How Things Might End For Qaddafi

As more people turn out in several Middle East countries calling for change, and the ouster of their leaders pressure is building on Libya’s government. Libya, whose political turmoil is worsening each day, might see an end to it’s movement dissimilar from Egypt’s recent revolution.

In response to ongoing violence in Libya the United States is moving its warships closer to the region “in case they are needed.”[1] Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has warned officials about the option of even imposing a no-flight zone over Libya to prevent air assaults on civilians.[2]

“A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. And then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that’s the way it starts,” Gates said.[3]

While officials debate the potential use of force to aid rebels with airstrikes against Qaddafi in what now appears as a civil war about 150,000 Libyans have fled to Libya’s border with Tunisia.[4] “Staff members with the U.N. refugee agency described the water and sanitation situation as precarious.”[5] UN World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran is calling for humanitarian aid “especially to western Libya.”[6] She made the statement after visiting the border.[7]

Although the opposition has been winning some battles against Qaddafi’s forces “rebels have not been able to shake the colonel’s hold on power.”[8] Meanwhile Qaddafi has vowed to fight “to the last man and the last woman.”[9]

If things continue along this pattern, without foreign intervention, it makes it more likely than not that there will be a terrible humanitarian catastrophe that escalates from the point Libya is at now. Gates is right to caution on any use of force to aid the rebellion. Any possible military action against Qaddafi’s regime should be given serious consideration given both Qaddafi’s unpredictability and willingness to kill his own people in mass. However, time is of the essence right now and the situation will inevitably worsen if it becomes apparent that no country is willing to use its military to topple Qaddafi. In his case it could be something that would embolden him.

Considering Gate’s own warnings, President Obama might make the choice of launching air strikes against Qaddafi’s air force in order to impose a viable no-flight zone, but only if he receives military strategy options which he feels America can deal with. On the other hand, this alone might not be enough. The US is in contact with rebel groups in Libya[10] but according to Reuters, “One major problem is that while Libyan opposition groups have demonstrated they are capable of organizing themselves to confront Gaddafi, they are “not coalescing,” a senior U.S. national security official told Reuters…”[11]

If the President does take military action against Qaddafi’s regime it should be done in concert with other nations and with a possible ok from the United Nations. This would be best for two reasons:

1.       Amidst two ongoing wars America cannot afford to do this alone. In scope an air operation would probably be big, and with our forces spread as thin as they are we could use the help. Foreign aid organizations and UN staff would probably be needed in Libya to help refugees, the sick, and injured, so an international coalition would be better than a US-only operation.

2.       In the face of inevitable criticisms, and accusations of Western desires for justifying invasion[12] it’s better to gather an international group of partners, all of whom would share an equal burden of responsibility to help Libyans from a clearly unstable individual who has no qualms about murdering innocent people.

There is still some time to see if Qaddafi folds and decides to leave for Caracas, however improbable it appears right now. Chavez seems to be his only friend, and the only leader that might possibly welcome him into his country for safe haven. Venezuela and Libya have agreed to potentially plan a “negotiated solution.”[13] International pressure, threats of prosecution for crimes against humanity,[14] the freezing of assets, the assurance of a long protracted rebellion, and threat of military action could be enough to dissuade Qaddafi from continuing his rule, and Chavez might make the invitation.

Though a military intervention might be necessary it should be done when it becomes absolutely apparent to the world community that it is the only option left to stop what is happening in Libya. It should be carried out in a way that is not insulting to international institutions, or the concerns of dissenting voices—this in light of Bush’s ‘coalition of the willing’ during the 2003 Iraq war. Finally, it should be done with respect to the fact that ordinary citizens in Libya were the ones driving the movement toward liberation, as have others throughout the region.

[1] Ryan, Missy. Reuters. “US moves warships closer to Libya, freezes assets,” February 28, 2011.

[2] Sanger, David E. The New York Times, “Gates Warns of Risks of a No-Flight Zone,” March 3, 2011, pp.A12.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Watson, Ivan. CNN, “Nearly 150,00 flee Libya; UN reports crisis along borders,” March 1, 2011.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Aloisi, Silvia. Reuters, “WFP calls for urgent Libya humanitarian aid,” March 2, 2011.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Fahim, Kareem. The New York Times, “Rebels in Libya Win Battle but Fail to Loosen Qaddafi’s Grip,” March 3, 2011, pp.A1.

[9] Kirkpatrick, David D. The New York Times, “Qaddafi Vows to Fight to the ‘Last Man,’” March 2, 2011.

[10] Ryan, Missy. Reuters. “US moves warships closer to Libya, freezes assets,” February 28, 2011.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Shoichet, Catherine E. CNN, “Chavez: U.S. distorting situation in Libya ‘to justify an invasion,’” March 1, 2011.

[13] Daniel, Frank Jack. Reuters, “Libya government accepts Chavez plan, Venezuela says,” March 3, 2011.

[14] Schubert, Atika. CNN, “Gadhafi faces investigation for crimes against humanity,” March 3, 2011.

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