Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Time for Intervention Running Out

With Libyan forces seeming to have the upper hand, time is running out on whether and when the United States, NATO or the UN should intervene militarily in the conflict.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

With Libyan government forces advancing towards the rebel capital of Benghazi, the time for possible military intervention by the U.S. and its NATO or other allies appears to be running short.

Nonetheless, discussion of possible military action continued apace Monday, with Libya topping the agenda of a foreign ministers' meeting of the Group of Eight in Paris and the U.N. Security Council meeting behind closed doors late Monday to take up an unprecedented appeal by the Arab League to impose a no-fly zone over parts of Libya.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also scheduled to meet late Monday in Paris with envoys from the provisional government established in Benghazi who were expected to press her both for formal diplomatic recognition and for immediate U.S. military assistance in the form of a no-fly zone over the eastern part of the country.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama, in a brief White House appearance with visiting Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, reiterated that Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi "needs to leave" but gave little hint as to whether Washington supports a no-fly zone or other military steps to protect the rebel government or reverse the current tide of battle.

"(I)t's going to be very important for us to look at a wide range of options that continue to tighten the noose around Mr. Gaddafi and apply additional pressure," he told reporters.

"And so we will be continuing to coordinate closely both through NATO as well as the United Nations and other international fora to look at every single option that's available to us in bringing about a better outcome for the Libyan people," he said.

The day's events came amid a remarkably vigorous public debate here over whether and, if so, how Washington should intervene militarily in the nearly four-week-old conflict in Libya, even as Gaddafi's forces appeared to make substantial gains in their eastward drive against the rebels.

Over the weekend, government forces, using tanks, infantry, and helicopters, reportedly retook Zawiyah, near Tripoli, and laid siege to Misurata, the only other western city that remained in rebel hands late last week. At the same time, they reportedly secured the critical oil refinery town of Ras Lanuf and captured most of Brega, 110 kms to the east.

On Monday, residents of Ajdabiya reported that their city, located only about 160 kms from Benghazi, had come under attack by air and by artillery.

The speed of the Gaddafi forces' advance and the apparent inability of the rebels to resist the regime's superior firepower have underlined for analysts here how little time may remain for any effective intervention on the part of foreign powers.

"It seems to me that the debate that is taking place here may soon be moot in that Gaddafi's forces seem to be taking back ground at a rate that may make it too late for the international community to really turn the tide," according to Charles Kupchan, a foreign policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Nonetheless, that debate, which began in earnest when it became clear that Gaddafi, unlike Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was determined to deploy military force against popular demands for his ouster, has continued to rage among elite sectors here, even as the aftermath of Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan has diverted the attention of the mass media from Libya.

Like the controversy in the 1990s over U.S. intervention in the Balkans, the debate has generally pitted hawkish neo- conservatives and liberal interventionists on the one hand against foreign policy "realists" and some regional specialists on the other.

Among the most-recent entries on the interventionist side have been former President Bill Clinton, who came out in support of a no-fly zone at a women's conference in New York late last week; former President George W. Bush's deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz; and Hillary Clinton's recently departed policy planning chief, Princeton University Prof. Anne-Marie Slaughter.

In a New York Times op-ed published Monday, Slaughter charged the Obama administration and the European Union (EU) – which, while calling on Gaddafi to resign, failed to agree on a common position on military action at a Friday summit in Brussels – with "temporising on a no-flight zone".

If the Security Council failed to authorize one, she went on, Washington should recognize the rebel regime in Benghazi as the legitimate government, as France and Portugal did last week, and work with the Arab League to give it any aid it requests.

But the realists, including Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), who commanded NATO's 1999 Kosovo campaign under Bill Clinton, have expressed skepticism, noting that a no-fly zone or even the provision of direct military aid could become a "slippery slope" into a much bigger intervention that Washington can ill afford given its ongoing commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and the possibility of a regional backlash.

"A no-fly zone in Libya may seem straightforward at first, but if Gaddafi continues to advance, the time will come for airstrikes, extended bombing and ground troops – a stretch for an already overcommitted force," Clark wrote in the Washington Post Sunday.

"If we're serious about doing things to give the rebels a real chance of defeating and toppling Gaddafi, it will take much more than grounding the Libyan air force, and halfway measures could do more harm than good," Kupchan agreed.

"I think that caution appears to be prevailing on both sides of the Atlantic, and that the voices in favor of intervention are significant but thus far losing the debate," he noted, adding the Arab League's endorsement, while significant, would not itself tip the balance in either Washington or Brussels unless Arab states are willing to offer more than political and diplomatic support to military action.

Perhaps the strongest argument made by the interventionists – or at least the one with the greatest political resonance here – is that Gaddafi's victory could reduce or even reverse the momentum of the pro-democracy movement that has swept across the Arab world over the past two months.

"If he survives, the virus of repressive bloodshed and unyielding autocracy could flow back through the region," noted Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl, and Kupchan conceded it would constitute a "definite setback for the democracy movement".

But Obama, even while he has repeatedly called for Gaddafi's ouster, has already shown some ambivalence toward opposition movements, particularly in Bahrain and Yemen where U.S.- backed leaders have been fending off popular demands for radical reform for several weeks.

"Confronted with conflicting advice on what to do, the final coin thrown into the balance on the side of inaction on the part of the White House might have been that doing nothing in this case would quite possibly reduce the boldness of reformists, oppositionists, etc. more generally," according to Wayne White, a former senior State Department Middle East analyst. "The U.S. is, after all, largely a status quo power."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to IPS Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/). He blogs at http://www.lobelog.com/.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Clare Lopez is a former CIA officer and rightwing activist who has argued that the Muslim Brotherhood and a shadowy “Iran Lobby” are working to shape Obama administration policy.


Michael Ledeen, a “Freedom Scholar” at the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has long been obsessed with getting the U.S. to force regime change in Tehran.


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney has emerged as the most visible advocate of hardline security policies in the Cheney family.


Bret Stephens is a columnist for the New York Times who previously worked at the Wall Street Journal and the neoconservative flagship magazine Commentary.


Joe Lieberman, the neoconservative Democrat from Connecticut who retired from the Senate in 2013, co-chairs a foreign policy project at the American Enterprise Institute.


Former attorney general Edwin Meese, regarded as one of President Ronald Reagan’s closest advisers despite persistent allegations of influence peddling and bribery during his tenure, has been a consummate campaigner on behalf of rightist U.S. foreign and domestic policies. He currently serves as a distinguished visiting fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.


Print Friendly

Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.


Print Friendly

Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.


Print Friendly

Trump’s reorganization of the foreign policy bureaucracy is an ideologically driven agenda for undermining the power and effectiveness of government institutions that could lead to the State Department’s destruction.


Print Friendly

Spurred by anti-internationalist sentiment among conservative Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration, the US is headed for a new confrontation with the UN over who decides how much the US should pay for peacekeeping.


Print Friendly

Decent developments in the Trump administration indicate that the neoconservatives, at one point on the margins of Washington’s new power alignments, are now on the ascendent?


Print Friendly

As the end of Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president approaches, it seems that his version of an “America-first” foreign policy is in effect a military-first policy aimed at achieving global hegemony, which means it’s a potential doomsday machine.


RightWeb
share