US President Barack Obama is content to let other nations publicly lead the search for solutions to the Libyan conflict, his advisers say, a stance that reflects the more humble tone he has sought to bring to US foreign policy but one that also opens him to criticism that he is a weak leader.
The tactic is anathema to many conservatives and worries some liberal interventionists, who believe that only overt American authority can assemble an effective opposition to brutal authoritarian governments such as that of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Although Obama sees advantages in keeping Washington in the background he has exposed himself to Republican charges that he is absent at a time of crisis.
Since the uprising began, Obama has devoted just one set of public remarks solely to the situation in Libya. European nations have taken the lead in drafting a no-fly zone resolution, and Obama has yet to say whether he favours one. He followed France in calling for Gaddafi’s ouster.
At a Wednesday meeting of Obama’s senior national security officials, little support emerged for the immediate imposition of a no-fly zone, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.
Obama’s caution has been dictated in part by the challenge in dealing with one of the world’s most hermetic countries and the fluid situation on the ground.
Obama inherited a pair of wars in Muslim countries, and his advisers argue that direct US involvement in a third would do more harm than good to Libya’s popular uprising.
But Elliott Abrams former National Security Council director said, “I think they are being too timid here. And they are running the risk that there will be a bloodbath tomorrow and, by then, it will be too late for them to help the opposition.”
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