Whatever ambivalence may have colored President Obama’s cautious response to uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain, he should offer full-throated support for Libyans who are risking their lives to shake off dictator Moammar Khadafy. Sad to say, Washington and certain European governments, avidly pursuing oil contracts and business deals, have curried favor with a “reformed’’ Khadafy over the past few years. But despite this new relationship, the United States shouldn’t hesitate to stand with protesters and against Khadafy’s all but unchanged regime.
Though the United States has limited influence over the outcome, it can push for protection of the Libyan protesters — who have been bombed by fighter jets and strafed by helicopter gunships — and to encourage Khadafy’s military chiefs to turn against him. President Obama should support a UN Security Council resolution to extend a no-fly zone over the eastern region of Libya, which is now out of Khadafy’s control. And he should back a UN warning of indictments for anyone in Khadafy’s ruling clique who participates in crimes against humanity.
Khadafy has a history of terrorism abroad and repression at home, and the lobbyists whom he’s hired have largely failed to transform his image. He is still despised, rightly, for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Other Arab leaders still scorn him for his rants at Arab League summits. And now the world can see how desperate his own people are to get free of him.