Anti-Gaddafi protestors
Photo: AP
Photo: Ofer Amram
Giora Eiland
Photo: Ofer Amram

What’s Obama waiting for?

Op-ed: Libyan crisis convenient opportunity for US to create effective regional deterrence

Realities in Libya are creating an opportunity for the United States to take action that can only produce gains. Oddly, this has not been understood in Washington as of yet.


The reality in Libya at this time is as follows: Its leader is being exposed to the world and to his own people as a madman willing to make any sacrifice and unwilling to surrender under any circumstances. His loyalists are executing soldiers who refuse to shoot their countrymen. In this respect, Gaddafi’s conduct is reminiscent of none other than Hitler’s conduct in 1945, when he was willing to sacrifice the lives of more and more Germans in a hopeless war.


Libya’s eastern part is already controlled by the rebels. Some government leaders have already defected, and some troops did the same. However, this fragile situation may prevail for weeks to come, and this precisely is the danger. During these weeks, more innocents shall be killed, a grave shortage in medicine and staples will emerge, and the oil fields may be gravely damaged. Moreover, many forces may enter the vacuum. It is no wonder that al-Qaeda already declared that it supports the revolution.


The US and European states cannot take the risk of Libya ultimately falling into dangerous hands. The reason for this is threefold: Libya’s location close to Europe, its oil, and the possibility of chemical weapons at its disposal. It appears that since the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO had not faced a more appropriate and more justified target than ensuring Libya’s sanity and stability. Why are NATO countries investing such great resources in the continued existence of a large, modern military force if not for these types of events?


NATO has the ability to change the situation in Libya within a very short time. The first thing that can be done immediately is to create “air superiority” above Libya, thereby preventing Gaddafi from utilizing his Air Force in order to attack civilians or move forces. Such action involves minimal risk and can signal to all elements in Libya on which side they should be.


Paving way for Iran hegemony

It is also not too complicated to send ground forces to the country. As opposed to many examples from the past (Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iran) this time there is no fear that these troops will be perceived as a foreign occupation force, as the Libyan people is pleading for such help.


A United Nations resolution that calls for such military assistance may help, yet it does not have to be a required condition. Just like the war in the Balkans, here too NATO members can decide to operate on their own. It doesn’t appear that anyone would be able to prevent them from doing so.


Such act is much more important than direct assistance in toppling Gaddafi’s regime. It is vital in respect to building American deterrent power in the region. Should Gaddafi continue to rule Libya, even if for a few weeks, while many Libyans continue to die in the process, the US would have trouble to convey these highly important deterrent messages in the face of other destabilized regimes (Jordan, Bahrain, and possibly Saudi Arabia.) Other forces that do not shy off from taking action, such as Iran on the one hand or al-Qaeda on the other, will be happy to affect the regime in each of these states.


Even if the US cannot object to democratization moves that will bring down leaders who were never elected, it must think about the day after. America’s weak position in the face of events in Iran a year and a half ago, the passivity we’ve seen so far in respect to Libya, and the continued preparations for withdrawal from Iraq are paving the way for Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.


It is therefore hard to understand why the Libya crisis, which produced a convenient opportunity to reshape America’s policy, is not being properly utilized.



פרסום ראשון: 03.01.11, 00:38
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