Victor Davis Hanson: Obama as Hamlet

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.]

I have been as critical as anyone of the administration’s finger-in-the-wind, “Mubarak is a dictator, Mubarak is not a dictator” policy during the last two months. In the case of Libya, Obama has seemed almost Shakespearean in his public musings about whether to be or not to be. In general, from the very beginning of the unrest in Tunisia, the United States has appeared erratic, inconsistent, and contradictory, often pontificating and talking loudly while carrying a tiny stick. It also apparently has no clue that Iran, Libya, and Syria are different sorts of autocracies from a dictatorial Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, or the Gulf states.

That said, however, we should not take too seriously the sudden European chest-thumping about jumping in to support Libya. The British government has a tawdry record of cynicism in its money-making diplomacy with Qaddafi the last few years. The Italians cozied up to him for gas and oil, and the French and Germans will sell anything to anyone at any time. No European government will back up any of their ongoing humanitarian rhetoric with force; they will launch no Euro air sorties from Spain, southern France, Malta, Italy, or Crete to stop Qaddafi’s use of airspace to put down the rebels....

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