February 25th, 2011
03:43 PM ET

Letters to the President: #767 'Libya teeters toward an endgame'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: The White House, like much of the world, is watching Libya around the clock now, wondering what each hour will bring. For the president, thankfully, each day brings a new letter from me.

Dear Mr. President,

It seems as if the clock is ticking down. Libya appears poised on the brink of either an all out stand by Gadhafi or a rout by the protesters. (Btw, it seems like we need a somewhat weightier title for a group that actually topples a government. Rebels? Revolutionaries? Coupsters? Protesters is an inadequate nom de guerre.) Which means, of course, that we are probably poised to face the aftermath, no matter which way it tips.

In some ways this is easier with Libya than it is with Egypt, because our relations in Gadhafi-land have been so bad for so long, the tendency would be to think that they probably can’t get much worse. If Gadhafi stands firm, he’ll beat his sword and continue to accuse us of helping the revolution arise in the first place. No surprise there and nothing we can do except say it’s not true.

If the anti-government forces win, however, the situation will be… as plumbers say… highly fluid. We will have to figure out not only who the new major players are, but we’ll also have to recognize that they could change day by day. We will have to simultaneously respect their right to choose their own future, and yet try to tilt the scales in favor of a new nation committed to the general rules of fair play that we, and all of our allies, would like to see in the world.

We have discovered in Iraq and Afghanistan, that this is a delicate operation. So here is my suggestion: As the uprising there plays toward its conclusion, this might be a very good time for you and your staff to review the relatively recent history of what we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan - our successes and failures. The model in Libya will, of course, be different, and yet I suspect some of the general principles of respect, diplomacy, and cultural awareness may be applicable. Above all, I think we will have to bear in mind that as much as we have strong interests in what happens in Libya, and Egypt, and other nations in the Middle East, their interests are stronger. It is, after all, their home. And if we are nervous watching the events unfold there, imagine how much more disquieting it must be to have the uncertainty that follows on your own doorstep.

Hope your Friday is progressing nicely and that, despite events, you enjoy a restful weekend. If you feel like calling, I think I will be around all weekend. If not, leave a message.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. kirtan

    Mr. Cooper
    I always enjoy watching your show but since the crisis in middle east started this man professor anjami is very very irritating the comments he makes about our elected president are uncalled for . The Obama administration is is being very careful trying to avoid revenge from the middle east thugs and not to interfere with other governmnent. afterall there was genocide in Rwanda and U.S did nothing much. Do not invite this man professor anjami in your show. If he want to be President of U.S he should run and maybe even his family will not vote for him. If he is so smart why did he not stay in the Arab world where ever he comes from and become President. He should stop the negative comments people will stop watching your show

    February 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  2. Gina

    In spite of the fact that I feel very much the suffering of the Lybian People, I totally agree with the position of the White House in regards to the events in Lybia so far. The US should not have direct intervention in this matter. The moral obligation to intervene and lead, diplomatically and if needs come to be, militarilly (hopefully not) falls totally on the shoulders of the Europeans! Many of these countries: Italy, England, France, and Spain to name the ones with stronger ties to Khadaffi and his regime, supporters of this radical dictator and beneficiaries of many economic deals, besides the oil and gas of Lybia. I am a child of Spaniards, born in the U.S. I know first hand about the criticisism and irrational hatred of many Europeans towards the U.S. We all care about what is taking place in Lybia and other Arab nations, we hope and pray that the killing of this madmad and his sons will soon end. We are all on the side of the Lybian revolutionaries and we should support them until victory is achieved by them. What we shoulnd not do is to intervene militarilly. The US has done too much already, but we are not the Police Force of the World. Too many U.S families have lost their loved ones already! I am totally with the Lybian people, but if help is needed to go into the country to take care of Khadaffi, Europe is the one to take the initiative as they are the ones with the moral obligation!

    February 25, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    If Gadhafi is ousted the situation may become even more volatile than it is now with many different people and/or groups trying to take control of the country. The US does not have a strong record of backing the right side so we should stay out of it and let the Libyans decide their own fate – then work with whatever group takes power. If that group turns out to be worse than Gadhafi perhaps we should just stay out of Libya for a while. In the middle East particularly the US needs to tread lightly if at all and not give Middle Eastern terrorist groups more evidence of the West trying to foist our ways onto their countries.

    February 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  4. Khaled Mounir

    I understand all the planing and ideas that are taking too long to be studied and discussed while every minute an innocent life is lost and many are scarred physically and mentally for life. We need to save these lives right now while we can and stop thinking about how much money we will gain or lose by making the right decision. Everyone in the world knows what's the right thing to do and if people had the power Gaddafi and his criminals would had been in prison by now awaiting trials. how many lives have to be lost for the US and the UN to say enough is enough. you know what's the right thing to do and you know it has to happen now.

    February 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  5. Ava Gibbons

    Good evening Anderson

    I am writing from Canada and would first like to compliment you and CNN for such a terrific array of programs that keep myself and the world current on daily events and breaking news... Which of course brings me to the situation in Lybia. I have learned that my fellow Canadians (who chose/wanted to leave)have been successfully evacuated either by air transport or accompanying our American neighbors on the ferry to Malta. We are grateful for your assistance. Unfortunately the situation in Lybia remains volatile and the citizens are in such grave danger from the madman, his sons, followers and mercenaries. Now that Americans, Canadians and other human beings have been safely removed from this war zone, I feel that the citizens that are left behind cannot wait through an entire weekend before the UN meets to take appropriate action to help them. Europe and those who rely on the Lybian oil supplies need to quit stalling, stand up, take charge and stop the executions and carnage. This is unacceptable. "The coast is clear" so to speak. Sanctions, no fly zones and military intervention is necessary and acceptable. NOW. They are killing innocent children. What more does the UN need to react and eliminate the problem? Time is precious and running out. Keep up the good work Anderson and the rest of your team-be safe.

    February 25, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  6. Lynn,Kathy and grp.

    Anderson please please have a fellow up with that poor Libyan lady in tripoli... it was amazing story and we think the world NEED TO HEAR HER AGAIN AND AGAIN..Anderson THANK YOU SIR for such a great coverage on behave of those poor protesters. they are as you know unarmed AGAINST that heavly armed gadafis killing mackin ruthless gadafi.. great work by you.. PEACE

    February 25, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  7. Bryan

    Hi Tom,

    Now that the Justice Minister says he has proof that Gaddafi personally ordered the bombing of Panam flight 103, shouldn't we be sending troops to Libya to capture him and bring him to Justice? This will be so much better than sanctions against libya, for which he really does not care about, why are we wasting time? It wont be long before he kills the entire 5 million population. After all we did get Noreiaga, didn't we! People are being killed by the minute and if we do not act fast the population of libya could well be reduced by more than half, surely we have jurisdiction to bring a killer of American people to justice.

    February 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm |