Tag: Moammar Qaddafi

AS LENIN SAID: WHO/WHOM?—“PROTESTERS,” “REVOLUTIONARIES,” & THE ARAB REBELLIONS

 

 

 

OBAMA’S LIBYAN WAR, THE ARAB REBELLIONS, AND ISRAEL
Frederick Krantz

 

Finally, after weeks of indecisive hesitation, and with Col. Khaddafi’s forces about to conquer Benghazi, the Libyan rebels’ last strong-hold, American President Barack Obama agreed to support a Libyan intervention.

In a hurried press conference, before ostentatiously leaving in mid-crisis for Brazil (which had just abstained onintervention in the Security Council) Obama—who weeks earlier had dramatically said Khaddafi “had to go”—informed the world that America would be part of a UN coalition imposing a “no fly” zone on Libya. Obama quickly added that the allies, not the U.S., would lead, there would never be American “boots” on the ground, and Obama proudly added, even the Arab League was supporting the venture. This did not, however, include key states with strong armies, like Egypt, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, and it soon turned wobbly when the bombs began to fall.

Yet despite the U.S. President’s transparent, and telling, cloaking of the move in internationalist bafflegab (and now the reference to the Libyan colonel’s departure had disappeared), America’s key military role, begun on the very day marking the beginning of the Iraq war’s ninth year, soon became clear.

So too did the confusion issuing from the President’s weak leadership and incoherent policy—what was initially touted as only a “no fly” zone to protect “civilians” morphed, on day one, into a “no drive” zone, a direct assault on Khaddafi’s ground forces, including what seemed an attempt (failed) to assassinate him by bombing his presidential palace in Tripoli.

Khaddafi, of course, is far from defeated. His anti-colonial (and anti-”Christian/infidel” hype) has evidently already weakened the Arab support Obama initially trumpeted. He can also hope to divide the weak Western allies (Germany, as well as Russia and China, opposed the venture) internally (Sarkozy and the French were already being blamed for being too self-seekingly aggressive, the Turks were balking at tactical bombing, and everyone was arguing about who or what will head the NATO mission Obama has now jiggered up to replace direct US leadership).

The Colonel may be counting, too, on Obama’s losing his nerve under public and Congressional criticism (already being expressed by a united Republican front and the President’s Democratic-left “base”).

The Libyan intervention may well prove a partial, if not unmitigated, disaster. Obama has repeatedly framed it as lasting days, not weeks; but if Khaddafi endures it may well (like the initial Iraq “no fly” zone) turn first into months and then years. And if the “rebels” themselves—an amorphous, heterogeneous, and largely unknown collection with no clear leadership—splinter, or if Libya is functionally partitioned, largely along tribal lines, with Khaddafi king of Tripoli and points west, and the weak rebels dominating the east, how will the U.S. avoid ownership of a third war in a Muslim land?

A cornered Khaddafi could, as he has threatened, blow up his oil fields (which supply Italy and much of Western Europe), or launch a series of terrorist strikes against Europe and the U.S. (we should never forget that Libya provided the bulk of the foreign Sunni terrorists in Iraq, and that Khaddafi’s repeated invocation of his opposition to al-Qaeda is not entirely empty rhetoric). And even if Obama does succeed in killing Khaddafi (his and Hillary Clinton’s euphemism is “make him go away”), his sons may well continue on.

Finally, all of the imponderables of “Obama’s war” (and the Arab “revolutions” around it) bear on Israel’s security and well-being. First, Obama’s initial hesitations about confronting Khaddafi, a real Arab murderer and thug, throw an inverse light on the political values revealed by his consistently hostile stance towards democratic Israel. Secondly, in regard to the practical utility of his pro forma verbal assurances about defending Israel, we should recall his rapid jettisoning of Hosni Mubarak, America’s firmest, and oldest, Middle East Arab ally, at the beginning of the Egyptian “revolution”, his dangerous vacillation in regard to another old ally still facing “protesters”, the king of strategically-crucial Bahrain, and his hesitations about the increasingly precarious (but anti-al-Qaeda) president of Yemen, Saleh.

The Egyptian “revolution” is now safely over and in the hands of the military, which evicted the “protesters” from Tahrir Square and controls a constitution-making process marked by an ever-stronger Moslem Brotherhood (see the recent constitutional amendments vote). The Saudis, well-aware of their own security interests and explicitly rejecting Obama’s imprecations, have invaded Bahrain and put down the revolutionary pro-Iranian Shi’ite “protesters” there. (Meanwhile, President Saleh, who is being allowed to twist slowly in the revolutionary wind, may well not survive.)

And now—mirabile dictu!—sudden popular protests have broken out even in Syria, only to be bloodily suppressed, and this despite the presence of the recently-returned American ambassador, put there without Congressional approval by Obama notwithstanding Assad’s literally murderous anti-U.S. role in Iraq and Lebanon. (Secretary of Defense Gates has rejected “regime change” in Syria, and Secretary of State Clinton tells us Bashar Assad is a “reformer.”)

In short, as the Arab rebellions spread dangerously around the only regional island of stability, Israel, Barack Obama and his Administration are a foreign policy disaster, stumbling from one improvised policy to another. Marked by a leftist-anti-”colonialist” mentality (read the Cairo Speech), a weakness for “re-setting” relations with dictatorships (Russia, China, Iran, Syria), and facing a severe domestic social and economic crisis, Obama’s neo-isolationist tendency is, especially in the Middle East, increasingly evident, and for Israel nothing short of a disaster.

Obama’s brief two years in office have seen the reversal of long-standing American Middle East and Persian Gulf policy, and the collapse, actual or imminent, of key traditional American allies. And as the brief hope of a truly democratic “Arab Revolution” dims, what looms ominously in its stead is prolonged chaos and reinforcement of Islamist movements (from the Moslem Brothers in Egypt and Gaza to Al Qaeda in Yemen and, possibly Libya), as well as growing Iranian Shiite influence (in Bahrain, and with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.)

The only “bright spot” at the moment is, paradoxically, Syria, where popular Sunni elimination of the minority Alawite Assad regime would weaken Hamas, Hezbollah and, behind them, their Iranian Shiite sponsor, and might even re-spark the Iranian “Green” revolution against the mullahcracy.

Under such dangerous and unstable circumstances, and given the Obama Administration’s illusory, and dangerous, “peace process” pressures (which may well increase precisely as Obama meets defeats elsewhere) Israel must look to its own basic security. And above all, the current focus on the rebellions and their implications must not lead us into taking our eyes off the elephant in the room, the major and continuing threat to Israel of the Iranians’ nuclear program.

Given this, Israeli diplomacy must do everything it can to ensure, to minimize, to the extent possible, that the Jewish state’s international isolation, while we here in North America, the last redoubt of public support for the Jewish state, must remain united and committed to ensuring continuing, strong public and governmental backing for the Jewish state.

(Prof. Krantz is Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research,
and Editor of
the Isranet Daily Briefing)

 

EVERY REVOLUTION IS REVOLUTIONARY IN ITS OWN WAY
Simon Sebag Montefiore

NY Times, March 26, 2011

 

A revolution resembles the death of a fading star, an exhilarating Technicolor explosion that gives way not to an ordered new galaxy but to a nebula, a formless cloud of shifting energy. And though every revolution is different, because all revolutions are local, in this uncertain age of Arab uprisings and Western interventions, as American missiles bombard a defiant Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, as the ruler of Yemen totters on the brink and Syrian troops fire on protesters, the history of revolution can still offer us some clues to the future.

The German sociologist Max Weber cited three reasons for citizens to obey their rulers: “the authority of the eternal yesterday,” or historical prestige; “the authority of the extraordinary personal gift of grace,” or the ruler’s charisma; and “domination by virtue of legality,” or order and justice. The “authority of the eternal yesterday” is especially important because in the Arab world even republics tend to be dynastic.

Before his ouster, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was grooming hereditary heirs. Before his death in 2000, Hafez al-Assad, the long-reigning Syrian dictator, handed over power to his son Bashar. Colonel Qaddafi has long ruled through a phalanx of thuggish dauphins, each playing a different role—one the totalitarian enforcer, another, the pro-Western liberalizer—and each vying for the succession. Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh similarly is safeguarded by special forces commanded by sons and nephews.

Yet “the life span of a dynasty corresponds to the life span of an individual,” wrote Ibn Khaldun, the brilliant 14th-century Islamic historian-statesman. All these Arab “monarchies” have rested on the prestige of a religion (Saudi Wahhabism or Iranian Twelver Shiism), a personality (in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution; in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, the memory of the most popular Arab ruler since Saladin, President Gamal Abdel Nasser; in Saudi Arabia, the founder-king Ibn Saud) or a heredity link (Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s descent from Muhammad). But “prestige…decays inevitably,” ruled Ibn Khaldun.…

The generational difference between…wizened pharaohs and the Twitter-obsessed youth worsened the [current] crisis, which may yet mark the end of the ancient paradigm of the Arab ruler, the wise strong sheik, el Rais, the Boss. A dictator who is regularly mocked by the young for his Goth-black dyed hair and surgically enhanced cheekbones, and whose entourage features as many nurses as generals, is in trouble—he has lost “the personal gift of grace.”

Such dictators are often so sclerotic that they do not even realize there is a revolution until it is upon them. In 1848, Prince Metternich, the Austrian chancellor, was so old that he literally could not hear the mobs outside his own palace. When the riots started, I imagine Colonel Qaddafi or King Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain had a conversation something like this one:

“So what is it? A riot?” asked King Louis XVI in Paris in 1789. “No, Sire,” replied his confidant La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, “it is a revolution.”

Leaderless revolutions without organization have a magically spontaneous momentum that is harder to crush. Lenin had just reflected that the revolution would never happen in his lifetime when in February 1917, hungry crowds in Petrograd overthrew Nicholas II while the revolutionaries were abroad, exiled or infiltrated by the secret police.…

Once the crowds are in the streets, the ability to crush revolutions depends on the ruler’s willingness and ability to shed blood. The more moderate the regimes, like the Shah’s Iran in 1979 or Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, the easier to overthrow. The more brutal the police state, like Colonel Qaddafi’s Libya, President Saleh’s Yemen or President Assad’s Syria, the tougher to bring down. Iran has brutally repressed its opposition—it helps to not be an American ally and to exclude the international news media, as it’s much easier to massacre your people without being restrained by the State Department or CNN.

“Very pleasing commencements,” wrote Edmund Burke, observer of the French Revolution’s spiral from freedom to terror, “have often shameful, lamentable conclusions.” Look at Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution against Syria and its ally Hezbollah, which has ended with a Syrian-backed, Hezbollah-dominated government. The first success of revolution creates the exuberant dizziness of democratic freedom that we saw in Cairo and Benghazi. In Europe in 1848, in Russia in 1917, there were similarly exhilarating springs.…

The [initial] fiesta does not last long. The disorder, uncertainty and strife of a revolution make citizens yearn for stable authority, or they turn to radicalism. Certainly, extremists welcome this deterioration, as Lenin, that laconic dean of the university of revolutionology, expressed it with the slogan: “The worse, the better.” (At that point, extreme solutions become more palatable: “How can one make a revolution without firing squads?” asked Lenin.)

At this stage, leadership becomes vital: Lenin personally drove the Bolshevik coup in October 1917. Khomeini was decisive in creating a Shiite theocracy in Iran in 1979 just as Nelson Mandela ensured a peaceful transition in South Africa. But there are no clear opposition leaders in Libya, Yemen or Syria: a ruthless security apparatus has long since decimated any such candidates.

In 1848, the democratic spring did not last long before outside intervention: Czar Nicholas I of Russia crushed the revolutions in the Habsburg Empire, earning him the soubriquet “the gendarme of Europe.” The Saudi intervention against Shiite rebels in Bahrain suggests the Saudis are the gendarmes of the Gulf; in Yemen, President Saleh has also begged for Saudi help, which they have so far withheld. In Libya, of course, the reverse has happened: the West is backing the rebels against Colonel Qaddafi’s onslaught. Each case is different; all revolutions are local.

Whatever happens next in the Arab world, it will not simply be a reversion to Mubarak-ish military pharaohism. After the upheavals of 1848, strange political hybrids, modern yet authoritarian, emerged from the uncertainty: first Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the so-called prince-president and later emperor, in France; and, later, in the 1860s, Otto von Bismarck in Prussia. In complex Egypt, the result of the Arab revolutions is likely to be a similar hybrid, a new democracy, with the military in a special role of Turkish-style guardianship; in repressed Libya, it may simply be a return to tribal rivalry.

Libya, strafed by British and American planes, may be in the headlines but it is a minor country.…

Lesser countries, however, can hold the key to major ones: Syria is the old Arab heartland. The uprising in Syria could encourage resurgent revolution in its patron, Iran, which faces the challenge of exploiting the uprisings that undermine American allies without succumbing to its own unrest. Change in Syria could also liberate Lebanon from Hezbollah; the fall of the Bahraini king could infect the Saudi monarchy—just as Nasser’s overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 in Egypt led to the liquidation of the Iraqi monarchy a few years later. And we should always remember that however liberal these Facebooking revolutions may be, the rivalries between Shiite and Sunni are far more potent than Twitter and democracy.…

No single American doctrine can or should fit this newly kaleidoscopic, multifaceted universe that is the Middle East from Iran to Morocco. We must realize this will be a long game, the grand tournament of the 21st century. We should protect innocent lives when we can—with limited airpower, not boots on the ground. We must analyze which countries matter to us strategically, and after the Facebook party dies down and the students exit the streets, figure out who is really controlling events in the places important to us.

The wisest judgments belong to statesmen who knew much about crushing and making revolutions. “Old Europe is at the beginning of the end,” reflected the ultraconservative Metternich as he was beset by revolutions, “but New Europe however has not yet even begun its existence, and between the End and the Beginning, there will be Chaos.” Lenin understood that the ultimate question in each revolution is always the unfathomable alchemy of power: who controls whom. Or as he put it so succinctly: “Who whom?”

 

THE SPEECH OBAMA HASN’T GIVEN
Peggy Noonan
Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2011

 

It all seems rather mad, doesn’t it? The decision to become involved militarily in the Libyan civil war couldn’t take place within a less hospitable context. The U.S. is reeling from spending and deficits, we’re already in two wars, our military has been stretched to the limit, we’re restive at home, and no one, really, sees President Obama as the kind of leader you’d follow over the top. “This way, men!” “No, I think I’ll stay in my trench.” People didn’t hire him to start battles but to end them. They didn’t expect him to open new fronts. Did he not know this?…

Which gets me to Mr. Obama’s speech, the one he hasn’t given. I cannot for the life of me see how an American president can launch a serious military action without a full and formal national address in which he explains to the American people why he is doing what he is doing, why it is right, and why it is very much in the national interest. He referred to his aims in parts of speeches and appearances when he was in South America, but now he’s home. More is needed, more is warranted, and more is deserved.…

Without a formal and extended statement, the air of weirdness, uncertainty and confusion that surrounds this endeavor will only deepen. The questions that must be answered actually start with the essentials. What, exactly, are we doing? Why are we doing it? At what point, or after what arguments, did the president decide U.S. military involvement was warranted? Is our objective practical and doable? What is America’s overriding strategic interest? In what way are the actions taken, and to be taken, seeing to those interests?

From those questions flow many others. We know who we’re against—Moammar Gadhafi, a bad man who’s done very wicked things. But do we know who we’re for? That is, what does the U.S. government know or think it knows about the composition and motives of the rebel forces we’re attempting to assist?…

What happens if Gadhafi hangs on? The president has said he wants U.S. involvement to be brief. But what if Gadhafi is fighting on three months from now? On the other hand, what happens if Gadhafi falls, if he’s deposed in a palace coup or military coup, or is killed, or flees? What exactly do we imagine will take his place?…

The U.S. and the allies will have to provide the rebels training and give them support. They will need antitank missiles and help in coordinating air strikes. Once Gadhafi is gone, will there be a need for an international peacekeeping force to stabilize the country, to provide a peaceful transition, and to help the post-Gadhafi government restore its infrastructure? Will there be a partition? Will Libyan territory be altered?

None of this sounds like limited and discrete action. In fact, this may turn out to be true: If Gadhafi survives, the crisis will go on and on. If Gadhafi falls, the crisis will go on and on.…

Mr. Obama has apparently set great store in the fact that he was not acting alone, that Britain, France and Italy were eager to move. That’s good—better to work with friends and act in concert. But it doesn’t guarantee anything. A multilateral mistake is still a mistake.…

And what, finally, about Congress? Putting aside the past half-century’s argument about declarations of war, doesn’t Congress, as representative of the people, have the obvious authority and responsibility to support the Libyan endeavor, or not, and to authorize funds, or not?…

America has been through a difficult 10 years, and the burden of proof on the need for U.S. action would be with those who supported intervention. Chief among them, of course, is the president, who made the decision as commander in chief. He needs to sit down and tell the American people how this thing can possibly turn out well. He needs to tell them why it isn’t mad.

 

OBAMA AND LIBYA: THE PROFESSOR’S WAR
Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post, March 24, 2011

 

President Obama is proud of how he put together the Libyan operation. A model of international cooperation. All the necessary paperwork. Arab League backing. A Security Council resolution. (Everything but a resolution from the Congress of the United States, a minor inconvenience for a citizen of the world.) It’s war as designed by an Ivy League professor.

True, it took three weeks to put this together, during which time Moammar Gaddafi went from besieged, delusional (remember those youthful protesters on “hallucinogenic pills”) thug losing support by the hour—to resurgent tyrant who marshaled his forces, marched them to the gates of Benghazi and had the U.S. director of national intelligence predicting that “the regime will prevail.”

But what is military initiative and opportunity compared with paper?…

Yet Obama deemed it a great diplomatic success that the [Arab League] deigned to permit others to fight and die to save fellow Arabs for whom 19 of 21 Arab states have yet to lift a finger.

And what about that brilliant U.N. resolution? Russia’s Vladimir Putin is already calling the Libya operation a medieval crusade. China is calling for a cease-fire in place—which would completely undermine the allied effort by leaving Gaddafi in power, his people at his mercy and the country partitioned and condemned to ongoing civil war. Brazil joined China in that call for a cease-fire. This just hours after Obama ended his fawning two-day Brazil visit. Another triumph of presidential personal diplomacy.

And how about NATO? Let’s see. As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. Italy hinted it might deny the allies the use of its air bases if NATO can’t get its act together. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who the hell is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning.

And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Gaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.” Approach, mind you.

In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation—a dismaying expression of Obama’s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to…what? Save Third World people from massacre?

Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarreling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still can’t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.

This confusion is purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely “one of the partners among many,” he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him.… Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead—no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources—America is led by a man determined that it should not.…

OBAMA AND LIBYA—FULFILLING THE “PEOPLE”’S ASPIRATIONS “PEACEFULLY,” OR “STRATEGIC DEMENTIA”

 

 

 

WE INTERVENE
Leon Wieseltier
New Republic, March 21, 2011

 

After only a few days of allied military action, the Libyan nightmare has been averted, and the rebels are now marching westward again. Like the invincible Serbian juggernaut of yore, the power of Muammar Qaddafi, which frightened Secretary Gates, has been shaken. President Obama has done an admirable thing. On March 18, he gave a speech explaining his decision. The speech was both ringing and baffling: as the poet said, I wish he would explain his explanation. What follows is a commentary on some of the president’s statements. His words are in italics.

In the face of this injustice, the United States and the international community moved swiftly.

By Bosnian standards, this is swift. By Rwandan standards, anything is swift. By Libyan standards, this is in the nick of time. The non-military actions that the Obama administration took did not impede Qaddafi’s campaign against his people, and the military action that we have taken came as Qaddafi’s campaign had reached the gates of Benghazi—even breached them. The battle of Benghazi had already begun; and it would have been not a battle, but a massacre. For the citizens of Benghazi, and for the leadership of the Libyan opposition, which is based there, this is rescue, pure and simple. Operation Odyssey Dawn was launched a little over a month after the Libyan revolution, and Qaddafi’s war on it, began. For some purposes, four weeks is a short time; for other purposes, it is an eternity. The question of our alacrity is significant, because there are dire circumstances—moral emergencies—in which the traditional sequence of diplomatic, economic, and military responses, the gradualism of ordinary foreign policy, must be abridged, if the means are to match the ends. In such situations, rapid deployment is the most effective deployment.

Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.

The president is exactly right. His decision to use force to prevent all those horrors is justified. The situation was even worse, and more urgent, than he allowed: left unchecked, Qaddafi already had committed atrocities against his people. But why do some atrocities have a claim on our conscience and our resources, and others do not? No sooner had Obama explained his decision to use force to rescue the Libyan rebels than the progressive bloggers went to work. This was Ezra Klein’s gloss on Obama’s sentences: “Every year, one million people die from malaria. About three million children die, either directly or indirectly, due to hunger. There is much we could do to help the world if we were willing. The question that needs to be asked is: Why this?” And Andrew Sullivan cleverly objected, about Obama’s view that “the U.S. cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place,” that “we have done nothing in Burma or the Congo and are actively supporting governments in Yemen and Bahrain that are doing almost exactly—if less noisily—what Qaddafi is doing.”

These are debater’s points made by people who have no reason to fear that they will ever need to be rescued. It is important that this “logic” be exposed for what it really is, because it sounds so plausible. Is it hypocritical of the United States to act against Qaddafi and not against Al Khalifa? It is. But there are worse things in this suffering world than hypocrisy. Are we inconsistent? We are. But should we abandon people to slaughter, should we consign freedom fighters to their doom, for the satisfaction of consistency? Simone Weil once remarked that as long as France retained its colonial possessions it was morally disqualified from the struggle against Hitler. It was a breathtakingly consistent and stupid remark. We should be candid. All outrage is selective. Nobody cares about everything equally. Nobody can save everybody, and everybody will not be saved. If everybody who deserves rescue will not be rescued, should nobody who deserves rescue be rescued? If we cannot do everything, must we do nothing? The history of help and rescue is a history of triage. There are also philosophical and moral and political preferences that determine the selectivity of our actions, and those preferences must be provided with valid reasons. Maybe we should be intervening in Burma or Bahrain: let the arguments be made, the principles and the interests adduced. But of course it is not the expansion of American action that interests these writers. What they seek is its contraction. Klein’s point is especially lousy. Did our inaction in Rwanda reduce the frequency of malaria in Africa? Blogging is a notoriously time-consuming vocation. Surely there is a kitchen for the homeless where Klein lives. If he were to tear himself away from his laptop, he would not solve the hunger problem, but it would help.

Yesterday, in response to a call for action by the Libyan people and the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council passed a strong resolution that demands an end to the violence against citizens. It authorizes the use of force with an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing. … And we are not going to use force beyond a well-defined goalspecifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.

Obama’s characterization of Resolution 1973 recapitulates its strongest and its weakest features. The resolution’s description of the means to be employed is remarkable: it calls for “all necessary measures,” which goes well beyond the imposition of a no-fly zone and covers the air strikes against Qaddafi’s advancing forces, air-defense systems, and command-and-control capabilities that we have been witnessing—and that are transforming the fight for the democratization of Libya into a fair fight. Moreover, “all necessary measures” are to be taken “notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970,” an obscure reference that does nothing less than repeal the arms embargo to Libya that the Security Council established at the end of February. It excludes only “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” This is a powerful warrant for the use of force against Qaddafi.

But the resolution grants this warrant, as the president indicated, “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi.” The ends are humanitarian, not political. I have no objection to the immediate objective of relief, of course; but I wonder about what comes next. The problem, after all, is political: a popular democratic revolt was savagely attacked by a tyrant and his mercenaries and some of his army. If Qaddafi now desists, will we desist, too? Will our intervention result in the de facto partition of Libya? Will Benghazi become a free city—or worse, a “safe haven” —that will require our indefinite protection? Will Qaddafi be granted western Libya and his capital? If he survives, he wins. So what was Obama thinking when he added that “Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya, and establish water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas”? We have sent our planes and our submarines into action only for that?

If we had acted a few weeks ago, when the Libyan rebels were five hundred miles to the west, a political outcome would have been more likely. But this concrete perplexity broaches a more general consideration. There are cases—and they must be scrupulously pondered—in which it may be a mistake to dissociate the humanitarian from the political, because the atrocities that occasion the humanitarian response are political in origin, and only a political change will eliminate their cause. For this reason, I am heartened by the implication of that esoteric reference to Resolution 1970, because it may support the transfer of arms to the Libyan rebels. As long as Qaddafi stays in power, the national and regional danger remains in place, and worsens.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people with humanitarian and economic assistance so that they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully.

This is bizarre. Peacefully? The Libyan people are in the midst of an armed revolt against a dictator who is in the midst of an armed campaign to crush them. There is a war in Libya. It erupted because the Libyan people finally despaired of fulfilling their aspirations peacefully. When they tried to do so, they were murdered. So they fought back. The president may not wish to be embroiled in an internecine Libyan conflict, but there he is. He should console himself that it is not a civil war, but it is a war nonetheless.

I detect in Obama’s sentence the enchantment of Tahrir Square, so a few cautionary words about what is and is not to be inferred from the revolution in Cairo are in order. What happened in Tahrir Square was extraordinary. Many hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated for many weeks against a despised regime and killed nobody. The army surrounded the demonstrators with tanks and killed nobody. (The secret police and Mubarak’s thugs did the dirty work.) Tahrir Square was a miracle—but a miracle is not a model. There will be instances—they have already occurred—when democratic protestors may resort to violence, to defend themselves or to overthrow the tyrant. Democracy does not entail pacifism. “From the beginning of these protests,” Obama continued, “we have made it clear that we are opposed to violence.” All violence? In Libya the dissidents did not begin with violence, but they took up arms in a just cause. It should not be hard for us, the children of Lexington and Concord, to understand them. And so I am puzzled by Obama’s “peacefully.” Perhaps he believes that Qaddafi will do the rational thing and leave for Caracas. If he wishes to demonstrate that he has no illusions about the rationality, and the political acceptability, of Qaddafi, whom not long ago he declared “must go,” he should recognize the provisional Libyan government, as some of our allies have done.

In this effort, the United States is prepared to act as part of an international coalition. American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting aloneit means shaping the conditions for the international community to act together. … And this is precisely how the international community should work.

This is the experiment behind Obama’s military action, his proposed innovation in the methods and grounds of intervention. He will do it, but in a new way. The “American leadership” that is “essential” is not like, say, the American leadership of George H.W. Bush in the war for the liberation of Kuwait, which was a multilateral effort organized unilaterally, you might say, by the United States. Obama dislikes such a degree of American primacy—the perception of it, the reality of it. This dislike amounts to a historical and strategic re-orientation In Paris, Hillary Clinton articulated the re-orientation bluntly: “We did not lead this. We did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Qaddafi is unfortunately doing.”

As a practical matter, a bit of post-Iraq cunning, this makes some sense. It is useful, I suppose, that the Arab League has thrown its otherwise dubious authority behind this effort, and that “the red, green, and black of Arab flags be prominent in the military operations,” as a senior official told The New York Times, even though so far only Qatar among the Arab states is participating in the mission and its flag is not especially visible. But how useful, really? Who, really, is fooled? The campaign did not begin until the American president was persuaded that it should begin. The missiles that destroyed Qaddafi’s capabilities were American missiles. The United States will turn over command of the operation to a European ally, but not until the American military does what the American military does best. So the conduct of Operation Odyssey Dawn affirms the American centrality that American officials wish to deny. (This centrality, incidentally, is not inconsistent with Resolution 1973, which does not authorize a coalition. It “authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures…” It asks only that the individual states “inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take.” Can it be that the United Nations was less anxious about American initiative than the American president?)

The organization of Operation Odyssey Dawn represents Obama’s ambivalence about the global preeminence of the United States. So do its origins: David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy concluded that an atrocity must be militarily prevented before Barack Obama did. Or at least they said so publicly; but the public pronouncements of presidents, particularly in open societies, are necessary to prepare public opinion for a discussion of the proposed course of action. Reticence about first principles and bold actions is not a presidential virtue. “Sarkozy! Sarkozy!” the rebels in Benghazi are now shouting. I would have preferred to hear “Obama! Obama!” I have no doubt that they would have gratefully cried out the president’s name, even though we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the time Obama is finished with his serial opacities and last-minute adjustments about the democratic struggle in the Middle East, he will have forfeited the trust of both its regimes and its peoples.

“We did not lead this”: what sort of boast is that? According to Resolution 1973, Qaddafi has committed “gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, and summary executions” and “systematic attacks … against the civilian population [that] may amount to crimes against humanity.” We should have led this. I respect the deliberateness with which Obama considers sending American soldiers into battle: the Constitution gives the commander-in-chief the lonely power of life and death. But this same power makes the American president uniquely able to do—pardon my ideological naivete—good in the world. He can rescue, and save, and support, and protect. And he can know this prior to any crisis; this can be pre-deliberated. What matters is his prior conception of the American presidency and of American power. A reluctance to put American troops in harm’s way must not be confused with a reluctance to recognize, or to accept, that the thwarting of a crime against humanity is not one of the burdens of the office, but one of its glories. There is no historical shame, no historical cost, in delivering a city of 750,000 people, and a democratic revolt, from the brutal designs of a lunatic tyrant, and in being seen to be doing so. There is only honor.

(Leon Wieseltier is the literary editor of The New Republic.)

 

AMERICA’S DESCENT INTO STRATEGIC DEMENTIA
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2011

 

The U.S.’s new war against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is the latest sign of its steady regional decline. In media interviews over the weekend, U.S. military chief Adm. Michael Mullen was hard-pressed to explain either the goal of the military strikes in Libya or their strategic rationale.

Mullen’s difficulty explaining the purpose of this new war was indicative of the increasing irrationality of U.S. foreign policy.

Traditionally, states have crafted their foreign policy to expand their wealth and bolster their national security. In this context, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has traditionally been directed towards advancing three goals: Guaranteeing the free flow of inexpensive petroleum products from the Middle East to global market; strengthening regimes and governments that are in a position to advance this core U.S. goal at the expense of U.S. enemies; and fighting against regional forces like the pan-Arabists and the jihadists that advance a political program inherently hostile to U.S. power.

Other competing interests have periodically interfered with U.S. Middle East policy. And these have to greater or lesser degrees impaired the U.S.’s ability to formulate and implement rational policies in the region.

These competing interests have included the desire to placate somewhat friendly Arab regimes that are stressed by or dominated by anti-U.S. forces; a desire to foster good relations with Europe; and a desire to win the support of the U.S. media.

Under the Obama administration, these competing interests have not merely influenced U.S. policy in the Middle East. They have dominated it. Core American interests have been thrown to the wayside.

Before considering the deleterious impact this descent into strategic dementia has had on U.S. interests, it is necessary to consider the motivations of the various sides to the foreign policy debate in the U.S. today.

All of the sides have contributed to the fact that U.S. Middle East policy is now firmly submerged in a morass of strategic insanity.

The first side in the debate is the anti-imperialist camp, represented by President Barack Obama himself. Since taking office, Obama has made clear that he views the U.S. as an imperialist power on the world stage. As a result, the overarching goal of Obama’s foreign policy has been to end U.S. global hegemony.

Obama looks to the UN as a vehicle for tethering the U.S. superpower. He views U.S. allies in the Middle East and around the world with suspicion because he feels that as U.S. allies, they are complicit with U.S. imperialism.

Given his view, Obama’s instincts dictate that he do nothing to advance the U.S.’s core interests in the Middle East. Consider his policies towards Iran. The Iranian regime threatens all of the U.S.’s core regional interests.

And yet, Obama has refused to lift a finger against the mullahs.

Operating under the assumption that U.S. enemies are right to hate America due to its global hegemony, when the mullahs stole the 2009 presidential elections for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and then violently repressed the pro-Western opposition Green Movement, Obama sided with the mullahs.

Aside from its imperative to lash out at Israel, Obama’s ideological predisposition would permit him to happily sit on the sidelines and do nothing against U.S. foe or friend alike. But given Obama’s basic suspicion of U.S. allies, to the extent he has bowed to pressure to take action in the Middle East, he has always done so to the detriment of U.S. allies.

Obama’s treatment of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is case in point.

When the Muslim Brotherhood-backed opposition protests began in late January, Obama was perfectly happy to do nothing despite the U.S.’s overwhelming national interest in preserving Mubarak in power. But when faced with domestic pressure to intervene against Mubarak, he did so with a vengeance.

Not only did Obama force Mubarak to resign. He prevented Mubarak from resigning in September and so ensured that the Brotherhood would dominate the transition period to the new regime.

Obama’s most outspoken opponents in the U.S. foreign policy debate are the neoconservatives.

Like Obama, the neoconservatives are not motivated to act by concern for the U.S.’s core regional interests. What motivates them is their belief that the U.S. must always oppose tyranny.

In some cases, like Iran and Iraq, the neoconservatives’ view was in consonance with U.S. strategic interests and so their policy recommendation of siding with regime opponents against the regimes was rational.

The problem with the neoconservative position is that it makes no distinction between liberal regime opponents and illiberal regime opponents. It can see no difference between pro-U.S. despots and anti-U.S. despots.

If there is noticeable opposition to tyrants, then the U.S. must support that opposition.

This view is what informed the neoconservative bid to oust Mubarak last month and Gaddafi this month.

The fracture between the Obama camp and the neoconservative camp came to a head with Libya. Obama wished to sit on the sidelines and the neoconservatives pushed for intervention.

To an even greater degree than in Egypt, the debate was settled by the third U.S. foreign policy camp—the opportunists. Led today by Clinton, the opportunist camp supports whoever they believe is going to make them most popular with the media and Europe.

In the case of Libya, the opportunist interests dictated military intervention against Gaddafi. Europe opposes Gaddafi because the French and the British bet early on that his opponents were winning. France recognized the opposition as the legitimate government two weeks ago.

Once Gaddafi’s counteroffensive began, France and Britain realized they would be harmed politically and economically if Gaddafi maintained power so they began calling for military strikes to overthrow him.

As for the media, they were quick to romanticize the amorphous “opposition” as freedom fighters.

Seeing the direction of the wind, Clinton jumped on the European-media bandwagon and forced Obama to agree to a military operation whose goal no one can define.

What the U.S. foreign policy fights regarding Egypt and Libya indicate is that currently, a discussion about how events impact core U.S. regional interests is completely absent from the discussion. Consequently, it should surprise no one that none of the policies the U.S. is implementing in the region advance those core interests in any way. Indeed, they are being severely damaged.

Under Mubarak, Egypt advanced U.S. interests in two main ways. First, by waging war against the Muslim Brotherhood and opposing the rise of Iranian power in the region, Mubarak weakened the regional forces that most threatened U.S. interests. Second, by managing the Suez Canal in conformance with international maritime law, Egypt facilitated the smooth transport of petroleum products to global markets and prevented Iran from operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Since Mubarak was ousted, the ruling military junta has taken actions that signal that Egypt is no longer interested in behaving in a manner that advances U.S. interests.

Domestically, the junta has embarked on a course that all but guarantees the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in the fall.

Saturday’s referendum on constitutional amendments was a huge victory for the Brotherhood on two counts. First, it cemented Islamic law as the primary source of legislation and so paved the way for the Brotherhood’s transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state. Under Mubarak, that constitutional article meant nothing. Under the Brotherhood, it means everything.

Second, it set the date for parliamentary elections for September. Only the Brotherhood, and remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party will be ready to stand for election so soon. The liberals have no chance of mounting a coherent campaign in just six months.

In anticipation of the Brotherhood’s rise to power, the military has begun realigning Egypt into the Iranian camp. This realignment is seen most openly in Egypt’s new support for Hamas. Mubarak opposed Hamas because it is part of the Brotherhood.

The junta supports it for the same reason. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby has already called for the opening of Egypt’s border with Hamasruled Gaza.

There can be little doubt Hamas’s massive rocket barrage against Israel on Saturday was the product of its sense that Egypt is now on its side.

As for the Suez Canal, the junta’s behavior so far is a cause for alarm. Binding UN Security Council Resolution 1747 from 2007 bars Iran from shipping arms. Yet last month the junta thumbed its nose at international law and permitted two Iranian naval ships to traverse the canal without being inspected.

According to military sources, one of the ships carried advanced armaments. These were illicitly transferred to the German merchant ship Victoria at Syria’s Latakia port. Last week, IDF naval commandos interdicted the Victoria with its Iranian weaponry en route to Gaza via Alexandria.

Add to that Egypt’s decision to abrogate its contractual obligation to supply Israel with natural gas and we see that the junta is willing to suspend its commitment to international law in order to realign its foreign policy with Iran.

On every level, a post-Mubarak Egypt threatens the U.S. core interests that Mubarak advanced.

Then there is Libya. One of the most astounding aspects of the U.S. debate on Libya in recent weeks has been the scant attention paid to the nature of the rebels.

The rebels are reportedly represented by the so-called National Transitional Council led by several of Gaddafi’s former ministers.

But while these men—who are themselves competing for the leadership mantle—are the face of the NTC, it is unclear who stands behind them. Only nine of the NTC’s 31 members have been identified.

Unfortunately, available data suggest that the rebels championed as freedom fighters by the neoconservatives, the opportunists, the Europeans and the Western media alike are not exactly liberal democrats. Indeed, the data indicate that Gaddafi’s opponents are more aligned with al-Qaida than with the US.

Under jihadist commander Abu Yahya Al- Libi, Libyan jihadists staged anti-regime uprisings in the mid-1990s. Like today, those uprisings’ central hubs were Benghazi and Darnah.

In 2007 Al-Libi merged his forces into al- Qaida. On March 18, while denouncing the U.S., France and Britain, Al-Libi called on his forces to overthrow Gaddafi.

A 2007 US Military Academy study of information on al-Qaida forces in Iraq indicate that by far, Eastern Libya made the largest per capita contribution to al-Qaida forces in Iraq.

None of this proves that the U.S. is now assisting an al-Qaida takeover of Libya. But it certainly indicates that the forces being assisted by the U.S. in Libya are probably no more sympathetic to U.S. interests than Gaddafi is. At a minimum, the data indicate the U.S. has no compelling national interest in helping the rebels in overthrow Gaddafi.

The significance of the U.S.’s descent into strategic irrationality bodes ill not just for U.S. allies, but for America itself. Until the U.S. foreign policy community is again able to recognize and work to advance the U.S.’s core interests in the Middle East, America’s policies will threaten both its allies and itself.

OBAMA AND LIBYA—FULFILLING THE “PEOPLE”’S ASPIRATIONS “PEACEFULLY,” OR “STRATEGIC DEMENTIA”

 

 

 

WE INTERVENE
Leon Wieseltier
New Republic, March 21, 2011

 

After only a few days of allied military action, the Libyan nightmare has been averted, and the rebels are now marching westward again. Like the invincible Serbian juggernaut of yore, the power of Muammar Qaddafi, which frightened Secretary Gates, has been shaken. President Obama has done an admirable thing. On March 18, he gave a speech explaining his decision. The speech was both ringing and baffling: as the poet said, I wish he would explain his explanation. What follows is a commentary on some of the president’s statements. His words are in italics.

In the face of this injustice, the United States and the international community moved swiftly.

By Bosnian standards, this is swift. By Rwandan standards, anything is swift. By Libyan standards, this is in the nick of time. The non-military actions that the Obama administration took did not impede Qaddafi’s campaign against his people, and the military action that we have taken came as Qaddafi’s campaign had reached the gates of Benghazi—even breached them. The battle of Benghazi had already begun; and it would have been not a battle, but a massacre. For the citizens of Benghazi, and for the leadership of the Libyan opposition, which is based there, this is rescue, pure and simple. Operation Odyssey Dawn was launched a little over a month after the Libyan revolution, and Qaddafi’s war on it, began. For some purposes, four weeks is a short time; for other purposes, it is an eternity. The question of our alacrity is significant, because there are dire circumstances—moral emergencies—in which the traditional sequence of diplomatic, economic, and military responses, the gradualism of ordinary foreign policy, must be abridged, if the means are to match the ends. In such situations, rapid deployment is the most effective deployment.

Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.

The president is exactly right. His decision to use force to prevent all those horrors is justified. The situation was even worse, and more urgent, than he allowed: left unchecked, Qaddafi already had committed atrocities against his people. But why do some atrocities have a claim on our conscience and our resources, and others do not? No sooner had Obama explained his decision to use force to rescue the Libyan rebels than the progressive bloggers went to work. This was Ezra Klein’s gloss on Obama’s sentences: “Every year, one million people die from malaria. About three million children die, either directly or indirectly, due to hunger. There is much we could do to help the world if we were willing. The question that needs to be asked is: Why this?” And Andrew Sullivan cleverly objected, about Obama’s view that “the U.S. cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place,” that “we have done nothing in Burma or the Congo and are actively supporting governments in Yemen and Bahrain that are doing almost exactly—if less noisily—what Qaddafi is doing.”

These are debater’s points made by people who have no reason to fear that they will ever need to be rescued. It is important that this “logic” be exposed for what it really is, because it sounds so plausible. Is it hypocritical of the United States to act against Qaddafi and not against Al Khalifa? It is. But there are worse things in this suffering world than hypocrisy. Are we inconsistent? We are. But should we abandon people to slaughter, should we consign freedom fighters to their doom, for the satisfaction of consistency? Simone Weil once remarked that as long as France retained its colonial possessions it was morally disqualified from the struggle against Hitler. It was a breathtakingly consistent and stupid remark. We should be candid. All outrage is selective. Nobody cares about everything equally. Nobody can save everybody, and everybody will not be saved. If everybody who deserves rescue will not be rescued, should nobody who deserves rescue be rescued? If we cannot do everything, must we do nothing? The history of help and rescue is a history of triage. There are also philosophical and moral and political preferences that determine the selectivity of our actions, and those preferences must be provided with valid reasons. Maybe we should be intervening in Burma or Bahrain: let the arguments be made, the principles and the interests adduced. But of course it is not the expansion of American action that interests these writers. What they seek is its contraction. Klein’s point is especially lousy. Did our inaction in Rwanda reduce the frequency of malaria in Africa? Blogging is a notoriously time-consuming vocation. Surely there is a kitchen for the homeless where Klein lives. If he were to tear himself away from his laptop, he would not solve the hunger problem, but it would help.

Yesterday, in response to a call for action by the Libyan people and the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council passed a strong resolution that demands an end to the violence against citizens. It authorizes the use of force with an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing. … And we are not going to use force beyond a well-defined goalspecifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.

Obama’s characterization of Resolution 1973 recapitulates its strongest and its weakest features. The resolution’s description of the means to be employed is remarkable: it calls for “all necessary measures,” which goes well beyond the imposition of a no-fly zone and covers the air strikes against Qaddafi’s advancing forces, air-defense systems, and command-and-control capabilities that we have been witnessing—and that are transforming the fight for the democratization of Libya into a fair fight. Moreover, “all necessary measures” are to be taken “notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970,” an obscure reference that does nothing less than repeal the arms embargo to Libya that the Security Council established at the end of February. It excludes only “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” This is a powerful warrant for the use of force against Qaddafi.

But the resolution grants this warrant, as the president indicated, “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi.” The ends are humanitarian, not political. I have no objection to the immediate objective of relief, of course; but I wonder about what comes next. The problem, after all, is political: a popular democratic revolt was savagely attacked by a tyrant and his mercenaries and some of his army. If Qaddafi now desists, will we desist, too? Will our intervention result in the de facto partition of Libya? Will Benghazi become a free city—or worse, a “safe haven” —that will require our indefinite protection? Will Qaddafi be granted western Libya and his capital? If he survives, he wins. So what was Obama thinking when he added that “Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya, and establish water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas”? We have sent our planes and our submarines into action only for that?

If we had acted a few weeks ago, when the Libyan rebels were five hundred miles to the west, a political outcome would have been more likely. But this concrete perplexity broaches a more general consideration. There are cases—and they must be scrupulously pondered—in which it may be a mistake to dissociate the humanitarian from the political, because the atrocities that occasion the humanitarian response are political in origin, and only a political change will eliminate their cause. For this reason, I am heartened by the implication of that esoteric reference to Resolution 1970, because it may support the transfer of arms to the Libyan rebels. As long as Qaddafi stays in power, the national and regional danger remains in place, and worsens.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people with humanitarian and economic assistance so that they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully.

This is bizarre. Peacefully? The Libyan people are in the midst of an armed revolt against a dictator who is in the midst of an armed campaign to crush them. There is a war in Libya. It erupted because the Libyan people finally despaired of fulfilling their aspirations peacefully. When they tried to do so, they were murdered. So they fought back. The president may not wish to be embroiled in an internecine Libyan conflict, but there he is. He should console himself that it is not a civil war, but it is a war nonetheless.

I detect in Obama’s sentence the enchantment of Tahrir Square, so a few cautionary words about what is and is not to be inferred from the revolution in Cairo are in order. What happened in Tahrir Square was extraordinary. Many hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated for many weeks against a despised regime and killed nobody. The army surrounded the demonstrators with tanks and killed nobody. (The secret police and Mubarak’s thugs did the dirty work.) Tahrir Square was a miracle—but a miracle is not a model. There will be instances—they have already occurred—when democratic protestors may resort to violence, to defend themselves or to overthrow the tyrant. Democracy does not entail pacifism. “From the beginning of these protests,” Obama continued, “we have made it clear that we are opposed to violence.” All violence? In Libya the dissidents did not begin with violence, but they took up arms in a just cause. It should not be hard for us, the children of Lexington and Concord, to understand them. And so I am puzzled by Obama’s “peacefully.” Perhaps he believes that Qaddafi will do the rational thing and leave for Caracas. If he wishes to demonstrate that he has no illusions about the rationality, and the political acceptability, of Qaddafi, whom not long ago he declared “must go,” he should recognize the provisional Libyan government, as some of our allies have done.

In this effort, the United States is prepared to act as part of an international coalition. American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting aloneit means shaping the conditions for the international community to act together. … And this is precisely how the international community should work.

This is the experiment behind Obama’s military action, his proposed innovation in the methods and grounds of intervention. He will do it, but in a new way. The “American leadership” that is “essential” is not like, say, the American leadership of George H.W. Bush in the war for the liberation of Kuwait, which was a multilateral effort organized unilaterally, you might say, by the United States. Obama dislikes such a degree of American primacy—the perception of it, the reality of it. This dislike amounts to a historical and strategic re-orientation In Paris, Hillary Clinton articulated the re-orientation bluntly: “We did not lead this. We did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Qaddafi is unfortunately doing.”

As a practical matter, a bit of post-Iraq cunning, this makes some sense. It is useful, I suppose, that the Arab League has thrown its otherwise dubious authority behind this effort, and that “the red, green, and black of Arab flags be prominent in the military operations,” as a senior official told The New York Times, even though so far only Qatar among the Arab states is participating in the mission and its flag is not especially visible. But how useful, really? Who, really, is fooled? The campaign did not begin until the American president was persuaded that it should begin. The missiles that destroyed Qaddafi’s capabilities were American missiles. The United States will turn over command of the operation to a European ally, but not until the American military does what the American military does best. So the conduct of Operation Odyssey Dawn affirms the American centrality that American officials wish to deny. (This centrality, incidentally, is not inconsistent with Resolution 1973, which does not authorize a coalition. It “authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures…” It asks only that the individual states “inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take.” Can it be that the United Nations was less anxious about American initiative than the American president?)

The organization of Operation Odyssey Dawn represents Obama’s ambivalence about the global preeminence of the United States. So do its origins: David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy concluded that an atrocity must be militarily prevented before Barack Obama did. Or at least they said so publicly; but the public pronouncements of presidents, particularly in open societies, are necessary to prepare public opinion for a discussion of the proposed course of action. Reticence about first principles and bold actions is not a presidential virtue. “Sarkozy! Sarkozy!” the rebels in Benghazi are now shouting. I would have preferred to hear “Obama! Obama!” I have no doubt that they would have gratefully cried out the president’s name, even though we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the time Obama is finished with his serial opacities and last-minute adjustments about the democratic struggle in the Middle East, he will have forfeited the trust of both its regimes and its peoples.

“We did not lead this”: what sort of boast is that? According to Resolution 1973, Qaddafi has committed “gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, and summary executions” and “systematic attacks … against the civilian population [that] may amount to crimes against humanity.” We should have led this. I respect the deliberateness with which Obama considers sending American soldiers into battle: the Constitution gives the commander-in-chief the lonely power of life and death. But this same power makes the American president uniquely able to do—pardon my ideological naivete—good in the world. He can rescue, and save, and support, and protect. And he can know this prior to any crisis; this can be pre-deliberated. What matters is his prior conception of the American presidency and of American power. A reluctance to put American troops in harm’s way must not be confused with a reluctance to recognize, or to accept, that the thwarting of a crime against humanity is not one of the burdens of the office, but one of its glories. There is no historical shame, no historical cost, in delivering a city of 750,000 people, and a democratic revolt, from the brutal designs of a lunatic tyrant, and in being seen to be doing so. There is only honor.

(Leon Wieseltier is the literary editor of The New Republic.)

 

AMERICA’S DESCENT INTO STRATEGIC DEMENTIA
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2011

 

The U.S.’s new war against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is the latest sign of its steady regional decline. In media interviews over the weekend, U.S. military chief Adm. Michael Mullen was hard-pressed to explain either the goal of the military strikes in Libya or their strategic rationale.

Mullen’s difficulty explaining the purpose of this new war was indicative of the increasing irrationality of U.S. foreign policy.

Traditionally, states have crafted their foreign policy to expand their wealth and bolster their national security. In this context, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has traditionally been directed towards advancing three goals: Guaranteeing the free flow of inexpensive petroleum products from the Middle East to global market; strengthening regimes and governments that are in a position to advance this core U.S. goal at the expense of U.S. enemies; and fighting against regional forces like the pan-Arabists and the jihadists that advance a political program inherently hostile to U.S. power.

Other competing interests have periodically interfered with U.S. Middle East policy. And these have to greater or lesser degrees impaired the U.S.’s ability to formulate and implement rational policies in the region.

These competing interests have included the desire to placate somewhat friendly Arab regimes that are stressed by or dominated by anti-U.S. forces; a desire to foster good relations with Europe; and a desire to win the support of the U.S. media.

Under the Obama administration, these competing interests have not merely influenced U.S. policy in the Middle East. They have dominated it. Core American interests have been thrown to the wayside.

Before considering the deleterious impact this descent into strategic dementia has had on U.S. interests, it is necessary to consider the motivations of the various sides to the foreign policy debate in the U.S. today.

All of the sides have contributed to the fact that U.S. Middle East policy is now firmly submerged in a morass of strategic insanity.

The first side in the debate is the anti-imperialist camp, represented by President Barack Obama himself. Since taking office, Obama has made clear that he views the U.S. as an imperialist power on the world stage. As a result, the overarching goal of Obama’s foreign policy has been to end U.S. global hegemony.

Obama looks to the UN as a vehicle for tethering the U.S. superpower. He views U.S. allies in the Middle East and around the world with suspicion because he feels that as U.S. allies, they are complicit with U.S. imperialism.

Given his view, Obama’s instincts dictate that he do nothing to advance the U.S.’s core interests in the Middle East. Consider his policies towards Iran. The Iranian regime threatens all of the U.S.’s core regional interests.

And yet, Obama has refused to lift a finger against the mullahs.

Operating under the assumption that U.S. enemies are right to hate America due to its global hegemony, when the mullahs stole the 2009 presidential elections for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and then violently repressed the pro-Western opposition Green Movement, Obama sided with the mullahs.

Aside from its imperative to lash out at Israel, Obama’s ideological predisposition would permit him to happily sit on the sidelines and do nothing against U.S. foe or friend alike. But given Obama’s basic suspicion of U.S. allies, to the extent he has bowed to pressure to take action in the Middle East, he has always done so to the detriment of U.S. allies.

Obama’s treatment of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is case in point.

When the Muslim Brotherhood-backed opposition protests began in late January, Obama was perfectly happy to do nothing despite the U.S.’s overwhelming national interest in preserving Mubarak in power. But when faced with domestic pressure to intervene against Mubarak, he did so with a vengeance.

Not only did Obama force Mubarak to resign. He prevented Mubarak from resigning in September and so ensured that the Brotherhood would dominate the transition period to the new regime.

Obama’s most outspoken opponents in the U.S. foreign policy debate are the neoconservatives.

Like Obama, the neoconservatives are not motivated to act by concern for the U.S.’s core regional interests. What motivates them is their belief that the U.S. must always oppose tyranny.

In some cases, like Iran and Iraq, the neoconservatives’ view was in consonance with U.S. strategic interests and so their policy recommendation of siding with regime opponents against the regimes was rational.

The problem with the neoconservative position is that it makes no distinction between liberal regime opponents and illiberal regime opponents. It can see no difference between pro-U.S. despots and anti-U.S. despots.

If there is noticeable opposition to tyrants, then the U.S. must support that opposition.

This view is what informed the neoconservative bid to oust Mubarak last month and Gaddafi this month.

The fracture between the Obama camp and the neoconservative camp came to a head with Libya. Obama wished to sit on the sidelines and the neoconservatives pushed for intervention.

To an even greater degree than in Egypt, the debate was settled by the third U.S. foreign policy camp—the opportunists. Led today by Clinton, the opportunist camp supports whoever they believe is going to make them most popular with the media and Europe.

In the case of Libya, the opportunist interests dictated military intervention against Gaddafi. Europe opposes Gaddafi because the French and the British bet early on that his opponents were winning. France recognized the opposition as the legitimate government two weeks ago.

Once Gaddafi’s counteroffensive began, France and Britain realized they would be harmed politically and economically if Gaddafi maintained power so they began calling for military strikes to overthrow him.

As for the media, they were quick to romanticize the amorphous “opposition” as freedom fighters.

Seeing the direction of the wind, Clinton jumped on the European-media bandwagon and forced Obama to agree to a military operation whose goal no one can define.

What the U.S. foreign policy fights regarding Egypt and Libya indicate is that currently, a discussion about how events impact core U.S. regional interests is completely absent from the discussion. Consequently, it should surprise no one that none of the policies the U.S. is implementing in the region advance those core interests in any way. Indeed, they are being severely damaged.

Under Mubarak, Egypt advanced U.S. interests in two main ways. First, by waging war against the Muslim Brotherhood and opposing the rise of Iranian power in the region, Mubarak weakened the regional forces that most threatened U.S. interests. Second, by managing the Suez Canal in conformance with international maritime law, Egypt facilitated the smooth transport of petroleum products to global markets and prevented Iran from operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Since Mubarak was ousted, the ruling military junta has taken actions that signal that Egypt is no longer interested in behaving in a manner that advances U.S. interests.

Domestically, the junta has embarked on a course that all but guarantees the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in the fall.

Saturday’s referendum on constitutional amendments was a huge victory for the Brotherhood on two counts. First, it cemented Islamic law as the primary source of legislation and so paved the way for the Brotherhood’s transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state. Under Mubarak, that constitutional article meant nothing. Under the Brotherhood, it means everything.

Second, it set the date for parliamentary elections for September. Only the Brotherhood, and remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party will be ready to stand for election so soon. The liberals have no chance of mounting a coherent campaign in just six months.

In anticipation of the Brotherhood’s rise to power, the military has begun realigning Egypt into the Iranian camp. This realignment is seen most openly in Egypt’s new support for Hamas. Mubarak opposed Hamas because it is part of the Brotherhood.

The junta supports it for the same reason. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby has already called for the opening of Egypt’s border with Hamasruled Gaza.

There can be little doubt Hamas’s massive rocket barrage against Israel on Saturday was the product of its sense that Egypt is now on its side.

As for the Suez Canal, the junta’s behavior so far is a cause for alarm. Binding UN Security Council Resolution 1747 from 2007 bars Iran from shipping arms. Yet last month the junta thumbed its nose at international law and permitted two Iranian naval ships to traverse the canal without being inspected.

According to military sources, one of the ships carried advanced armaments. These were illicitly transferred to the German merchant ship Victoria at Syria’s Latakia port. Last week, IDF naval commandos interdicted the Victoria with its Iranian weaponry en route to Gaza via Alexandria.

Add to that Egypt’s decision to abrogate its contractual obligation to supply Israel with natural gas and we see that the junta is willing to suspend its commitment to international law in order to realign its foreign policy with Iran.

On every level, a post-Mubarak Egypt threatens the U.S. core interests that Mubarak advanced.

Then there is Libya. One of the most astounding aspects of the U.S. debate on Libya in recent weeks has been the scant attention paid to the nature of the rebels.

The rebels are reportedly represented by the so-called National Transitional Council led by several of Gaddafi’s former ministers.

But while these men—who are themselves competing for the leadership mantle—are the face of the NTC, it is unclear who stands behind them. Only nine of the NTC’s 31 members have been identified.

Unfortunately, available data suggest that the rebels championed as freedom fighters by the neoconservatives, the opportunists, the Europeans and the Western media alike are not exactly liberal democrats. Indeed, the data indicate that Gaddafi’s opponents are more aligned with al-Qaida than with the US.

Under jihadist commander Abu Yahya Al- Libi, Libyan jihadists staged anti-regime uprisings in the mid-1990s. Like today, those uprisings’ central hubs were Benghazi and Darnah.

In 2007 Al-Libi merged his forces into al- Qaida. On March 18, while denouncing the U.S., France and Britain, Al-Libi called on his forces to overthrow Gaddafi.

A 2007 US Military Academy study of information on al-Qaida forces in Iraq indicate that by far, Eastern Libya made the largest per capita contribution to al-Qaida forces in Iraq.

None of this proves that the U.S. is now assisting an al-Qaida takeover of Libya. But it certainly indicates that the forces being assisted by the U.S. in Libya are probably no more sympathetic to U.S. interests than Gaddafi is. At a minimum, the data indicate the U.S. has no compelling national interest in helping the rebels in overthrow Gaddafi.

The significance of the U.S.’s descent into strategic irrationality bodes ill not just for U.S. allies, but for America itself. Until the U.S. foreign policy community is again able to recognize and work to advance the U.S.’s core interests in the Middle East, America’s policies will threaten both its allies and itself.

“WHO’S ON FIRST, WHAT’S ON SECOND?”—OBAMA’S WAR BY GLOBAL COMMITTEE REINFORCES M.E. INSTABILITY

 

 

 

WAR BY GLOBAL COMMITTEE
Editorial
Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2011

America’s founders gave the powers of Commander in Chief to the President because they knew that war had to be prosecuted with determination, discipline and the national interest foremost in mind. By marked contrast, the use of force against Libya looks like the first war by global committee, with all the limitations and greater risk that entails.

We support the military action, even if it is much belated, and the good news is that the first allied salvos from the air seem to have achieved initial success. They have knocked Gadhafi’s air force out of the battle and stopped his ground forces from advancing further into the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Allied planes have also hit Gadhafi’s armor and troop columns, which ought to give his mercenaries in particular reason to ask if the pay is worth the risk.

But the war’s early prosecution also raises concern about its leadership, its limited means and strategic goals. On none of these have coalition members been clear or unified, starting with President Obama.

It isn’t even clear who is commanding operation Odyssey Dawn. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, wasn’t able to provide a clear answer as he worked the Sunday news circuit. Mr. Obama said on Saturday the U.S. will “contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission”—presumably B-2 bombers and command and control—but he added that the no-fly zone “will be led by our international partners.”

Will that be the French, who said yesterday they have a handful of planes flying over Libya? It won’t be the Qatar air force, which is chipping in four fighters. It isn’t even clear whether the NATO commander will be allowed to lead the mission, though the military alliance is equipped for precisely this kind of effort. The danger here is that if no one is in charge, then no one is accountable for success or failure.

It also isn’t clear what the military and strategic goal of this operation really is. Reuters quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying on Friday that the goal was “Number one: Stop the violence, and number two: We do believe that a final result of any negotiations would have to be the decision by Colonel Gadhafi to leave.”

Yet President Obama offered only the first aim in his statements on Friday and Saturday: “We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal—specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.” He even suggested that if Gadhafi honors the U.N. demand for a cease fire, then the allies would stop fighting short of ousting him from Tripoli. On Sunday French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe explicitly rejected the goal of ousting Gadhafi.

Gadhafi is weak enough, and Libya is a puny enough military power, that even a limited use of force might lead to his ouster. Perhaps the officers around him will mutiny, though they would also have to defeat the Gadhafi sons who control their own mercenary bands and could be prosecuted for war crimes if they leave Libya.

Certainly Gadhafi showed no sign of retreat Sunday, promising “a long war” and revenge against the U.S., France and the United Kingdom. He already knows, thanks to the limits of U.N. resolution 1973, that he needn’t fear any foreign troops parachuting into Tripoli. He received further encouragement from Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who only a day into the allied bombing denounced civilian casualties and claimed this wasn’t the kind of no-fly zone the Arabs had in mind. Mr. Moussa is running to be president of Egypt, but U.S. military action should never be hostage to such a fair-weather ally.

The danger for the region, and U.S. interests, will be if Gadhafi can exploit divisions on the global war committee and achieve a military stalemate. He could then remain in control of a rump part of Libya and still create mayhem. Even Admiral Mullen conceded that the war could end in a stalemate with Gadhafi staying in power. “Certainly, I recognize that’s a possibility,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It’s hard to know exactly how this turns out.…”

The other problem with war by global committee is that it diminishes the role of the U.S. Congress. As he ran for President in 2008, Mr. Obama made much of his opposition, in contrast to Mrs. Clinton, to the 2002 Iraq war resolution in Congress. Yet so far regarding Libya he has been far more solicitous of the U.N., the Europeans and the Arab League than he has of domestic political consent.

We believe that, as Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama has the authority under the Constitution to order U.S. forces to act as he has in Libya. But as a simple prudential matter, a U.S. President needs to respect and bring along Congressional leaders in support of such action. All the more because members of his own party will be the first to revolt if a stalemate ensues or the TV pictures get ugly. Republicans tend to defer on principle to Presidential war decisions, but Mr. Obama also cannot afford to take them for granted.

The worst offense a Commander in Chief can make is to commit U.S. military force and the credibility that goes with it in half-hearted fashion. Now that he’s taken the U.S. to war against Libya, Mr. Obama needs to make American interests his main priority, and that means ensuring that the result includes a rapid end to the long, brutal rule of Moammar Gadhafi.

 

OBAMA’S UNSTABLE MIDDLE EAST
Jed Babbin

American Spectator, March 21, 2011

 

Last weekend, nearly three weeks after Obama declared that terrorist dictator Gaddafi must leave, U.S. and British forces launched more than 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Libyan targets and—with the French—established a no-fly zone denying Gaddafi’s air forces the ability to kill the rebels still remaining in the eastern city of Benghazi.

But what are we attempting to accomplish in Libya? Obama and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen have made it clear that we are not trying to remove Gaddafi and only want to protect Libyan civilians from him. And Obama has said that our commitment will last only for days or weeks. So what is the end state that President Obama’s strategy is designed to achieve?

A quick survey of Obama’s Middle East seems to reveal a region as unstable as it has been since Messrs. Sikes and Picot met to divvy up the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in 1916. Looking a bit deeper, we see that Obama’s doctrine is destabilizing the Middle Eastern nations that are at best unreliably aligned with us while our principal enemies—the terror-sponsoring nations such as Iran and Syria—are unaffected by his ministrations.

European liberals and Islamists around the world are rejoicing at President Obama’s decision to renounce leadership and commit American military power in UN-sanctioned action against Gaddafi’s forces. They rejoice because Obama has granted the achievement of their ultimate goal: American foreign policy and the employment of American military power have been subordinated to the whims and caprices of their multilateralism.

Progress since President Obama began his campaign to remake our relationship with the Arab world is measured in these facts: Saudi Arabia managed to crush nascent internal protests and send tanks to Bahrain to prop up the latter’s own little despotism. Libya, Yemen and Tunisia are aflame. Egypt is hanging on the edge, holding a post-revolutionary constitutional referendum and Iraq is caught between Maliki’s strongman ambitions and al-Sadr’s Iran-funded Shiite supremacy. Lebanon’s Hizballah—also Iran-funded and armed—is being used as a deterrent against an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Among the loudest lobbyists for the UN action and U.S. intervention in Libya were the Saudis and the Arab League. Having failed to get the Arab League to take military action on its own—and fearing that Iran was behind the unrest in Bahrain and Libya—the Saudis were calling for quick action by the UN. The Arab League blessed the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya but weren’t willing to provide their own air forces to help.

Obama’s presidency was predicated on the evils of unilateral American action and repairing our broken relations with the Islamic world. But he has now intervened in a Middle Eastern civil war. Yet our Libyan war, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, isn’t aimed at our principal enemies—the terror-sponsors in Iran, Syria and—yes, Saudi Arabia—which weren’t the focus of President Bush’s nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan and aren’t now the focus of Obama’s new military action.

The Libyan operation, as Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said on yesterday’s Fox News Sunday, is not about protecting American interests. This is about Obama’s desire to subordinate American power to the “international community.” He was maneuvered into this action by the Europeans, the Arab League, and the ladies on his national security team led by Hillary Clinton.

As I’ve written many times, the war the terror-sponsoring nations wage against us can only be won by forcing those nations to cease their support of Islamic terrorism. We have no interest in Libya sufficient to justify the use of American military power. Obama declared that Gaddafi must go, but the mission he assigned doesn’t include removing Gaddafi. Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on the same Sunday morning show that our mission was only to enforce the UN’s decision, protect civilians, and establish safe corridors for humanitarian relief.

How long will we be fighting in Libya? Obama has said it would be days, not weeks. The Bosnia NFZ lasted about three years. The NFZ established over Saddam’s Iraq lasted from 1991 until 2003. There is no strategic goal in Libya, so there is no end point to this operation. If our desire is to protect civilians from Gaddafi and we aren’t going to remove him, we could be there indefinitely.

Bahrain’s despotism is one of our more important allies in the Middle East, the nation where we base our Fifth Fleet. The rebellion against the Bahraini government may well have been created in Iran.

Because Bahrain shares a border with Saudi Arabia and because it feared Iran’s influence there, the Saudis sent about 1,000 troops into Bahrain to help its government defeat the rebels. Whatever the immediate result, the Iranians will not cease their support for revolution in Bahrain and other nations they perceive to be aligned with the West.

Yemen is also on Saudi Arabia’s border but its violent protests have not drawn Saudi intervention. Government forces there have fired on protesters and killed dozens if not hundreds. Yemen is another al-Qaeda nursery but it hasn’t—at least obviously—fallen under Iran’s hegemony. Its threat to Saudi Arabia not being apparent, there is no hint of Saudi intervention.

Egypt’s future is up for grabs. The removal of Hosni Mubarak was largely peaceful thanks to the Egyptian army’s refusal to intervene. Last weekend Egyptians voted on an army-sponsored constitutional referendum to establish limits on presidential power. But the growing influence of the Islamic Brotherhood and other Islamists has terrified the Coptic Christian community. Egypt will not be stabilized for months or years to come, and when it is it may be another Islamist dictatorship and sponsor of terror.

Iraq is suffering increased terrorism on the eve of the last U.S. forces withdrawing. Iraqis have taken to the streets, demonstrating against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government and its inability to provide security.… Iraq’s increasing instability probably foreshadows the next violent rebellion in the Middle East. Iran, the historic enemy of Iraq, is eagerly awaiting our final withdrawal this summer. Maliki’s government is not likely to survive the year.

And Lebanon’s Hizballah may wait another year or two to begin yet another war with Israel. Hizballah has been re-armed massively since the last conflict in 2006. Tens of thousands of missiles aimed at Israel ensure against an Israeli attack against Iran. Israel—under continuous pressure over settlements and suffering brutal murders by Palestinian terrorists—sits on a razor’s edge. It can only avoid devastating attacks by Hizballah if it continues to acquiesce in Iran’s nuclear progress.

Weakness is provocative, as former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld is fond of saying. Obama’s doctrine of multilateralism—subordinating American power and interests to the will of other nations—is a profession of weakness to all the terror-sponsoring nations. Across the Middle East, Obama’s doctrine is provoking our enemies to action. What is happening in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and Tunisia is only beginning to show its effect.…

 (Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush.)

 

SAVING THE LIBYAN ISLAMISTS
John Rosenthal

Pajamas Media, March 20, 2011

 

For weeks as international pressure built against him, Muammar al-Gaddafi insisted again and again that the rebel forces that he was fighting in eastern Libya were linked to al-Qaeda. The mere fact that Gaddafi said it was seemingly enough for virtually all commentators to dismiss the claim out of hand. And in case doubts about the source were not enough, then we had the New York Times to send a reporter to Darnah, one of the eastern Libyan towns at the heart of the supposed Islamist uprising, and to assure us that there was nothing to see there, “move along.”

But the problem is that it is not only Muammar al-Gaddafi who has identified the coastal cities of Libya’s eastern Cyrenaica region as al-Qaeda strongholds. The analysts of the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point have as well. The findings of the latter are based on the so-called Sinjar Records: captured personnel records identifying foreign combatants who joined al-Qaeda in Iraq between August 2006 and August 2007. (The full study is available online here. The relevance of the study to the current situation in Libya was first pointed out by Andrew Exum in a blog post here.)

The West Point analysts’ statistical study of the al-Qaeda personnel records comes to the conclusion that one country provided “far more” foreign fighters in per capita terms than any other: namely, Libya. Furthermore, the records show that the “vast majority of Libyan fighters that included their hometown in the Sinjar Records resided in the country’s Northeast.”

The contributions of two cities in particular stand out. One of these has in the last month become a household name: Benghazi. The second is precisely Darnah: the city in which, according to Libyan government sources, an Islamic emirate was declared when the unrest started in February and that thereby earned a visit from the New York Times to prove that it was not so. Darnah lies to the east of Benghazi, behind the battle lines created by the furthest advance of Libyan government forces prior to the announcement of Thursday’s UN Security Council resolution.

While in Darnah, New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid even spoke with Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi: the man who, according to Libyan government sources, had declared the Islamic emirate. Shadid found al-Hasadi “running Darnah’s defenses.” According to Shadid’s would-be reassuring account of their conversation, al-Hasadi “praises Osama bin Laden’s ‘good points,’ but denounces the 9/11 attacks on the United States.” (One must read backwards from the introduction of al-Hasadi’s name into Shadid’s narrative to realize that these quotes come from him.)

A report from Benghazi in the French daily Le Figaro identifies the same al-Hasadi as the “voice of Libya’s Islamists” and claims that a transitional government could only be formed with his approval. The New York Times—or the Obama administration—might remember that the Osama bin Laden whom al-Hasadi “praises” has declared war on America.

According to the West Point study of the Iraqi Sinjar Records, of the 440 foreign al-Qaeda recruits whose hometowns are known, 21 came from Benghazi. This makes Benghazi the fourth most common hometown listed in the records. Fifty-three of the al-Qaeda recruits came from Darnah. That is the highest total of any of the hometowns listed in the records. The second highest number, 51, came from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. However, the population of Darnah (80,000) is less than 2% the population of Riyadh. This is to say that in per capita terms more the fifty times more foreign fighters joined al-Qaeda in Iraq from Darnah than from Riyadh. As the authors of the study put it, Darnah contributed “far and away the largest per capita number of fighters.”

It is virtually unthinkable that al-Qaeda and/or the local Libyan affiliate of al-Qaeda (the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) are not today involved in the Cyrenaica-based insurrection against the rule of Muammar al-Gaddafi. This is even more unthinkable when one considers that the North African branch of al-Qaeda—al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – has declared its support for the rebellion and vowed to do “everything we can” to aid it.…

 

THE BIG DITHER
Niall Ferguson

Newsweek, March 20, 2011

 

“If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.” Macbeth’s famous line before he kills Duncan came to mind last week, when President Obama belatedly changed his mind about military intervention in Libya. Like Obama, Macbeth fervently hopes that “this blow might be the be-all and the end-all”:

But in these cases … we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice
To our own lips.

The president has been more Hamlet than Macbeth since the beginning of the revolutionary crisis that has swept the desert lands of North Africa and the Middle East. To act or not to act? That has been the question. The results of his indecision have been unhappy. Hosni Mubarak, for so long an American ally, has been overthrown in Egypt. Muammar Gaddafi, the erstwhile sponsor of terrorism so foolishly rehabilitated by the West just four years ago, has—until now—lived to fight another day in Libya. Meanwhile, in Bahrain, another insurrection is being quelled with the help of Saudi Arabia—an American ally even more important than Libya.

Obama, a novice in foreign affairs, is a president without a strategy. Once a critic of American military intervention in the Middle East, once a skeptic about the chances of democratizing the region, he now finds himself with a poisoned chalice in each hand. In one there are the dregs of the last administration’s interventions: military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan that he is eager to wind down. In the other is a freshly poured draft of his own making.

Make no mistake. Whatever the wording of the United Nations Security Council resolution, the United States is now at war with the Libyan government, and the aim of this war is the overthrow of Gaddafi. In the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “If you don’t get him out and if you don’t support the opposition and he stays in power, there’s no telling what he will do.” She doubtless remembers more clearly than Obama what happened in Bosnia, when her husband took years to approve effective military intervention. Had she been president, my guess is we’d have taken swifter action. But in this play, she’s Lady Macbeth, urging Obama to get tough.

This was the right thing to do. Was. But it should have been done weeks ago, when it first became clear that Gaddafi, unlike Mubarak, was able and willing to unleash military force against his opponents. Now, with loyalist forces approaching the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, it may well be too late. It certainly seems unlikely that an exclusively aerial intervention in Libya’s civil war can topple the mad dog of Tripoli. And even if it’s still possible to tip the balance in favor of the rebels, then what? When the news of the no-fly zone reached Benghazi last week, it was relayed from mosque loudspeakers, and the crowds responded with cries of “Allahu akbar!” not “God bless America!” Significantly, the rebel spokesman quoted by The New York Times was an imam.

I wish I could believe the National Security Council is now presenting the president with a better set of scenarios than it put on the table when this crisis began in Tunisia. As I’ve said from the outset, a peaceful transition to Western-style democracy in the Arab world is, of all the scenarios, the least probable. The more likely outcomes are (a) 1848-style restorations of the old regimes; (b) a descent into protracted civil wars; (c) Islamist takeovers; (d) a regionwide Sunni-Shiite conflict. By the way, (b), (c), and (d) are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They may be a sequence of events.

Fortune has not smiled on President Obama in the role of hesitant Hamlet. But better luck is the last thing actors expect when they play Macbeth.

IS IT TOO LATE TO SAVE LIBYA— AND BARACK OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY?

 

 

 

IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SAVE LIBYA
Max Boot

Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2011

 

I have not been one of those castigating President Obama for decreasing American power—either deliberately or inadvertently. His muscular policy in Afghanistan, for example, belies this charge. But there is no question that his weak, vacillating response to the slaughter now unfolding in Libya will reduce American power and prestige in ways that will do us incalculable long-term harm.

On March 3, President Obama said that “Colonel Gadhafi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. It is good for his people. It’s the right thing to do.”

When the president of the United States publicly proclaims that the head of another state needs to “step down,” his words carry considerable weight—or at least they should. Yet what has Mr. Obama done to back up his rhetoric? Not much beyond saying that “no option” is “off the table” and that he is actively “consulting” with American allies about how to act. At the rate those consultations are going, Gadhafi will have snuffed out the rebellion by the time that Mr. Obama decides on a course of action.…

Some policy makers in Washington may be fine with this outcome, because in 2003 Gadhafi gave up his weapons of mass destruction and his support for terrorism. But make no mistake: A resurgent Gadhafi would be a catastrophe on many levels.

Most obvious is the human cost of this dictator continuing his 41-year reign: His throne rests on an ever-growing pile of corpses. But there is also the strategic cost. Given the way the U.S. and our allies have turned against Gadhafi, at least rhetorically, he could easily decide to seek revenge by returning to his old tricks. Considering that Gadhafi was responsible for the midair bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, among many other acts of terror, that is no idle threat.

Moreover, if he is able to keep power by force, it will encourage other Middle Eastern despots to emulate his example. Already the Saudis have sent an armored column to quell protests in Bahrain. Expect more of the same if Gadhafi clings to power. The Arab Spring could easily turn into a very dark winter that will arrest and reverse the momentum of recent pro-democracy demonstrations. That means consigning the entire region to a dysfunctional status quo ante in which the long-term winners will be al Qaeda and their ilk.

It’s not too late to prevent this dire outcome. All that would be required is for Mr. Obama to show as much political courage as France and the Arab League. Neither is known for its principled support of freedom, but both have called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. The Pentagon, from Defense Secretary Robert Gates on down, has reacted as if this would be a military operation on the order of D-Day. In reality, it would not be hard to ground Gadhafi’s decrepit air force.…

As the enforcement of no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq should have proved, the risks of such an operation are minimal—especially if we first neutralize Gadhafi’s air defenses. By itself, a no-fly zone might not be enough to topple Gadhafi. At the very least, however, it would dishearten Gadhafi’s supporters and buy time for the rebels. We could further tilt the balance in their favor by bombing Gadhafi’s installations and troops.…

Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, today has a major thoroughfare named Bill Clinton Boulevard crowned with a 10-foot statue of their savior [who bombed the Serbs]. It is not far-fetched to imagine a Barack Obama Boulevard in Tripoli if the president finally finds the courage to act. If he does not, you can bet that his name and that of the country he leads will be reviled by democrats across the region—not only in Libya.

(Mr. Boot is a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.)

 

INTERVENE IN LIBYA? ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS FIRST
George F. Will
National Post, March 10, 2011

 

In September 1941, Japan’s leaders had a question for Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto: Could he cripple the U.S. fleet in Hawaii? Yes, he said. Then he had a question for the leaders: But then what?

Following an attack, he said, “I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence” after that. Yamamoto knew America: He had attended Harvard and been naval attaché in Japan’s embassy in Washington. He knew Japan would be at war with an enraged industrial giant. The tide-turning defeat of Japan’s navy at the Battle of Midway occurred June 7, 1942—exactly six months after Pearl Harbor.

Today, some Washington voices are calling for U.S. force to be applied, somehow, on behalf of the people trying to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. Some interventionists are Republicans, whose skepticism about government’s abilities to achieve intended effects ends at the water’s edge. All interventionists should answer some questions:

—The world would be better without Gaddafi. But is that a vital U.S. national interest? If it is, when did it become so? A month ago, no one thought it was.

—How much of Gaddafi’s violence is coming from the air? Even if his aircraft are swept from his skies, would that be decisive?

—What lesson should be learned from the fact that Europe’s worst atrocity since the Second World War—the massacre by Serbs of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica—occurred beneath a no-fly zone?

—U.S. forces might ground Gaddafi’s fixed-wing aircraft by destroying runways at his 13 air bases, but to keep helicopter gunships grounded would require continuing air patrols, which would require the destruction of Libya’s radar and” anti-aircraft installations. If collateral damage from such destruction included civilian deaths—remember those nine Afghan boys recently killed by mistake when they were gathering firewood—are we prepared for the televised pictures?

—The Economist reports Gaddafi has “a huge arsenal of Russian surface-to-air missiles” and that some experts think Libya has SAMs that could threaten U.S. or allies’ aircraft. If a pilot is downed and captured, are we ready for the hostage drama?

—If we decide to give war supplies to the anti-Gaddafi fighters, how do we get them there?

—Presumably, we would co-ordinate aid with the leaders of the anti-Gaddafi forces. Who are they?

—Libya is a tribal society. What concerning our Iraq and Afghanistan experiences justifies confidence that we understand Libyan dynamics?

—Because of what seems to have been the controlling goal of avoiding U.S. and NATO casualties in Kosovo, the humanitarian intervention—79 days of bombing—against Serbian forces and installations was conducted from 15,000 feet. This marked the intervention as a project worth killing for but not worth dying for. Would intervention in Libya be similar? Are such interventions morally dubious?

—Could intervention avoid “mission creep”? If grounding Gaddafi’s aircraft is a humanitarian imperative, why isn’t protecting his enemies from ground attacks?

—In Tunisia and then in Egypt, regimes were toppled by protests. Libya is convulsed not by protests but by war. Not a war of aggression, not a war with armies violating national borders and thereby implicating the basic tenets of agreed-upon elements of international law, but a civil war. How often has intervention by nation A in nation B’s civil war enlarged the welfare of nation A?

—Before we intervene in Libya, do we ask the UN for permission? If it is refused, do we proceed anyway? If so, why ask? If we are refused permission and recede from intervention, have we not made U.S. foreign policy hostage to a hostile institution?

—U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fears Libya becoming a failed state—”a giant Somalia.” Speaking of which, have we not seen a cautionary movie—Black Hawk Down—about how humanitarian military interventions can take nasty turns?

—The Egyptian crowds watched and learned from the Tunisian crowds. But the Libyan government watched and learned from the fate of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments. It has decided to fight. Would not U.S. intervention in Libya encourage other restive peoples to expect U.S. military assistance?

—Would it be wise for U.S. military force to be engaged simultaneously in three Muslim nations?

 

SHOULD OBAMA USE FORCE AGAINST LIBYA? YES
Paul Wolfowitz

National Post, March 16, 2011

 

One has to be morally blind not to be moved by the spectacle of brave Libyans standing up to Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks and bombs and mercenaries. But moral outrage is an inadequate guide for U.S. action, particularly action that might put the lives of Americans at risk. Serious questions need to be asked and answered. Proponents of inaction need to ask and answer some questions as well, since doing nothing is a choice.

There are three important U.S. actions that could speed up Gaddafi’s demise and stop the killing in Libya: recognize the newly formed national council in Benghazi as the government of Libya, provide assistance to the new Libyan authorities, and support the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.

Unfortunately, the debate focuses too quickly on the last of these actions, even though the first two entail fewer problems and might well have greater immediate impact. A no-fly zone is a tactic, not a strategy, and its impact depends on the larger policy context—particularly whether the U.S. continues to apply the U.N. arms embargo to Gaddafi’s opponents.

Recognizing the new National Council would affect the psychology of both Gaddafi’s cronies and his brave opponents. Ending the mixed signals sent by U.S. hesitation over recognition would end any possibility of rehabilitating Gaddafi if he wins. Absurd as that may sound to us—particularly after President Obama has declared that Gaddafi must go—this is probably the outcome that Gaddafi’s cronies hope for, and that his opponents most fear.

The more likely outcome if Gaddafi manages to survive—and honest proponents of inaction acknowledge this—would be a long-term isolation of Libya, with asset freezes, arms embargoes, and threatened prosecutions for war crimes. It would also be a crushing defeat for the United States in the eyes of the Arabs and the world. Preventing that may not rise to the level of a “vital” U.S. interest, but it is certainly important if we can do so without risking American lives.…

If we do recognize the new National Council—as France and Portugal have done—how do we respond to their requests for help? What would we supply and to whom? How would we deliver supplies? Could we control the eventual use of lethal assistance?

The answer to the first of these questions can only come after establishing direct contact with the new authorities, but the delivery of supplies should not be such a problem, either through the ports along the Libyan coast or across the Egyptian border.… In any case, forcing the Libyans to turn to other countries for arms would repeat the mistakes of Afghanistan in the 1980s and Bosnia in the 1990s.

It is only in the context of a larger assistance strategy that a no-fly zone should be considered. It would be different from the prolonged and largely futile zones imposed over southern Iraq from 1991-2003 or over Bosnia from 1992-1995. Intended to stop the genocides of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq and of the Muslim population of Bosnia, they did neither. Critics accurately point out that the massacre of 11,000 Muslims in Srebrenica took place under a NATO-imposed no-fly zone. But the situation in Libya would be very different if the Libyan people are properly armed.…

If there is a no-fly zone, some of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf that have called for one should be asked to join. We should try to minimize the use of force—by encouraging Libyan pilots to defect or not to fly at all—but it should be made clear from the outset that the goal is to neutralize Gaddafi’s air force, if necessary by destroying it.…

Some advocates of inaction are afraid that anything the U.S. might do could slip down a disastrous slippery slope toward American participation in an international occupation of Libya. Understandably, no American wants Libya to become a repetition of the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. But neither does anyone in the Arab world appear to want it, least of all the Libyan people.…

It is both morally right and in America’s strategic interest to enable the Libyans to fight for themselves—precisely so that we are not faced with the terrible choice of seeing them crushed or intervening directly to liberate them.

 

SHOULD OBAMA USE FORCE AGAINST LIBYA? NO
Richard N. Haass

National Post, March 16, 2011

 

A good many people across the political spectrum—including some members of the Obama administration—are pressuring the U.S. president to intervene militarily in Libya. Much of the commentary has focused on establishing a no-fly zone, but there have been calls as well for enforcing a no-drive zone, or for arming or otherwise assisting regime opponents.

Those making this case appeal to a mixture of morality and realpolitik. They argue that by intervening we will prevent the slaughter of innocents and at the same time demonstrate our willingness to make good on expressions of support for freedom and security.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has taken the opposite position. Testifying before Congress this month, Mr. Gates pointed out that the first step in establishing a no-fly zone that would ground Libyan aircraft and helicopters would be to suppress Libyan air defences that could threaten U.S. or allied aircraft. This would entail attacking selected targets. In other words, to establish a no-fly zone would be to go to war.…

[And] to impose a no-drive zone—which would aim to limit the government’s ability to use tanks and armored personnel carriers—would require far more extensive military force than a no-fly zone. And even if it were implemented, no number of Western aircraft on patrol could stop the movement of every military vehicle. The only way to level the battlefield would be to put trainers, advisors and special forces on the ground.

There are political reasons to question the wisdom of the United States becoming a protagonist in Libya’s civil war. It is one thing to acknowledge Muammar Gaddafi as a ruthless despot, which he has demonstrated himself to be. But doing so does not establish the democratic bona fides of those who oppose him. And even if some of those opposing him are genuine democrats, there is no reason to assume that helping to remove the regime would result in the ascendancy of such people.

To the contrary. Removing Gaddafi and those around him could easily set in motion a chain of events in which a different strongman, with the backing of a different tribe, took over. Or it could create a situation in which radical Islamists gain the upper hand. Either way, significant areas of the country would be beyond any government control, creating vacuums exploitable by al-Qaeda and similar groups.…

Intervening militarily in Libya would be a potentially costly distraction for the U.S. military. It is already overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan. The last thing it needs is another vaguely defined intervention in a place where U.S. interests are less than vital.

To say that U.S. interests in Libya are less than vital is not to argue for doing nothing, but rather for making sure that the actions we take are commensurate with the stakes. In the case of Libya, asset freezes, arms embargoes, threatened prosecutions for war crimes and the creation of humanitarian safe harbours inside the country or just across its borders would be appropriate.… Such an approach will not be enough for some. But it does have the advantage of being consistent with the scale of U.S. interests in Libya and what can realistically be done to promote them.

 

OBAMA THE INVISIBLE
John Podhoretz
NY Post, March 16, 2011

 

Where is the president? The world is beset. Moammar Khadafy is moving relentlessly to crush the Libyan revolt that once promised the overthrow of one of the world’s most despicable regimes.

So where is the president?

Japan may be on the verge of a disaster that dwarfs any we have yet seen. A self-governing nation like the United States needs its leader to take full measure of his position at times of crises when the path forward is no longer clear.

This is not a time for leadership; this is the time for leadership.

So where is Barack Obama?

The moment demands that he rise to the challenge of showing America and the world that he is taking the reins. How leaders act in times of unanticipated crisis, in which they do not have a formulated game plan and must instead navigate in treacherous waters, defines them.

Obama is defining himself in a way that will destroy him.

It is not merely that he isn’t rising to the challenge. He is avoiding the challenge. He is Bartleby the President. He would prefer not to.

He has access to a microphone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If he tells the broadcast networks in the middle of the day that he has a major address to deliver on an unprecedented world situation, they will cancel their programming for him.

And yet, since Friday and a press conference in which he managed to leave the American position on Libya more muddled than it was before, we have not heard his voice. Except in a radio address—he talked about education legislation.

And he appeared at a fund-raiser in DC. And sat down with ESPN to reveal his NCAA picks.

He cannot go on like this. Niall Ferguson, the very pessimis tic economic his torian, wrote the other day that the best we can now hope for is that Obama leaves the country in the same kind of shape that Jimmy Carter left it in.

That doesn’t do Obama justice. Despite how disastrously he has handled the crises of the past two months, he can still turn his presidency around on a dime.

For Obama to save himself, he should be thinking about the example of an unlikely Republican predecessor: Richard Nixon.

The multifarious crises the president now faces are eerily similar to the kinds of calamities that greeted Richard Nixon in his first term from 1969-1972. Then, as now, the world was on fire. Wars erupted between China and the Soviet Union, India and Pakistan, even El Salvador and Honduras.

Jordan was nearly taken over from within by the Palestine Liberation Organization. There were humanitarian disasters in Biafra (the result of civil war), Bangladesh (due to flooding) and Nicaragua (deadly earthquake).…

Nixon in 1968, unlike Obama 2008, was elected as a minority president with only 43 percent of the vote. Yet, in 1972, he won what, in some measures, was the most lopsided election in American history with 61 percent.…

Nixon was an awful president in many ways, including in some of his foreign-policy choices. But he left no doubt that foreign policy and America’s leadership in the world outside its borders was of paramount importance to him.

All this had the effect of elevating Nixon during his time in office, so that when it came to running against George McGovern in 1972, Nixon seemed like a Titan and McGovern a pipsqueak.

How Nixon conducted himself in office in times of crises made possible his triumphant re-election. Right now, how Obama is conducting himself in a time of crisis is having the opposite effect.

He began his presidency as a potential colossus—but if he doesn’t change, he will finish it as a pipsqueak. Pipsqueaks don’t win second terms.

 

LIBYA WOULD NEVER BE JUST A NO-FLY ZONE
Lewis MacKenzie

Globe & Mail, March 9, 2011

 

It’s déjà vu all over again for the no-fly zone debate.

The United Nations, NATO, the African Union, the European Union and the Arab League are all contemplating a no-fly zone over Libya in a bid to eliminate Moammar Gadhafi’s ability to use his air resources against opposition forces. There’s much discussion about the wisdom of such a move, the main argument against it being it would be essential to first destroy Libya’s airfields, anti-aircraft missile/gun locations, radar and command-and-control centres.

But that argument is merely a stalling tactic for political leaders, because having to take such action before patrolling Libyan airspace would be equivalent to telling a Canadian infantry company in Afghanistan that it wouldn’t be ordered to attack a hill until it was confirmed that the Taliban defenders had been killed by artillery fire. Considering the state of Colonel Gadhafi’s air force and air-defence system, the imposition of a no-fly zone would be a low-risk undertaking.

The proverbial elephant in the room is a much more serious hurdle: mission creep. Too many references are made to the successful 12-year no-fly zone maintained over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, suggesting the same result could be achieved over Libya. But that zone was established after the war had been won by the U.S.-led coalition and was limited to keeping Iraqi aircraft out of the sky. (Unfortunately, due to an oversight, restrictions on Iraqi helicopters weren’t included.)

A much better comparison could be made with the inaccurately labelled no-fly zone imposed by NATO over Serbia during Kosovo’s attempt to break away in 1999 [which]…quickly escalated to an all-out bombing campaign—initially against military and security targets, then adding strategic targets such as oil refineries and major bridges.…

Odds are, the same scenario would unfold in Libya if a no-fly zone were enforced. Unfortunately, Col. Gadhafi doesn’t need his air force to prevail, so its grounding or destruction would merely shift the fighting to the backs of his army. Libya is a big country, with 2,000 kilometres of coastline, so the major fighting would take place along the main coastal road. The opposition forces would be no match for even poorly organized army units if Col. Gadhafi decides to get serious.

Watching this unfold from 20,000 feet, the countries enforcing any no-fly zone would be…forced to escalate and authorize attacks against the Libyan army—thereby becoming, in effect, the opposition’s air force.…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of Col. Gadhafi. But I’m also no fan of political decisions driven by well-meaning military undertakings with the naive belief they will be short term and successful. As the saying goes, “In for a penny, in for a pound.”

LIBYA AND THE UN: ‘TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE,’ OR ‘RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT?”

 

 

 

UN OFFERS A TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE
Rex Murphy

National Post, February 26, 2011

 

It would take the dark menacing imagination of Flann O’Brien, the fabulator of the absurd terrible world of his greatest novel, The Third Policeman, to be capable of equal encounter with some of the collateral absurdities that touch on the brutal crisis in Libya.

As we in the West hear of the tyrant (funny how that word is so much more visible in the last week or so than it has been in the dispatches prior to the uprising) threatening, or having ordered, strafing raids from jet aircraft against his own citizens; of helicopter gunships being called up for—grim euphemism—crowd control; talk of rivers of blood from Gaddafi himself and his reptile offspring—I am still, in the midst of all these greater matters of direst consequence, struck by the consideration that Libya, this Libya, (as of this writing) is still on the UN Human Rights Council. [Ed: See “Hall of Shame link, below].

The UNHRC is not just any old UN human rights quango, the wonderful Brit term for those perpetual motion bureaucratic machines, which in one guise or another, under various palate-crushing acronyms, pullulate in the UN like flies on four-day-old fish left in the sun. This is, make no mistake here, the UN’s top Human Rights organization. This is the one with clout. The one with prestige. This is the one, if I may deploy a Dowdism, of “unquestionable moral authority.”

So it was that, with reports coming out of Libya of the madman-dictator threatening ruin on his country, vengeance on his enemies, the country about to go up in flames (there are unceasing rumours about firing the oil fields), even an imminent prospect of civil war, I read just two days ago, as all this was going on, that: “Libya’s seat on the UN’s top human rights body looks secure for now, as a Western-led initiative to condemn it for its violent response to anti-government protests stops short of calling for its expulsion.” In the entire universal history of pathetic gestures is there one to top this?

That as of Friday, the position of Libya on the UN’s top human rights body was still secure.

Some states since that moment have awakened from their customary torpor, and indeed called for its expulsion, but after what the world has seen this week, and known for decades, does anyone have the slightest belief that efforts now to haul Libya off the UN Human Rights Council is anything more than the callous waste of time and desperate hypocrisy that putting Libya on the Human Rights Council was to begin with? Why was the tyrant’s chamber of Libya ever, ever on a UN Human Rights council is the real question. A question that speaks to the moral ambiguity, even moral blindness of the entire United Nations apparatus.…

One reason why tyrants have so long a lease in our brave new world is that temporizing, accommodating, trimming organizations like the UN give them, over the years, the bureaucratic sheen that allows them to present themselves as somewhat normal.… Come crisis times, as this week, and everybody is suddenly ready with a unanimous cry of Horror! Horror!…

It’s kind of pathetic now to be hearing the mewling from certain human rights’ advocates trying to “alert” the world community to the depth of Gadaffi’s depravity, and the extinction of human rights under his regime. Real concern would have manifested itself differently: for example, when all the NGOs of conscience and all their allied associations were so busy mapping the failings of Israel over the decades, where was the equal diligence, the equal industry and passion in mapping the real and massive horrors of a state which actually deserved such attention?…

The UNHRC is a perfect emblem and symbol of the entire organization to which it belongs. The UN does not help the world any longer. As the Libya case manifests, it is an impediment.

 

AN ADMINISTRATION ADRIFT
Stephen F. Hayes
Weekly Standard, March 1, 2011

 

On February 15, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of several Libyan cities demanding the departure of the strongman who has ruled the north African nation for more than four decades. The Libyan regime immediately ordered state-backed militias and mercenaries to put down the violence, with force. A bloody battle followed. As the crackdown began, and then escalated, it was early afternoon on February 16, halfway around the world in the State Department briefing room, when the Obama administration faced questions about how it regarded Muammar Qaddafi.

“Is Qaddafi a dictator?” State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley, at the podium for his daily briefing, smiled at the question and turned his head to call on another reporter. “Are you stumped?” “I’m not stumped,” Crowley responded tartly. “So what’s your answer to the question? Is he a dictator?” Crowley smirked. “I don’t think he came to office through a democratic process.”

It wasn’t a trick question. Qaddafi has survived as the unelected leader of Libya through a combination of wanton brutality and strategic bribery. His reign has been characterized by the systematic suppression of his own people and the eager exportation of terror.

Crowley’s answer—uncertain, hesitant, and morally ambiguous—would come to symbolize the Obama administration’s response to the massacre in Libya. Within days there were numerous, credible reports that the Libyan regime was using fighter jets to strafe protesters. Regime-hired mercenaries from other African countries roamed the streets of Libyan cities exercising Qaddafi-style restraint.…

Early in the morning on February 21, Qaddafi’s son took to Libyan state television with a rambling speech that included warnings of further violence. “We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet,” he said. A top Libyan diplomat who had defended Qaddafi for years at the United Nations warned of “genocide.” Ibrahim Dabbashi said: “His son yesterday somehow declared war on the Libyan people, and as we translate his words, I think he means that he will kill as much as he can from the Libyan people and he will destroy as much as he can from the country.”

A senior Obama administration official was more sanguine about the prospect of Qaddafi changing his ways. “We are analyzing the speech of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi to see what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform,” the senior official said. Meanwhile, Libyan diplomats across the world resigned their posts. Senior Libyan military officials refused orders to kill their fellow countrymen. And protesters urged the West—and the United States—to respond.

On February 21, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced generic “violence” and called for an end to the “unacceptable bloodshed” in Libya without directly condemning Qaddafi and those who were carrying out his orders. That same day, after nearly a week of tumult, the State Department issued its first recommendation that American embassy families leave Libya, according to NBC’s Chuck Todd.

The following day, at an interview in his Pentagon office with four journalists, including two from The Weekly Standard, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the ongoing slaughter in Libya was “an issue we have to address.”

“Has there been a NATO discussion about this at all?” “No, no,” Gates said. “Not even a pre-discussion discussion?” “No. I think it’s all happened so fast.”

Gates was asked whether the United States could quickly establish a no-fly zone in Libya. “Probably not. I mean we just don’t have the capabilities there in terms of, you know, the next day or two.” “What’s in the bag? What do you have, what do we have that could speed there?”

Gates responded: “We don’t have—I don’t think we have a carrier in the [Mediterranean Sea] right now. The Enterprise is down off of Somalia. We’ve had the [USS] Kearsarge in the Red Sea, but mainly if some kind of an evacuation were needed from Egypt. But nothing that we would be able to do right away.”

The lack of urgency from the administration’s leading hawk was alarming.… The president spent February 22 in Ohio at meetings on his small business initiative. And though he spoke publicly several times throughout the day, President Obama said nothing about Libya.…

If Qaddafi had been worried that he might see American jets overhead or even U.S. Marines on the shores of Tripoli, the plans Obama announced [Feb. 23] no doubt came as a relief. Undersecretary of State Bill Burns, the president said, would be traveling to Europe for consultations with allies, and five days later Secretary Clinton would be flying to Geneva for additional meetings.

If that sounds like a State Department-heavy approach to the situation, it was. The State Department, having failed to remove its embassy personnel before Tripoli was a warzone, told the White House that any show of strength, even a strong condemnation of Qaddafi, risked the lives of Americans in country. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the United States had pulled its ambassador from Libya in January—leaving the embassy without a leader. So State had urged a cautious approach. The prospect of another American hostage crisis was paralyzing.…

Think about that. The State Department spokesman couldn’t say whether Muammar Qaddafi is a dictator. An administration official saw in a speech promising war the possibility of peace. Despite tumult and unrest in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, the Obama administration apparently made few preparations to evacuate diplomatic personnel and their families and did virtually no planning for the possibility of a regime-led slaughter. The president did not speak out about the unfolding crisis because it didn’t fit his schedule. He responded by flying diplomats to Europe for meetings.

The president found his footing after a slow start on Egypt. And for a moment it seemed that the reactive, almost passive foreign policy that guided his first two years would change. It did not. Which leads to one question: Is Barack Obama afraid of American power?

 

THE RELUCTANT AMERICAN
Editorial

Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2011

 

The rebellion in Libya is moving quickly, with antiregime forces consolidating their hold over the east, setting up a provisional government and restarting oil exports. From his bunker in Tripoli, Moammar Gadhafi vows to fight to the end while his elite units and African mercenaries kill the Libyan people to protect him and his sons.

Not moving rapidly has been the world’s sole superpower, which remains behind the curve, struggling to respond and reluctant to lead. President Obama waited until last Wednesday to make his first public statement. He didn’t mention Gadhafi by name and deferred to the Europeans to push for U.N. sanctions. White House officials are now explaining his reticence by saying the U.S. couldn’t act forcefully until all Americans were evacuated from Libya.…

[This “explanation”] has told the next rogue regime in Gadhafi-like straits how easy it is to paralyze U.S. policy. You don’t even need to hold Americans hostage. All you need to do is keep them around with an implicit threat that you might do so. This will not make it easier to get Americans out of harm’s way in the next crisis.

Throughout the Libyan uprising, European leaders—especially Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy—haven’t been tongue- or action-tied by the plight of their nationals. This weekend, German and British special forces rescued a couple hundred of their nationals in covert missions without Libyan assent. The U.S. sent a catamaran and ferry to Tripoli, after Libya denied permission for a plane to land. The ships were stuck in port for two days due to bad weather and finally brought the 167 Americans out by Friday night.

European leaders continue to show more energy than President Obama. Mr. Cameron said he is working with allies on a plan to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi from using his air force against rebel forces.… If only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could be as direct. Speaking before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which voted to “suspend” Libya’s membership yesterday, she said that “we will continue to explore all possible options for actions.… Nothing is off the table.” But she didn’t put much on the table.…

The U.S. could begin to exceed a Belgian level of global leadership by reaching out to the opposition and extending formal recognition to their provisional government. Though this might make Mr. Obama uncomfortable, America remains a global power with exceptional standing to provide a new Libyan government with legitimacy. We should also be prepared to sell arms to the opposition if they request it. The U.N.’s new arms embargo isn’t likely to deter anyone who is still willing to sell Gadhafi arms at this point, but it might cause some countries not to arm the opposition. The world made that blunder in Bosnia.

The moral and strategic case for U.S. leadership in Libya is obvious. A terrorist regime is slaughtering people who will appreciate America’s support and protection. A bloody civil war could create chaos that turns Libya into a northern African failed state, an ideal home for terrorist groups. The U.S. should support a provisional government that can take over when the regime collapses to restore order with as little bloodshed as possible. What is Mr. Obama waiting for?

 

A UNITED NATIONS COURT FOR GADHAFI?
John Bolton
Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2011

 

President Obama has trumpeted Saturday’s U.N. Security Council decision to refer Moammar Gadhafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution. Although Gadhafi deserves punishment, the ICC will not accomplish it. Invoking this marginal organization as an instrument of justice is simply an abdication of responsibility. It pretends to an address an international crisis while actually doing the opposite.

The ICC is one of the world’s most illegitimate multilateral institutions. The court’s vast prosecutorial authority is unaccountable to any democratic polity. Americans rejected this approach at our founding, separating the prosecutorial and judicial powers and placing the prosecutors under elected executive branch officials to ensure accountability and legitimacy. The Bush administration wisely reversed the Clinton administration’s endorsement of the ICC by “unsigning” its foundational treaty in 2002. It then secured more than 100 bilateral agreements to prevent U.S. citizens from being transferred into ICC custody.

To date, the ICC has been weak and ineffective, essentially acting as a European court for African miscreants. Nonetheless, its prosecutor is an international version of our own post-Watergate “independent counsel” model. Based on the execrable record of these prosecutors, the U.S. Congress, with broad bipartisan support, allowed the law authorizing the appointment of these counsels to sunset in 1999, although there has been sporadic resort to such procedures since.

Under whatever guise, the independent-counsel approach has led to gross miscarriages of justice, such as Patrick Fitzgerald’s 2003-07 investigation of how Valerie Plame’s CIA employment became public. In that case, one target, Scooter Libby, was pursued into the ground while others more culpable were allowed to emerge unscathed.

Champions of the ICC theorize it will deter future crimes. Reality proves otherwise. The court has been operational since 2002, so the most persuasive evidence is that almost 10 years after the court’s inception, Gadhafi was sufficiently unimpressed that he is doing what comes naturally for terrorists and dictators. History is full of cases where even military force or the threat of retaliation failed to deter aggression or gross criminality. If the West is not prepared to use cold steel against Gadhafi, why should he or any future barbarian worry about the ICC?…

A new Libyan government should be responsible for dealing with Gadhafi’s atrocities. Every crime he is responsible for, from the terrorist bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, to his current street massacres, has been done in the name of the Libyan people. They are the ones who should judge Gadhafi, as Iraqis did with Saddam Hussein.…

Obviously, Libya is in no condition today to deal with Gadhafi and his cohorts. But if he and his key aides survive the current violence, they can be incarcerated and tried later, with international assistance to new Libyan authorities if appropriate. Immediate logistical difficulties do not justify shifting the moral and political responsibility of dealing with Gadhafi away from his countrymen to remote international bureaucrats.

Mr. Obama’s ready embrace of the International Criminal Court exemplifies his infatuation with handling threats to international peace and security as though they were simply local street crimes. It also reflects his overall approach to international affairs: a passive, legalistic America, deferring to international bodies, content to be one of 15 Security Council members rather than leading from the front.

 

LIBYA AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
Irwin Cotler & Jared

NY Times, February 28, 2011

 

In response to Muammar el-Qaddafi’s continued assaults on civilians in Libya, the United Nations Security Council adopted a unanimous and historic resolution in an unusual Saturday night session.

It imposed an arms embargo on Libya, targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against Qaddafi, his family members and senior regime officials, and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation and potential prosecution of those involved in what was referred to as possible crimes against humanity.

In its statement condemning the violence, the Security Council included a critical reference to Libya’s “responsibility to protect” (RtoP) its own citizens from mass atrocities.

At the U.N. World Summit in 2005, more than 150 heads of state and government unanimously adopted a declaration on the responsibility to protect authorizing international collective action “to protect [a state’s] population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” if that state is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, or worse, as in the case of Libya, if that state is the author of such criminality.

Since then, the doctrine has been only applied once—in the case of Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007-2008. And this is the first time it has been explicitly invoked by the Security Council regarding the situation in a specific country.…

The Libya resolution is a major step forward, both for the people of Libya and in the international community’s stated commitment to end mass atrocities. But lest we get too excited too early about what is happening in regard to Libya, it is important to understand these developments and how much more needs to be done.

First, the firm response to the situation in Libya has only been possible because of the combination of Qaddafi’s horrific actions targeting civilians, his self-destructive comments demonstrating both his intent and disconnection from reality, and the mass defection of his ambassadors, military and civil servants in Libya and around the world.

Collectively, there is just no one left to defend him. Any resistance to tough action in the Security Council was reportedly overcome by a strong and unequivocal letter in support of the proposed resolution by Libya’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who later broke down in tears begging the body to save his country.

Second, although the Security Council has taken stronger action in a shorter period of time than it ever has before on any other mass-atrocity situation, travel bans, financial sanctions and international criminal investigations won’t have a demonstrable impact on civilians on the ground in the short-term. Qaddafi, his family and his regime are fighting for their lives, and these are far-off consequences that only begin to matter if they survive in power.

Third, while critical steps have been taken, more must be done to complete the transition of power and avoid the chaos and loss of life that would be caused if the world watches Libya descend into a full-blown civil war.…

The Security Council should adopt a new resolution to immediately extend recognition to the nascent provisional government of the country, authorize a NATO-supported no-flight zone over Libya to preclude any bombing of civilians, and permit all U.N. members to provide direct support to the provisional government…[including] the rapid deployment of an African Union-European Union force to the country.

The situation in Libya is a test case for the Security Council.… [It] must do more—and fast. It is our collective responsibility to ensure RtoP is an effective approach to protect people and human rights.

LIBYA AND THE UN: ‘TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE,’ OR ‘RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT?”

 

 

 

UN OFFERS A TYRANT’S LAST REFUGE
Rex Murphy

National Post, February 26, 2011

 

It would take the dark menacing imagination of Flann O’Brien, the fabulator of the absurd terrible world of his greatest novel, The Third Policeman, to be capable of equal encounter with some of the collateral absurdities that touch on the brutal crisis in Libya.

As we in the West hear of the tyrant (funny how that word is so much more visible in the last week or so than it has been in the dispatches prior to the uprising) threatening, or having ordered, strafing raids from jet aircraft against his own citizens; of helicopter gunships being called up for—grim euphemism—crowd control; talk of rivers of blood from Gaddafi himself and his reptile offspring—I am still, in the midst of all these greater matters of direst consequence, struck by the consideration that Libya, this Libya, (as of this writing) is still on the UN Human Rights Council. [Ed: See “Hall of Shame link, below].

The UNHRC is not just any old UN human rights quango, the wonderful Brit term for those perpetual motion bureaucratic machines, which in one guise or another, under various palate-crushing acronyms, pullulate in the UN like flies on four-day-old fish left in the sun. This is, make no mistake here, the UN’s top Human Rights organization. This is the one with clout. The one with prestige. This is the one, if I may deploy a Dowdism, of “unquestionable moral authority.”

So it was that, with reports coming out of Libya of the madman-dictator threatening ruin on his country, vengeance on his enemies, the country about to go up in flames (there are unceasing rumours about firing the oil fields), even an imminent prospect of civil war, I read just two days ago, as all this was going on, that: “Libya’s seat on the UN’s top human rights body looks secure for now, as a Western-led initiative to condemn it for its violent response to anti-government protests stops short of calling for its expulsion.” In the entire universal history of pathetic gestures is there one to top this?

That as of Friday, the position of Libya on the UN’s top human rights body was still secure.

Some states since that moment have awakened from their customary torpor, and indeed called for its expulsion, but after what the world has seen this week, and known for decades, does anyone have the slightest belief that efforts now to haul Libya off the UN Human Rights Council is anything more than the callous waste of time and desperate hypocrisy that putting Libya on the Human Rights Council was to begin with? Why was the tyrant’s chamber of Libya ever, ever on a UN Human Rights council is the real question. A question that speaks to the moral ambiguity, even moral blindness of the entire United Nations apparatus.…

One reason why tyrants have so long a lease in our brave new world is that temporizing, accommodating, trimming organizations like the UN give them, over the years, the bureaucratic sheen that allows them to present themselves as somewhat normal.… Come crisis times, as this week, and everybody is suddenly ready with a unanimous cry of Horror! Horror!…

It’s kind of pathetic now to be hearing the mewling from certain human rights’ advocates trying to “alert” the world community to the depth of Gadaffi’s depravity, and the extinction of human rights under his regime. Real concern would have manifested itself differently: for example, when all the NGOs of conscience and all their allied associations were so busy mapping the failings of Israel over the decades, where was the equal diligence, the equal industry and passion in mapping the real and massive horrors of a state which actually deserved such attention?…

The UNHRC is a perfect emblem and symbol of the entire organization to which it belongs. The UN does not help the world any longer. As the Libya case manifests, it is an impediment.

 

AN ADMINISTRATION ADRIFT
Stephen F. Hayes
Weekly Standard, March 1, 2011

 

On February 15, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of several Libyan cities demanding the departure of the strongman who has ruled the north African nation for more than four decades. The Libyan regime immediately ordered state-backed militias and mercenaries to put down the violence, with force. A bloody battle followed. As the crackdown began, and then escalated, it was early afternoon on February 16, halfway around the world in the State Department briefing room, when the Obama administration faced questions about how it regarded Muammar Qaddafi.

“Is Qaddafi a dictator?” State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley, at the podium for his daily briefing, smiled at the question and turned his head to call on another reporter. “Are you stumped?” “I’m not stumped,” Crowley responded tartly. “So what’s your answer to the question? Is he a dictator?” Crowley smirked. “I don’t think he came to office through a democratic process.”

It wasn’t a trick question. Qaddafi has survived as the unelected leader of Libya through a combination of wanton brutality and strategic bribery. His reign has been characterized by the systematic suppression of his own people and the eager exportation of terror.

Crowley’s answer—uncertain, hesitant, and morally ambiguous—would come to symbolize the Obama administration’s response to the massacre in Libya. Within days there were numerous, credible reports that the Libyan regime was using fighter jets to strafe protesters. Regime-hired mercenaries from other African countries roamed the streets of Libyan cities exercising Qaddafi-style restraint.…

Early in the morning on February 21, Qaddafi’s son took to Libyan state television with a rambling speech that included warnings of further violence. “We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet,” he said. A top Libyan diplomat who had defended Qaddafi for years at the United Nations warned of “genocide.” Ibrahim Dabbashi said: “His son yesterday somehow declared war on the Libyan people, and as we translate his words, I think he means that he will kill as much as he can from the Libyan people and he will destroy as much as he can from the country.”

A senior Obama administration official was more sanguine about the prospect of Qaddafi changing his ways. “We are analyzing the speech of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi to see what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform,” the senior official said. Meanwhile, Libyan diplomats across the world resigned their posts. Senior Libyan military officials refused orders to kill their fellow countrymen. And protesters urged the West—and the United States—to respond.

On February 21, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced generic “violence” and called for an end to the “unacceptable bloodshed” in Libya without directly condemning Qaddafi and those who were carrying out his orders. That same day, after nearly a week of tumult, the State Department issued its first recommendation that American embassy families leave Libya, according to NBC’s Chuck Todd.

The following day, at an interview in his Pentagon office with four journalists, including two from The Weekly Standard, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the ongoing slaughter in Libya was “an issue we have to address.”

“Has there been a NATO discussion about this at all?” “No, no,” Gates said. “Not even a pre-discussion discussion?” “No. I think it’s all happened so fast.”

Gates was asked whether the United States could quickly establish a no-fly zone in Libya. “Probably not. I mean we just don’t have the capabilities there in terms of, you know, the next day or two.” “What’s in the bag? What do you have, what do we have that could speed there?”

Gates responded: “We don’t have—I don’t think we have a carrier in the [Mediterranean Sea] right now. The Enterprise is down off of Somalia. We’ve had the [USS] Kearsarge in the Red Sea, but mainly if some kind of an evacuation were needed from Egypt. But nothing that we would be able to do right away.”

The lack of urgency from the administration’s leading hawk was alarming.… The president spent February 22 in Ohio at meetings on his small business initiative. And though he spoke publicly several times throughout the day, President Obama said nothing about Libya.…

If Qaddafi had been worried that he might see American jets overhead or even U.S. Marines on the shores of Tripoli, the plans Obama announced [Feb. 23] no doubt came as a relief. Undersecretary of State Bill Burns, the president said, would be traveling to Europe for consultations with allies, and five days later Secretary Clinton would be flying to Geneva for additional meetings.

If that sounds like a State Department-heavy approach to the situation, it was. The State Department, having failed to remove its embassy personnel before Tripoli was a warzone, told the White House that any show of strength, even a strong condemnation of Qaddafi, risked the lives of Americans in country. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the United States had pulled its ambassador from Libya in January—leaving the embassy without a leader. So State had urged a cautious approach. The prospect of another American hostage crisis was paralyzing.…

Think about that. The State Department spokesman couldn’t say whether Muammar Qaddafi is a dictator. An administration official saw in a speech promising war the possibility of peace. Despite tumult and unrest in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, the Obama administration apparently made few preparations to evacuate diplomatic personnel and their families and did virtually no planning for the possibility of a regime-led slaughter. The president did not speak out about the unfolding crisis because it didn’t fit his schedule. He responded by flying diplomats to Europe for meetings.

The president found his footing after a slow start on Egypt. And for a moment it seemed that the reactive, almost passive foreign policy that guided his first two years would change. It did not. Which leads to one question: Is Barack Obama afraid of American power?

 

THE RELUCTANT AMERICAN
Editorial

Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2011

 

The rebellion in Libya is moving quickly, with antiregime forces consolidating their hold over the east, setting up a provisional government and restarting oil exports. From his bunker in Tripoli, Moammar Gadhafi vows to fight to the end while his elite units and African mercenaries kill the Libyan people to protect him and his sons.

Not moving rapidly has been the world’s sole superpower, which remains behind the curve, struggling to respond and reluctant to lead. President Obama waited until last Wednesday to make his first public statement. He didn’t mention Gadhafi by name and deferred to the Europeans to push for U.N. sanctions. White House officials are now explaining his reticence by saying the U.S. couldn’t act forcefully until all Americans were evacuated from Libya.…

[This “explanation”] has told the next rogue regime in Gadhafi-like straits how easy it is to paralyze U.S. policy. You don’t even need to hold Americans hostage. All you need to do is keep them around with an implicit threat that you might do so. This will not make it easier to get Americans out of harm’s way in the next crisis.

Throughout the Libyan uprising, European leaders—especially Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy—haven’t been tongue- or action-tied by the plight of their nationals. This weekend, German and British special forces rescued a couple hundred of their nationals in covert missions without Libyan assent. The U.S. sent a catamaran and ferry to Tripoli, after Libya denied permission for a plane to land. The ships were stuck in port for two days due to bad weather and finally brought the 167 Americans out by Friday night.

European leaders continue to show more energy than President Obama. Mr. Cameron said he is working with allies on a plan to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi from using his air force against rebel forces.… If only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could be as direct. Speaking before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which voted to “suspend” Libya’s membership yesterday, she said that “we will continue to explore all possible options for actions.… Nothing is off the table.” But she didn’t put much on the table.…

The U.S. could begin to exceed a Belgian level of global leadership by reaching out to the opposition and extending formal recognition to their provisional government. Though this might make Mr. Obama uncomfortable, America remains a global power with exceptional standing to provide a new Libyan government with legitimacy. We should also be prepared to sell arms to the opposition if they request it. The U.N.’s new arms embargo isn’t likely to deter anyone who is still willing to sell Gadhafi arms at this point, but it might cause some countries not to arm the opposition. The world made that blunder in Bosnia.

The moral and strategic case for U.S. leadership in Libya is obvious. A terrorist regime is slaughtering people who will appreciate America’s support and protection. A bloody civil war could create chaos that turns Libya into a northern African failed state, an ideal home for terrorist groups. The U.S. should support a provisional government that can take over when the regime collapses to restore order with as little bloodshed as possible. What is Mr. Obama waiting for?

 

A UNITED NATIONS COURT FOR GADHAFI?
John Bolton
Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2011

 

President Obama has trumpeted Saturday’s U.N. Security Council decision to refer Moammar Gadhafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution. Although Gadhafi deserves punishment, the ICC will not accomplish it. Invoking this marginal organization as an instrument of justice is simply an abdication of responsibility. It pretends to an address an international crisis while actually doing the opposite.

The ICC is one of the world’s most illegitimate multilateral institutions. The court’s vast prosecutorial authority is unaccountable to any democratic polity. Americans rejected this approach at our founding, separating the prosecutorial and judicial powers and placing the prosecutors under elected executive branch officials to ensure accountability and legitimacy. The Bush administration wisely reversed the Clinton administration’s endorsement of the ICC by “unsigning” its foundational treaty in 2002. It then secured more than 100 bilateral agreements to prevent U.S. citizens from being transferred into ICC custody.

To date, the ICC has been weak and ineffective, essentially acting as a European court for African miscreants. Nonetheless, its prosecutor is an international version of our own post-Watergate “independent counsel” model. Based on the execrable record of these prosecutors, the U.S. Congress, with broad bipartisan support, allowed the law authorizing the appointment of these counsels to sunset in 1999, although there has been sporadic resort to such procedures since.

Under whatever guise, the independent-counsel approach has led to gross miscarriages of justice, such as Patrick Fitzgerald’s 2003-07 investigation of how Valerie Plame’s CIA employment became public. In that case, one target, Scooter Libby, was pursued into the ground while others more culpable were allowed to emerge unscathed.

Champions of the ICC theorize it will deter future crimes. Reality proves otherwise. The court has been operational since 2002, so the most persuasive evidence is that almost 10 years after the court’s inception, Gadhafi was sufficiently unimpressed that he is doing what comes naturally for terrorists and dictators. History is full of cases where even military force or the threat of retaliation failed to deter aggression or gross criminality. If the West is not prepared to use cold steel against Gadhafi, why should he or any future barbarian worry about the ICC?…

A new Libyan government should be responsible for dealing with Gadhafi’s atrocities. Every crime he is responsible for, from the terrorist bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, to his current street massacres, has been done in the name of the Libyan people. They are the ones who should judge Gadhafi, as Iraqis did with Saddam Hussein.…

Obviously, Libya is in no condition today to deal with Gadhafi and his cohorts. But if he and his key aides survive the current violence, they can be incarcerated and tried later, with international assistance to new Libyan authorities if appropriate. Immediate logistical difficulties do not justify shifting the moral and political responsibility of dealing with Gadhafi away from his countrymen to remote international bureaucrats.

Mr. Obama’s ready embrace of the International Criminal Court exemplifies his infatuation with handling threats to international peace and security as though they were simply local street crimes. It also reflects his overall approach to international affairs: a passive, legalistic America, deferring to international bodies, content to be one of 15 Security Council members rather than leading from the front.

 

LIBYA AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
Irwin Cotler & Jared

NY Times, February 28, 2011

 

In response to Muammar el-Qaddafi’s continued assaults on civilians in Libya, the United Nations Security Council adopted a unanimous and historic resolution in an unusual Saturday night session.

It imposed an arms embargo on Libya, targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against Qaddafi, his family members and senior regime officials, and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation and potential prosecution of those involved in what was referred to as possible crimes against humanity.

In its statement condemning the violence, the Security Council included a critical reference to Libya’s “responsibility to protect” (RtoP) its own citizens from mass atrocities.

At the U.N. World Summit in 2005, more than 150 heads of state and government unanimously adopted a declaration on the responsibility to protect authorizing international collective action “to protect [a state’s] population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” if that state is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, or worse, as in the case of Libya, if that state is the author of such criminality.

Since then, the doctrine has been only applied once—in the case of Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007-2008. And this is the first time it has been explicitly invoked by the Security Council regarding the situation in a specific country.…

The Libya resolution is a major step forward, both for the people of Libya and in the international community’s stated commitment to end mass atrocities. But lest we get too excited too early about what is happening in regard to Libya, it is important to understand these developments and how much more needs to be done.

First, the firm response to the situation in Libya has only been possible because of the combination of Qaddafi’s horrific actions targeting civilians, his self-destructive comments demonstrating both his intent and disconnection from reality, and the mass defection of his ambassadors, military and civil servants in Libya and around the world.

Collectively, there is just no one left to defend him. Any resistance to tough action in the Security Council was reportedly overcome by a strong and unequivocal letter in support of the proposed resolution by Libya’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who later broke down in tears begging the body to save his country.

Second, although the Security Council has taken stronger action in a shorter period of time than it ever has before on any other mass-atrocity situation, travel bans, financial sanctions and international criminal investigations won’t have a demonstrable impact on civilians on the ground in the short-term. Qaddafi, his family and his regime are fighting for their lives, and these are far-off consequences that only begin to matter if they survive in power.

Third, while critical steps have been taken, more must be done to complete the transition of power and avoid the chaos and loss of life that would be caused if the world watches Libya descend into a full-blown civil war.…

The Security Council should adopt a new resolution to immediately extend recognition to the nascent provisional government of the country, authorize a NATO-supported no-flight zone over Libya to preclude any bombing of civilians, and permit all U.N. members to provide direct support to the provisional government…[including] the rapid deployment of an African Union-European Union force to the country.

The situation in Libya is a test case for the Security Council.… [It] must do more—and fast. It is our collective responsibility to ensure RtoP is an effective approach to protect people and human rights.

GADHAFI, THE UN & THE U.S.: TRAGEDY, AND FAILURES, IN THE DESERT

 

 

 

DICTATOR LOSES GRIP IN DESERT
Charles Levinson, Margaret Coker, & Tahani Karrar-Lewsley
Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2011

 

On the ground in the eastern chunk of this oil-rich desert nation, the signs of rebellion are plain to see in the armories of a military base near Baida: Weapons crates lie busted open and empty. Rifles are missing from their racks. Left behind are helmets and gas masks and cleaning kits—things that can’t shoot.

For four days, rebels newly armed with anti-aircraft guns and Kalashnikovs battled forces loyal to Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi and commanded by one of his sons. After days of firefights, feints and an ambush on unarmed local sheiks, the regime forces surrendered their hold on the vital local airport Tuesday morning—placing nearly all of eastern Libya outside Col. Gadhafi’s control.

The battle for Baida airport is one example of how quickly the tide across Libya has turned against Col. Gadhafi. A brutal crackdown by pro-Gadhafi forces across the country has left at least 300 dead over six days, civil-rights groups say.

On Tuesday, Libya’s top policeman, a longtime Gadhafi loyalist, joined the string of diplomats, soldiers and others to abandon their leader of 42 years. In a video aired on the Al Jazeera news channel Tuesday, Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi announced his support for anti-Gadhafi protesters and called on Libya’s armed forces to switch loyalties. It was unclear how much influence he has over the key security forces considered die-hard loyalists to the regime, such as the armed revolutionary committees or the military units controlled by Col. Gadhafi’s family members.

The defections came as Libya teetered. In the country’s eastern half, an anti-Gadhafi stronghold where protests began just last week, only one additional airport, in the region’s main city of Benghazi, remained in government control. In the coastal city of Tobruq, also in the east, Libya’s historic red, black and green flag, which was barred during Col. Gadhafi’s four-decade reign, flew over many buildings. The all-green flag of the Gadhafi regime was nowhere to be seen.

In the capital of Tripoli—a traditional stronghold of Col. Gadhafi’s power—the leader publicly defied protesters seeking to end his rule. He vowed to remain in the country “until the end.” “I am not going to leave this land. I will die here as a martyr,” he said in a rambling, 80-minute address on state television. He vowed to take back the eastern cities under rebel control and show no mercy to those he says have acted against the nation.

Around midnight, following the leader’s speech, Tripoli residents reported heavy machine-gun battles in the capital’s center and a near-constant wail of sirens. Residents say carloads of the leader’s supporters cruised around the city in the early evening, waving green flags as a symbol for their loyalty to Col. Gadhafi. Pro-Gadhafi security agents roamed the city, blaring a message over bull horns and loud speakers that people forming in groups on the streets would be shot, two residents of the capital said.…

With Col. Gadhafi inciting more clashes and the streets around Tripoli still heavily patrolled by uniformed security forces, many Libyans feared that the nation could fracture on tribal or regional lines. “We’ve been calling for an end to Gadhafi’s rule for years,” said Hafed Al-Ghwell, a U.S.-based Libyan opposition activist. “But what we’ve always feared is the day after. Right now it looks like the worst-case scenario is coming true—that Libya becomes like Somalia, with every strongman with a gun ruling his own fiefdom.…”

 

THE UN’S LIBYA FAILURES
Editorial
Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2011

 

It was an old and festering wound in Libyans’ collective memory that was the immediate cause of the bloody clashes that broke out in the streets of Benghazi last Tuesday evening. A group of families whose sons were brutally massacred by the Libyan authorities would not abandon their quest for justice. They refused to be rebuffed yet again by state officials.

In 1996, an estimated 1,200 prisoners, mostly opponents of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime, were rounded up and gunned down in the space of a few hours in Tripoli’s infamous Abu Salim prison. The victims’ bodies were reportedly removed from the prison in wheelbarrows and refrigerated trucks and buried in mass graves. To this day, the Libyan authorities refuse to disclose the whereabouts of these graves. It wasn’t until 2004 that Gaddafi admitted that the massacre had taken place.…

Neither the Abu Salim prison massacre nor the many other human rights abuses perpetrated by Gaddafi’s regime over the past four decades have been singled out for censure by the world’s purported protector of human rights—the UN’s Human Rights Council.

Established in 2006 with a mandate to reform its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the HRC has in the past five years issued some 50 resolutions that condemn countries; of those, 35 have been focused on Israel, and not one has been issued against Libya. Even as of Monday evening, as protesters were being shot down in the streets of Libya, no emergency session of the HRC had been called by its members, which include the U.S. and the EU, as Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, noted in a soon-to-appear interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Ilan Evyatar. Neuer called this omission by the HRC and its members “not only a let-down to the many Libyans risking their lives for freedom, but a shirking of [the HRC’s] obligations.”

Indeed, instead of being condemned, Libya has been lionized. In May 2010, Libya was, absurdly, elected as a member of the HRC, a move that was not blocked by the Obama administration (as Iran’s bid for membership was). This was the culmination of a steady ascendancy to every important diplomatic body at the UN—including the African Union chairmanship, the UN Security Council and the presidency of the UN General Assembly. In a 100-minute rant given before the assembly in September 2009, his first since he took control of Libya in a military coup in 1969, Gaddafi exploited the opportunity to liken the UN Security Council to a “terror council” because of the veto rights enjoyed by the U.S. and the other four UNSC permanent members.

A month earlier, the man U.S. president Richard Nixon had referred to as the “mad dog of the Middle East” met with former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain. “Late evening with Col. Kaddafi at his ‘ranch’ in Libya—interesting meeting with an interesting man,” McCain tweeted the next day. Several weeks later, this “interesting man” ignored McCain’s request not to give a “hero’s welcome” to freed Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al- Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent.

While engagement has proved a dismal failure, other methods have been more effective. It should be recalled that it was in the wake of the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq that Gaddafi, anxious not to become America’s next target, magnanimously offered to scrap his nascent nuclear program.

Although the U.S. no longer enjoys the kind of influence it had in the region after the Iraq invasion, the Obama administration can move from a defensive strategy in the UN of vetoing the many anti-Israel resolutions, to an offensive approach—along with other democracies—singling out countries like Libya in a concerted shame campaign.

Perhaps if more pressure had been brought to bear against Gaddafi when he just might have been ready to listen, Libya’s citizens would not now be getting shot down in the streets by a “mad dog” regime. At the very least, the UN would have retained a modicum of moral legitimacy.

 

LIBYA’S LEGACY
Michael J. Totten
New Republic, February 23, 2011

 

Not since Saddam Hussein’s regime was demolished in 2003 has an Arab head of state run a more ruthlessly repressive terror state than Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were small-government libertarians by comparison. The implications of the uprising in Libya are therefore much bigger than they were in Tunisia or Egypt: If ordinary citizens can overthrow Qaddafi, of all people, every other despot in the region may look vulnerable—including Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

I managed to finagle a visa for myself just after Libyan-American relations defrosted in 2004, and the U.S. government lifted the travel ban. I was one of the first Americans to legally visit the country in decades, and what I saw there was appalling. The capital looks and feels gruesomely communist, which wasn’t surprising, considering that Qaddafi’s “Green Book,” where he fleshes out his lunatic ideology, is a bizarre mixture of the Communist Manifesto and the Koran (though references to Islam are stripped out). What did surprise me was how much terror he instilled in the hearts and minds of his people. No one I met said they liked him. No one would even speak of him unless there were no other Libyans present. Some were even afraid to utter his name, as though saying it out loud might conjure him.… “We keep our heads down and our mouths shut. We do our jobs, we go home. If I talk, they will take me out of my house in the night and put me in prison,” [one shopkeeper told me when we were alone.]

The system he runs is basically Stalinist and one of the last total surveillance police states in the world. Freedom House ranks Libya near North Korea and Turkmenistan, the most oppressive countries by far, in its utter dearth of human and political rights. I believe it. Obvious intelligence agents worked my hotel lobby, staring at and listening to everyone, and the U.S. State Department warned Americans at the time that even hotel rooms for foreigners likely were bugged.

Posters bearing the boss’s face are typical in dictatorships, but, in Libya, Qaddafi’s arrogant portrait is everywhere, on every street and in every shop. State propaganda appears on billboards along the sides of the road out in the desert. He even carved “Al Fateh Forever,” the name of his “revolution,” into the side of a mountain. The only way you can truly get away from him is to venture into the roadless sand seas of the Sahara.

The contrast between Libya and its neighbors is stark. When I visited Tunisia just a few months before going to Tripoli, I met plenty of people willing to criticize Ben Ali even when others were present. Sure, they lowered their voices, but they didn’t cower in fear. Egypt under Mubarak was even more open. I spoke to dissident bloggers like “Big Pharaoh” and “Sandmonkey” in restaurants and bars, and they didn’t care if anyone heard them slagging the president. Cairo’s mukhabarat didn’t seem to mind what anyone said as long as they didn’t act on their disgruntlement. Granted, regimes like these wouldn’t have lasted decades if they were easy to get rid of, but, ultimately, they lack the staying power of the hard totalitarian states.

States like Libya, that is. Tunisia is pleasant, prosperous, and heavily Frenchified, while Egypt is a poverty-stricken shambles, but Ben Ali and Mubarak were both pragmatic, standard issue authoritarians. Qaddafi, by comparison, is an emotionally unstable ideological megalomaniac. He says he’s the sun of Africa and swears to unite the Arabs and Africans underneath him. He has repeatedly threatened to ban money and schools, and he treats his country, communist-style, like a mad scientist’s laboratory. What I knew when I was there holds true today, even as his grip on power seems shaky: This guy is not going to liberalize, and he is not going to go quietly.

Indeed, his instruments of internal repression are proving as ruthless as promised in the face of strong civilian protests. (Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi and third largest city of Bayda are now reported to be in the hands of the opposition and under the guardianship of citizen militias and officers who have switched sides.) They’re busy assaulting demonstrators not with rubber bullets and tear gas but with artillery fire, attack helicopters, and war planes. Qaddafi has even imported mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa in case his own military officers flinch at orders to murder their neighbors (which some of them have, joining the demonstrators in the streets).

Ben Ali and Mubarak were low-hanging fruit, but, if a tyrant as vicious and murderous as Qaddafi can be taken out, it would seem just about anyone can be. If the people of Libya manage to overthrow him, it might even inspire Iran’s Green Movement to finish what it started in 2009 and push all the way to the end. But if Qaddafi survives by mass murder, which he just might, and if the world lets him get away with it, the Iranian regime and other despotic governments will take comfort in the knowledge that they, too, might do the same without consequence.

 

OBAMA’S PATHETIC RESPONSE TO LIBYA
Elliott Abrams
Weekly Standard, February 23, 2011

 

With a thousand Libyans (and perhaps many more) dead already from the Qaddafi regime’s attacks on its own population, and with reports of thousands of mercenaries and militiamen streaming toward Tripoli, President Obama finally spoke to the nation about this violence on Wednesday afternoon. He announced solemnly that he was sending Secretary of State Clinton to Geneva to visit the U.N. Human Rights Council and “hold consultations”—next Monday! But fear not: Undersecretary of State Bill Burns is apparently traveling sooner than that to “several stops in Europe” and then even in the actual Middle East, to “intensify our consultations.”

This is not so much a feeble response as a non-response. It is an announcement to Qaddafi that we won’t even get the secretary of State moving for five more days—five more days of likely slaughter. The verbs the president employed in his remarks are toothless: we will “monitor” and “coordinate” and “consult.” We will “speak with one voice.” While he “strongly” condemned “the use of violence in Libya” the president could not bring himself to condemn the regime or its leader, the man who is imposing this reign of terror. He did say “the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.” But at what cost? He did not say. The closest the president came to speaking of action was this: “I’ve also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we’ll carry out through multilateral institutions.” No one knows what this means, but it presumably may mean sanctions. Maybe. Next week. Because “prepare” is not an action verb either.

Some parts of the world are way ahead of us. Denunciations came faster and have been stronger in Europe, and yesterday Amre Moussa suspended Libya from the Arab League. That’s a good test. When Amre Moussa, the long-time secretary general of the Arab League, is ahead of you in denouncing human rights violations, you are reacting a bit slowly.

The administration has followed its near silence over Iran in June 2009 and its wavering on Egypt last month with days of silence on Libya. Finally the president has spoken and said next to nothing. For a superpower this is an embarrassment. Belgium and Luxembourg can consult and coordinate and monitor; can we do no more? How about sending Stuart Levey (leaving Treasury soon but still there) off to get freezes on all Qaddafi family assets? Instead of sending Hillary Clinton to the Human Rights Council, how about sending the Marine commandant or the chief of staff of the Air Force to NATO headquarters? Perhaps that message would be a bit more likely to capture Qaddafi’s attention. How about demanding indictments of Qaddafi for war crimes right now?

The administration has quietly told reporters that it can say no more, lest Americans in Libya be attacked by the regime or taken hostage. That’s a real concern, but once again silence is the right response for countries with no options and no capabilities. For us, the right reaction to such threats and such fears is to call Musa Kusa, Qaddafi’s long-time intelligence chief, and tell him that if the regime attacks any American we will find him wherever he is, however long it takes, and he will meet the same fate as Saddam Hussein. And tell him to pass that on to Qaddafi.