Echoing statements made by British Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barak Obama announced Thursday he is considering every option, including military intervention alongside European allies, due to fears Libya’s bloody crisis will devolve into chaos. Characterizing Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi's grip on power illegitimate, Obama said: "Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power and leave."
Obama's comments came on the heels of a statement by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said implementing a no fly zone in Libya would be an "act of war" and complained of "loose talk" about military intervention in Libya. Gate's seemed to be implying committing an overextended US military in Libya was an irresponsible proposition in light of ongoing operations in Afghanistan, phasing out commitments in Iraq, and Iran and the Persian Gulf as potential trouble spots.
Obama appeared to be supporting Cameron's tough-talk on Libya by closing ranks following Gates' warnings, which gave an impression of division on the part of western allies, and sparked criticism on the domestic front, especially from Republican politicians. On Thursday, Senator John McCain criticized Gates, saying: "May I just say, personally I don't think it's `loose talk' on the part of the people on the ground in Libya or the Arab League or others, including the prime minister of England, that this option should be given the strongest consideration."
"I don't want us hamstrung," Obama insisted. At the same time, the President reiterated he will not act without the consent of his peers in the international community. "There is a danger of a statement that, over time, could be bloody. And that is something that we're obviously considering. So what I want to make sure of is, is that the United States has full capacity to act — potentially rapidly — if the situation deteriorated in such a way that you had a humanitarian crisis on our hands."
"Those around him [Qaddafi] have to understand that violence that they perpetrate against innocent civilians will be monitored and they will be held accountable for it," Obama said. "And so to the extent that they are making calculations in their own minds about which way history is moving, they should know history is moving against Colonel. Gaddafi."
While the US, Britain and other NATO countries discuss contingency plans to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, Obama's insistence the United States will not "go it alone" out of a fear unilateral action would be perceived as heavy handed makes U.S. intervention doubtful. Russia, wielding one of the five vetoes on the U.N. Security Council has already rejected the idea. It is unclear, without grounding Qaddafi’s air-force and providing air-cover for rebel fighters, if the Libyan dictator can be deposed.
Obama did, however, commit American military assets to a humanitarian role, ordering them to fly Egyptians who fled Libya and became stranded in Tunisia, home. Officials said U.S. aircraft could leave as early as Friday to begin relief operations.
Unimpressed with western saber-ratting, Qaddafi reiterated his vow, "We will fight until the last man and woman."