Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
, who has launched an exploratory committee for a 2012 presidential run, says President Barack Obama has been “belated and timid” in his stance on Libya and is now “entrapped by the subordination of American interests and power to the Arab League and the United Nations.”
“One of the things I said on March 7 . . . is that we should have established the no-fly zone — I supported it,” Pawlenty said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I believe the humanitarian mission, and the avoidance of slaughter in Libya, was important.
“But keep in mind back then the rebels had substantial momentum — in my view they had [Moammar] Gadhafi on the ropes — he was talking openly, according to news reports, about leaving voluntarily,” Pawlenty said. “And I think the threat of, or the implementation of, the no-fly zone back then would have given the rebels a quick and easy — or relatively easier — window of opportunity to get rid of Gadhafi.
“Now we’re in this position of having the president of the United States saying ‘Gadhafi must go,’ but we are not going to necessarily make him go,” he continued. “And that’s untenable.”
Pawlenty was asked whether the president wasn’t limited to what he can do because he has ceded efforts to a broader coalition. Pawlenty said Obama indeed is now beholden to other authorities.
“You have a leader of the Free World — the president of the United States — who says ‘Gadhafi must go,’ but he can’t realize that goal through his own means, or our own means, because he is now entrapped by the subordination of American interests and power to the Arab League and the United Nations, “ he said. “And that has already put him in an untenable position.”
Pawlenty acknowledged although the situation that will unfold in a post-Gadhafi era is unclear, there are several countries in the Middle East in a state of unrest, and it’s inappropriate for the president “to be sitting on the sidelines and just watch history unfold without exerting some leadership.”
“This president, I thought, was belated and timid in that regard,” Pawlenty said, adding that reaction to strife in each country in the Middle East should be different. “You can’t just make a blanket statement about what we’re going to do; they each have different backgrounds, cultures, histories, contexts.
“Take for example Syria — you got [President] Bashar Assad . . . this is an individual who many in the United States mistakenly were duped into believing was a reformer — a change agent — he is a terrorist, he is a killer,” he said. “If I was the president of the United States, I wouldn’t recognize and legitimize Syria and this [Syrian] administration — one of the most sinister in the world — by sending an ambassador to Syria, as President Obama did.
“I would start by recalling the ambassador, I would denounce Syria publicly, and I would speak to the Syrian people about how the United States stands with their hopes and dreams,” Pawlenty said.
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