Posted By lex, on March 28th, 2011
Nine days after the TLAMS started flying in the Med, our president will address a puzzled nation about means and ends in Libya. Writing in the New York Times, Ross Douthat says that it could be an interesting conversation:
While we’ve been making war on Qaddafi’s tin-pot regime, our enemies in Syria have been shooting protesters, our allies in Saudi Arabia have been crushing dissidents, Yemen’s government is teetering, there’s been an upsurge of violence in Israel, and the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be moving smoothly into an alliance with the Egyptian military. Oh, and we’re still occupying Iraq and fighting a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and trying to contain Iran.
Last week, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg rank-ordered Mideast trouble spots that “demand more American attention than Libya.” He came up with six: Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen’s Qaeda havens, post-Mubarak Egypt and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
One can quibble with Goldberg’s ordering but not his broader point. While we intervene in Libya, what is our Egypt policy? Our Yemen policy? Our Syria policy? With the entire Middle East in turmoil, does it make sense that Washington is focused so intently on who controls the highway between Ajdabiya and Surt?
It’s clear that not everyone in this White House thinks so. Defending the intervention on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Robert Gates let slip that he believes that Libya is not a “vital interest” of the United States.
President Obama’s most pressing task tonight will be to explain why his secretary of defense is wrong — and why, appearances to the contrary, the potential payoff from our Libyan war more than justifies the risks.
Might be worth actually dialing in.