Thursday, March 24, 2011

Libya: Obama's fall from Nobel winner to war monger

It probably wasn't what the Nobel committee had in mind when it awarded the Peace Prize to President Barack Obama two years ago.

Two months later he ramped up the war in Afghanistan, sending in 30,000 extra US troops.

Now he has ordered massive air strikes on Libya - with United Nations backing, but still with the United States in the lead.

Judged by his actions, this supposedly anti-war president looks almost as warlike as President George W Bush. If you include Mr Obama's increased use of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, he's got the US involved in more conflicts than his much-criticised predecessor.
Judged by Mr Obama's words though, he is in plenty of internal conflict over his decisions.
Far from beating the drums of war, he keeps highlighting the risks and promising US action on Libya will last "days not weeks". Take a glance at the opinion polls and you can see why. Less than a week since the first cruise missiles were launched, the clock is already ticking on how long Americans will back him.
Many Americans are bewildered that Mr Obama of all people has got them into another war - one they fear could turn into a costly Iraq-style quagmire at a time when they are being asked to tighten their belts.
When some Democratic senators held a telephone news conference to show support for the president, they were peppered with sceptical questions about how long it will last, how much will it cost and why? Does the action in Libya pass the "mother test", one reporter asked? In other words, can the Obama administration justify putting American lives on the line for a mission some in Congress are already saying is not clearly defined?

Leading that charge is the Republican House Speaker John Boehner, but rumblings of discontent are being heard from the Democratic side too.
The White House insists the mission is clear - that if it had not acted against Col Muammar Gaddafi, it would have meant a Rwanda-style genocide against the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and a humanitarian crisis destablising North Africa.
If the Libyan leader is toppled relatively quickly, Mr Obama will look good - and silence those critics who have accused him of lacking courage.
But such is the wary mood, it is unlikely Americans will stomach many US casualties - as they did with Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what does the Nobel peace prize committee think about its 2009 winner now? There has been no reply so far to an e-mail seeking comment.

Andrew North in BBC News Washington. More Here.

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