How can we explain the current heartbreaking state of the U.S./NATO campaign against Libya, which seems mired in stalemate? The evidence seems to indicate that the stalemate is a result of a decision by the Obama administration not to topple Ghaddafi’s regime despite the negative effect the inconclusive war is having on Obama’s domestic poll numbers. An American stalemate strategy would explain why the U.S. immediately handed over direction of the war to NATO and ended its briefly effective air support.
Perhaps the White House has either not found a reliable ally among rebel leaders or is not really looking. It seems as if the U.S. is prepared to allow Ghaddafi to defeat the rebellion and/or to remain in power indefinitely.
If Obama, despite his rhetoric, prefers not to remove Ghaddafi, it’s not unlikely that it is because putative Libyan rebel leaders would reflect their country’s public opinion in support of Palestinian national and human rights, including an end to the occupation. Obama’s reluctance to remove Ghaddafi may be due to his disinclination to challenge Israeli interests. The New York Times front-page headline for April 29, 2011 highlighting Egyptian moves to normalize ties with the Iranians and Hamas is an example of the sort of thing the Israelis and undoubtedly the Obama administration do not want to see repeated in Libya.
The current turmoil in the Middle East sheds light on the Israeli boast that it is the only democracy in the Middle East as it reveals its wish to maintain that position. It’s also a reminder that Israeli pressure on the Arab world has helped to sustain dictatorships in many ways, not least by persuading millions of Arabs for decades that national unity trumped democratic rights in the face of the security threat from the lone democracy.