Failed presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton was prescient in at least one respect when a famous campaign ad she concocted asked the question of who would you want answering the 3 a.m. phone call at the White House.
One thing appears conclusive: the current Oval Office occupant, at a minimum, is ill prepared, in both constitution and conviction, to deal with those pesky pre-dawn calls -- particularly those concerning the fast unfolding and history-shaping events throughout the Middle East.
With it being March Madness, both on hardwood courts in America and on newly minted courts of war and unrest throughout the Middle East, there is a discomforting irony in watching our basketball aficionado president wanting anything but the ball in his hand with the game on the line in Libya and the entire region.
Does somebody need to remind Mr. Obama that America is not a benchwarmer but a first teamer on the world stage? Actually, we are, have been, and are destined to be the star of the team -- even in spite of Obama's coveting of consensus and diffidence toward American exceptionalism. Unfortunately, and it is certain to become more clear that unfortunate is the right word if our feckless president succeeds in ceding leadership on Libya to some semi-amorphous, unaccountable international committee.
Goodness gracious, Obama, in his zeal to be the absolute anti-Bush, wants half the world to weigh in, including those heavy lifters of humanitarianism like China and Russia, before protecting the courageous patriots poking a finger in the eye of Gadhafi the murderer, terrorist, butcher, tyrant -- you pick the adjective -- none are savory.
Speaking again of now Secretary Clinton and Obama water carrier, she expressed concern about thwarting Gadhafi's murderous rage because we don't really know who is at the other end of his oft bloodied spear. While it will eventually matter, frankly, regardless of their nature, I would consider it a privilege and honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Davids' of Libya that are prepared to die to put an end to this Goliath's wretched 42-year reign of terror and pillage.
To President Obama's dismay, and you can be certain surprise, his famous 2009 Cairo catharsis, along with all his other well-marketed anti-Bush proclivities, have failed to shift the tides of a history that are now going in unanticipated, unpredictable and potentially disastrous directions.
We are at a watershed moment. While it would be convenient to yearn otherwise, Libya is but one battle in a much, much broader war that is being played out in real time. Given what transpired in Tunisia and Egypt, it is clear that the destiny of today's classic Middle East dictator is the dust bin. What is unknown is what will take its place -- liberal democracies or radical Islamist tyrannies that will pose a perilous threat to the civilized world if left unimpeded and unchallenged.
Led by the United States, whether unilaterally or multilaterally, we have the wherewithal to preordain a Gadhafi-less Libya. If we don't and Gadhafi prevails, the message is loud and clear -- violence and oppression pay.
Getting the ball when the going is hardest comes with the position of president, particularly those of the United States. Could you imagine a Peyton Manning deferring to his halfback to make the pass when the Super Bowl was on the line or Michael Jordan dishing off the ball with the clock ticking to zero and down by a point in game seven? Just when American leadership is needed more than ever, Obama is working to export all responsibility and control along with doing his best to remove all-important American fingerprints from this just and unfortunately necessary intervention.
Given the utterly profound stakes in Libya and beyond, which could pose grave consequences for America and its allies, exercising American leadership is not an option, it is a requirement -- thinking otherwise is naïve, credulous and preposterously irresponsible. Mr. President, whether you like it or not, the ball is still in your hands ... but the clock is ticking down.
Chapin is CEO of USAOPOLY, partner of Zephyr Partners and chairman of Health Savings Associates.