There is good news for internationalists in the recent coalition attacks on Libya. The assault, led by France, with vigorous support from Britain and sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, provides an example of the muscular application of the principle of collective security upon which the United Nations was founded.
If only the international community had mustered the same tenacity in Rwanda in 1995 or in the Sudan in this decade, then perhaps millions of innocent Africans would be alive today.
The news is not quite as good for the projection of American power. There is no doubt that Barack Obama’s hesitancy and lack of resolve in defending those struggling for freedom will be noted – by America’s foes and allies alike. By adopting a multilateral approach to addressing a threat to national security, he has begun the outsourcing of American foreign policy.
And in case there are doubts, a Ghaddafi victory does represent a threat to national security. It offers challenges to the supply of U.S. oil; it threatens the war on terror and it presages a cycle of revenge which was exemplified 25 years ago with the downing of U.S. Air 109 over Lockerbie in Scotland.
We will learn soon enough what the outsourcing of American policy will mean for the United States’ standing in the world. The continuing failure of the same policy of multilateralism in its attempt to prevent Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons has only increased that country’s determination to pursue policies inimical to U.S.national security. No one should count on the Libyan excursion acting as a precursor to an invasion of Iran. There is no comparison in terms of international consensus.
Rather, the decision of the Obama Administration to follow rather than lead will send a message to the mullahs that they indeed have very little to fear at all from a United States whose own penchant for collective action and consistent dithering will compromise any serious efforts to permanently strangle the Iranian menace.