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Foreign Affairs

Even More On Libya

1.  So the Arab League seems to be in retreat from its support of the no-fly zone.  The Arab League is in a tough position. Most member governments have very limited democratic legitimacy.  When the Gaddafi regime starts claiming that Western governments are killing Arabs, such claims will tend to undermine those regimes if they don't condemn the killing of Arabs by the US, France, etc.  It doesn't mean they don't want Gaddafi gone, but it does mean they will talk out of both sides of their mouth.  It also means that Gaddafi's use of propaganda to portray the coalition as anti-Arab combined with the Gaddafi's regime surviving this situation will tend to strengthen Gaddafi's appeal outside Libya.  More reason to end this as quickly and decisively as possible.

2.  I'm not aware of any really credible reports that Libyan civilians have died as a direct result of coalition bombings, but we should be ready for the inevitable irony that innocent civilians will die from the effort to prevent the massacre of civilians by the Gaddafi regime.  It is only a seeming contradiction as those losses must be set against those who would be killed in reprisal by the Gaddafi regime.

3.  The Obama administration needs to get its story straight regarding its goals in Libya.  On Friday, Clinton said that the long-term goal was getting Gaddafi out of power (I checked it again on YouTube to make sure I hadn't misheard.)  Today, Admiral Mullen is saying that Gaddafi staying in power is one possible outcome of the operation.  Could we get some clarity here?

4.  This whole rationale of protecting civilians is maddening in its pointless vagueness.  There might be circumstances of highly localized ethnic conflict where removing a state's power over one part of its territory is sufficient to deal with the human rights problem at hand.  That doesn't seem to apply here.  If Gaddafi remains in power in any part of Libya, doesn't it mean he has the power to abuse whatever luckless civilians are under his thumb?  Does it make any sense to leave him in power in Tripoli (where there were substantial anti-Gaddafi demonstrations) if protecting civilians is the goal?  Is the rationale of protecting civilians itself insufficient (in the sense of needing to be supplemented) to the present circumstances? 

5.  I hope the Obama administration knows what it is doing, but I sense that the entrance into, and conduct of, this intervention has been poorly thought out and is still being improvised.

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Discussions - 3 Comments

The Arab league needs to decide - either they want us there in which case there needs to be a "softening up" that will be fierce, or they should not have opened their door in the first place. There will be no "clean" way really to clear out Qaddafi. Quit whining already.

Didn't the House Republicans just read the Constitution? Should the U.S. be going to war without authorization from Congress? Is the UN to replace Congress? Bizarre!

Ken, Ramesh Ponnuru seems to think so over at NRO. Political scientist Carl Scott gives the other side in this thread. http://nlt.ashbrook.org/2011/03/who-wields-the-sword.php#comments

This is an argument where I'm willing to sit out just listen to the different poits of view.

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