Saturday, February 26, 2011

Obama And Libya: The President Is Waiting And Doing Nothing. Why? | The New Republic

More from TNR to set beside our Creating Peace SOC... from Leon Wieseltier.

Obama And Libya: The President Is Waiting And Doing Nothing. Why? | The New Republic

Why is Obama so disinclined to use the power at his disposal? His diffidence about humanitarian emergencies is one of the most mystifying features of his presidency, and one of its salient characteristics. These crises—in Tehran two years ago, in Cairo last month, in Tripoli now—produce in him a lame sort of lawyerliness. He lists the relevant rights and principles and then turns to procedural questions, like those consultations. The official alibi for Obama’s patience with Qaddafi’s atrocity is his concern for the Americans who are still stranded within Qaddafi’s reach; I was amused to learn from a friend that the spin out of the White House includes the suggestion that Obama’s restraint is actually the wisdom of the hostage negotiator. But Obama’s statement about Libya suggests another explanation for his slow pace. This was its climax: “So let me be clear. The change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspirations of people who are seeking a better life.”
The idea that assistance does not compromise the autonomy of the assisted is in fact one of the central beliefs of liberalism. We invoke it in our social policies all the time. We help people to help themselves. And that is all that is being asked of us by these liberalizing revolutions; no less, but no more. We disappointed Tehran. We disappointed Cairo. Now we are disappointing Tripoli. It is so foolish, and so sad, and so indecent.

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