By Orly Azoulay
The guidelines for the military campaign in Libya were determined by President Barack Obama himself before he gave the order. The president instructed the defense establishment to conduct military operations for days, not months, and without using ground forces. He wanted a campaign that has an end date and does not give off a stench of occupation.
The American president defined the mission in Libya for himself and for the world: Protecting the Libyan people from the brutality of their leader, who massacred them on the streets of Tripoli and at the outskirts of Benghazi. Obama embarked on a war with a humanitarian mission, assuming there is such thing, and therefore there are no appropriate means for gauging when victory is achieved in this battle.
In order to secure the victory and complete the mission, Muammar Gaddafi must go, along with his relatives, as befits a family of tyrants who sowed terror and fear in the country and robbed the Libyan people. However, this was not the call issued by coalition forces; not openly at least.
They assumed that should they manage to paralyze Gaddafi’s military power, the rebels will do the dirty work and remove the dictator themselves. Yet in order for this to happen, the military campaign in Libya must be lengthy, massive and determined, because Gaddafi already proved that he will not give up easily and vowed to fight until the bitter end of all his loyalists.
America cannot publically declare that it embarked on the Libya assault in order to assassinate Gaddafi. US law bans the use of the military in order to assassinate foreign leaders. However, the Obama-led US, with the help of the coalition, should produce the conditions whereby the new Libya would be Gaddafi-free; otherwise, all the smart bombs of the finest armies would be fired in vain.
Obama didn’t want to be Bush
The Libyan people, and the rest of the world too, would only be able to breathe a sigh of relief should Gaddafi be removed. This will not happen in a quick one-time operation as policymakers in Washington hope. If coalition forces are only aiming to bomb Libya and then leave, this was a needless operation.
Even if all of Gaddafi’s planes will be grounded and he’ll be unable to bomb Libya’s citizens from the air, he would still be able to use his artillery or the battleships at his disposal. He would be able to keep killing his rivals.
In his most terrible nightmares, Barack Obama could not imagine a situation whereby he would be the commander in chief of three wars at the same time. The president who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize even before he got used to his new armchair in the Oval Office presented a message of reconciliation with the Muslim world upon being elected, and promised to serve as the bridge between them and the West.
Yet today the US Army is deployed in Afghanistan, still maintains a presence in Iraq and operates in Libya. Obama joined the Libya campaign with a heavy heart: He indeed wanted to protect the Libyan people, yet sought to create a delicate balance so that the Muslim world will not view this as a Western war against it. Obama didn’t want to be Bush. He did not want a war that turns into growing entanglement in Libya’s desert. He decided to embark on this tortuous journey with limits – a brief, quick and paralyzing operation; fire, and then run away.