On Tuesday, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, appeared on Libyan state TV at a rally in support of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi—the brutal dictator and continued target of NATO forces. Megrahi was in a wheelchair, appearing frail but in good health—a stark contrast to claims that he had a mere three months to live, prompting his release from a Scottish prison nearly two years ago.
Not only is Megrahi’s public support of Qadhafi a tremendous insult to the memory of the 270 people who perished in the Pan Am 103 terrorist attack, but it is yet another example of the disastrous “leading from behind” foreign policy of President Barack Obama’s Administration. The President failed to act in the best interest of the United States by not ensuring that Megrahi was brought to justice—a glaring affront, considering that 189 passengers aboard that flight were U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, he has continued to prosecute a poor policy in Libya as U.S. forces remain engaged in an inconclusive war with no strategy or solution in sight.
If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, never fear. You’re not experiencing Libya déjà vu. It may be the same issue, but it is certainly not the same leadership style. In April 1986, President Ronald Reagan decided, after consulting with U.S. allies and Congress, to order air strikes on Libya in response to a fatal Libyan-sponsored terrorist attack on American troops.
In contrast, President Obama made the conscious decision to leave Congress out of his decision to engage U.S. forces in Libya, and he has failed from the outset to demonstrate a clear plan or objective. U.S. intervention in Libya, which he said would “be a matter of days and not weeks,” is now entering its fourth month and has cost the U.S. a reported $1 billion (since the U.S. pays three-fourths of the operating costs for NATO).
Megrahi’s presence at the pro-Qadhafi rally adds insult to injury, representing the result of one policy mistake supporting another policy failure. It should serve as a stark reminder that the foreign policy issues of our past can quickly become the issues of our present, and we would be wise to heed history rather than political expediency.