Everyone put on their poker face as I wrap up today:
Monthly Archives: March 2011
Questions have started to circulate about whether Gadhafi will give into the west or stay in power. Last night, Gadhafi’s foreign minister took asylum in Britain, the high defection so far in Gadhafi’s regime. This points to a trend that Gadhafi’s regime could be crumbling and he slowly losing allies. More importantly, Gadhafi has sent a diplomat to Britain for a secret mission of some sort. The Guardian reports:
Colonel Gaddafi’s regime has sent one of its most trusted envoys to London for confidential talks with British officials, the Guardian can reveal. Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, visited London in recent days, British government sources familiar with the meeting have confirmed. The contacts with Ismail are believed to have been one of a number between Libyan officials and the west in the last fortnight, amid signs that the regime may be looking for an exit strategy.
Gadhafi attempted to appear undaunted, accusing the leaders of the countries attacking his forces of being “affected by power madness.” ”The solution for this problem is that they resign immediately and their peoples find alternatives to them,” the Libya state news agency quoted him as saying.
The president is trying to find a way to help arm the Libyan rebels by sending a CIA team to investigate. Unfortunately, there could be consequences to this action. Besides the debate about whether this would be legal under the current U.N. Security Council resolution in which an arms embargo exists, there could be dangers to this action. Daniel Byman provides two good reasons why arming the rebels could be problematic. First, it could fracture the NATO alliance:
The risks of arming and training Libyan forces, however, are also considerable. Civilians are not trained to fight overnight, so the NATO air operations will have to continue as the Libyan forces prepare to stand up. In the short term, of course, the violence would increase; essentially, NATO would be helping one side win a military victory, and that victory could be bloody. Even a bloody victory might avert greater suffering over time, but as casualties mount, opposition from skeptical NATO members like Turkey will grow. In the Arab world, latent suspicions about Western motives are likely to become manifest.
Second, the rebels could have an Al-Qaeda infiltration:
The rebels are also a political as well as a military question mark. Their leaders, their numbers, and their goals are not yet known—and, indeed, their ability to stick together and avoid infighting is also untested. Some rebel commanders admit that al-Qaida-linked fighters are within their ranks, admissions that seem to confirm the remarks of NATO’s commander, Adm. James Stavridis, that the United States had “flickers” in its intelligence suggesting an al-Qaida presence. “The question we can’t answer,” Brookings analyst Bruce Riedel points out, “is, Are they 2 percent of the opposition? Are they 20 percent? Or are they 80 percent?” For NATO, keeping an arm’s-length relationship with the rebels makes it hard to know the political dynamics within the opposition movement, let alone manipulate it. From the rebel point of view, working with al-Qaida is logical. Both groups hate Qaddafi, and the jihadists are willing to put their own lives at risk, as opposed to helping out from 30,000 feet. As one Libyan commander put it, “members of al-Qaida are also good Muslims.”
Finally, as the U.S. has learned from Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, training groups of soldiers is not easy:
Nor does the slippery slope necessarily end after rebels are armed and trained. As the United States has learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, training local forces is difficult and time-consuming at best, and wasteful and futile at worst. The rebels may remain ineffective militarily, or the pace of the killing may exceed the speed with which they can be trained. Yet if the United States goes farther down the road of involvement, and arms and trains the rebels, it becomes even harder to step back should further problems develop.
Certainly this listed is not the full extent of problems, but all of these are critical issues the U.S. and NATO will need to consider as they move forward with operations.
Testifying on Capital Hill today, Secretary of Defense Roberts Gates was thrown a barrage of questions from angry, mostly Republican, congressmen who want answers. Like most congressional hearings very little was learned and it turned into a show of political grandstanding. Although, if something were to come from this, Gates’s description of the rebel would be good summary of U.S. policy. CNN reports:
Gates warned that the Libyan rebels still need significant training and assistance.“It’s pretty much a pickup ballgame” right now, he said, noting that the rebel forces remain “disparate” and “scattered.” He said other countries could play a larger role in helping the rebels as the U.S. role is reduced.
What Gates means is these rebels are just angry Libyan citizens who want Gadhaffi out of power. Most do not have any formal training. Many also come from a hodgepodge of communities around Libya. I think this describes perfectly U.S. policy in Libya. Currently, the international community has very little idea about Libyan politics, even more so about these rebels. Furthermore, the purpose of the mission is to protect civilians and even that is vague. What Gates has found is a perfect metaphor to describe the Libyan conflict.
Almost April, whatever that means…
CIA team sent to Libya to find ways to aid rebels
White House order signed to give covert aid and possible arms to rebels
Obama cabinet split on aiding rebels
Gadhafi’s foreign minister leaves Libya for Britain to seek asylum
President Obama calls for cuts in oil imports and an alternative energy play
Assad says Syria is victim to a foreign conspiracy
Israel uneasy about Syria unrest
Former President Jimmy Carter in Cuba
Congress remains divided on Libya after classified briefing
Senator Rand Paul: Obama hypocritical for engaging in Libya
Figures of Note:
Opinions of Note:
Fareed Zakaria on limited wars discontents
Scott A. Snyder on U.S.-South Korea nuclear relations
Videos of Note: Libya and intervention
Photo Credit: CBC
Figure from the Economist