Niall Ferguson has a terrific piece in Newsweek on what he considers President Obama’s lack of a strategy in Libya. Ferguson compares Obama to two Shakespeare characters, Hamlet, because of the president’s vacillation, and Macbeth:
“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.” Macbeth’s famous line before he kills Duncan came to mind last week, when President Obama belatedly changed his mind about military intervention in Libya. Like Obama, Macbeth fervently hopes that “this blow might be the be-all and the end-all”:
But in these cases … we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice
To our own lips.
Yes, like the murder of Duncan, intervention in Libya (which, for the record, I fervently supported early on when it appeared that quick and dirty action might be decisive) may have unintended consequences. But then Fergusson raises another issue that is ripe for debate:
Obama, a novice in foreign affairs, is a president without a strategy. Once a critic of American military intervention in the Middle East, once a skeptic about the chances of democratizing the region, he now finds himself with a poisoned chalice in each hand. In one there are the dregs of the last administration’s interventions: military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan that he is eager to wind down. In the other is a freshly poured draft of his own making.
I think that Obama was forced into the Libya intervention. But I don’t think for a second that he lacks a strategy: he wants and is quickly establishing a weak America that acts only at the behest of the international community. This is his policy, and it is the dream of internationalists come true. I believe it will turn out to be a nightmare for the world. America, a force for decency, is now an international bystander.