Obama to tout success of Libya policy at U.N.

Washington Bureau

President Obama on Tuesday is scheduled to launch a discussion about how the United Nations can support a democratic government in the newly liberated Libya with a key feature -- limited involvement by the U.S.

In what is emerging as a important theme of his foreign policy, Obama is laying out broad goals regarding democracy, openness and respect for human rights, and calling for pledges from members of the international community that they will support progress in word, deed and financial aid.

Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve “when we stand together as one,” Obama says in an advance copy of his prepared remarks before a meeting with world leaders Tuesday morning.

“We cannot and should not intervene every time there’s an injustice in the world,” the remarks read. “This is how the international community should work in the 21st century -- more nations bearing the responsibility and costs of meeting global challenges.”


As the president who is presiding over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and whose first triumph in initiating military action was to curtail U.S. engagement in Libya, Obama is laying out plans that envision the U.S. as less the leading actor and more as a part of the supporting cast.

In Libya, the results so far are a demonstration model for the administration. International intervention averted what might have been large-scale atrocities by the Moammar Kadafi regime, and in its wake there have been no mass casualties or retribution.

The U.N. is sending a team to Tripoli to act as the world’s representative in coordinating diplomatic and financial aid, a far cry from putting U.S. boots on the ground to guard the formation of the new government.

The international community is “stepping up,” said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s not the U.S. making Libya into a model of what it wants it to be,” Alterman said. “It’s the U.S. and the international community assisting Libya, not with U.S. responsibility but with broad international support.”

Some non-governmental organizations working in Libya fear the United States might go too far in stepping into a background role. They say that the United Nations, now designated to be leading the international effort, has limited capabilities.

And if the European Union is asked to take a lead role, the mission could be hamstrung by squabbling among different nations with divergent agendas, they fear.

But if the United States takes a large role, it would likely be willing to spend money to fund non-governmental organizations that can help the Libyans bolster their economy and political system.


At the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama’s schedule of events highlights the strategic success in Libya and, tacitly, his goal of nonintervention.

In the morning, Obama is meeting with the Libyan Transitional National Council chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, and then with the Libya Contact Group.

Obama is also scheduled to talk with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, their first one-on-one meeting since the U.S. president announced a schedule for an American military withdrawal from that country.

Later in the day, Obama is to attend a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and it is likely to be a complicated session with an important U.S. partner increasingly at odds with Israel.


A senior administration denied this week that the United States is seeking to show the Turks and Israelis how to overcome their differences. But if Washington is not providing specific advice, it is surely urging the two sides to get beyond hints that there might be a military clash between them in the eastern Mediterranean.

Obama is also likely to again urge Erdogan to use his diplomatic and economic influence with the Syrians to end President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.