The Washington Post reports today that "The United States and its European allies are considering the use of naval assets to deliver humanitarian aid to Libya and to block arms shipments to the government of Moammar Gaddafi..."
Of course, a good way to aid the Libyan people would be to work somehow toward ending Muammar Qaddafi's attacks on his own people. Perhaps the idea getting most traction for this would be for America and its allies to implement a no-fly zone over Libya. But the Obama administration does not seem at all interested.
Obama "doesn’t want to fall into a Libya trap," a report in Politico today explains. It goes on, citing an unnamed Obama administration official as saying, “History has shown that when you rush into these things, you get it wrong. We’re not going to rush no matter what anyone says.” The reporter, without attribution, continues: "For all his caution, Obama’s attitude could instantly change if clear evidence emerges that Qadhafi is massacring his own civilians."
But there is "clear evidence that Qadhafi is massacring his own civilians." Why else would British prime minister David Cameron have demanded "an immediate end to the violence and the killing of protesters" in Libya? And there are numerous press reports detailing this.
So while it's not clear what historical precedent the Obama administration might have been referring to, it is pretty clear that they are doing their best to buy time -- and not do anything.
Another excuse the Obama administration has been able to muster for not aiding the rebels in Libya? Well, according to State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley, "It would be illegal for the United States" to provide military assistance to the rebels. Citing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, he said, "It's not a legal option."
Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman have issued an important statement, refuting Crowley's comments:
“Earlier today, the spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State said that, because of the arms embargo imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1970, it would be ‘illegal’ for the United States or any other country to provide military assistance to the opposition forces fighting for their survival against a brutal dictatorship in Libya. In fact, the text of the UN resolution does not impose an arms embargo on ‘Libya,’ but rather on the ‘Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,’ which is the self-proclaimed name of Qaddafi’s regime. We believe this language should be construed narrowly in order to hold open the possibility of providing military aid to the opposition, which presumably does not consider itself part of the ‘Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.’”
“The President has consistently and correctly said that ‘all options are on the table’ in Libya. If the State Department's statement today is correct, however, it means one of the most effective options to help the Libyan people has been taken off the table. We urge the Administration to clarify its position on this important issue.”
The senators are being overly gracious to the president. After all, when even the New York Times editorial board expresses concern that America is "weakening...credibility," as they say today in an editorial urging the Obama administration to do something to prevent Qaddafi from reclaiming his full power, it's time to act. Watching people as they are indiscriminately murdered in the Libyan streets is not just an inappropriate response, it's the wrong thing to do.