L. Paul Bremer III, the presidential envoy to Iraq under former President George W. Bush, said that while he was an early critic of President Obama’s strategy in Libya, the stunning developments in Tripoli show the merits of the administration’s approach.
“I was among those who were critical of the position of ‘leading from behind,’’’ Bremer told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “I think as a general proposition that’s not a good position for the U.S. to be in. On the other hand, I think the outcome should give the administration some degree of satisfaction. After all, it worked. [Moammar] Kadafi seems to be finished. There will be some regime change there.’’
Bremer said that the Obama administration “should feel well satisfied with the outcome. The outcome is good. One of the most vicious dictators around is gone. And that’s good.’’
A priority now must be providing security for the Libyan people, Bremer said. That was one of the major errors in the U.S. post-invasion strategy in Iraq, he said.
“The key problem in any of these events – whether it’s Egypt or Tunisia, Libya, Iraq or Syria – is what happens after the pirate leaves. The problem in Iraq is we didn’t have enough troops on the ground after liberation.’’
Who will provide security in the chaotic days following Kadafi’s departure?
Either the Libyans must fill that role or “someone else’’ must do it, Bremer said.
“Whether an international force has to go in – the U.N. or NATO – that’s the key question.’’
Asked if the U.S. should take part in providing security on the ground, Bremer said it would be preferable for France and Italy to step forward.
“It seems to me the countries of Europe who’ve taken the lead here – France and Italy, who have major interests in the Mediterranean – should take the lead,” Bremer said. “It seems to me there’s more to be said for our being in the background now than before.’’
He added: “We don’t have the kind of major national interests in Libya going forward that should suggest we have to be a part of it.’’