A headline today in the Los Angeles Times reads “Rebel Leader in Libya Demands More of NATO.”
My concerns about Western engagement in Libya had included the West getting so much profile that the success or loss of the Libyan rebels would shift from them and their own will and steadfastness to how much or how little the US and its allies did. This may be where we are going — and it’s very worrisome. I had wanted the rebels to be armed from a non-US source with ammunition, guns, and RPGs, to have basic intelligence provided to them through a third source, and Gaddafi’s communications jammed. This should have given the rebels an opportunity and fighting chance to win — but no guarantee.
All of these measures would have had a net positive effect on rebel chances early in the revolution but would have minimized American and allied exposure to downside risks — and to the creation of a dependent and ill-prepared opposition inside Libya that was unable to do what the Egyptians and Tunisians did.
This fight in Libya cannot be about what NATO does for Libya — but rather has to be earned or lost essentially by the Libyan people. Not all revolutions turn out well, and it’s important that in throwing off a totalitarian regime that the Opposition be prepared to take incredible risks and to really achieve what otherwise would seem impossible and gravity-defying. Outside forces cannot make this happen.
When the US and NATO decided to intervene in a heavier and more direct way, the slippery slope switch got turned on, and it will now be difficult to extract themselves. It’s important to begin thinking of other scenarios – including a divided country, or safe zones with UN peacekeepers protecting key segments of the population. But this is not a good scenario and is fraught with dangers.
President Obama said early on in deciding on action against Gaddafi that this “would be a matter of days not weeks.” Now we are into weeks, and one hopes that this is just a matter of weeks and not months — or months and not years.
— Steve Clemons