|April 4, 2011||Posted by admin under Politics, World Events||
By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazettte
Monday, April 4, 2011 — Let me start by saying that as just one of a zillion pundits and armchair generals, the following screed is based solely on what is being reported by media here at home and abroad. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin, shall we?
President Barack Obama has committed U.S. military forces to Libya in support of rebels seeking to oust its leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi. By U.N. resolution, a rather fragile coalition has been formed to establish a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s military assault on the rebels. The secondary goal is regime change, though the majority of our coalition partners don’t have the stomach to admit that or take part in that mission.
The president — aware of criticism from his peacenik activists and liberal base in general — has been quick to state that the U.S. isn’t leading the coalition, and our role is supposed to be minimal. The president seems to suggest that the U.S. role in this operation will be over in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, history isn’t on the president’s side.
Gaddafi is the Arab world’s Charlie Sheen — but not only is he a crazed madman, he’s one with a substantial military and enough money to keep solidiers employed attacking his own people. And like Charlie Sheen, Gaddafi isn’t leaving the public stage without a fight.
Now that the U.S. has been involved with airstrikes and cruise missles, the Obama administration seems to want to pull the U.S. back on the sidelines as the weapon of last resort. If there was an organized military supporting the rebels, that stance might be tenable. But the Libyan rebels are a mostly leaderless, rag-tag group of inexperienced fighters who turn tail and run when pro-Gaddafi forces begin to engage them. From international press reports, the only thing stopping the Gaddafi military from overrunning the rebels is that they retreat faster than Gaddafi’s forces can advance.
President Obama has vowed that no U.S. boots will land on Libyan soil; I hope that’s a promise he and the entire coalition can keep. But airstrikes can only do so much to limit the pro-Gaddafi forces ability to go after the rebels. At some point, the rebels need organization; they need leadership; and they need weapons and training.
Several weeks ago the president signed a secret “finding” which allows the CIA to covertly assist the Libyan rebels. We’ve seen the U.S. provide covert assistance like this numerous times around the globe; I’ll admit I was surprised to read that Obama went along with it given his liberal record. Will the CIA be able to organize the rebels? Time will tell (doesn’t this break the vow about “no U.S. boots on Libyan soil,” even if they are CIA-hired boots and not military boots?).
U.S. airstrikes were intended to be a “shock and awe” campaign that would convince pro-Gaddafi military forces to quit or switch sides. I’ve not read evidence that either of those outcomes has occurred. Obama’s recent statements on Libya make the U.S. appear timid to act decisively; given the ease with which pro-Gaddafi forces are pushing the rebels around, it would appear that they need some decisive, substantial help. If not the U.S., who? NATO?
The Obama administration is in a quagmire that has no simple solution. Allowing Gaddafi to rout the rebels and destroy them in the process would undoubtedly embolden him to once again sponsor terrorist acts against U.S. and coalition partners. But Gaddafi has the money and military might to continue this war with the rebels. And Gaddafi knows that the coalition partners don’t want to put their military on the ground in Libya. He can simply play a war of attrition against the rebels.
At the same time, we’re seeing increasingly desperate, violent acts in other Arab and African countries. Ousting Gaddafi from power may be the least of our worries. I won’t even discuss the difficulty of establishing a new government in Libya should Gaddafi step down on his own.
If the U.S. is going to give the rebels a chance to win, they’re going to need more than tepid military support. They will need advisors, weapons, training and more. Gaddafi shows no signs of leaving power peacefully, and while my preference would have been no U.S. involvement in Libya, I believe the Obama administration needs to unleash the full fury of American power to get the job done as quickly as possible. No more timid statements about this not being a war, and this action not being about regime change. It really is a war, and regime change is one of its goals.
I’m sure part of the CIA’s mission in Libya is to identify a leader or leaders with whom we can give support, knowing they will be favorable to U.S. interests in the region once Gaddafi is no longer in charge. Historically, covert U.S. activities regarding regime change have been a mixed bag; sometimes the leaders we support turn out to be worse than the ones they replaced. We’re at the point of no return, and the president needs to recognize that.
How Libya will turn out won’t be determined quickly, but decisive, overwhelming military action may help push Libyans along the path to a new government and new leadership.