By George S. Hishmeh – Washington, D.C.
Where is Barack Hussein Obama? Why hasn’t he done anything sooner and tangible to reassure the hundreds of thousands of freedom fighters marching in the Arab streets, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf? The admirable new Arab generation has so far been successful in overthrowing two long-ruling Arab dictators, the first in Tunisia and the second in Egypt within weeks of each other.
And, there is no doubt, that other Arab autocrats will be next in line, most prominently Moammar Qaddafi of Libya, who has been labeled correctly by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “delusional.” More recently, he has been described as “crazy” (by a prominent Arab journalist Jihad Khazen) and even “lunatic” by American journalists. Many others see him as a “murderous” despot following the rumored bloodbaths that the Libyan air force has inflicted on the protestors or revolutionaries – and not “rebels” as the western media has incorrectly described them.
Has the American president been twiddling his thumbs while the Arab World has been gloriously experiencing an unprecedented revolution against these autocrats, often the favorite lackeys of key western leaders, probably because of the oil wealth in the region, estimated as 60 percent of the world’s output.
In fairness, the Obama administration did send humanitarian aid to the besieged non-Libyans who took refuge in the liberated eastern provinces. Many foreign workers were also airlifted from the region to their countries of origin. But ever since the outbreak of the turmoil in the North African region the Obama administration had understandably been too cautious, primarily because of the war-weariness of the American people.
However, when this Arab tidal wave overwhelmed other Arab countries in the region, stretching from Yemen to Bahrain, the Obama administration became regrettably overly hesitant in taking sides. Some of these states, close allies of the U.S., were either monarchies, oil-rich or fighting al-Qaeda, the underground guerrilla group that has plagued U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at a terrible cost in human lives, Americans and Iraqis, as well as financial costs.
To justify his brutal action against the poorly armed resistance groups, the wily Qaddafi thought of banking on American and Israeli fears in the region. In a French television interview he outrageously defended his right to quell the uprising against his regime, where he has been a leader for 41 years, by comparing his action to Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “Even the Israelis in Gaza,” he went on, “when they moved into the Gaza Strip (in 2008-2009) they moved in with tanks to fight such extremists. It is the same thing here.”
At the start of the uprising four weeks ago, the hallucinating Libya leader also claimed that he was fighting al-Qaeda, whose presence in the country is extremely doubtful.
What the Obama administration fails to realize is that no one in the Arab world is begging for American military intervention and there is a good reason for that. In the U.S. intervention in Iraq, thousands, American and Iraqis, were killed in the eight-year-civil war. More importantly, there is also fear that an American intervention may tarnish the image of the popular resistance.
Yet, Obama, unlike other recent American presidents, has a higher standing abroad than any U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, according to Joshua Muravchik,, author of “The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East.” Writing in Bitterlemons-international.org, Muravchik argued that Obama has “a wonderful ability to articulate ideas, and at this time “he should be scourging the dictators and encouraging the people.”
But all Obama did when he spoke by telephone last Tuesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron about the situation in Libya, the two leaders merely “agreed to press forward with planning, including at NATO, on the full spectrum of possible responses, including surveillance , humanitarian assistance, enforcement of the arms embargo, and no fly zone.”
For the record, they also repeated that their common objective must be “an immediate end to brutality and violence; the departure of Qaddafi from power as quickly as possible an a transition that meets the Libyan peoples aspirations for freedom, dignity, and a representative government.”
Well and good, but how long should this take and how many more Libyan lives will be lost and Libyan towns and cities will be wiped out. Both leaders should be aware that time is running out and the sooner they reach this goal the better it is for all the Arabs in the region and the rewards for the two countries may be sky high.
– George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. Contact him at: Hishmehg@aol.com.