Gadhafi's death: Vindication for Obama?

After being pilloried for "leading from behind," the president wins praise for the NATO-backed Libya war's ultimate success

President Obama
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The foreign effort to protect Libya's pro-democracy uprising culminated Thursday in Moammar Gadhafi's death, following a NATO airstrike. In the last seven months, President Obama has endured no end of grief over that Western effort, which began in the spring with a no-fly zone preventing Gadhafi's forces from slaughtering civilians. Obama's taken heat from both the Left and the Right, with some calling the NATO-backed war an unnecessary military adventure, while others criticized Obama for taking a back seat and letting France and Britain lead. Will Gadhafi's death and the liberation of the last pockets of Libya controlled by his loyalists finally silence Obama's critics?

Yes. This shows Obama did the right thing in Libya: Gadhafi's demise bolsters "Obama's reputation as a strong commander-in-chief," says Anna Fifield at Britain's Financial Times. The president was first pummeled for launching the humanitarian air war, and then for letting it turn into an effort to oust Gadhafi. But results speak loudly. Libya is free of Gadhafi, and Obama ought to be vindicated. Sorry, Republicans, but your 2012 candidate will have to debate national security with the guy who got both Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi.

"Gaddafi death boosts Obama's reputation"

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No way. This justifies nothing: Gadhafi's death is "good news" because it means we can end our military involvement in Libya, says Christopher Preble at Cato at Liberty. But it doesn't "validate the original decision to launch military operations without authorization from Congress." Our air war "did not advance a vital national security interest." The Libyan rebels could have, and should have, done this on their own.

"Gadhafi's death does not legitimize U.S. intervention in Libya"

Obama will be judged on what happens next: Obama's "decision to oust Gadhafi" implicated the U.S. in Libya's future, says Christopher Preble at Cato at Libertyr. Now the president will have to shower the victorious rebels with money and weaponry, and there's still no guarantee they'll "actually secure power and operate a functioning government." If they do, Obama might have a new oil-rich ally; if they don't, or if the new leaders prove to be as brutal as Gadhafi, Obama won't be viewed quite so favorably.

"Gadhafi is dead, 'luckily' we have 'implicated' ourselves in Libya's future"

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