Foreign and Defense Policy

At 5:15, Obama Resumes Leadership of Free World (Maybe)

The White House has tweeted out its announcement that at 5:15 p.m. ET President Obama is finally going to speak his mind on Libya lo these many days and many deaths. That’s great, and I hope the president will signal that as leader of the free world, he will be more than what he has heretofore been, an observer of the greatest upheaval in the Arab world in decades. Those eager to excuse this particular president have rushed to explain away the commander in chief’s reticence, rationalizing that he would have spoken out had all the Americans in Libya been evacuated. As I wrote earlier this week, that excuse is just plain lame. While the president certainly could have refrained from personal attacks on Qadhafi or even from announcing that the United States is looking into possible sanctions—both possibly inflammatory —the notion that diplomatic caution precluded him from personally standing and condemning the wholesale massacre of innocent civilians is simply ridiculous. It certainly didn’t stop other leaders.

Finally, let’s note that my—and much other—criticism of the president would not have been so harsh had he stood up courageously and quickly in the face of this season’s earlier revolutions in Tunisia or Egypt. But he didn’t.

Image by Samantha Appleton.

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