Is Syria next on Obama’s intervention list? New York Times reporters Helene Cooper and Steven Lee Myers speculate in Monday’s “U.S. Tactics in Libya May Be a Model for Other Efforts.”
The text box works in a typical crack at Bush administration foreign policy: “Using force when justified but not going it alone.” The implication, common in the pages of the Times, is that Bush somehow went it alone in the invasion of Iraq. For the record, the United States actually led a 30-nation coalition in Iraq (35 countries joined the fight in Afghanistan).
The Times’s coverage of Obama’s bombing of pro-government forces in Libya in support of the "rebels" has been muted if not sympathetic, even blaming “compassion fatigue” for America’s low support for the intervention. Cooper and Myers themselves made no mention Monday of Obama’s failure to ask Congress to authorize the war under the War Powers Act, or the prospect of a man who campaigned for president on an anti-war platform going to war.
It would be premature to call the war in Libya a complete success for United States interests. But the arrival of victorious rebels on the shores of Tripoli last week gave President Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.
Administration officials say that even though the NATO intervention in Libya, emphasizing airstrikes to protect civilians, cannot be applied uniformly in other hotspots like Syria, the conflict may, in some important ways, become a model for how the United States wields force in other countries where its interests are threatened.
And so, with Libya, the United States used its might -- providing crucial cruise missiles, aircraft, bombs, intelligence and even military personnel -- but it did so as part of the larger NATO coalition, led by the French and the British and including Arab nations.
And it did so only after a United Nations Security Council resolution authorized the kind of multilateral approach that had been viewed with disdain by Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.
In fact, American officials argued, the Libya strategy worked in large part because it was perceived as an international effort against a brutal dictator and “not a U.S. go-it-alone approach,” as one senior administration official put it.
So, is Syria next for the suddenly war-mongering president? The Times reporters certainly didn’t seem too horrified by the prospect, strangely accepting of the possibility that the anti-war Obama might apply the Libyan invasion template to Syria:
But the very fact that the administration has joined with the same allies that it banded with on Libya to call for Mr. Assad to go and to impose penalties on his regime could take the United States one step closer to applying the Libya model toward Syria. While military intervention in Syria is highly unlikely, administration officials say that the coordinated approach to calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster and imposing financial penalties on the Syrian government show that they are already applying the Obama doctrine there.
And things could always escalate. “There’s no appetite to engage in military action in Syria,” Mr. Malley of the International Crisis Group said. But, he added, “If 30,000 people were killed there, that would be a different story.”
By contrast, columnist Maureen Dowd had to be revived after learning from Cheney's autobiography that the vice president (or as she affectionately calls him, “Darth Vader,”) wanted to strike a nuclear reactor in Syria. Dowd also said with class: “Having lost the power to heedlessly bomb the world, Cheney has turned his attention to heedlessly bombing old colleagues.”