News / USA

Libya a Key Test of Obama's Use of Military Power

President Obama walks to the Rose Garden of the White House to discuss the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Oct. 20, 2011.
President Obama walks to the Rose Garden of the White House to discuss the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Oct. 20, 2011.

In a speech on March 28, President Barack Obama said the United States had a responsibility to help protect civilians threatened by Moammar Gadhafi, and that American interests and values were at stake in Libya.

The military campaign that began last March with U.S. cruise missiles and French aircraft strikes soon became a NATO-directed operation, and a key test of his administration's determination to spread the burden of military action among key allies and partners.

From the start, Obama made clear U.S. ground troops would not be involved; he drew a distinction between situations where military force was required, such as Afghanistan, and those where U.S. interests were not directly challenged.

But the president said the U.S has an obligation to act against threats to "common humanity and common security." He said U.S. policy was based on key principles, including support for universal rights and governments responsive to the aspirations of their people.

"For the region, today's events prove once again that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to end," Obama said Thursday, recalling these principles in the White House Rose Garden. "Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship. And those leaders who try to deny their human dignity will not succeed."

Longtime Middle East expert Aaron David Miller has been an advisor to six U.S. secretaries of state and is now with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

He says events in Libya vindicate the president's decision to make a "relatively low-cost American investment" that allowed Libyans to take the lead in ousting Gadhafi, but broader implications remain unclear.

"We cannot do in Syria what we have done in Libya [or in] other Arab states," he said. "The Saudis, the Jordanians [who] will ultimately will be faced also with demands for greater political reform, greater respect for human rights [and] transparency."

As for any Obama "doctrine" regarding use of military force, Miller says it will continue to be difficult to apply a single model to all countries in the Arab Spring.

Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations has a similar perspective that emphasizes the inherent geopolitical complexities such a decision entails.

"People will start debating whether or not we should be playing this role in getting rid of dictators, but they will soon find that any such policy is fraught with contradictions," he said. "The Saudis are dictators. Are we going to go in and help to overthrow them? Not a chance."

Exactly how much credit Americans will give Obama for current success of his Libya strategy remains to be seen. Miller says many Americans are focused on economic problems at home.

"There was a reckoning with Osama bin Laden," said Miller. "It did not marginally let alone significantly alter the relationship between the vast majority of people in this country who believe that the president's economic policies have failed."

But Miller says Republicans seeking to replace Obama in 2012 will have a hard time persuading voters that the president has been weak when it comes to foreign policy.

Gelb says the degree of domestic political impact for Obama will depend upon ongoing developments in Libya.

"We have to see next month and next year whether that country becomes a haven of opposition to western interests and ideals or whether it miraculous begins to edge toward democracy," he said.

In his remarks at the White House, Obama said the U.S. is under no illusions, saying Libya still faces a "long and winding road" to full democracy. But the U.S. and international community, he said, remain committed to the Libyan people.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs