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Pathetic

The secretary of state steps up to the plate on Libya—and whiffs.

7:50 PM, Feb 21, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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As Ben Smith reports, “here's a situation pretty much without precedent: The Libyan Ambassador to the U.S. just called on the United States to denounce his country's leaders -- and his employers -- more forcefully.”

"I want the U.S. to tell the world and to work with the countries who love peace...they have to stop this," Ambassador Ali Ojli said, suggesting that he had resigned his post, in an interview with Al Jazeera English.

"I would never ask us to intervene physically in Libya," he said, but called on the Obama Administration to "take a strong position that what's happening in libya must be stopped now…”

The Wall Street Journal has a powerful editorial calling for a strong U.S. response—and not just a rhetorical one. Marc Lynch, writing at Foreign Policy's website, also sees the urgency and gravity of the situation.

And the Obama administration? The president hasn't discussed the situation since calling generally for restraint on Friday. Then this afternoon, Secretary of State Clinton issued a truly pathetic statement:

The world is watching the situation in Libya with alarm.  We join the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been lost, and with their loved ones. The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly.  Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed.  We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government.

No direct condemnation of the Qaddafi regime. No expression of support for the demonstrators. No hint of action on our part—no immediate economic embargo, no threats against any individuals involved in the atrocities, no call for a U.N. Security Council meeting, no sign of possible NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone, no demand that the border be opened for humanitarian aid. Instead, the State Department is trying to "convey a message" to the Libyan government.

This is your State Department at work. Surely there are some in the White House—I think there are some—who are cringing at such an absence of moral clarity on the part of the U.S. government and at such a failure of American leadership. Let's hope they persuade the president to step forward very soon to overrule the State Department, and to put the United States, in both speech and deed, strongly and unequivocally on the side of decency and freedom.

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