News / Africa

Libya: Is Military Intervention a Viable Option?

Anti-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi protesters wave the old Libyan flag as they celebrate the freedom of the Libyan city of Benghazi, Libya, February 28, 2011
Anti-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi protesters wave the old Libyan flag as they celebrate the freedom of the Libyan city of Benghazi, Libya, February 28, 2011
Cecily Hilleary

As the regime of Moammar Gadhafi continues its crackdown against opposition rebels, the Obama Administration is considering its options. A number of voices in Washington are calling for military action, while others are cautioning against any kind of intervention, worried the U.S. may be on the verge of repeating past mistakes in the Middle East.   

Late last week, a group of some four dozen government officials and policy advisors sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to work a little harder to stop the violence in Libya. The letter was organized by the Washington, D.C.-based Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a neo-conservative think tank whose members include several former advisors to President George W. Bush - among them, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

The letter called for several steps to be taken in response to the violence against Libyan civilians, including steps which have since been resolved by the United Nations, such as freezing Libyan government assets and issuing a stern warning to Gadhafi that he will be held accountable for “the slaughter” in Libya.

In addition, the letter urged the United States and its NATO to take other more aggressive action, cautioning that a failure to act would cast doubt on the U.S. stated foreign policy goals of promoting human rights and freedom.

"No-fly" zone versus military overthrow

Jamie Fly, executive director of the FPI, was among the signatories of the letter. “Specifically we wanted them to seriously consider a no-fly zone or some sort of effort to ensure that Libyan airplanes could not attack civilians,” he said.  “We also wanted them to urgently get humanitarian aid into the country and to work with our NATO allies and other partners to make clear that any crimes against civilians would be eventually handled under international law.”

An Egyptian watches US amphibious assault ships USS Kearsarge as it sails at the Suez canal in Ismailia , Egypt, March 2, 2011
An Egyptian watches US amphibious assault ships USS Kearsarge as it sails at the Suez canal in Ismailia , Egypt, March 2, 2011

Fly is careful to stress that the letter’s authors are not advocating a military overthrow of Gadhafi or any sort of full-scale invasion or occupation. “We’re not talking other than perhaps limited interventions like those the British and Germans carried out over the weekend to rescue their citizens that were stranded at various remote camps,” he said, adding, “we may need some ground forces to do those sorts of surgical actions against key targets.”

Motive of military intervention questioned

But other analyst bristle at the mention of any kind of military intervention - among them, Adil Shamoo, an Iraqi-born senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, a project of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies. The group, which calls itself a “think tank without walls,” is an amalgamation of hundreds of writers, scholars and activists for social change. Shamoo expressed strong skepticism about U.S. motives in Libya, saying that the U.S. would never intervene for solely altruistic purposes - but rather, as part of a specific political agenda.

“It was just a decade or two ago,” he said, “when Tony Blair, representing the Western powers, went to Libya and gave a hug and a kiss to Moammar Gadhafi, and they received many, many oil contracts as a result of that. We will not put our boys and girls in harm’s way for nothing.”

Painful memories of Iraq invasion

Shamoo says one doesn’t have to look far back into history to see the dangers of military intervention. He says he speaks for many Arabs who still carry painful memories of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its aftermath. “That invasion - everybody in this country was championing it, was calling for it, and look what happened. Several hundred thousand Iraqis got killed, half a million wounded, 70,000 orphans, the whole infrastructure of Iraq has been destroyed. The current government is corrupt - and for what?”  

Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center and a Fellow in its Saban Center for Middle East Policy, says comparing Iraq to Libya is like comparing apples and oranges. “This is not an Iraq situation,” he said. “This is a situation where a regime is killing its own citizens in broad daylight. It has said unequivocally on television that it wants to kill its own citizens. So this is unprecedented. It’s very rare to hear a leader declare his intentions in such a manner, and I think we should take it seriously.”

"Caution" factor

Hamid said he worries that the U.S. might be so haunted by the mistakes it made in Iraq that it would fail to take action in what is a truly humanitarian crisis in Libya. “Unfortunately, we have a president in the U.S.,” he said, “and I think this goes for many Western leaders, who are defined by their caution. They are afraid of making the wrong moves, so they don’t make any moves at all. And when they do, it’s quite late in the game.”

That is not to say that imposing a no-fly zone in Libya would be risk-free for the U.S. and NATO allies. “It could cause problems,” Hamid said. “It could provoke a response that we’re not expecting. But we have to choose between policy alternatives, none of which are ideal, and you try to weigh the costs.”

Some officials say the entire debate may be mute. NATO has said that any intervention would have to be sanctioned by the U.N. China and Russia, both of whom hold permanent seats on the Security Council and enjoy veto power, indicated this week that they would prefer to see the matter resolved diplomatically.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More