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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.