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THOMAS: Who is in charge of the war with Libya?

Libya’s recently resigned ambassador to the U.S., Ali Aujali, is optimistic about the outcome of the bombing of his country. He tells me he thinks dictator Moammar Gadhafi will be ousted, that free and fair elections will be held, and that a new government will be pro-Western.

From his lips to Allah’s ears.

Given the history of the Middle East, such a notion requires greater faith than that possessed by the holiest of holy men.

After first displaying indecisiveness about Libya, President Barack Obama touted his shotgun marriage to a ‘‘coalition’’ of nations attempting to dislodge Gadhafi. In Brasilia, Brazil recently, the president used the word ‘‘coalition’’ five times. Was this an attempt to align himself with former President George W. Bush, who advanced a ‘‘coalition of the willing’’ against Saddam Hussein in Iraq?

President Obama seems to be channeling his predecessor. He signed an order closing Guantanamo prison as his first presidential act, but recently announced it will stay open and the military tribunals established by President Bush and supported by Congress will resume. And now, instead of Saddam Hussein, Obama is going after Gadhafi. Is this the same man who delivered a stem-winding, anti-Iraq War speech almost nine years ago in Chicago when he was a state senator?

That speech is worth revisiting.

State Sen. Obama said on Oct. 2, 2002, that he isn’t ‘‘opposed to all war,’’ only ‘‘dumb war, rash war.’’

Substitute Gadhafi and Libya for Saddam Hussein and Iraq in this excerpt from that speech: ‘‘I suffer no illusions about (Moammar Gadhafi). He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied U.N. resolutions. ... He’s a bad guy. The world and the (Libyan) people would be better off without him.’’

Here is Obama in 2002, with his ultimate argument against the Iraq war. Again I substitute Libya for Iraq and Gadhafi for Hussein: ‘‘(Gadhafi) poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors ... the (Libyan) economy is in shambles ... the (Libyan) military (is) a fraction of its former strength and ... in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.’’

If Obama believed what he said in 2002 about Iraq and Saddam Hussein, doesn’t that seem a good rationale for not committing any more treasure — which we have run out of — and possibly more American lives with no greater goal than unseating Gadhafi in the hope that someone better will take his place?

What is this president’s foreign policy? Does he have one other than pressuring Israel not to build more ‘‘settlements?” A ‘‘no-fly zone’’ will not depose Gadhafi and his sons. They must be overthrown, but that is not our announced objective. Does the president seriously believe a Gadhafi-free Libya will suddenly embrace Jeffersonian democracy? If so, he is a bigger amateur on the world stage than some suspect.

President Obama says ‘‘humanitarian reasons’’ are a motivating factor for using American and allied forces to topple Gadhafi. What makes Gadhafi worthy of special humanitarian concerns when many other governments similarly oppress their people?

Gadhafi can’t live forever. The actuarial table will soon catch up with him. What’s the rush, especially if a power vacuum is created in Libya that terrorist groups are all too happy to fill, as they might do in Egypt and other countries in the region that are now experiencing revolutions? Aujali strongly doubts that will happen, but no one can be certain.

If Iraq qualified as a ‘‘dumb war’’ in Obama’s mind back in 2002, what is smart about starting a third war against Moammar Gadhafi today? Is the United Nations, rather than Congress, now the authority for such action? That’s what Democrats asked when President Bush was in the White House. It remains a valid question under President Obama.

E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at tmseditors@tribune.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/calthomas.