Regime Change No Longer A Goal In Libya?

Marc Thiessen takes not of what he believes to be a significant change in rhetoric on the part of President Obama with regard to Libya:

President Obama just delivered an ultimatum to Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi:

Now, once more, Moammar Gaddafi has a choice:  The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajubiyah, Misrata, and Zawiyah, and establish water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya. Let me be clear: These terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences. And the resolution will be enforced through military action.

As Thiessen notes, it was only a few weeks ago that the President was saying that it was time for Gaddafi can go. Now, he appears to be saying that he can stay as long as the attacks on civilians stop. Moreover as both Dave Schuler and James Joyner have noted this morning the U.N. Security Council Resolution authorizing force in Libya has as its stated goal only the protection of the civilian population. Aid to the rebels, or taking sides with the rebels against Gaddafi in circumstances other than those that would be directed at action that clearly violates Resolution 1973.

Thiessan characterizes this as “a huge walkback” for the President. Considering the fact that it makes it likely that Gaddafi will continue in power at least for the time being, that certainly seems to be the case.

 

FILED UNDER: Africa, Barack Obama, Middle East, Politicians, Quick Takes, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    “As Thiessen notes, it was only a few weeks ago that the President was saying that it was time for Gaddafi can go. Now, he appears to be saying that he can stay as long as the attacks on civilians stop”

    Huh? You do realize, don’t you, that there is a difference between saying Gaddafi should go, and that we are going to use force to expel him. Obama, when he made that first statement, was in no way committing the US to use force to take Gaddafi out. Are you trying to tell us that you interpreted the comment that way?

    “Thiessan characterizes this as “a huge walkback” for the President.”

    That is absurd. It is only a walkback if the first statement was a declaration of regime change by force, as US policy. No one believes that, or believed it at the time.

    “Aid to the rebels, or taking sides with the rebels against Gaddafi in circumstances other than those that would be directed at action that clearly violates Resolution 1973.”

    And how do you figure that? The Resolution allows for the use of force for certain reasons , it does not forbid other types of aid for other reasons. Such aid may be outside the scope of the Resolution, but how could you claim that it violates it?

  2. john personna says:

    When the wind was blowing toward a Gaddafi ouster, it made sense to talk that up.

    When conditions change, you say something else. Calling it a “walkback” is kind of silly. You play the cards dealt, new cards, new game.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    It has to be a “walkback” in order to fit with the right wing narrative that Obama is weak, vacillating and also a negro who can’t possibly be doing a white man’s job.

    If Obama single-handedly caused an outbreak of universal world peace the right would denounce him and do whatever it took to find a white person to credit — even Hillary.

  4. TG Chicago says:

    @john personna: By your standards, what could ever constitute a walkback?

    It’s not clear to me why Obama ever made the statement that Qaddafi “must go”.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Chicago:

    “He must go” is not the same as “I’m going to make him go.”

    Why is that complicated?

  6. TG Chicago says:

    I never claimed those two things were equivalent. Sorry if you were confused.

    My question is: what is gained by saying “he must go”?

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Chicago:

    What is gained is making clear to elements within Libya — from Gaddafi family members, to rebels, to tribal chiefs, to their military — that the US would be inclined to be supportive of anyone who happened to dispose of Gaddafi.

    It also sends a message to allies not to do business with Gaddafi, sell him weapons, resupply, etc…

    It sends a message to diplomats and governments that the US has changed policy — that we’d like to see regime change occur — and so they may want to start reassessing where they stand.

    In effect we revoked the conditional support we had shown toward Libya following their decision to drop nuclear research. We were saying, “That nicey nice thing? That’s over now.”

  8. TG Chicago says:

    A message as nuanced as “inclined to be supportive of anyone who happened to dispose of Gaddafi” doesn’t strike me as particularly “clear”. Moreover, the rebels already fighting Gaddafi weren’t waiting for Obama’s OK to take out Gaddafi, and I don’t see how the others would be swayed by such a remark without any accompanying threat of military action.

    All the messages you say are being sent to allies and diplomats by that phrase could easily be sent by other phrases which don’t tend to force our own hands. If we say Gaddafi “must go” and then he doesn’t go, then we either have to make him go or show ourselves to be full of hot air. I don’t think it was wise to paint ourselves into that corner.