From The Grio — Trips to the barbershop (or for the ladies, the hairdresser) can be enervating and time consuming, but they can also be instructive. I made that discovery a few short days ago, as I overheard two Brooklyn barbers discussing the multilateral intervention in civil war-torn Libya. As a BBC report about the United Nations sanctioned bombing blared from a high-definition television set, one man pointedly wondered aloud, to nobody in particular: “What is President Obama doing in Brazil as Libya is being bombed?”
The barbershop scene is interesting for several reasons. It underscored the extent to which President Obama, buffeted by weeks of headlines telegraphing indecision and mixed signals about how best to confront Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi’s brutal suppression of political dissidents, surprised many by ultimately joining an international coalition to enforce a no-fly zone in the North African country. It is also noteworthy for another reason in particular: the discussants were black men — a group often counted among the president’s strongest supporters (on customers, this particular establishment uses smocks adorned with President Obama’s image).
WATCH NBC NEWS COVERAGE OF OBAMA’S LIBYA REMARKS:
As the country and the world at large debate the wisdom of imposing a no-fly zone in the strife-torn North African country, comparisons to former President George W. Bush’s still controversial decision to invade Iraq have flown fast and furiously. Naturally, the action has sparked a riveting debate about whether the action in Libya is justifiedor legitimate. They’ve also prompted a tremendous amount of angst and soul-searching amongst President Obama’s ardent fan base, many of who believed the president they voted for represented a 180-degree turn from his predecessor.
Leaving aside for the moment the jarring inconsistency of a Nobel Peace Prize winner ordering a bombing of a sovereign country, there are obvious questions that beg for answers. Do the president’s supporters have reason to feel betrayed? And is the Libya bombing another example of American supererogation? Important similarities and differences between Iraq and Libya should be noted. At least for the moment, the military campaign in North Africa appears narrowly defined. The military action was given the explicit backing of the U.N., an institution to which the president and his base remains unfailingly deferential. And President Obama has made a painstaking (although wholly unconvincing) effort to draw a distinction between humanitarian intervention and unprovoked or pre-emptive war.