From U.S. to NATO: a name change game in Libya
Xinhua, March 28, 2011
NATO member states decided on Sunday to take over full command of the military operations against Libya from the United States, a move many believe does not change the dominant role of the United States since NATO is a U.S.-led military alliance.
The attitude change of the United States, rare in its diplomatic and military history, is only a name change game designed to ease its increasing pressure domestically and internationally.
Before the military strikes on Libya, U.S. President Barack Obama hesitated over whether to resort to force in Libya amid different voices in his administration, foreshadowing a possible handover of command.
On the external front, Obama feared to repeat the U.S. unilateral failure in Iraq, so “the Obama Administration made clear form the start that it was not enthusiastic about military action and would support it only if it were requested by the Libyan opposition and the Arab League – and with Europe doing much of the heavy lifting,” wrote Fareed Zakaria, a renowned commentator and columnist of the Time magazine.
On the domestic front, Obama, who is about to start his re-election campaign, has his own political concerns. Years ago when the Bush administration pressed ahead a bill on the use of force upon Iraq in the Congress, Obama was among a few U.S. congressmen who voted against it. That became one of his most important “political assets” when he ran for president in 2008.
However, if Washington actively directed and participated in the military action against Libya, Obama might be regarded as a pro-war president. As Obama has vowed to win his re-election, he has to be cautious.
AN AWKWARD PREDICAMENT
For Obama, starting the war was not an easy decision. But he probably had expected that even with the support of Arab countries and mandate of a UN resolution, the military operations could have sparked so many questions and harsh criticisms from home and abroad.
“The president seems to have angered almost every major group: He’s either done too much or too little or he’s done it too slowly,” said James Lindsay, a former official in the Clinton White House who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Some early advocates of military intervention said Obama may have waited too long to help the opposition in Libya. However, a contingent of liberal Democrats, normally allied with the president, condemned the use of military force. Some congressmen said Obama had failed to consult Congress before launching military actions, Los Angeles Times reported.
Meanwhile, many countries said they opposed West-led operations against Libya in the name of enforcing the UN resolution, calling on countries involved to hand power back to the Libyan people.
Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, who used to support the creation of a no-fly zone, said the military operation has overstepped the UN resolution.
Under these circumstances, Obama’s decision to transfer command to NATO was to shift domestic attention and shake off his political predicament, media reported.
LEADER POSITION TO CONTINUE
Although the United States is handing over command of the military intervention against Libya to NATO, its influence and leadership will likely continue. Analysts said since NATO is a U.S.-led military alliance, the United States would maintain its leadership position in military operations against Libya even after it hands command off to NATO.
Brian Becker, national director of the ANSWER coalition, an anti-war umbrella group, said during its protest outside the White House Saturday that transferring command to NATO is merely self-deception.
“That’s a fraud,” said Becker. “When the U.S. hands the mission to NATO, it’s handing the mission over to itself.” He said NATO has been a U.S.-led military bloc since it was formed.
The U.S.’s intention is only camouflaged by its effort to shift command to NATO. On Thursday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN the alliance would take over the command of enforcing the no-fly zone “in a couple of days” from the United States, and NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, would assume overall command of the mission.
Stavridis is a United States Navy four-star admiral who also serves as the current commander of U.S. European Command.
Handing over command to another party doesn’t change the nature of U.S.’s role in the joint military intervention against Libya, Gao Zugui, director of the Institute of World Politics of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations said.
“Because even if it does hand over the command, it will still back the military operations. U.S. cruise missiles, submarines, destroyers and aircraft carriers will continue to provide military support,” he added.