President Obama might not like to gloat about his foreign policy victories, but he deserves recognition for them. The toppling of the Gaddafi regime is a rare triumph for American foreign policy in recent years. Without the leadership of President Obama, the rebels would have been squashed in Benghazi and the country would have remained in the control of Gaddafi for the foreseeable future.
While America has lost thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, not a single American troop was killed during the combat mission in Libya. The result was the removal of one of the world’s longest-running dictatorships and an irritant to its region. Gaddafi will not be missed by anyone.
The Libyan mission has shown what liberal foreign policy looks like. Out are the neo-conservative go-it-alone attitudes. In are coalition-building, limited military air support and willingness to aid those in distress with supplies. The mission won international approval at the United Nations. Other Arab nations even supported the NATO mission.
Aside from having political support from the international community, the United States allowed NATO to take the lead role. Not only were our European allies encouraged to participate, the French were the ones to initiate bombing. Costs were shared between nations as well as responsibility and risks. While the United States spent over $1 trillion between the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the cost of removing Gaddafi is unlikely to pass more than a few billion dollars.
This is a welcome change from the Bush administration when the United States was burdened with nearly everything, from the loss of life to military expenditures. Yet President George W. Bush and administration officials readily took credit for events that he had very little involvement in, such as the thwarting of potential terrorist attacks and “mission accomplished” in Iraq. Eight years later, the country is still in Iraq, although thanks to President Obama, we will have all troops out by the end of this year.
While the fighting is mostly over, Libya now has the potential for a democratic state. The people of Libya will be able to decide their own destiny – without having put a single American troop on the ground. Just as important for the United States, our foreign policy has shifted under President Obama from a neo-conservative rush to war to a liberal coalition-building approach that topples dictators without engaging our military in decade-long war.