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As Libya Deteriorates, Obama Doubles Down on Caution


Here’s a reason you probably won’t hear to explain Obama’s reluctance to do anything substantive in Syria: his Libya policy is more and more clearly emerging as a big ugly flop, and it has made him gun-shy.

The International Energy Association is now predicting serious oil supply problems in Libya, where the security situation continues to deteriorate. It also sees knock-on problems from Libya in neighboring countries—so much so that oil production in Algeria and Nigeria is likely to be seriously impacted over the next few years. The FT is running some damning quotes this morning:

“Increased violence by Islamist extremists and militants, against a backdrop of political instability across much of northern and west Africa since the Arab spring, is changing the equation for acceptable risks for international oil companies,” the IEA adds.

The attack on the In Amenas gasfield in Algeria in January has, in particular, prompted international oil companies to review how they operate in Northern Africa. The recent spate of violence in Libya, targeting the oil industry, has further raised the alarm in the industry. “The situation [in Libya] is deteriorating quickly,” says the chief executive of a major oil company with assets in the country.

The cost of the Libya adventure isn’t a subject the MSM has much desire to pursue, but it continues to escalate. This entirely self-inflicted wound has almost certainly increased President Obama’s reluctance to engage in more “wars of choice.” We have no doubt that the President knows exactly what a mess was made there, and the experience has made him double down on caution.

We don’t think prudence is a failing in a President, and Americans would probably be unhappy if they thought we had a cowboy in the White House itching to invade somebody. The mess in Syria, however, continues to be a tough call. But if anything, the situation there is getting worse, and we still think that showing weakness on Syria now invites bigger trouble with Iran not that far down the road.

It looks more and more as if the “humanitarian hawks” in the administration had one chance, and one chance only, to bounce the President into a war; they picked the wrong one, and the price for this mistake is going to be high.

[Frowning Obama photo courtesy Getty Images]

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  • wigwag

    Lets not forget that the Obama Administration was goaded into its Libya policy not just by its humanitarian hawks but by the Europeans. What’s the real lesson here? It’s that listening to anything that Europeans or people who think like Europeans have to say leads inevitably to strategic blunder after strategic blunder.

  • ljgude

    After all the complaining about the Bush administration I continue to be basically gob smacked that Obama somehow managed to repeat Bush’s mistakes with much the same outcome – Islamist instability. I see both as examples of misguided liberal interventionism. Bush invaded Iraq with the old fashioned muscular mid century ideals of FDR and Truman, and the more up to date Obama with the late 20th century politically correct ideals of the humanitarian left. Results have been sub-optimal and that together these two presidents have managed to pretty well totally destabilize the region. On a more personal level I would point out that a friend of mine had been happily working for a US based oil company exploring in southern Libya. He is a good engineer and a good administrator and toward the end he was in charge several hundred workers of various ethnicities not always friendly to each other. He had to deal with knife fights and the like. But once he found he had a strike on his hands. He knew what to do. He called Khadafi and had the Army come down and explain to the workers that there was absolutely no need to strike in a worker’s paradise. The workers, of course, saw the error of their ways very quickly. He also made it out of the country about a week before things got serious and now works in a more stable, if less entertaining, region. All of which perhaps puts all those signs proclaiming “No Blood for Oil” in an new light.

    • rheddles

      I have to confess to a certain skepticism about our ability to either stabilize or destabilize MENA. The natives have been a thorn in our side since the founding of the country. In the two centuries since, not unlike the preceding millenium, they have proven themselves to be capable of little more than mayhem. We give ourselves too much credit when we assign blame for their latest disaster to the current occupant of the White House. Everything has been tried over the last two hundred years yet they remain barbarians. Perhaps its their choice.

      The only solution is to drain their oil fields as rapidly as possible and then convert our cars to CNG. Then they can try to grow food in sand.

  • USNK2

    Why not pay the Egyptian military to secure Libya’s oil fields? win win.

  • jeburke

    It’s worth noting that, according to many reports, the Libya intervention was opposed by then-SecDef Gates, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and his deputy, Dennis McDonough, as well as Vice President Biden. There also were reports of serious reservations among senior military officers and CIS. Pushing for intervention justified by the “responsibility to protect” concept was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama leftist pal Samantha Power. Obama made the decision, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that Clinton was the driving force behind it.

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