Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Is It Time To Bomb Libya?

The always-reliable Michael Petrou at Macleans has a look-see into the sensible answers to that question. He comes up with a few, and the sensible consensus seems to be: We don't need to send in "boots on the ground." Let's just be sure we make it clear to the Libyan rebels: It's your country, you're in charge, we're on your side; let us know what you need, when you need it.

The nature and extent of outside military support should turn on whether the rebels are winning or losing and what they say they need. The main thing they need to hear is: We're standing by. The western democracies have to mean what they say and be prepared to prove it. Mainly, Petrou makes clear, we have to make up our own minds, abjure neutrality, and recognize that there is a "profound moral dimension" to what's happening in the Arab revolts.

Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brooking Institution’s Doha Center, explains that as long as the good guys are winning in Libya - and so far, they are - "we don’t need to get ahead of ourselves and talk about more drastic military action.” But there may come a point: “If push comes to shove, and we’re talking about tens of thousands killed a week or two from now, if there’s no quick conclusion to this, then I think we have to consider a different set of policy options and take more decisive military action. And that’s when we can start to talk about some sort of military intervention.”

I'm not sure exactly how you calculate which specific military mechanisms and policy options get triggered by measuring the height in metres of vast piles of corpses, I confess. But Hamid makes a good point. As I've said, we don't need to replay the Battle of Thermopylae here. Just one little drone would do. A handful of firecracker packs would be good to have close to hand as well.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that rebel leaders are calling for international military intervention now that it's evident that "people power alone may not be enough" to shift the hated Gaddafis. The February 17 Movement in Eastern Libya is hoping for a no-fly zone, strategic airstrikes and weapons drops. In Misurata, a spokesman for newly formed committees set up to run the town said "residents want foreign help to withstand an offensive by Gadhafi's militias." Gaddafi loyalists have retaken Gharyan, a town overlooking Tripoli, and Gaddafi loyalists that have surrounded Zawiyah almost took it last night. Both sides are armed with tanks and anti-aircraft guns. Nobody's asking for ground troops. The rebels are expected to come to a decision about outside help tomorrow.


Blogger dmurrell said...

I agree 100% with the idea of using NATO air power (your "bomb Libya" title should be changed to "bomb Gaddafi forces", however).

Two problems: the Obama administration is not the Goerge W. Bush administration. Watching last night's news, I could only shake my head at the cringing, timid comments comming from Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And NATO requires unanimity for intervention -- and there are too many timid members for that group to do anything.

Second, this morning's news has stated that the Gadaffi forces have captured a city from the rebels. I would not get to over-enthusiastic about the rebels' chances. Things may be starting to turn to the Gadaffi-fascists' favour.

The rebels do indeed need the West's help. But the West is cowardly and timid. This is what Obama has to offer the world. Obama is a good talker, but does not really do anything. Obama may have the corporate media in his hip-pocket, but his bumbling and fumbling reminds one of Jimmy Carter.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Start of a rather lengthy post at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Insititute's "3Ds Blog":

"Gunboat Diplomacy

From the Docks of Nova Scotia
To the Shores of Tripoli…

HMCS Charlottetown is setting sail for the Mediterranean..."


12:29 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

an interesting little development here:

5:46 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Dave: Of course you're right. Is it time to bomb Libya? was the original title of the Macleans post is all; I expect that they changed the headline for the reasons you imply.

Mark: Good background; good post. You may be onto something about the mainly "public consumption" function of the Charlottetown (rescuing stranded Canadians seemed downright outlandish to me) but it's all about that right now, and the "public" includes Gaddafi. When I read what Gates and Clinton have to say it all sounds so painfully scripted to this old reporter's ear. Who knows what they really think.

The most lame trope is the one you hear that goes like this: "We don't want to be seen as Yankee imperialists." What rot. In Yemen, Ali is blaming some geeks in a Mossad bunker for his troubles. Iran says Israel is running 50,000 mercenaries right now in Libya. Gaddafi is starting to sound like Colin ("Vietnam ending!") Kenny, Chavez says Beware Yanqui Imperialismo and pseuds call Lauryn Oates an "imperialist" all the time just for raising funds to hire Afghan teachers. Who cares what the tossers think?

Right now, the only thing that matters is what the Libyan rebels think, what they want for themselves and what they're asking from us, and it's not Juno Beach for Chrissakes. It's precision strikes on mercenaries, no-fly zone would be great, plus some arms dumps. It's hardly asking much (see my latest).

Give them that, and what Arab protester is going to scream: Damn the imperialists for doing what the Arab protesters ask them to do! Sure, some numpty will. He'll be the one getting slapped upside the head by all his mates.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

PS R2P: It would work fine if the Security Council didn't have the sole riht to invoke it. Give the Security Council power to block a bogus R2P intervention, maybe. But waiting for a Bush-averse Obama White House to use it, to say nothing of the Chinese and the Russians allowing it, is to wait for that cold day in hell.

7:11 PM  

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