used the phrase “international community” three times. He did not say the name “Muammar Qaddafi” once. By the time it was obvious that the dictator was slaughtering his own people, vowing to “cleanse Libya house by house” and “die as a martyr,” President Obama could not muster the fortitude to denounce the Qaddafi regime by name or articulate any action that would prevent the loss of human life. With all that is at his disposal to influence the ending of this bloodshed, the president has opted to allow America to stand by silently on the sidelines and watch the massacre unfold.
The president’s response to Libya was so milquetoast, in fact, that even left-wing MSNBC host Chris Matthews was left longing for a Reagan-esque “evil empire” moment. Even liberal commentator Eugene Robinson was moved to call for U.S. action in his recent column. The tone of the president’s remarks exhibited a bizarre disconnect as well. Notwithstanding the president’s great faith in the opinion of the “international community,” a despot like Qaddafi, who speaks earnestly in terms of political cleansing and martyrdom, surely cannot be rhetorically coerced to end his rampage, and he clearly is not sensitive – to say the least – about the feelings of the “international community.”
But the Obama administration is in the grips of a teachable moment. Since taking office, Obama’s goal has been to demonstrate to the world that the U.S. is a team player. To the Arab world in particular, he has sought to prove that the U.S. is not interested in exerting influence in the region, which is considered the source of Islamist discontent by the Left. This, the administration believes, will assuage anti-American sentiment and Arab belligerence, as the president has intimated over and over again in his overtures to the Muslim world. Now, we are witnessing the catastrophic repercussions of such a destructive posture: America is willing to forsake its unrivaled ability to stop monstrous violations of human rights in order to avoid offending the sensibilities of Islamo-fascists.
To be sure, the U.S. has faced similar decisions before. When a freedom-seeking revolt broke out in Hungary in October of 1956 against the U.S.S.R., the anti-communist rebel forces were led to believed the U.S. would come to their aid. In fact, this is one of the reasons the rebel Hungarians fought so successfully for so long against the Soviets. At various points, victory seemed achievable for the uprising, which would have changed the face of the entire Cold War. But President Eisenhower ultimately abandoned and betrayed the Hungarian freedom fighters – and the rebellion was savagely squashed by the Soviets. It is a regrettable and tragic chapter in Cold War history in general and in American foreign policy in particular.
One exoneration of Eisenhower’s policy that could be pointed to is his fear that an international war could have broken out over Hungary, since a nuclear Soviet Russia was a dangerous reality. For Obama, however, there is no such excuse. Numerous Muslim leaders have themselves denounced Qaddafi for the express reason that he is killing Muslims. Certainly, it is in the interest of protesters across the region that Qaddafi be held accountable, lest other autocrats get the impression that dissent can be crushed with impunity. Furthermore, Qaddafi has virtually no credibility in the international community – the Arab League, the African Union, the European Union, and the Islamic Conference have condemned his actions.
Rather, the inaction toward Libya we are seeing today is more reminiscent of the Left’s shameless reaction (or non-reaction) to the mass slaughter of the Iranian people by the Ayatollah Khomeini during the Islamic Revolution. After the pro-Western Shah of Iran (the Left’s bete-noire) was deposed, the Islamic revolutionary forces oversaw a bloody transfer of power. The silence from the Left on this massacre, which was precipitated by the Carter administration’s unconscionable undermining of the Shah’s regime, was deafening.
But what more could one really expect from the political faith? According to the leftist worldview, the U.S. is largely a pernicious force on the world stage and is the cause for the disdain that it attracts worldwide. This is Obama’s view. At this very moment in Libya, the U.S. could be intervening to support internal pro-Western (and pro-democratic) secular forces, while marginalizing the Islamist faction. Instead, the U.S. will stand by while the Libyan government kills its people, and, therefore, help fertilize the soil in which a more brutal Islamist regime will grow and replace it. This is the historical record of what leftist American administrations do in foreign policy – and we are now witness to the tragic and morbid example in Libya.