War #3

We started our third war.   The United Nations called for a no-fly zone in Libya, to try to stop dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s military strikes against Libyans protesting his rule.  This time NATO allies are playing a big role, with the French launching airstrikes against Gaddafi’s tanks.  (How do aircraft attacking ground targets, other than air defense sites, relate to the mandate of establishing a no-fly zone?)  But the U.S. is in it too, launching 112 Tomahawk missiles against Libya, as well as co-ordinating coalition efforts from American bases.  See  International coalition launches strikes on Libya – The Washington Post.

But here is the problem:  It may be too late.   Gaddafi may have already crushed the revolt.  His forces had already entered Benghazi, the city of a million people that was the center of the uprising.  What good would a no-fly zone, or even airstrikes do, to stop the urban warfare that is now taking place in that city?

President Obama has ruled out sending ground troops.  (Was that wise to let Gaddaffi know that?)  It looks like the Europeans are going to do the heavy lifting–in addition to the French, the Danes, the Spanish, and others have sent in their American-made F-18s and are preparing them for action–while we launch our missiles from afar to prevent any American casualties.  (Is this  Obama style of warfare, in which we no longer lead but follow and let other countries do the fighting for us, worthy of our country?  Or is it about time other countries police the world and we start holding back for once?)

But what will the coalition do if the rebellion is put down and Gaddafi is still in power?  Try to overthrow him, as the Americans did with his nearest counterpart, the late Saddam Hussein?  Which would surely require sending in ground troops after all?  Or just give Gaddafi  his victory?

UPDATE: American jets have attacked Libyan ground forces

The new leaders of the free world

Americans are the new French.  And the French (and British) are the new Americans.  At least when it comes to foreign policy.

Whatever happened to the good old days when the U.S. aggressively confronted evil-doers and France screamed about our defiling the altar of the United Nations? Now, it is France and other European allies who are leading the way in confronting brutal dictators while the U.S. drags its feet so as not to look like an anti-Muslim resource-grabber. And while the U.S. dithers on Libya despite direct requests for help, suspicions in the Arab mind are being reconfirmed that it cares about their well-being as much as Charlie Sheen cares about sobriety.

Western Europe, not the U.S., has acted as the leaders of the free world since the Libya crisis began. When President Obama finally addressed it, he did not mention Gaddafi by name. He didn’t call for his removal until late last week. The British were the ones who began contacting Libyan officers to tell them they could be prosecuted for war crimes if they did not defect. It was French President Sarkozy, not U.S. President Obama, who first called for a NATO-imposed no-fly zone on February 23. Since then, British Prime Minister Cameron has become the loudest voice in the free world to support it.

There are now mixed messages coming out of France with the foreign minister saying any no-fly zone must be under UN authority, even though Russia opposes it, but we know where Sarkozy stands. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen say say there is no confirmation that Gaddafi’s forces are carrying out air strikes despite countless accounts from Libyans, reporters, and pilots who defected. Gates is warning about what it will look like to attack another Middle Eastern country and Secretary of State Clinton says that intervention has been resisted to avoid the perception that we’re trying to take Libyan oil. Ironically, the military commander who defected in Tobruk is suggesting that the West’s oil business with Gaddafi is the reason why it is not coming to their rescue.

via Pajamas Media » Europe Takes the Lead in Defending Freedom and Western Values.

This just in:  France has extended diplomatic recognition to the rebel government.

Then there is this from the Washington Post:

President Obama is content to let other nations publicly lead the search for solutions to the Libyan conflict, his advisers say, a stance that reflects the more humble tone he has sought to bring to U.S. foreign policy but one that also opens him to criticism that he is a weak leader.

So what do you think?  America is probably not in a position to begin a third war.  But do you appreciate the president’s “humble” approach?   Is it time to give up our leadership on the world stage?

New Islamist regimes are OK with Obama

Not “Islamic,” but “Islamist,” meaning radical and jihadist.  Does this approach to foreign policy strike you as feckless and naive?  (And do you know what “feckless” means?)

The Obama administration is preparing for the prospect that Islamist governments will take hold in North Africa and the Middle East, acknowledging that the popular revolutions there will bring a more religious cast to the region’s politics.

The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of Islam in the politics of these countries,” said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal policy deliberations. “It’s the behavior of political parties and governments that we will judge them on, not their relationship with Islam.”

Islamist governments span a range of ideologies and ambitions, from the primitive brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots that heads a largely secular political system.

None of the revolutions over the past several weeks has been overtly Islamist, but there are signs that the uprisings could give way to more religious forces. An influential Yemeni cleric called this week for the U.S.-backed administration of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be replaced with Islamist rule, and in Egypt, an Islamist theoretician has a leading role in drafting constitutional changes after President Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power last month.

via Obama administration prepares for possibility of new post-revolt Islamist regimes.

Pakistani Christian official assassinated

Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Ministry of Minority Affairs, was assassinated for opposing that country’s anti-blasphemy law, which is being used to persecute his fellow Christians.  He was the second official to be killed for taking this position.  At the link, see also the video in which he confesses his Christian faith and says that he is willing to die for it.

via Pakistan’s Only Christian Official Killed Over Blasphemy Law Opposition » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

HT:  tODD

The Libyan Revolution

Muammar Gaddafi and his loyalists are holding onto Tripoli, as the rest of the country is joining with the mass uprising of the people.  Gaddafi is attacking his citizens with tanks and from the air, but the populace has weapons too.  Some army units have reportedly abandoned the dictator and have joined the popular revolt.  Ordinary people have raided police stations and looted abandoned militia bases for weapons. Pitched battles are breaking out everywhere.  An unconfirmed rumor that Gaddafi has been shot sent oil prices down.

Gaddafi reportedly depends on foreign mercenaries as his personal military force.  From descriptions these seem to be mostly African, rather than Americans who read Soldier of Fortune Magazine, but who knows with mercenaries?

See:

Gaddafi loyalists launch counterattacks; U.S. consults allies on Libya options.

Gaddafi relies on paramilitary, mercenaries

Oil settles near $97 on rumors Gaddafi shot

Gaddafi is a brutal dictator and an overt sponsor of terrorism, very much like Saddam Hussein, if not worse.  If he can be overthrown–and it isn’t clear that this will happen, but it seems likely–do you think this outbreak of freedom in the Islamic world might have overthrown Saddam, if we had not invaded Iraq?  Do you think the American invasion had anything to do with these revolutions?  Or do they show that the wars have been unnecessary?

 

 

Mubarak steps down in Egypt

President Mubarak, despite what he pledged just the day before, stepped down from power, the result of an 18-day popular uprising in Egypt.  The military is in control for now and has promised both democracy and continued peace with Israel:

The ruling military pledged Saturday to eventually hand power to an elected civilian government and reassured allies that Egypt will abide by its peace treaty with Israel after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, as it outlined the first cautious steps in a promised transition to greater democracy.

The military’s statement Saturday had been eagerly awaited by the public and thousands of protesters still massed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square. The crowds were still riding high on jubilation over the success in removing Mubarak on Friday after 18 days of unprecedented popular protests, but they promised to maintain pressure on the military to carry through long-sought reforms.

After the statement, the main opposition coalition — a loosely based grouping of youth and traditional opposition groups — said it would end its main protest in Cairo’s Tahrir, or Liberation, Square but would call for weekly demonstrations after Friday prayers.

The group also listed its demands for the first time during a press conference. Those included: the lifting of hated emergency laws, the forming of a presidential council and broad-based unity government, the dissolution of parliament and creation of a committee to amend or rewrite the constitution. They called for reforms ensuring freedom of the press, freedom to form political parties and more transparent media institutions.

The coalition also called for an investigation into allegations of endemic corruption within the regime and the trial of officials responsible for the deaths of protesters.

via The Associated Press: Egypt army commits to power transfer, Israel peace.

Egypt is the world’s largest and most influential Arab state.  The reverberations of the revolution are spreading through the Arab world, with pro-democracy factions surfacing just about everywhere, including Saudi Arabia.   Might western-style freedom and democracy have a chance, once the people taste it?  Or will  democracy instead lead to less freedom, to  Sharia law and radical Islam?  Israel is very worried, though the military’s assurance that the peace treaty will be honored is surely good news.  But that’s before a new civilian government is elected.  Some experts have tied the rise of  radical Islam to the frustrations of living under authoritarian regimes, suggesting that increased freedom will give people a more positive scope for their energies.

What do you think will happen?  Over the next year or two, do you think we will see (1) western-style democracy  (2) an attempt to restore the Caliphate  (3)  war with Israel  (4)  all of the above  (5) other?


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