Ceasefire Is Victory for Gaddafi

One of the arguments against backing the rebels in their quest to forcibly remove Gaddafi from power is that it will look like imperialism and spark anti-Americanism. The reality is that the failure to act until now has caused a major disillusionment with the U.S.: the former Libyan ambassador to the U.S. said America’s passivity while Libyans were being slaughtered confirmed the negative image of the U.S. in the region. The intervention will repair some of the damage, but if Gaddafi is left in power the Libyans will never forget the lives that were lost as the U.S. hesitated -- and the victory they could have won as they requested support during their march to Tripoli. The people of the Middle East assumed the U.S. wanted Saddam in power after it failed to remove him, and the same conclusion will be made if it happens with Gaddafi. The anti-Americanism that President Obama’s Cairo speech aimed to counter will be strengthened.

The world is making a mistake if it thinks Gaddafi will be defanged and humbled by the intervention. He was known as a leading sponsor of terrorism in the 1980s, and though secular himself, he and his media outlets spout jihadist rhetoric. He will be reckless and unpredictable; his insanity appeared to escalate as the uprising progressed. He has threatened to attack air and sea traffic in the Mediterranean and ally with al-Qaeda to declare a jihad against the West if it intervened. It is simply bad strategy to gamble that Gaddafi will forgive his enemies, not seek revenge, and think with a stable mind after a ceasefire.

It must also be considered that every Arab government is analyzing the approach of each regime towards their uprisings. Every leader is concerned and is seeing what works and what does not. If Gaddafi’s rule survives, it will be his methods of mass violence that will be vindicated -- you will see it repeated by others. It is probably not a coincidence that the Yemeni and Bahraini governments began using harsher methods once Gaddafi turned his situation around. The Syrian government, which now faces an uprising of its own, will draw the same lesson.

Limiting our objective to a ceasefire will allow a deranged Gaddafi to remain while requiring an expensive, lengthy military engagement that is unsatisfactory to the rebels we are trying to protect. The U.S. and its allies missed one opportunity to help the rebels end Gaddafi and it shouldn’t miss another.