It is way too early to predict how events will turn out in Libya; it may well be years before we can assess the results of actions that are taken (or not taken) today. But Obama administration officials are already working behind the scenes to spin events, mostly to explain the about-face that occurred a day or two ago. The Clinton camp was the main source for this account in the New York Times, titled “Obama Takes Hard Line With Libya After Shift by Clinton.” Their purpose is to give Hillary credit for the decision to support action, finally, against Qaddafi:
In a Paris hotel room on Monday night, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton found herself juggling the inconsistencies of American foreign policy in a turbulent Middle East.
“Inconsistencies” is putting it gently.
Only the day before, Mrs. Clinton — along with her boss, President Obama — was a skeptic on whether the United States should take military action in Libya. But that night, with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces turning back the rebellion that threatened his rule, Mrs. Clinton changed course, forming an unlikely alliance with a handful of top administration aides who had been arguing for intervention.
Within hours, Mrs. Clinton and the aides had convinced Mr. Obama that the United States had to act….
So Hillary gets the credit if things go well. But the Times also heard from a representative of the President, who tried to explain that there was logic behind Obama’s 11th-hour reversal of policy:
The administration’s shift also became possible only after the United States won not just the support of Arab countries but their active participation in military operations against one of their own.
“Hillary and Susan Rice were key parts of this story because Hillary got the Arab buy-in and Susan worked the U.N. to get a 10-to-5 vote, which is no easy thing,” said Brian Katulis, a national security expert with the Center for American Progress, a liberal group with close ties to the administration. This “puts the United States in a much stronger position because they’ve got the international support that makes this more like the 1991 gulf war than the 2003 Iraq war.”
Actually, of course, the Bush administration had broad international support for the Iraq war in 2003. One difference between the Iraq war and the present actions against Libya is that President Bush had explicit Congressional authorization for military action in 2003, whereas President Obama did not seek any Congressional authorization or support for whatever actions may take place in connection with Libya.
Victory has many fathers. If events in Libya turn out well, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others will share the credit. If they don’t, expect a furious leak war between the Clinton and Obama factions.