The Changing Role of Presidential Leadership

The death of Muammar Gaddafi on October 19 was a definitive victory for the Libyan rebel forces, National Transitional Council, and NATO forces. By October 31, the mission had been declared complete and NATO troops had began to transition authority for post conflict assistance to the United Nations. The rebel forces in turn have transitioned leadership from Mohammad Jibril to Abdurrahim El-Keib, an American educated engineer, who has pledged to respect human rights and international law. Under the leadership of Jibril, the NTC was successful in obtaining legitimacy from the international community, yet it remains to be seen how well El-Keib will govern, or more importantly if the people will follow. Indeed, there are growing fears over the potential effectiveness of the NTC, motives of the disjointed militant factions and unaccounted for weapon stockpiles.

There is a great enthusiasm for the success of the Libyan campaign, and for good reason. Once the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted, Allied countries moved quickly and decisively to impose the no-fly zone and prevent a humanitarian crisis. The United States has taken a measured approach to its involvement, allowing NATO to take the commanding role. Of the sorties flown, the US flew only 25 percent (although it accounted for 70 percent of all refueling missions and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities). Further, with rebel troops doing the ground work, the US did not need to put “boots on the ground.” The entire mission lasted only 7 months and cost $1 billion, a sum trivial in comparison to the other two wars.

Many are now dubbing this the “Obama doctrine” and are heralding it as a radical change for the US role in military interventions. Indeed, the President’s prudence and insistence on an international mandate supported by the Arab League and European allies seems well measured. However, I believe it is too soon to make empirical declarations on the long term method for western support of the Arab Spring given that so many questions remain.

My paper aims to examine the changing role of presidential leadership in authorizing and executing large scale military interventions. Libya is certainly an interesting case study, especially considering the costlier, more prolonged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the sake of space (it seems ironic to say that in a 15 page paper) I plan to focus mostly on Libya and Afghanistan, as they both have heavy NATO involvement. Seeing as my chosen topic involves current events, much of my data will be drawn from public records. Afghanistan and Iraq, in comparison to Libya, are already well documented and researched. Nonetheless, I anticipate many of the themes to changes along with conditions on the ground in all 3 of these countries. For all the planning I can do, this paper will be unpredictable!



About mgpellegrini

Hi I'm a senior in the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan where I study public policy (obviously a given) and international affairs. I've chosen to focus my paper on the Bush and Obama "Doctrines" and how this played out in their respective engagements with NATO for Afghanistan and Libya. This past summer, I interned with the NATO operations section at the State Department, so these issues are of particular interests. Outside of all this, I'm the captain of the varsity cross country team at Michigan.
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