Obama's Libya Policy Is a Desert Mirage

How cheered Libya's reeling opposition must feel now that they know that the White House is dispatching Secretary of State Clinton to meet with them during her trip to Tunisia and Egypt to have a post-revolutionary exchange of views.

As they lose ground and are surely being overrun, the freedom-fighters must also be overwhelmed with gratitude that NATO's Action Committee is meeting to exhaust as much time as may be needed to render a "no-fly zone" an exercise in futility.

And as Colonel Gaddafi's forces continue to hammer them, his opponents must be toasting to the generous statements of concern emanating from the White House asserting that all options are on the table to come to their rescue.

After all, we really do care that Gaddafi is killing his people with the aid of other megalomaniac dictatorships... don't we?

Let me venture a prediction. The tide of battle is bloodily turning against those who dared rebel against one of the most repressive regimes on earth.

The protesters who took on Gaddafi now likely face a very painful choice: can they afford to keep fighting and get gunned down by superior forces, or do they retreat and flee over the border into either Tunisia or Egypt, along with potentially other hundreds of thousands of Libyans who have every fear of being caught up in Gaddafi's dragnet of persecution against those who dared challenge his rule.

Anyone who believes that Gaddafi will accord his opponents a verifiable amnesty must be smoking hashish. He has prisons that make Iran's notorious Evin Prison look like a Madoff lockup.

The looming humanitarian crisis and the unforgiving tales of horror and tragedy that will emerge should the tide of battle become irreversible will be the coup de grace to the Obama administration's singular diplomatic inability to figure out a Libya strategy before any strategy was out of date -- a phase that does not do justice to the consequences that will surely follow. While I have argued that America has no core strategic interest in the fate of Libya's internal revolution and that we must not make the mistake of thinking we did, the White House surely could have avoided the public spectacle of dithering and debating over what to do about Gaddafi.

Even if Libya's fate is not a core strategic interest warranting full scale engagement, a compelling moral obligation to oppose tyranny and humanitarian catastrophe opens up a wide range of lesser, but perhaps equally effective policy options.

Once a "no-fly zone" became a very debatable proposition justifiably opposed by the Pentagon, where were we on taking the next best advice I heard so far? A reasonable alternative from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry: crater Gaddafi's runways with a couple of well-placed bombs. Put a NATO insignia on the plane.

Who needs a no-fly zone if his fighter jets cannot take off? What is Gaddafi going to do? Argue to his supporters that America is fighting him? Who cares? It appears no one does except the White House.

Arabs know what this tyrant is all about. Who is the White House afraid of hearing from? Certainly not the Arab League (who have dared ventured to rally against one of their own)! Not the 54 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (which has also come out against Gaddafi). If the Obama administration is tied up in knots that Gaddafi could rally Libyans to oppose American imperialism and an alleged grab for oil, well, then, that is thin gruel indeed. Nothing factual would bear this out. It stretches reason for the White House to assert this as an excuse. How about providing the freedom-fighters some help with their already acquired fire shoulder fired missiles which could take down the rest of Gaddafi's helicopters? Level the fighting field a bit... give the good guys at least a chance. Time's awaitin'!

Where is this White House's Charlie Wilson when Libya's freedom-fighters needed a senior voice capable of getting this administration off the couch? If the French think the Libyan opposition is deserving of legitimacy, why not us?

So, okay, if the White House concludes it does not have a dog in this fight, and then at least construct an adequate response to those who want boots on the ground. It is patently insufficient for Press Secretary Carney to tell the world in one fashion or another that the administration is leaving all options on the table, and that the president's caution is a responsible course.

If that is the case, then let's be clear the unstated policy is to run out the clock on the fight. The realpolitik here is that the White House will wind up restoring ties with the winner in this struggle -- Mr. Gaddafi.

If Gaddafi is likely to prevail, and surely this is what the administration is slowly coming to believe, offer to provide humanitarian help and tell the freedom-fighters that there will be no timely American-orchestrated UN or NATO cavalry rescue. But at least give them a corridor to escape without Libya's highways becoming highways of death.

When lives are on the line, let's be honest with ourselves if we won't be publicly honest with those fighting in the desert. And then let's have a strategy to deal with the consequences of our policy decision. Making a disjointed policy up on the news cycle basis is no substitute for coherent strategy.

What troubles me most about our diplomacy so far is that this administration seems to lack the will power of its own convictions.

If the president is regularly urging Gaddafi to step aside, as he had so many weeks ago, well then, why was it France and not the U.S. that took the first official step to delegitimize the regime and formally recognize the Libyan provisional government?

Why didn't Secretary of State Clinton meet weeks ago with the head of the Libyan provisional council to assess for her and her colleagues in this administration the true nature of the opposition and whether assistance was warranted? Perhaps the White House would have been reassured that the opposition is legitimately deserving of support instead of protesting that the White House cannot provide help since it does not know who the opposition really is?

Why haven't we been more forceful in our efforts to prevent Gaddafi from importing mercenaries to help him turn the tide?

The more that the White House filibusters around the edges, the more it appears as if its Libya policy is one big alibi.

It all seems to add up to empty words and meaningless gestures. Toast that freedom-fighters!