Does the U.S. policy on Libya signal a shift in foreign policy implementation?

The U..S choice to support U.N. air strikes while clearly reiterating international goals in Libya may signal an end of U.S. bullying and unilateral action. Photo: Associated Press

FLORIDA, March 29, 2011 — Recent statements by Secretary of State Clinton on Libya suggest the US may be taking a more measured, pragmatic approach to implementing US objectives internationally while avoiding prolonged conflict.

In London for an international conference on Libya, Secretary of State Clinton stated that the US will support UN air strikes in Libya until Colonel Ghadafi complies with UN resolution 1973 to wit “ceases his attacks on civilians, pulls his troops back from places they have forcibly entered, and allows key services and humanitarian assistance to reach Libyans.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodam Clinton listens to a question during a news conference after the Libya Conference at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London Tuesday March 29, 2011 (Photo: Associated Press)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodam Clinton listens to a question during a news conference after the Libya Conference at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London Tuesday March 29, 2011 (Photo: Associated Press)

Secretary Clinton also called on the international community to increase financial, diplomatic, and political pressure on the Libyan government to comply. Calling the situation “evolving and dynamic,” Clinton says it leaves the door open for additional statements or actions.

However, the  US has failed to call for Ghadafi to leave office or openly supported opposition to his rule. Noting that Ghadaffi has lost all legitimacy to rule, neither Clinton or Obama has given him or his government an ultimatum. 

The US has met with opposition members, stopping short of recognizing or endorsing the Transitional National Council (TNC), the likely successor should Ghadafi lose power or step down.  While Secretary Clinton has met with the TNC, US officials say they are continuing to gather information before making any final decisions.

The US has departed from previous policy by showing a willingness to act within the international forum without dictating the discussion.  Although it is taking a lead role, it seems far more inclined to listen to other international actors rather than insisting on a US position.   Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton are avoiding unilateral decisions, continually emphasizing that the Libyan actions are under the UN auspices

In many ways, both Ghadafi and Libya remain an enigma to most Americans.  On the one hand, Ghadafi appears to be a violent megalomaniac who admitted responsibility for bombing Lockerbie.  On the other hand, his 2001 interview with 60 minutes showed his intellect and charm.  Ghadafi ordered attacks on his own people, yet he is the ultimate Libyan nationalist. 

In a profile of Ghadafi in Foreign Policy magazine, Dr. Jerrold M. Post, professor of psychiatry, political psychology, and international affairs and director of the political psychology program at George Washington University, noted that Ghadafi believes he is Libya and Libya is Ghadafi.  Dr. Post notes that while he may appear erratic, Ghadafi is “usually rational” but is “prone to delusional thinking when under pressure.” 

Dr. Post further stated that Ghadafi sees himself as the ultimate outsider, the Muslim warrior fighting impossible odds, “…prepared to go down in flames.” 

Libya, too, is difficult for Americans to understand.  Most Americans think of it as a very poor country of nomadic peoples.  Many Americans do not know, for example, that during Italian occupation (1910-1947) one in eight Libyans was killed. 

Most also don’t know that Libyans have one of the highest “life satisfaction” ratings in the world, that it has the highest standard of living in Africa, free healthcare, free housing, free education, clean water, very low infant mortality or that Libya has a high literacy rate. 

Moreover, unlike most oil-wealthy countries, Libya distributes oil profit money fairly evenly, avoiding high disparities in wealth.

While critics almost certainly will decry the US implementation strategy as weak, the move from costly and ineffective bullying to balanced international participation is actually a savvy way to demonstrate US concerns without the enormous expense and human cost of a ground intervention.

More importantly, the new US approach may foreshadow a change in how the US implements foreign policy, stepping away from knee-jerk reaction toward calculated implementation of US policies without unacceptable cost. 

At a minimum, it seems to offer an option for participating in the world community and supporting US values internationally while avoiding a quagmire in Libya.

Read more by Lisa at Life with Lisa at The Washington Times Communities.

Lisa has an undergraduate degree in International Relations from George Mason University and a graduate degree in Foreign Affairs from The University of Virginia.  She spent 11 years as an analyst with the federal government.  She is part owner of a research and analysis company, C2 Research, LLC, which specializes in complex research and analysis.  Lisa is also a freelance writer, contributing to Donne Tempo Magazine. 


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

Lisa joined CDN as a journalist in 2009 and writes extensively on intelligence, world affairs, and breaking news. She also provides investigative reporting and news analysis. Lisa continues to write both for her own columns and as a guest writer on a wide variety of subjects, and is now Executive Editor for CDN and edits the Global, Family and Health sections.  She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax and other publications.

Contact Lisa M. Ruth


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