Momentous events are underway in the Middle East. The situation is changing so rapidly that there is no time to catch one’s breath between batches of gruesome and astonishing news dispatches.
The most rapid changes are occurring in Libya. The protests there got off to a late start compared with the rest of the Maghreb, but the Libyan insurrection raced ahead of the pack very quickly. Thousands of demonstrators took to streets and have been mercilessly attacked by police and military units. Protesters have reportedly been machine-gunned and strafed by aircraft, and at least several hundred are dead.
Despite the brutal crackdown by the authorities, the rebels have seized control of several cities, including Benghazi. They are also gaining strength in the capital, Tripoli, and have burned the parliament building. An undetermined number of army units have defected to protesters, and a number of Libyan diplomats abroad have resigned in solidarity with the dissidents. Several military aircraft were flown to Malta to keep them from being used by the regime.
Four major tribes are said to have gone over to the rebellion, and they are threatening to cut off the oil supply lines. BP has closed down its operations in Libya for the time being, and the country’s economy is in free fall. Stock markets in southern Europe in which Libyan holdings are prominent have taken the biggest hit, but all European markets are down.
Col. Moammar Ghadafi and his sons are expressing absolute defiance towards the protesters, and have promised rivers of blood and a full-scale civil war if the insurrectionists don’t back down. As of the time of writing, a Saharan Ragnarok seems all but unavoidable.
We are at one of the hinges of history, so what is the Obama administration doing?
Well, it’s doing what it does best: “expressing concern”, “calling for restraint on both sides”, “urging the Libyan government not to react with violence”, etc. If none of these stern measures has the desired effect, then it will “continue to monitor the situation closely”.
A choice example of Obama-style foreign policy was reported by AGI News:
Libya: Obama Evaluates “Appropriate Action”
(AGI) Washington — Barack Obama is evaluating “appropriate action” vis-à-vis Libya. The announcement was made by a US Administration source that asked the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi to not resort to the use of force against anti-Government protesters. “We will ask the Libyan Government for clarifications. We will continue to raise the need to avoid resorting to violence against peaceful protesters and call for the respect of universal human rights”, the source explained.
If Mr. Obama were a real president, rather than a White House crash test dummy, he’d have a toolbox full of real, muscular “appropriate action”. From sending in the Marines or ordering air strikes, through carefully targeted actions against Libya’s economic interests with the help of our allies, to various back-channel forms of diplomatic arm-twisting — a real president, even Bill Clinton, would be able and willing to use some of these tools to take action on behalf of American interests.
But — even assuming that he really does want to act in America’s interests — the president has thrown away all the tools that one would normally expect him to have. No one believes he has the guts to use the military for anything more aggressive than handing out food to flood victims or picking off the odd Somali pirate. He’s J. Alfred Prufrock in the face of anything that involves actual risk.
As for allies, he alienated virtually all of them by disregarding their concerns and snubbing their leaders in hopes of currying favor with thug states like Iran and Venezuela. Now the real crisis has arrived at last, and he has no chits to call in, no leverage to exert. Maybe he can call for another round of stimulus and ship a few bales of Treasury notes to Col. Qaddafi — that’s about it.
So the great and powerful Oz, the Hope and Change Savior of All Mankind, can only wring his hands. He will continue to call for “dialogue”. And a “peaceful transition to democracy”. And “restraint”. And the “empowerment of ordinary Libyans”. And all the other threadbare clichés recycled from Egypt and everywhere else.
But he won’t do anything. He can’t do anything.
He will look serious and important and presidential and issue gravely concerned sound bites while the current crisis continues to unfold. The carnage in Libya and Bahrain and Algeria and everywhere else will reach its ugly dénouement without any real input from the President of the United States.
Waffling is his only option. He’s the Waffler-in-Chief.
Below is a video on the latest from North Africa compiled by Vlad Tepes from Canadian news reports and Stratfor sitreps. Pay special attention to what the American congressional aide says. He’s not a member of the Obama administration, but he might as well be — such is the quality of his waffle-speak:
Hat tip: C. Cantoni.