Obama's 'Detached Ivy League Approach' to Libya
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 25, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: So, if you want to know what a war conducted from the ivory tower of the Ivy League looks like, check out the kinetic military operation taking place in Libya. Now, it took the president 31 days of hand-wringing to cobble together a U.N. authorizing the use of force against Muammar Qaddafi.
Now unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if that resolution is worth the price of paper it was printed on because there is little agreement among the allied forces about who should lead this operation. Now, Britain said NATO, France wanted to take the reins itself and Germany -- they oppose both options. I guess that's the sort of international harmony that "The Anointed One" has been seeking.
Now meanwhile, the president can't even keep his own house in order. Administration officials from top to bottom have made contradicting statements about the goal of this mission. But, hey, maybe the international community can help us sort all of that out.
And joining me now with reaction, Fox News contributor, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Charles, welcome back to the program. Thank you for being with us.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It's a pleasure to be here with you, Sean.
HANNITY: All right. So, your headline -- well, at least -- I guess it's different headlines around the country, "Obama and Libya, the professor's war." And what you claim is, it was designed by an Ivy League professor.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it has all the classic imprints of sort of what a liberal intellectual would think war ought to be about. And it's constructed in that way.
If you look, as you said, all the contradictions in explanations from the White House about rationale and objective. I think you can understand it if you think about it in this way -- which is, it is a triumph of structure over strategy. Obama is obsessed with making this look what he would call legitimate in the eyes of the world. Although, why we really care what they think about -- what the butchers in Tiananmen Square think about preventing a butchering in Benghazi, I don't know. But apparently, it matters a lot to have the U.N. Security Council with their Russians and other autocrats on board.
But, what they are worried about -- what the administration cares about is to get all these authorizations the African Union, the Arab League, Security Council. And now, once we're in the war, Obama is equally obsessed with the idea of relinquishing American command. He actually said on television last night in an interview that our exit strategy begins this week. What he means is I'm getting America into war but I'm getting it out within a week. But what he means is we are getting out by relinquishing command.
And that's the worst possible way to do it. You want unity of command and it ought to come from the leading power, that's us. Up until now, that's how the operation has run. And on the ground, it's been effective.
Right now, the idea is to shift it over to NATO, 28 countries have to go by consensus, which means any member can have a veto and run a war in that way. It can't be done. It's a terrible way to do it.
HANNITY: You know, I want to go back to the idea that you're talking about that he wants to relinquish command, get out of there as quickly as possible.
But there's another aspect to this. He doesn't seem to care about winning. It's the only explanation I can think of, Charles, why they keep shifting, you know, Qaddafi has to go, has to go. Well, maybe not. Maybe he doesn't have to go. Maybe we'll nation build here. We'll create a democracy. Well, then, maybe not.
Winning, isn't that -- if you are going to be engaged in a military effort, shouldn't that be the main goal?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, that's why I think it's about structure and appearances. And that is paramount. That's why such a detached Ivy League approach.
Look, what the administration has said is the U.S. objective is that Qaddafi has to go. And that's the logical objective because as long as he's in power you're going to have a threat to the population. You're going to have a divided country. You're going to have an ongoing civil war.
What are we going to do, stay around for 12 years protecting the population as we did over Iraq after the first Gulf War? So, that is the reasonable objective.
The problem is this, because he wanted the cover of so-called international legitimacy, he had to get a U.N. resolution and that was watered down. That only authorizes protection of the population. It's not about ejecting or destroying the Qaddafi regime.
So, he is now constrained by what the U.N. allows him to do, even though it's in our national interest to go ahead and to try to get rid of Qaddafi one way or the other.
HANNITY: But you talk about international legitimacy to a humanitarian crisis which provoked the U.N. action and -- which, by the way, was way -- you know, two weeks way too late because the rebels had Tripoli surrounded at one point. And he wants world approval. But the approval he's getting from countries that have the same abysmal humanitarian record, China is one that you mentioned, and I would argue Russia. And we can go, you know, down the list of countries that probably could use our assistance based on that definition.
So, you know, why involve ourselves only here?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, look, the weakest of all the links is Turkey, which is, of course, a member of NATO and which will therefore, have a veto over all operational decisions. For example, can airplane over a city of Misrata protecting the population shoot at a tank that's immobile, only a tank that's on the move, only a tank that's in the process of attacking? All of those issues will have to go to NATO.
Turkey has a veto. The prime minister of Turkey on December 1st of last year accepted from Qaddafi the Qaddafi International Human Rights Prize. That tells you a lot about the prime minister of Turkey, a country that is reluctantly entering into this operation.
So, what it does is it creates incoherence on the part of the alliance and that can only hinder the allied war effort. And it is a war. There's no getting around it.
HANNITY: Yes. Or kinetic military operation.
The president seems uncomfortable, in my view, with America's position as world leader, with our military strength that the world has and continues to look to America to lead in situations like this. He seems to want no part of that leadership.
And you know, that is -- what do you think is the thinking behind that? I've always referred to him as radical. Do you think it's connected?
KRAUTHAMMER: I mean, I don't -- I'm an psychiatrist, but I don't play one on TV. But what I would say is this -- he's been quite open about this. He said, for example, in Chile when he was there a few days ago, he said in this operation in Libya, we want to be a partner among many other partners. We do not want to be the leader in control or in command.
Now, there's one explanation which is a benign one, which would say, OK, the reason he's doing that is, if it goes wrong or if somehow a bomb lands in the middle of a city, kills a lot of civilians, looks horrible on TV or if there are atrocities on our side, the rebels will come in, it reduces the like of the United States.
Well, that's a fantasy. Everybody knows that we are the lead nation. Everyone knows if we hadn't acted, there would have been nothing -- there would have been no action at all. Everyone knows it's our command, our control, our pilots, our technology which is the dominant one.
So, it's kind of a farce pretending that we are in the background.
KRAUTHAMMER: But I think that's part of his reasoning. He doesn't want us to be culpable or liable. Or if we don't succeed at all and the rebels are overwhelmed, that is considered an American defeat. That's also a fantasy. Of course it will be look at as an American defeat.
HANNITY: Of course it will. If we're not the leader, we're not willing to lead, Charles Krauthammer, I don't think we should be there. I think America -- that's never happened before that I can think of in history.
KRAUTHAMMER: I think you want unity of command, unity of purpose. And we are giving it up by relinquishing command.
HANNITY: Very well said. Charles Krauthammer, great column. Thanks as always for being with us. Appreciate it.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's a pleasure.
Content and Programming Copyright 2011 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.