The Qaddafi forces appear to be taking territory back from the rebels. With mechanized forces, rockets and air forces, how could it be otherwise? Meanwhile the administration is wracked by indecision. The State Department is confused about a U.N. arms embargo on Libya, thinking that it precludes our sending arms to the rebels. (We did something like this in Bosnia: impose an arms embargo on well-armed Serbs and unarmed Muslims. 200,000 Muslims died.) The President should immediately reject any interpretation of the U.N. embargo that would leave the rebels defenseless. We can, of course, stand by and accept whatever outcome results from a war that could go on for some time, with mounting casualties and opportunities for our enemies to maneuver their way to power. We could watch passively as support for the rebels is provided by those most concerned to propel their acolytes into power. Alternatively, we could at least try to shape the outcome by helping those rebels who are driven by political rather than religious motives, rebels who will not establish an Islamist beach head in North Africa. Some argue that we do not know the players–and given the parlous performance of the CIA in these areas–they may be right. But there are almost certainly people fighting Qaddafi whose motives do not include a hatred of the West or the dream of Muslim global dominance. If we can identify them it would be in our interest to help them–but time is running out. The debate over a “no fly zone” will drag on. Why not put anti-aircraft weapons (Stingers or their equivalent) in the right rebel hands? We didn’t need a “no fly zone” to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Stingers in Afghan hands were quite enough. I fear we may do the usual thing: wait until the high-definition carnage plays out on nightly television and revulsion at the slaughter leads to a too-late, too-little intervention lacking both strategic and moral clarity.
(Also read Richard Perle’s previous post on the Libyan civil war.)