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Thoughts On Libya

1.  If the US is going to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, along with other suggested policies like a no-drive zone near Benghazi to prevent the Qaddafi forces from overrunning the remaining rebel strongholds, aren't the US and allies in practice, and for better or worse, going to war against Libya's government?

2.  If we are going to war, shouldn't the US be willing to commit to achieving victory?  If America goes to war and is seen to fail, that is much more damaging to American credibility than the refusal to intervene militarily in favor of one side of a civil war.

3.  But how do we define victory?  If the point is to end the Qaddafi regime's oppression of regime opponents, I don't see how the imposition of a no-fly or no-drive zone around Benghazi helps those Libyans who came out against the Qaddafi regime in those parts of Libya presently controlled by the regime (including the towns recently retaken from the rebels.)  Wouldn't victory at minimum require the replacement of the Qaddafi regime with a government that is willing and able to prevent the conversion of all or part of Libya into an al-Qaeda client state. 

4.  What kind of commitment of time and resources is the administration willing to make to achieve victory?  You can imagine a scenario where the US military commitment is fairly small (air strikes, American trainers and advisors, arms and other equipment supplied by the US and allies) and American losses are few.  But who wants to bet on that?

5.  Shouldn't the US government go into this telling the American people that a commitment to overthrow Qaddafi and support the establishment of a minimally acceptable Libyan government could last a long time, could result in we-know-not how many American deaths and cost who-knows-how-much money? 

6.  How would Gaddafi react to staying in power?  The administration seems to have decided that a Gaddafi emboldened by victory and embittered by his (rhetorical?) abandonment by the US and Western Europe might turn back to sponsoring terrorism.

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Discussions - 3 Comments

Pete, I think this is a good series of questions to ask, and they kind of get at the big one that you don't: What is America's interest in intervening?

Joel, Oil, and the stability of the world financial system, since Italy is stuck a trillion in Lybia, and these assets are insured and reinsured. Plus 6 is likely enough.

Considering Timming 1 is almost certain.

2) Is a bullshit factor, america will not fail in Lybia anymore than it failled in Iraq. America does not fail, except financially for bailling out the beta of high alpha corporate investments.

3) We define success as gas bellow $3.00 at the pump, without demand destruction in the global economy, and unemployment below 6%.

4) The Italians want to bet on that! Everyone who reinsured the Italians. Whoever got Bush to take Kadafi off the terror watch list. Basically the willingness to bet on this is chump change vs. the amount they are stuck on the bet. Plus the willingness to bet is completly insured from the consequences of the bet.

5) The american people already know that, and realize this is geo-political corporate welfare.

6) If you have enough money you would have bought KBR on the Japan Quake rebuild thesis, and KBR looks good on the Lybia thesis. My call would have been even better without nuclear melt down in Japan, but the fear of nuclear melt down ensures demand for the high tech/high stress building KBR specializes in.

None of these questions would be difficult to answer, had Obama added the phrase, "and therefore the United States has implemented a no fly zone over Libya and will intercede to limit the capabilities of the various armed forces of Colonel Qaddafi" immediately after his declaration that Qaddafi must go.

That would have strengthened the resolve of the opposition forces, demoralized (to the extent of defection or passivity) the armed forces still loyal to Qaddafi, and undermined his ability to govern and remain in power.

Not having a firm policy, other than firmly raising a finger to test the wind of public opinion, the Obama administration punted and we now have Qaddafi very near total victory and in a position to annihilate a large segment of the Libyan civilian population.

This is not the Iraq situation of GHW Bush - hopefully we have learned our lesson on allowing helicopters and exception to the no fly rule, but it is more like a Kosovo / Serbia situation, when Clinton used US air power to some good effect to influence events on the gound.

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