After last week’s news of Libyan Dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi’s death, people struggled to find meaning in Colonel’s demise. Besides the question of what comes next, there are really two observations that come forward for Americans. The first is that President Obama has gained serious bona fides in the world of foreign policy during his three years in office. The second observation made by analysts, is that it might be more dangerous to be an American ally in the Middle East than an enemy of our nation.
Obama campaigned on closing Guantanamo Bay, and even announced his order for it to be closed just two months into his presidency. Smacks could be heard around the country as Republicans responded with facepalms. Republicans also labeled Obama’s series of speeches around the world early in his term the “apology tour.” Though he never actually apologized, some things he said could be construed that way, including a comment he made during a speech in France.
“There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive,” Obama said before announcing that America is changing.
But Republicans should lay off. The truth of the matter is that Obama has continued much of President George W. Bush’s foreign policies, as well as keeping several of his staff on board. Guantanamo Bay remains open. Afghanistan is just now recovering from a surge modeled after the one Bush oversaw in Iraq. Osama Bin Laden is dead. And now Qaddafi is dead. And it seems like every month we have a report of some terror plot our law enforcement stopped dead in its tracks.
That list of accomplishments is not too shabby considering what Republicans were predicting on behalf of Obama’s foreign policy.
True, there have been mistakes and Republicans have bones to pick with the president (see the complete troop withdrawal in Iraq set to be complete by the end of the year). Yet with his accomplishments, it seems unlikely Republicans will be able to make a case convincing to the American people. Obama has taken foreign policy off of the 2012 table.
Or has he?
Qaddafi’s death also pushes to the forefront the idea that it might be more dangerous to be an ally of America than an enemy for countries in the Middle East. Qaddafi was an awful dictator, but he was somewhat obedient to the U.S., as shown in his deliverance of all nuclear weapons by 2006 (after he saw what happened to Iraq). Yet when rebels in Libya tried to overthrow his government, the U.S. (via NATO) stepped in to assist with a sophisticated air campaign.
Many analysts said the government and law enforcement response to Syrian protests were more brutal than what we saw in Libya, with over 3,000 dead as of this month. Those dead include unarmed women and children. But we’ve not stepped in there to aid protestors.
And in Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to make efforts to build his nuclear weapons program. According to our state department, he is also engaged in assassination efforts in our own country. He’s called for a world without America and Israel. Truly, the list of Ahmadinejad’s evil practices is lengthy. When Iranians courageously protested the results of a rigged Presidential election proclaiming Ahmadinejad as the winner, many were arrested and killed in response.
Yet no action has come as a result from our country. Not during the protests, as we did in Libya. Not after the assassination attempts in our own country. But watch out, we have threatened tougher sanctions, again.
What is the difference between Libya and Syria versus Iran? Perhaps the more appropriate observation might be that it’s more dangerous to be an enemy (Iraq) or ally (Libya) with oil in the Middle East than anything else.
As Libya files its citizens through to see the corpse of their former dictator, America should also take some time to reflect on what Qaddafi’s death means to us.