Recently, President Obama stated that the failure to plan for the “day after” in Libya constituted his “worst mistake.” He does not regret overthrowing Gaddafi, but he does regret not having given any thought to what would happen afterward.
How have commentators responded? According to the BBC’s “World Have Your Say” comment page on the story, informed opinion shapes up like the following.
The three most approved comments were:
HugoFrost remarked that “This is what happens when you “take out” leaders like this in the middle east. It leaves a huge power vacuum for terrorists to exploit. Gaddafi, Hussein, and to an extent Assad. These were the front liners holding back a much worse fate, which is what we’re seeing in Europe at the moment. 307 Positive versus 10 Negative = Plus 297.
The Big Fish argued that “the only way you can run such countries is with a dictator. It’s always tribe first, religion second. And any interference is always perceived as being against the religion and simply fuels the propaganda against the so-called West. Stay out, even if they do have oil.” 229 Positive versus 9 Negative = Plus 220.
Fishermans_Enemy observed that “Yet he is a Nobel Prize winner… Libya’s troubles are far from over, frankly, some say they are just beginning. Still, Obama is following on from this Libya mistake by trying to topple another leader in Syria but this time arming Al Qaeda aligned ‘rebels’ to fight Assad whereas a few years ago prior they were terrorists. The problem isn’t so much Obama but US supremacy in general.” 165 Positive versus 16 Negative = Plus 149.
Conversely, the three least approved comments were:
U16440316 believes that [Obama’s] “worst mistake was running for president in the first place. He had the chutzpah to say that 10 Trillion Dollars of debt was UNPATRIOTIC.THEN HE DOUBLED IT. The man is a disaster. Yet the left wing media treat him like some god. That’s leftism for you.” 108 Positive versus 192 Negative = minus 84.
Gary H argued that “The Middle East need[s] dragging up to Western standards, out of the dark ages. Even their own people don’t want to live there. Do we care when they stone their own people to death? We prefer to leave it that way? Shame on us every time we turn our backs. It’s our duty.” 10 Positive versus 37 Negative = Minus 27.
Mike from Brum said that “I’ve said it before. Go to Israel, tell them they have a month when no one is looking and to sort them out. By the time the Israelites are finished, the whole region with be devoid of anything but tumbleweed. Good riddance.” 12 Positive versus 36 Negative = Minus 24.
The top three Positive comments equal + 666. The bottom three Negative comments equal – 135.
Thus, there is a lot more consensus on the Positive comments than on the Negative comments. Among the Positive comments, there is a belief that the Middle East [and other places outside the West] needs dictators to keep dangerous forces in line. This is a repudiation of President Obama’s embrace of the “Arab Spring.”
In contrast, the Negative comments are more varied, from attacks on President Obama as a leader to a plea for intervention in benighted places to a belief in violence as a solution.
If leaders are listening to thinking citizens, then they will be very cautious in the future about toppling authoritarian regimes. That doesn’t mean that they will not do it. Perhaps they will prepare better for the consequences. Or time will pass and they will forget.