When long-time Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s troops began violently tamping down antigovernment protests a few weeks ago, President Obama was called too cautious. When his administration changed its tune last week to join (and lead) the no-fly zone over Libya, he was called too hasty. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, like Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, said Obama should have consulted Congress more in his decision to involve the U.S. military—Kucinich even called Obama’s action an impeachable, unconstitutional offense. Was Obama stuck between a rock and a hard place with a no-win decision to make? Or does his handling of the no-fly zone show a lack of leadership altogether? [See photos of the unrest in Libya.]
The Libyan situation presents some terrible choices, which explain why the White House spent some time ‘dithering’ before announcing a decision. Going in without the support of other nations could have been disastrous—not only because of the monetary cost, but because of the damage it would do internationally to wage yet another war with a Muslim nation. Doing nothing seems cruel to protesters whose uprising is being put down far more brutally than those in other Middle Eastern nations. Not taking the lead could make America look weak, but it also takes the heat off the United States at a time when the nation is trying to repair relations with the Muslim world. And given this nation’s fiscal problems, it’s not unreasonable to ask other nations to step up.
But U.S. News blogger Ron Bonjean disagrees, saying the president is leaving concerned Americans without a strong pilot at the nation’s controls. “There is a feeling in the ether that America is flying blind,” he writes. “America requires a strategic flight plan that will provide a real sense of economic and national security. ... And it didn’t get one regarding the crisis in Libya.”
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