Pawlenty Dismisses Need For Int’l Coalition On Libya: ‘I’m Not Overly Concerned About Our Popularity’

Taking a page from Newt Gingrich’s playbook — who recently criticized the Obama administration for having not already taken unilateral action against pro-government forces in Libya — presumptive 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty took a swipe at President Obama yesterday, presumably, for wanting to assemble a broad international coalition to deal with the situation in Libya militarily. Politico reports:

Tim Pawlenty on Thursday attacked President Obama’s “incoherent response” to the political upheaval in the Middle East — and said the White House should stop worrying about winning an international popularity contest.

“I’m not overly concerned about our popularity ratings in Europe or the Middle East,” Pawlenty said at a presidential house party in his honor. “What I am concerned about is, is this nation secure.”

But it’s not really about a popularity contest. It’s about smart policy. Unilateral action would fracture the unprecedented consensus at the UN thus far on Libya — which has resulted in referring Muammar Qaddafi to the International Criminal Court and kicking Libya off the Human Rights Council. UN Dispatch’s Mark Leon Goldberg explains that, by acting without allies and international support in Libya, the U.S. not only “would constantly have to defend the decision to work outside the council” but also unilateral U.S. military action on Libya could have a destabilizing effect:

It would probably also divide the Arab world, and in so doing undermine what are arguably more important American interests. To name a few: ensuring a steady transition to democracy in Egypt; progress on Israel and Palestine; and working to ensure that this wave of revolution spreading across the Arab world brings about governments that, at the very least, are not hostile to the United States. […]

With a Security Council resolution, these kinds of choices between interests are simply not as stark. You don’t have to choose between angering half the world. Military intervention would have both legal and political legitimacy and enjoy broad (if not unanimous) backing by the international community. That is because if such a measure were to pass the Security Council, it would probably have to have the backing of relevant regional organizations like the Arab League and African Union.

And this is what the Obama administration is doing: working to shore up international support, with Britain and France working at the UN Security Council to get a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone. “I think it’s very important that this not be a US-led effort,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week. British foreign minster William Hague agrees. “We are…making clear the need for regional support, a clear trigger for such a resolution and an appropriate legal basis,” he said. Former UN official Bruce Jones said as much to Yahoo News’ Laura Rozen. “We would be vastly better off if it was the Arab League calling for action and the UN taking it up and the U.S. implementing,” he said.


President Obama has said that he has not taken any options of the table, including military ones. “We are slowly tightening the noose on Qaddafi,” he said this afternoon, expressing the utility of the U.S. and the international community’s preference for a united front on Libya. But like Gingrich, it appears that a commander-in-chief Pawlenty would be pulling the trigger first and asking questions later.