With lawmakers ratcheting up pressure on Obama to take action in Syria, few in the administration have been paying close attention to Libya, apparently. As Fox News's Jennifer Griffin reported last night on Special Report with Bret Baier, the United States was baffled for days as to who conducted airstrikes in Libya.
At the end of her package, she notes:
Qatar's support for Libya's Islamist factions forced Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to go it alone twice in the past week, carrying out air strikes against Libyan factions, surprising U.S. officials.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary: "We do believe there were airstrikes undertaken in recent days by the UAE and Egypt inside Libya."
It took several days for U.S. intelligence analysts to figure out who carried out the airstrikes in Libya.
This is troubling in several ways:
1). The U.S. is not monitoring the area that closely, and if we are, we're not doing a good job of it. While most people think the government is an omniscient, omnipresent entity that knows our every move, our intelligence capabilities aren't as great as most people probably thought they were.
While we're deploying drones in Syria, as Jennifer Griffin also noted yesterday in a separate report, there "aren't enough to go around" to cover key areas. (Meanwhile, Griffin pointed out that ISIS fighters took over a Syrian military air base on Monday, while Obama has pledged $500 million for Syrian friendly forces in next year's budget.)
2). Perhaps even more disconcerting, Egypt and the UAE, supposedly among our strongest allies in the Middle East, didn't trust us enough to even give us a courteous heads up -- either before or even after the fact -- let alone coordinate with us on any level. They left us completely in the dark.
As the New York Times reported:
The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington or seeking its consent, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied the operation to U.S. diplomats, the officials said.
3). Our allies in the Middle East have no confidence in our ability to lead or to have their backs.
In an article titled "Libya air strikes show UAE willing to 'go it alone,'" the AFP described the feeling of abandonment our allies have:
The air strikes underscored how Washington's old allies are willing to act without backing from the Americans.
Saudi and UAE leaders in particular have expressed concern that Washington can no longer be counted on, citing US diplomatic overtures to Iran and a cautious approach to the Syrian conflict.
"The lesson of Syria still resonates... that you cannot depend on America or the West... America is no longer reliable," says Abdulla.
Wehrey agreed: "The sense in the Gulf is that the Gulf states need to take matters into their own hands."
4). The United States, the world's lone superpower, has removed itself from the world stage via Obama's foreign policy "doctrine," and the rest of the world knows it.
The American Thinker points out that regardless of whether he's prepared, Obama may never get that 2 a.m. phone call:
The fact that they ignored President Obama is an ominous indication that no one is listening to us anymore. The president won't have to worry about that 2:00 AM phone call because fewer and fewer nations are believing that the US is relevant anymore.
The U.S. also played no role in the negotiations Egypt facilitated between Israel and the Palestinians. American officials had to read about the cease fire agreement on Twitter.
5). Leading from behind equals retreat and weakness.
The Associated Press, with a headline of "Egypt, Emirates Airstrikes in Libya Show Impatience With US," explains:
The airstrikes reflect growing international division, with Egypt and the UAE, two of the region’s most powerful, anti-Islamist governments, deciding they needed to act to prevent Libya from becoming a failed state and a breeding ground for jihadist activity throughout the Arab world.
While Egypt and the UAE saw the Islamists' attempt to take over the international airport in Tripoli as a serious threat that should be met with action, the U.S. did nothing, other than close the embassy in Tripoli last month. But what else can we expect though from a Secretary of State who equates being a Massachusetts senator with governing Libya?
Then, after the airstrikes, America, along with Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, put their heads together and came out with a written "condemnation": "We believe outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya's democratic transition." The Islamists were quaking in their boots to be sure.
Egypt and the UAE were unsuccessful and the Islamists captured the Tripoli airport, but if they had trusted the U.S. enough, or if they thought the U.S. would have supported them with actual military assistance instead of a vague 14 words, perhaps the outcome would have been different, and we'd be turning the tide in at least one hot spot.