Political Highlights March 20, 2011: US & UN Launch Airstrikes Against Libya Leader Moammar Gaddafi

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

US & UN LAUNCH AIRSTRIKES AGAINST LIBYA LEADER  MOAMMAR GADDAFI

IN FOCUS

The President on Libya
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/18/11

 

 

  • Attacks begin on Libyan air defense sites: An international coalition launched its first strikes on Libya Saturday to destroy the country’s air and missile defense systems and prevent further attacks by the Libyan government on its citizens and rebels in and around the rebel held city of Benghazi, a senior U.S. military official said.
    More than two dozen warships and a large number of war planes from several countries made up the initial strike force, which was led by the U.S. military’s Africa command, the official said, speaking in an embargoed briefing a few hours before the operation began.
    “The key first strikes would be on the coast because that is where the integrated air and missile defense systems,” the official added.
    The first wave included sea-launched U.S. cruise missiles and the deployment of U.S. electronic warfare aircraft. — WaPo, 3-19-11
  • Obama: Gaddafi must comply with U.N. resolution or face military action: President Obama said an international coalition, including the U.S., will take military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi if he does not comply with a U.N. resolution aimed at protecting Libyan civilians. Obama said Gaddafi has been given “ample warning” and laid out a series of actions Libya must take, saying “these terms are not negotiable.” — WaPo, 3-18-11
  • U.N. approves ‘all necessary measures’ to protect Libya’s civilians: On a 10 to 0 vote with five abstentions, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the international community to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya.
    The resolution demands an “immediate cease-fire in Libya, the complete end of violence and all attacks against and abuse of civilians,” and unspecified action to protect “civilians and civilian population areas under threat of attack.” It also establishes a ban on all flights in the airspace of Libya except for humanitarian and evacuation flights. — WaPo, 3-17-11
  • Poll: Public narrowly approves of Obama’s handling of Libya: A poll released Monday shows that a slight plurality of the American public approves of President Obama’s handling of the ongoing civil strife in Libya. Forty-five percent of respondents in CNN/Opinion Research poll said they approve of the president’s handling of the conflict compared to 40 percent who said they disapprove. Fifteen percent said they have no opinion…. – The Hill, 3-14-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • West backs off calls for Libya regime change as Qaddafi warns of ‘long war’: French, US, and British airstrikes have crippled Libyan coastal defenses and air abilities as the largest coalition of military force since the Iraq war enters its second day…. – CS Monitor, 3-20-11
  • With Libya, is ‘Obama doctrine’ on war emerging?: Barack Obama entered the White House responsible for two wars he had inherited. Now, as Iraq winds down and Afghanistan drags on, he finds himself at the outset of possible US combat in Libya.
    As a result, while any “Obama doctrine” regarding the use of US military force has yet to be declared, one seems to be emerging.
    Obama’s actions in this case have been deliberate, indicating a clear hesitance to be out front in yet another war in a Muslim country…. – CS Monitor, 3-19-11
  • Defiant Libyan Leader Vows ‘Long War’ As Coalition Air Strikes Pound Libya: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compound was hit by a missile strike late today,as a barrage of airstrikes by US and European militaries destroyed Libyan defenses, rocked the capitol of Tripoli…. – ABC News, 3-20-11
  • With no-fly zone in Libya now, US-led coalition freer to attack: Missile attacks on Libyan air defenses have freed US jets to attack ground targets. But questions remain, including the use of human shields and the chance that Qaddafi might remain in power…. – CS Monitor, 3-20-11
  • First wave of allied assault: 112 cruise missiles: U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses Saturday and a senior American defense official said it was believed substantial damage was inflicted. In the strikes, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya’s air force. While U.S. defense officials cautioned that it was too early to fully gauge the impact of the onslaught, the official said that given the precision targeting of the Navy’s cruise missiles, they felt that Libya’s air defenses suffered a good deal of damage…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • First wave of allied assault: 112 cruise missiles: U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses, firing 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles Saturday at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya’s air force. In announcing the mission during a visit to Brazil, President Barack Obama said he was reluctant to resort to force but was convinced it was necessary to save the lives of civilians. He reiterated that he would not send American ground troops to Libya.
    “We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said in Brasilia…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Allies launch Libya force as Gadhafi hits rebels: French fighter jets fired the first shots at Moammar Gadhafi’s troops on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat.
    In the hours before the no-fly zone over Libya went into effect, Gadhafi sent warplanes, tanks and troops into Benghazi, the rebel capital and first city to fall to the rebellion that began Feb. 15. Then the government attacks appeared to go silent…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Gadhafi vows ‘long war’ after US, allies strike: A defiant Moammar Gadhafi vowed a “long war” after the U.S. and European militaries blasted his forces with airstrikes and over 100 cruise missiles, hitting air defenses and at least two major air bases early Sunday, shaking the Libyan capital with explosions and anti-aircraft fire. Despite the strikes, Gadhafi’s troops lashed back, bombarding the rebel-held city of Misrata with artillery and tanks on Sunday, the opposition reported…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Paris hosts world leaders in critical Libya talks: Leaders from the Arab world, Africa, the United States and other Western powers are holding urgent talks in Paris Saturday over possible military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Obama to Gadhafi: Stop or face military action: President Barack Obama demanded Friday that Moammar Gadhafi halt all military attacks against civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join in military action against him. Still, Obama also said the United States “is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.”… – AP, 3-18-11
  • Giuliani mocks Obama as foreign policy weakling: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose drive-by approach to campaigning in New Hampshire drove his 2008 presidential campaign into the ground, is setting the stage for a do-over. Giuliani, who says he hasn’t decided whether he’s running again, sounded a lot like a candidate when he spoke at a GOP fundraiser in Manchester on Friday night…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Obama to Gadhafi: Stop or face military action: President Barack Obama demanded Friday that Moammar Gadhafi halt all military attacks on civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him. However, Obama also said the United States “is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.” In a brief appearance at the White House, Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would travel to Paris on Saturday to join allies in discussing next steps in Libya, where Gadhafi has pressed a brutal crackdown against rebels trying to end his 42-year reign…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Amid uncertainty, allies prepare for no-fly zone: The United States, France and Britain told Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi to withdraw his troops from formerly rebel-held areas and halt any attacks on civilians there, as warplanes that could strike this north African country moved into the Mediterranean region.
    President Barack Obama went even further, saying that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Obama endorses military action to stop Gadhafi: After weeks of hesitation and divisions among his advisers, President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed military action against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, saying U.S. values and credibility are at stake to stop “the potential for mass murder” of innocents.
    The U.S. military, which is already stretched thin by two wars and an expanding effort to assist disaster victims in Japan, would take a supporting role, Obama said, with European and Arab partners in the lead. He explicitly ruled out sending American ground forces into the North African nation…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Officials say US readying for no fly Zone in Libya: Congressional officials say the Obama administration is readying plans to participate in a no-fly zone in Libya with the help of Arab countries in anticipation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. These officials said Thursday they expected the effort to enforce a no-fly zone and ground Moammar Gadhafi’s air force could begin within a few days if the UN takes action by day’s end…. – AP, 3-17-11
  • US readying plans to enforce Libya no-fly zone: The Obama administration was readying plans to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya with the help of Arab countries, officials said Thursday as the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize the move. These officials, who spoke after a closed-door briefing in Congress, said they expected the attempt to ground Moammar Gadhafi’s air force could begin by Sunday or Monday. The effort likely would involve jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft…. – AP, 3-17-11
  • Diplomacy Stalls as Libya Rebels Face Pro-Qaddafi Forces: Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi cranked up military and psychological pressure on the rebels on Monday, offering amnesty to those who surrendered their weapons but bombing a strategic linchpin in the east and invading a rebel-held town in the west…. – NYT, 3-15-11
  • US eyes Libyan opposition, allies call for action: Under pressure from allies and growing calls for military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration held its first high-level talks with the Libyan opposition on Monday but remained undecided about exactly how much support to lend a group it still knows little about while turmoil and uncertainty increase across the Arab world…. – AP, 3-14-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Sarah Palin touches down in Israel; set to meet with Prime Minister on Monday: Israel got its first official glimpse of Sarah Palin. The former Vice Presidential candidate arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday as part of her whirlwind trip that many think is meant to bolster her foreign policy credentials leading up to a possible 2012 presidential run.
    She visited India earlier this week. Sporting what appears to be a necklace with the Jewish symbol of a Star of David, the Alaska resident visited the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.
    She also toured Jerusalem’s Old City and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
    “Israel is absolutely beautiful and it is overwhelming to see and touch the cornerstone of our faith and I am so grateful to be here,” the devout Christian told reporters. “I’m very thankful to know that the Israeli and American link will grow in strength as we seek peace along with you.”
    Despite meeting with the country’s leader, she is technically traveling as a private citizen and has been coy about whether she hopes to be traveling as something other than that come 2012.
    “I don’t think there needs to be a rush to get out there as a declared candidate,” she said earlier this week. “It’s a life-changing decision.”… – NY Daily News, 3-20-11
  • Obama takes in Rio with Libya on his mind: President Barack Obama played grand tourist to Rio de Janeiro’s vivid extremes on Sunday, traveling from brilliant beaches to a notorious slum even as he monitored U.S. military strikes in faraway Libya.
    With his whole family in tow on the second day of a Latin American tour meant to knit economic and cultural ties, the president visited the City of God shantytown that gained fame after a movie by the same name won Oscar nominations. At a community center in the heart of the jostling slum of 40,000 the president plunged into the lives of children there, playing soccer with kids and watching enthralled at a dazzling martial arts display. The president shed his coat and tie, rolled up his sleeves and dribbled one-on-one soccer with one surprised boy. Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia got involved, too, kicking a ball around with the kids…. – AP, 3-20-11
  • Obama’s juggle: Libya war and Latin America: As American missiles struck Libya, President Barack Obama doggedly promoted his Latin American agenda Saturday, praising Brazil as a soaring economic force and brimming market for trade. Back home, his message was all but lost in the roar over the Libyan conflict.
    “The United States doesn’t simply recognize Brazil’s rise; we support it enthusiastically,” Obama said from this capital city as he launched a five-day outreach mission that will also take him to Chile and El Salvador. He began in Brazil as a sign of solidary between the two largest democracies and economies in the Americas, and he sought to break through here with his themes of bold cooperation on energy, education and trade…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Obama arrives in Brazil, begins Latin America tour: President Barack Obama has landed in Brasilia, the highland capital of Brazil, for the start of a three-country, five-day tour of Latin America to promote greater economic ties and improved regional security…. – AP, 3-19-11

QUOTES

  • Watch Live: President Obama Speaks on Human Rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The President’s trip to Latin America this weekend focuses on the importance of strengthening our economic partnership with the region to create good jobs at home, as he discussed in his weekly address. This afternoon, President Obama will deliver a speech at Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janiero, Brazil to discuss the deeply held values and interests that bind our countries together — a relationship that is particularly important because of Brazil’s role as a rapidly emerging power on the global stage. – Watch the President’s remarks live at 1:30 PM EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live.
  • John McCain: Obama should have acted faster: Earlier action, the senator said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” would have been more effective in weakening the grip of the controversial leader, who’s deployed his forces against rebelling civilians. “He waited too long, there is no doubt in my mind about it,” McCain said of the president. “But now, it is what it is. And we need, now, to support him and the efforts that our military are going to make. And I regret that it didn’t – we didn’t act much more quickly, and we could have.” “If we had taken these — this step a couple of weeks ago, a no-fly zone would probably have been enough,” he said. “Now, a no-fly zone is not enough. There needs to be other efforts made.” “There’s a lot of things we can do besides just the air power component of it,” McCain said. Politico, 3-20-11
  • Remarks by the President on Libya: “Today We are Part of a Broad Coalition. We are Answering the Calls of a Threatened People. And We are Acting in the Interests of the United States and the World”: Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.
    In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.
    This is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought. Even yesterday, the international community offered Muammar Qaddafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate cease-fire, one that stopped the violence against civilians and the advances of Qaddafi’s forces. But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity. His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.
    I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.
    So we must be clear: Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition.
    As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners. And as I said yesterday, we will not — I repeat — we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground.
    As Commander-in-Chief, I have great confidence in the men and women of our military who will carry out this mission. They carry with them the respect of a grateful nation.
    I’m also proud that we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet their responsibility to protect the people of Libya and uphold the mandate of the international community.
    I’ve acted after consulting with my national security team, and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. And in the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. But make no mistake: Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world. WH. 3-19-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Robert Hunter: Success of Libya air strikes depends on Middle East perception, ISU history professor says: Last weekend’s coalition effort to stop Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi’s clampdown on his opposition will only succeed if the Middle East perceives it as beneficial to government protestors, said Robert Hunter, professor of history. “This means that Obama and the other leaders must not authorize ‘boots on the ground,’ that is, no U.S. or other Western troops in Tripoli or anywhere else,” said Hunter, who has lived in and written extensively about the Middle East.
    Hunter said the operation would not have happened at all without initial support of the Arab League, a group of Middle Eastern countries sharing common diplomatic interests. Originally formed in 1945, the league now consists of 22 countries, including Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
    “Otherwise, this operation might have been perceived as yet another Western imperialist intervention in the Middle East,” he said. “The Arab League, some of whose states are as autocratic as Ghaddafi’s government, supported it because they are all under pressure from their peoples and did [not] want to be seen as out of line with the ‘street’.”
    Hunter said big questions loomed for U.S. involvement in the coalition. “If we degrade Ghaddafi’s military but he is able to hold onto power in the western part of Libya, what then?” he said. “The temptation may be to remove him by use of special forces or strikes… Something like this might change perceptions in the region.” — Indiana Statesman, 3-20-11
  • Kenneth Levin: Self-Reflection and Self-Blame; Israel and Obama: Much has been written about President Obama’s reported statement to a Jewish group earlier this month that Israelis should search their souls concerning the quest for peace. In this offensive comment and related remarks, Obama once more put the onus on Israel for the absence of movement towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while he characterized Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas as eager for a fair deal.
    In fact, Abbas has used the mosques, media and schools under his control to militate against any genuine peace. The message conveyed by all three is that Jews have no historical connection to any part of Palestine, that they are mere usurpers whose presence must be expunged, and that it is the duty of every Palestinian to pursue that goal. In addition, Abbas has personally praised terrorists who have killed Israelis as the ideal all Palestinians should strive to emulate and has explicitly endorsed efforts to delegitimize Israel and its right to exist within any borders.
    But Obama’s hostility to Israel appears impervious to all such realities. Perhaps this should not be surprising, as his jaundiced view of America’s traditional role in world affairs is hardly more responsive to counter-evidence. Thus, he pursues the reining in of American leadership, and the reaching out to those who wish America ill, even as his doing so entails, among other travesties, allowing Muammar Gaddafi to slaughter most of his way back to full control of Libya; promising carrots to Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir despite the continuing genocide in Darfur; and doing nothing meaningful to help the bloodied people of Iran throw off the totalitarian yoke of their nation’s theocracy…. – American Thinker, 3-20-11
  • BENYAMIN KORN: Palin Doctrine Emerges as Arab League Echoes Her Demarche on Libya: The call by the Arab League for Western military intervention in an Arab state — in this case asking that a UN “no-fly zone” be imposed over Libya – is not only without precedent but it puts in formal terms what Governor Palin stated three weeks ago should have been America’s response to the political and humanitarian crisis now unfolding there.
    The former GOP vice presidential candidate was being interviewed on February 23rd on national television by Sean Hannity on a range of issues. On the Libya crisis, she proposed a no-fly zone to protect the armed and un-armed opposition to the Qaddafi regime. Mrs. Palin’s formulation had been blogged about for nearly a week when it was echoed by the man who, before the Iraq war, had led the Iraq democratic movement in exile, Ahmed Chalabi…. – NY Sun, 3-16-11
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