President Obama did not hang “Mission Accomplished” over Libya although he has more right to than Bush on the bridge of an aircraft carrier after
his disastrous adventure in Iraq where there was no mission in the first place, and if there had been, it is still not accomplished. After horrible loss of life and treasure, the U.S. is still stuck in that sorry backwater.
In Libya, a revolution has been won and a monstrous dictator is dead. The tough job of building a nation lies ahead, but the Libyan people can build it with pride and after their own victory, unlike the shamed defeated Iraqis, who have an occupying army still on their backs, and a population split between Sunni losers and vengeful Shiiites, both murderously resentful of the U.S., whom they believe had come to plunder their oil, proved by the fact that two oil men, Bush and Cheney, had led the invasion.
Libya had no American boots on the ground and not one American life was lost there. When an American F-15 had mechanical trouble, its crew forced to eject near Benghazi, they were greeted with, “We are your friends!” and given fruit juice. The most trouble NBC reporter Richard Engle reports is being able to pay for his own coffee, since every Libyan in earshot tries to pick up his tab. Americans in Iraq face hostility to this day.
Accustomed to leaders who flaunt and posture, many are puzzled by Obama’s cool. Yet he has achieved the deaths of Muammar Qaddafi, Osama bin Laden, and the murderous cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen, and relentlessly pursues Al Qaeda in the lawless border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Balancing power and diplomacy, he shows how trust brings actionable intelligence, with results vastly superior to the “shock and awe” of George W.
Bush, and its legacy of hate.
The road ahead in Libya will be long, and no one believes it will be easy, but Libyans can travel it confidently and on their own. The U.S.A. will be on the sidelines, a trusted mediator, and one day American business will be welcome there.
Future historians evaluating America’s greatest war presidents, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt, will inevitably add Barack Obama.