By J SWYGART
A qualifier is probably in order before we get too far into today’s column: I detest war. In almost every instance. Maybe that’s because U.S. military intervention — call it occupation, liberation, freedom-fighting, or whatever — has a fairly poor track record of success during my lifetime.
But, that being said, the international community in general, and the United States in particular, made the absolutely correct move late last week in imposing a no-fly zone and launching missile strikes against the armed forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
My primary criticism of the international coalition’ action is that it was too long in coming; air strikes two weeks earlier would have gone a long way toward supporting the courageous efforts of Libya’s civilian pro-democracy movement.
But apparently not everyone, it seems, sees it that way.
Instead of directing their anger and frustrations at Gadhafi, many U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle — regrettably, but not surprisingly — have targeted President Barack Obama as the object of their collective wrath.
Republican Senator John McCain, who just two weeks ago voiced support for international intervention in Libya, is now publicly questioning the president’s support of the military action.
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said the Obama administration lacks a clear understanding of rebel forces trying to oust Gadhafi, who has ruled for 42 years.
‘‘We began a military action at the same time that we don’t have a clear diplomatic policy, or a clear foreign policy when it comes to what’s going on in Libya,’’ said Webb.
And then there’s our own Sen. Dick Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who continues to show that his long history of reasoned and rational foreign policy expertise can easily be put aside, if necessary, to appease the Tea Party base that is leading the call for his ouster as Indiana’s senior senator.
Lugar has called for “full congressional debate on the objectives and costs” of President Obama’s military actions in Libya, “and a declaration of war” to proceed.
“Congress has been squabbling for months over a budget to run the federal government for a fiscal year that is almost half over,” Lugar said. “We argue over where to cut $100,000 million here and there from programs many people like. So here comes an open-ended military action with no-end game envisioned.”
Shame on Dick Lugar. He, more than most, should understand the potential significance of the international community’s limited military intervention in Libya. But his sudden priority on reducing spending and smaller government should make the Tea Partiers happy. And we all know that the only game that counts in Washington is getting re-elected.
Among the other criticisms being launched at Obama is the president’s reluctance, to date, to fully articulate the coalition’s next move and longer range objectives. Which strikes us as a little ironic.
In the early days of the invasion of Iraq, GOP military hawks would have likened such public disclosure as aiding and abetting the enemy, and would have labeled as treasonous those who even dared ask such questions in the first place.
So Obama — as has been the case almost since Day One of his presidency — is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. But the constant criticism of the president nonetheless is getting old.
Libyan freedom fighters have demonstrated to the world the courage of their convictions, and the international coalition — to its credit — has come through in their support.
Should the U.S. become embroiled in a long and arduous ground war in Libya? Absolutely not.
But neither should Obama be condemned for this country’s support of a viable and necessary mission — an attempt to bring stability to a portion of the world that has not seen it in decades.