While the Cuban government marked the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs' fiasco with parades and marches, Cuban exiles gathered in an emotion-filled event in Miami to remember those who courageously died in combat during the U.S.-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. "This is a special day for us, for our martyrs," said Félix Rodríguez, president of the Association of Bay of Pigs Veterans-Brigade 2506. "It's a sad memory because we failed, but it wasn't our fault; we did not receive the promised air support. Yet our commitment to continue fighting for a free Cuba remains strong."
Despite the failure, the Bay of Pigs' flop should today be a lesson for the Obama administration. Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald emphasizes how the Libyan adventure is repeating the same mistakes of the Bay of Pigs fifty years ago. "[President Barack Obama] might want to give some careful consideration to this weekend's 50th anniversary of one of the most disastrous examples of what can happen when U.S. military missions are framed in ambiguous gobbledygook," Garvin writes. President Obama's policy towards Libya is confusing, perhaps deliberately. He says that the Libyan leader should be removed from power, but at the same time says that to broaden the military mission to include regime change would be a mistake. This could be Obama's less than heroic way of urging someone else to remove Gaddafi for him so that the U.S. and he will not have to take the blame.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was originally planned under the Eisenhower administration; but with John F. Kennedy's appointment to the White House in 1961, the military plan to invade Cuba changed slightly. Kennedy, too, "wouldn't relinquish the idea of striking a military blow against communism but did not want to face the political consequences, either." Therefore, under the Kennedy administration, it was decided that a small army of 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles would land to the remote Bay of Pigs, a hard terrain to fight but with chance for retreat. In addition, air and naval support was reduced. "Cuba is not Libya, of course […]. What is disturbingly similar, though, is the lack of clarity from a president who seems to think he can play soldier without anyone getting hurt."
Another recent anniversary President Obama might consider is the 191st birthday of William T. Sherman, the Civil War general who warned: "Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster," as Garvin points out.
The main problem, however, seems to be that the Obama administration does not appear to see any real danger in keeping Gaddafi in power.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has clearly said that Libya does not rank high on the list of U.S. national security concerns: "I don't think [Libya] is a vital interest for the U.S." – except that Gaddafi himself sponsored terrorist attacks against US citizens and developed a WMD program, which he abandoned, after Britain and America's seizure of physical evidence, combined with the TV appearance of a U.S. forces' flashlight in Saddam Hussein's mouth as he was being captured.
More importantly, keeping Gaddafi in power would be of extreme danger for the West itself. As Nigerian writer Konye Obaji Ori writes: "[Gaddafi] would continue to be a threat to his own people, resume terror actions that would subvert the West, deny access to oil and oil related contracts to European and US entities as retribution. Also, he would likely increase China's competitiveness by supplying cheap gas to the growing power. To allow Gaddafi to remain at the helm of affairs in Libya would be a military, diplomatic, strategic and cultural setback of great capacity."
That is why the military operations pursued by the US-UK-France coalition should include the protection of civilian, but with the ultimate goal of toppling the Gaddafi's regime.
The Libyan leader has already warned that he could join Al-Qaeda in a "holy war" against the West. The plan to topple Gaddafi, as suggested by the Nigerian writer, should be done in parallel with the support for democracy-advocating groups and civil societies in Libya, while isolating the countries' Islamist movements. If the Obama administration will not realize the risk of keeping Gaddafi in power, the Libyan regime will celebrate 50 years from now the fiasco of the coalition's intervention, as Fidel Castro celebrated few days ago over the victory over the U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.