Posts Tagged ‘gaddafi’

Libya: Is it the right thing to do?

Posted: March 24, 2011 by datechguy in opinion/news, war
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At Patterico a relevant question has been asked concerning Libya that is not being asked enough concerning president Obama’s decision to go to war in Libya.

But before we hammer the President too hard, ask yourself a simple question. Is he right, right now? Forget what he said when he represented one of the most liberal jurisdictions in America, but is he right, right now?

The answer: It depends on how you look at it.

If you look at is in terms of preventing a slaughter, then yes. Our actions prevented an immediate slaughter and are thus worthwhile in the short term. The trick will be to keep it from becoming a bigger slaughter in the long term.

If you look at it in terms of dealing with troublemakers then perhaps. As a general rule if you have a chance to get rid of an enemy (Gaddafi) one should take the opportunity, however the time to have acted was when the rebels were outside of Tripoli not when Gaddafi was outside of Benghazi.

If you look at it in terms of national interest then frankly the answer is No. The rebels who are fighting him seem to also be fighting us elsewhere. If we give over Libya to a different set of enemies they can use that state to sponsor war against us. This is a very bad idea. Additionally historically we have gotten little payback when we have stuck our necks out for Arab countries in general.

All of this is pretty moot now that we are in, WE ARE IN. The real question is what will be the result of our actions. Here are the three possible results

#1. Gaddafi wins: I think this is the least likely outcome. As long as there is some kind of no-fly zone it becomes a ground fight, Benghazi can still fall but if his armor heads toward Tobruk it is very vulnerable from the air. If the west is willing to take out his tanks and armor then Gaddafi can’t finish the job. Of course if the west gets cold feet this goes from the least likely outcome to the most likely outcome, but I think that England and France have too much invested for them to let this happen.

#2 The Rebels win: This has a better chance of happening because you can’t be sure how loyal the forces supporting Gaddafi are. As long as the money holds out the hired guns from the south will stay loyal, but the loss of air superiority makes a huge difference. Of course it’s also a question of taking back cities held by the government which I think is not possible unless Gaddafi and his sons are dead. The question becoming if the rebels win, will they be grateful or will they use the new Libya as an Islamic state to support our foes internationally?

#3 The partition/administration of Libya. Almost certainly the final result. The west without US leadership doesn’t have the staying power or the willingness to actually win the war or commit the ground troops necessary to do so. Sans such will the end result will be a deal to save face for the west that allows Gaddafi’s family in charge of the east where his tribe lives and the rebels in charge of the west. That allows Gaddafi to claim a victory over the west while the west claims success in its mission even as the east is purged of supporters of the rebellion.

And of course this result is the worst of all possible results for the US. We will have a Gaddafi family looking for revenge by proxy in the east while in the west the rebels, who never liked us in the first place, will blame us for the failure to take the country and the purge of their supporters in the east. Since they were already supporting wars against us they will now have a nation to do so with, and it will be a nation “supported’ by the UN.

This is a mess full of bad choices and results. We can only hope it is done wisely.

They have been hitting the fighting in Libya with all the furor that they have used in hitting Afghanistan.

Barnicle correctly points out that if Gaddafi is not removed or killed this mission will be a failure.

Drew Walker on Twitter makes a great point for those saying Gaddafi is not a target:

How in the world do you bomb Qaddafi’s compound but say he wasn’t the target? Is stupid suddenly a new language?

It’s simple, we aren’t targeting Qaddafi, we are targeting Kaddafy totally different.

Let’s see, removing a tyrant dictator with bloodthirsty sons who controls a lot of oil and has been killing his people for years.

Yup that sounds like Iraq to me.

Can someone explain to me how Morning Joe is going on about that “we might be too late” while advocating an Afghan pullout?

I hope it works, but I think Gaddafi takes Benghazi before a single plane makes it in the air unless Egypt invades first.

Update: Boy I think I’ve never been proven wrong so fast:

Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa says Libya is declaring an immediate cease-fire and stopping all military operations.

Friday’s decision comes after the U.N. voted to authorized a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people, including airstrikes.

Koussa says the cease-fire “will take the country back to safety” and ensure security for all Libyans.

I actually didn’t think that Gaddafi was this smart. By calling a ceasefire he gets the chance to consolidate the gains he has made. He takes away the ability of NATO and the west to strike. As long as they are not attacking they will have a hard time justifying bombing.

This will also force the rebels in Benghazi to actually form a government and act like one. How they act and what they do will also be instructive.

Additionally Gaddafi is an old man, if this goes into a long diplomatic negotiation he will be able to string things along for at the very least months, and perhaps years. The end result? Either a partition or a face saving resignation and transfer of power to his sons.

This may or may not work out, but the solution will not be a quick one.

Update 2: Ed Morrissey comments

Imagine if the UN had been pressed into action two or three weeks ago. Rebels would still hold a large portion of Libya, and Gaddafi’s military would be forced to make a choice between an aging tyrant rapidly losing leverage and a populace clearly ready to seize its own destiny. Even a week ago, rebels still held key positions and Gaddafi was having trouble mounting any large-scale offensives.

Now Gaddafi can afford to offer a cease-fire. It protects his air force while changing very little on the ground. He has the main rebellion cut off in Benghazi and has secured his control over the other rebellious areas. He can afford to wait out the rebels and lay siege to Libya’s second-largest city, secure in the knowledge that the West won’t further intervene. It took them this long to arrange the no-fly zone, and Gaddafi knows that the West has no interest in another ground war in the region (and for good reasons).

On Way too Early Mike Barnicle reported that the UN security counsel is getting ready to vote on a no-fly zone in Libya. The AP report via AOL (or is it Arianna?) that suddenly the US is willing to support it:

the United States, in a striking reversal, pushed for broader action to protect civilians from ground and sea attacks as well.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the Obama administration is “fully focused on the urgency and the gravity of the situation on the ground,” where Gadhafi’s fighters are intensifying attacks and heading toward rebel-held Bengazi, Libya’s second-largest city, and is working “very hard” for a vote on Thursday.

“We are interested in a broad range of actions that will effectively protect civilians and increase the pressure on the Gadhafi regime to halt the killing and to allow the Libyan people to express themselves in their aspirations for the future freely and peacefully,”

Of course assuming there is no Russian or Chinese veto any such action is going to be too late as Allahpundit puts it:

His dirtbag “reformer” son, Seif, promised earlier today that it’ll all be over within 48 hours, which doesn’t seem unrealistic given the pace of recent advances. I’m sure the UN hopes it’s true: They’ve been waiting patiently for Qaddafi to finish off the rebels for weeks now so that they don’t have to act. Any further delay would be a bit, well, embarrassing.

I think they will not have to worry about such embarrassment. The vote in my opinion is not for the sake of protecting Libyans, it is for the sake of saying they “did something” for domestic use. Meanwhile at least one Italian company is not even trying to pretend where they stand:

Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI) called on Europe to abandon sanctions against Libya, becoming the first Western firm to try to rebuild bridges as Muammar Gaddafi is regaining control and may reopen the oil taps.

They can see the writing on the wall

Libyan rebels battled to hold a strategic eastern city against a punishing offensive by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, voicing anger and frustration at the West for not coming to their aid. At the same time, government troops heavily shelled the last main rebel bastion near the capital.

Charred vehicles, bullet-riddled pickup trucks and an overturned tank littered the desert highway where pro-Gadhafi forces had fought up to the entrance of the key eastern city of Ajdabiya. An Associated Press Television News cameraman counted at least three bodies by the side of the road, evidence of fierce battles.

Government troops were bringing in a stream of truckloads of ammunition, rockets and supplies — signs of an intensified effort by the Libyan leader to retake control of the country he has ruled with an iron fist for more than four decades.

And I wonder what all those diplomats who defected at the start when government started to back the rebels are now thinking?

All the arguments against intervention, no US interests, overextended, going to war, let Nato do it, the rebels are not good guys, we will get no gratitude for it etc etc etc… are valid, and if we had said at the outset: “The US believes that the future of Libya should be decided by Libyan people, not by US force.” and left it at that, it would be one thing. Instead our president said that Gaddafi “lost legitimacy” (did he ever have it?) said he must go, claimed there was a tightening noose around him, and then didn’t even start to act until the fight so far gone that it can’t be reversed without a full scale invasion. (Good luck getting support for that).

Personally my thought is that Gaddafi is an enemy, who is directly responsible for American deaths and if we had a chance to take him out we should have done so, if logistically possible. If it was not possible then we should have spoken the “not by US force” line and while doing what we could quietly behind the scenes.

The most significant part of it: It’s all of this is happening in front of our faces this time. Because of the rebel advances and the media rushing in we were actually able to see what people thought of an anti-west dictator independent of what those on the left had to say about “American Imperialism” or those paid to prop him up. (hello monitor group). The mask is off.

The result? It will be the same as the effect of Hal Chases acquittal on fixing games a year before he helped the White Sox throw the 1919 series as Bill James put it :

He was free, then. It had all been brought out into the open , and he had gotten by with it. This seems to have had a liberating effect of Chase’s activities…

Once Gaddafi takes Benghazi there will be a slaughter. There will be nothing and nobody to stop it and we will express regret that we were not able to act in time and vow that it won’t happen again. This should not be a surprise, as I wrote concerning Sudan in June of 2009 concerning Iran and Sudan:

This is why Obama can watch people slaughtered and invite the killers to parties, this is why Clinton can let Rwanda happen and then not be critiqued when he beats his breast in regret.

Our reaction to this is a national disgrace.

It is also why the left will always hate president Bush. 9/11 may have been the impetus but in the end in at least one place in the world the mass graves were stopped and he was responsible and still doesn’t apologize for it.

We are going say little and do less while these people are slaughtered. It’s what we are doing with Sudan and it is what we will do the next time and the time after that. This might seem odd but it’s not about saving slaughtered people; it’s about being able to say you care and convince others you care while doing nothing.

Lots of people are going to be beating their breasts and saying how they meant well but believe me Iran and North Korea are watching. They will recognize that we had the best chance ever to remove an actual enemy, a person directly responsible for killing Americans, a person for whom there was popular support to do so and we choose not to.

How hollow are any warnings concerning Nuclear Proliferation going to be from this point on? How willing will people considering a popular uprising move knowing there is not cost if the dictators choose to kill any who oppose them? How much will And when these foes consider how to aggressively supply those who would LOVE to hit us either at home or abroad do you think they are going to listen to any warning we give? It’s going to mean that when they act we will have to pay a much higher price to stop them.

And there is another consideration, how likely is the president in an attempt to look tougher going to overreact in a different situation just to show that he is the alpha male? As Michael Ledeen said about Carter:

At about this stage in the Carter years, I began to worry: the president was getting a reputation for being a wimp, the economy was going to hell, and his poll numbers were headed steadily south. The main enemy — the Soviet Union — was flexing its muscles, invading Afghanistan in December of 1979. This came amidst the Iranian hostage crisis, which began early the previous month.

We tend to forget that the U.S. military buildup, which ultimately played a big role in the successful outcome of the Cold War, was started by Carter in response to the Soviet move, I must confess I didn’t know that myself DTG but by the time it started, “the wimp” could not hope to recover his lost manhood by sending money to the Pentagon.

And so I asked myself, is there a point at which a president realizes that wimps don’t get reelected? And if so, what might he do to shatter that image? For the next two years I worried that Carter might overreact to some international crisis in order to make folks see that he was really a tough guy.

This is a real reason to worry and we’ll keep an eye on it, but this simply proves Teddy Roosevelt right when he said: “Speak softly and carry a Big Stick.” and Sarah Palin (who called for a no fly zone weeks ago when it would have worked) who said: “2012 can’t come fast enough.”

Update: Oh brother, talk about doublespeak. Via Josh Trevino on Twitter.

Update 2: Serious mulling going on.

We need to “be prepared to contemplate” action beyond an NFZ? Literally speaking, Rice isn’t even asking to contemplate action, but to prepare ourselves to contemplate action. If it took the US exactly a month into the uprising — and five days after the Arab League unanimously requested a no-fly zone over Libya — to merely think about preparing for contemplation of action, what exactly will be the timeline for making an actual decision?

Likely sometime after the start the polls support it.

Update 3: Related: It’s not just Libya: Where are the Americans?

Update 4: How bad is it? This bad:

“Obviously, she’s not happy with dealing with a president who can’t decide if today is Tuesday or Wednesday, who can’t make his mind up,” a Clinton insider told The Daily. “She’s exhausted, tired.”

He went on, “If you take a look at what’s on her plate as compared with what’s on the plates of previous Secretary of States — there’s more going on now at this particular moment, and it’s like playing sports with a bunch of amateurs. And she doesn’t have any power. She’s trying to do what she can to keep things from imploding.”

I never thought I’d see the say when I felt bad for Mrs. Clinton.