The Blog

Better Late Than Never

Conservatives should keep pushing the Obama administration to act in Libya.

11:45 AM, Mar 17, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air is understandably exasperated and angered by the Obama administration's "lack of leadership and the vacillation" on Libya, to say nothing of their "weakness and incompetence." I couldn't agree more with his exasperation and anger—and reading team Obama's juvenile excuses and shallow rationalizations for not having acted until now (see, e.g. today's New York Times article) made me not just angry but almost sick this morning.

Better Late Than Never

Having said that, I must respectfully take issue with Morrissey’s notion that "the axiom ‘better late than never’ doesn’t apply in warfare." It sometimes does apply. It was better to act late rather than never in Bosnia in 1995, and for that matter in Iraq (when we should have acted in 1991). It certainly would have been better to have acted sooner in Libya—as many of us have been urging—but in this case the situation still seems fluid, and we shouldn't let up making the case for action, especially since the administration finally seems to be considering serious action.

The fact is, we don't know that it's too late to affect the outcome in Libya. A combination of no-fly and no-drive zones, and a willingness to use force at least to prevent Qaddafi from conquering the Bengazi enclave, could well still make a difference. And as Max Boot explains, getting to a standoff might still lay the groundwork for the defeat of Qaddafi. So we shouldn't excuse the Obama administration from acting today or tomorrow because they should have acted two weeks ago.

The outcome in Libya remains too important for U.S. interests (Qaddafi in power after all this, with all the resources he has, is a nightmare in terms of terror and even weapons of mass destruction), U.S. principles, and the future of the Middle East, for us to give up hope now. Believing the Obama administration might still do the right thing, and do it moderately effectively, may involve the audacity of hope—but better that than the resignation of despair. Because the Obama administration's failure will be America's failure, for which we could pay a price for a long time.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 20 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers