March 19th, 2011
03:12 PM ET

Letters to the President: #789 'Threading the Libyan needle'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Libya is rapidly taking over the headlines again, and today’s letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

The problem with problems, of course, is that they don’t come along just when it is convenient. Here we are just trying to make it past the shock of the Japan quake, still worrying about those nuclear reactors, and suddenly Libya is back on the schedule.

My understanding from our reporting at CNN is that you are trying to support the U.N. effort to shut down Gadhafi’s military attacks on his opponents, hoping he’ll be booted from power, and yet trying to not get our military heavily involved in the process; as in, we help with radar, and drones, and intelligence, but not the actual fighting.

That is a difficult needle to thread.

Related: Obama trying to limit military involvement in Libya

It takes much more experience, strength, and focus to dance around the edges of a war than it does to actually engage in one. The lines in that type of fighting are many, many shades of gray and it is easy to find oneself uncertain of the mission. That, in my experience, is something that deeply troubles military leaders, and can infuriate and demoralize troops. Don’t get me wrong: I have no doubt that our skilled military professionals are capable of it. I’m just saying that it is tough.

I understand the reticence that any American may have for getting any deeper into any additional, distant battles. To be frank, we aren’t really done yet in Iraq and Afghanistan remains a very long, slow grind. So the idea of keeping our involvement in Libya to a minimum may seem reasonable.

But I find myself thinking about my younger days. I didn’t get into many fights. I avoided them whenever I could. But I became convinced that fighting is usually best either utterly engaged or not at all.

Still, our troops have had so much asked of them, and they have responded so well; I hope for them and their families, this plan of yours works no matter how tricky it may be to pull off.

Call if you can.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Moshe

    Libya may also be a test case for further dealings with Iran – a much more dangerous regime. If the UN response to the call for help from the Libyan people is accepted successfully then this may suggest to the people in Iran that they can resume their revolution and also request international help successfully.

    March 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  2. James F

    We have once again made a critical mistake in
    reason by using war powers to go against a general that we do not know enough about.
    He does not even control his own army.
    We are at war with a Superunknown. It seems to me we are doing this for France? If it is for the protection of human rights then thanks again for buying the bridge!

    March 19, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  3. Patrick

    I'm of Irish descent like you Tom, but the question has to be asked, Why did President Barack Obama get the Nobel Prize for Peace after looking at those attacks on Libya tonight, surely it was a bit premature? and Obama is visiting his ancestral home in Ireland in May, I won't be there to shake his hand, he's just like the rest.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  4. Jo Ann Il

    I just hope the President has used up all of his vacation time. And if he feels the need to golf maybe he can hit a few balls in the back yard! I think we need his undivided attention on this situation!

    March 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  5. Michael Hakulin Sr

    Well, 110-112 Tomahawk missiles fired at 20 targets. Wonder about collateral damage surrounding the targets–maybe some hospitals,
    schools, civilian apartment housing?

    Meanwhile, back to the war. If it walks like a
    duck, quacks like a duck...

    March 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  6. Michael Hakulin Sr

    It's WAR! France and the U.S. have now fired
    upon the sovereign nation of Libya!

    Query, how will France and the U.S. react when
    the Chechen "rebels" as for a "no-fly zone" over
    their contested territory?

    March 19, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Anthony Fusco

    Dear President Obama I hope you get my message.I have been watching what is happening in Libya . I read that Gadhafi has sent you a transmission stating that 'what would you do if the U.S. was under attack by terrorists'

    Well , the U.S. doesn't wreak terror on our own citizens . Gadhafi on the other hand has been killing anyone who goes against him or the libyan government for many many years . Millions of Libyans do not rise up if this were not true .

    I say take him out and let the libyan people have a chance at democracy . And then after that I hope who ever is in charge of dealing with us will do so .


    March 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm |