The Obama administration has the chance to claim a much-needed victory in the Middle East, where Libyan rebels were finally able to take control over their capital city of Tripoli.
Even though former Libyan dictator Qaddafi is still thought to be at large, the combined efforts of the NATO coalitions’ air attacks seem to have defeated Qaddafi’s stronghold as well as protected the nation’s civilians.
President Obama hoped to leverage these efforts to form the basic tenets of his military doctrine during his speech at George Washington University on March 28: The United States has the responsibility to intervene when it predicts an oncoming genocide, such as in the Libyan city of Benghazi, but in such cases where the safety of Americans is not at risk, the United States will only act if it is acting in accordance with allies.
The Libyan engagement, in which U.S. air support and intelligence closely collaborated with French, British and Arab forces, was a perfect example of these principles in practice.
This U.S. military victory comes at a time when Obama’s Middle East doctrine is being criticized for over-involvement; at the same time, analysts wonder if this recipe for success can be applied to other tumultuous hotspots such as the conflict in Syria.
But the situation in Syria has many key differences from Libya’s conflict. For one, there is no domestic or international agreement on how exactly to deal with the conflict in Syria; the opposition there doesn’t have any specific territory goals or desired land.
Additionally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has numerous allies in the region such as Hamas and Hezbollah that could prove hostile in the event of a NATO intervention. Finally, there is very little consensus regarding whether or not Syria’s people would actually be better off if Assad was overthrown; the last thing in America’s interests would be if Syria imploded into domestic violence like Iraq did after Saddam Hussein’s arrest.