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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid