US Intervention In Libya
So far the international community has chosen Sanctions as the first of probably many steps to stem the violence and civil war in Libya. While such move does much to show international solidarity with the desire to end the violence and put an end to Gadaffi's despotic regime, in reality it will do little to end the violence. Since Gadaffi is no longer in control much of the nation, further sanctions (than those already announced could serve to bring in suffering to the people, if they are the typical broad based sanctions we have seen in the past with other nations. The good news is that these sanctions appear (to this author) to be targeted specifically and Libyan Wealth stashed overseas to prevent their being used to prolong the war. This is an important step in isolating Gadaffi and making it more difficult for him to pay mercenaries and others who would fight for him. Even Gadaffi's own ambassadors (appointed at the UN) called him a 'madman' who will fight to the very end and such an observation is more than mere diplomatic bluff. How many men he can truly rely on, what kinds of weapons they are able to obtain and their ability to pay for mercenaries will all be key determinants as to how long and how violent this civil war will be. You can read President Obama's executive order on the sanctions here. Gadaffi's African mercenaries have vowed to keep on fighting to the end and this certainly does not bode well for a quick resolution to the county' troubles. African mercenaries have a long history with Gadaffi and many many mercenaries of the Afghan War remained in Libya and joined the regular forces.
It will be very difficult to him to get any backing from other African regimes as now, he has nothing tangible to offer them, and it is looking increasingly unlikely that he will ever regain power. Add to that the fact that any official help given by other nations (particularly in Africa) would only earn the ire of the international community, any official help will probably not be forthcoming. Gadaffi's only effective Gambit at this point is to attempt to take over some of the country's oil producing sections or refineries and hold it for 'ransom'. One can find a map of Libya's oil and gas infrastructure here. A long insurgency carried out by hired gunmen and loyalists is unlikely to bring him back to power but will create serious headaches for the international Community and could potentially have an effect on Chad, where the two once fought a war but now has mercenaries are fighting to restore Gadaffi to power. Chad, according the the International Crisis Group, has some very serious risk factors associated with it. This author believes that the conflict in Libya seems likely to exacerbate these and other regional problems if prolonged. This is especially true with Gaddafi, a charismatic, determined leader who has earned his 'Islamic militant stripes' over many decades of brutal rule and consistent African Islamic 'evangelism'. With him running around loose, armed with his delusions of grandeur and a serious martyr complex, I see no good and a lot of bad ahead for the region. Add to that mix oil politics, drug trafficking, and the troubles in Sudan and one can see that a long-term conflict with Gaddafi leading an armed resistance is in no ones long term interest. What is to stop him from roaming between Chad, Libya and Sudan in a long term conflict, collecting militants and marytrs along the way?
To Intervene Or Not To Intervene
That is the question, or as Shakespeare would probably put it
'tis nobler in the Middle East to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous Militants,
Or to take arms against a sea of terrorists, And by opposing end them?
- Altered from Hamlet: scene III, act I
Should we stand by and watch a long term war that could claim many lives and destabilize the region for another decade or should the international community go in and (try) and fix things?
This is not an easy question but it is one that has certainly popped up in high level discussions in America's national leadership. Should the US intervene?
Given the history of US intervention in the past and its poor results in places like Afghanistan and Iraq (where the native population is increasingly restless and embarking on protests, like much of the middle east) such a move would seem to be pure folly. Even Gates has hinted at this recently at a speech to West Point cadet's, saying that those who propose another ground war should 'have their heads examined', he made it clear that the future of the military was in the Navy and Air Force not ground wars. Was Gates obliquely telling the nation where he stood on any thought of a Libyan intervention? Perhaps. Speeches at West Point often serve as a major sounding board for the President and Defense Secretary’s.
So given the prospect of a prolonged civil war in Libya and perhaps the stirring of greater unrest in Chad and Sudan do I think we should intervene? Well, if I were advising the President I would tell him that military intervention should be firmly off the table unless the situation deteriorates considerably in the coming weeks and months. I do not think America is prepared for yet another military intervention in the Islamic world as the other two major interventions (not including our activities in East Africa) have demonstrated that the US could not reasonably be expected to bring order to Libya. Who or what would we put in place of Gadaffi? Who could we really depend on to bring and keep order? Another chapter of Western neocolonialism would not be welcome in Libya, not matter how 'humanitarian' it is advertised and I do not think the west has much to offer Libya in terms of a new political order.
Having said all of that, should the US decide (unwisely) to intervene what must be done is have clear and most importantly achievable goals. For example if the goal is to get Westerners out, then that is a goal that is achievable. In other words we must limit what we want to do and stick to it. Keep with the realistic, not fantasy land military preparations concocted by contractors with dollar signs in their eyes. This is why Desert Storm I was successful and the Second War on Iraq was (largely) not. In the first, the 'Powell doctrine' was in effect. He recognized the need to start with achievable goals and stick to those goals. He also realize the need to keep popular support for our military endeavors. Since then a new cadre of officers have come to infest (I can think of no other word) our military who rather than clearly outlining what America is doing and why to the people, decided to co-opt all news reporting in War Zone's, censor the press, threaten those who put so much as a picture of our war atrocities on the web and otherwise poison healthy political debate in America, not only endangering the possibility of military success but also our own democracy at home. There are few dangers to a free society more potent than an out-of-control military. So if, by some unforeseen scenario, it becomes necessary to go into Libya, the goals of military intervention should be achievable, limited and have public support. If these three conditions are not met, we should not go in. What kind of goal would be achievable? Perhaps sending in several ground units to capture or otherwise remove Gadaffi from leading his rebel band. But here a President must be careful not to let himself be manipulated by the military into staying longer than a per-arranged time-line, sending in more troops than originally planned or spending more money that originally laid out. Also, the President must make sure that whoever is in charge can be relied upon to sincerely complete the mission and not let key opportunities to wrap up the conflict slip past him in order to prolong the war to please higher ups in the Pentagon who may be looking for another long term war to fight (and the millions of dollars that means to contractors). Choosing a senior Colonel to carry out such a mission with the promise of promotion if he is successful (and providing him the proper political and logistical support) would probably be one of the better moves. I think it would be wise to keep the political Generals out of such a war. Give the Colonel what he needs, let him carry out his task and as much as possible, isolate him from the Generals who are always looking to please Washington's Defense lobbyists and let him go to work. Indeed, making an operation a joint mission with the other paramilitary organizations in the US may also be something that should be considered. The key is to not let the yourself get boxed into a corner by the Military who will call you 'weak' and 'vacillating' (and use their vast media contacts) to lambaste you if you choose to end the mission unsuccessfully when the pre-set timeline or money runs out.
Frankly the DOD needs a major purge of the contractor-generals who are merely uniformed lobbyists for America's beltway-bandits. If America is to have success in her military endeavors she needs to remove this political/financial aspect to her serving military officers of the higher ranks. This will be exceptionally difficult and sadly, this President is not the man to do it. He simply cut too many deals to get into power and those from the political right still have a firm grip on the Pentagon (Gates is a holdover from the Bush era) and their interests are firmly represented and are quite powerful. If you don't believe me, take a look at who is getting comfortable increases in spending and who is getting all of the cuts in the Presidents Budget... all in the worst budgetary crisis in American history.
Simply put, intervention is a bad idea in most scenario's I can envision. But that does not mean I would rule it out if things deteriorated significantly and or in the unlikely event Gadaffi's presence would reasonably ignite a regional conflict. I think America has already bitten off more than she can chew and needs to concentrate on some significant and growing problems here at home before America starts to look like Egypt. If you think this is impossible check out our National debt, the amount of money we pay in interest on that debt and poke around the State Treasurer's sites of about 35 States across America.
The 'Egyptification' of America is well underway.
Mark S. Watson