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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid