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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


President Obama’s Libyan Mistake

In his latest shortsighted act in office, President Barack Obama, along with other nations like France, Britain and Italy has taken military action in Libya, taking part in a no-fly zone over Libya and engaging Libyan ground targets.

The official mission of this action, as per the United Nations Security Council resolution that authorized it, is to protect civilians; however, it is obvious that the real intent of this plan is to embolden Libyan rebels fighting Libya’s dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, and to eventually topple Qaddafi’s government.  However, no-fly zones do not always work, and Obama has no plan for the future whether or not this one does.

Though airstrikes on Qaddafi’s forces in the desert may be helping the rebels, they are still unorganized, and Qaddafi still has better equipment.  I would not get my hopes up over a few retreats by Qaddafi’s forces; he still has the upper hand.  We also cannot use airstrikes in cities because those would kill civilians, which is a problem since about 85 percent of Libya’s population is concentrated in and around Tripoli and Benghazi.

Moreover, it is not our job to police the world.  Civilians are being hurt by their governments in a lot of countries, such as China, Iran and Russia.  Is it our job to take military action to protect civilians in these countries?

No.  And frankly, we shouldn’t; doing so will only harm our foreign policy.

We should not, and do not, take action on every single U.N. resolution.  A U.N. resolution does not undermine U.S. sovereignty; we decide what military action we take, not the U.N.  Many western nations, notably Germany, are not participating in Libyan operations.  We are under no obligation to act on a U.N. resolution.

If Iraq has any lessons for us, it is that no-fly zones do not always work.  The U.S., United Kingdom and France enforced a no-fly zone over Iraq for 12 years.  We can all see now, as we enter our eighth year on the ground in Iraq, how badly that no-fly zone worked out.  And just like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Qaddafi has vowed not to step down without a fight.

So, what happens next?  It would be great if we had an answer to this, but, due to Obama’s inexcusable failure to plan properly, there is no answer.  Obama has said nothing as to what will occur if the no-fly zone fails, which it probably will.

Even Obama’s own director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said that Qaddafi would probably prevail, namely due to his advantage in equipment. Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that a possible outcome of the airstrikes is that Qaddafi will still remain in power.

If that happens, Obama will have failed.  The rebels, whom we are trying to help, will be crushed by Qaddafi.  Our reputation in the Middle East, which is not great to begin with, will become even worse.  Qaddafi would have a new propaganda tool against us, as would Al-Qaeda and everyone else who hates us.  Basically, this scenario has us accomplishing absolutely nothing.

In the miraculous scenario that the airstrikes and no-fly zone do topple Qaddafi, there is the very real possibility of a civil war (which also happened in Iraq).  There are around 140 tribes in Libya, whom we know very little about.

Qaddafi has kept these tribes under control by intimidation and favors, much like how Saddam kept Iraq stable.  If Qaddafi were to no longer rule Libya, these tribes could definitely compete for power and oil, which would further destabilize Libya.

However, the only way to really topple Qaddafi would be a ground invasion, much like we did in Iraq after 12 years of a no-fly zone.  This would keep us in Libya for many years to come.  Besides the possibility of a civil war, there is a huge question as to who would run the country and set up a democracy, etc.  Attempting to quell fears over sending more troops to the Middle East, Obama has stated that American ground troops will not be used in Libya.  However, this seems like the only way to get rid of Qaddafi, which places Obama in a catch-22.

Only time will tell how bad Obama’s mistake was.  Hopefully, Libya won’t end up a disaster, but if the world is intent on removing Qaddafi, which seems to be the case, it very well may.


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