Like clockwork, conservatives have been attacking President Obama for not intervening fast enough in the crisis unfolding in Libya. Hearkening back to language Dick Cheney directed at Obama during his deliberations about how to move forward in Afghanistan, many on the right have accused the President of “dithering.” Others want unilateral U.S. military action, and they want it now. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said recently that the U.S. should establish a no-fly zone in Libya without UN or NATO support, a move tantamount to war according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Last night on Fox News, Newt Gingrich went a bit further, saying he wants the U.S. to go into Libya with guns blazing “this evening” and that the U.S. should go it alone because NATO “won’t bring much to the fight,” and apparently, the UN is useless:
VAN SUSTEREN: What would you do about Libya?
GINGRICH: Exercise a no-fly zone this evening. … It’s also an ideological problem. The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission. We don’t need to have NATO, who frankly, won’t bring much to the fight. We don’t need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.
While Gingrich thinks the U.S. military could clean up the situation in Libya in “minutes,” the reality is that it’s a bit more complicated than that. CentCom commander Gen. James Mattis recently said that implementing a no-fly zone would be “challenging” because it would involve “military operations” other than just telling the Libyans not to fly. And as CAP’s John Norris noted, “We shouldn’t kid ourselves. Blowing up a runway or imposing a no-fly zone are not silver bullets.” Norris urges “thoughtful action designed with an endgame firmly in mind,” such as leaving all options on the table — including military action, building an legitimate international coalition, and explaining the best course of action to the American people.
And this is exactly what President Obama is doing. Allied AWACS planes are currently flying intelligence missions over Libya and the U.S. has been providing humanitarian assistance in Libya for weeks. As the President said yesterday, “We’ve got NATO, as we speak, consulting in Brussels around a wide range of potential options — including potential military options.” Meanwhile, France and Britain are currently working in the UN to get a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone in Libya. “I think at this point there is a sense that any action should be the result of international sanction,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday.
But, if President Gingrich had his chance, American bombers, without any allied assistance, would be on their way to bomb Libya — tonight. Given recent U.S. history in the region, following Gingrich’s advice is a fool’s errand.