Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), yesterday took to the Sunday talk shows to pressure President Obama to get busy aiding the Libyan rebels.
Even Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), considered a possible future Obama secretary of state, said we should begin laying the groundwork for a no fly zone.
I think the approach to Libya needs to be defined but what outcomes are both likely and unacceptable.
There is risk aiding the rebels. It would be unacceptable for an Islamic or al Qaeda-backed regime to be established there. But it is unclear if this is likely, and there has been no indication so far that this would happen.
What is both unacceptable and likely are the terrible consequences of Muammar Qaddafi maintaining power.
And so we must provide, in a limited way, aid to the rebels to ensure his overthrow. We must send military equipment and humanitarian aid, and establish a no-fly zone.
A no fly zone not only ends Qaddafi’s air advantage in the war, but it stops him from flying in additional ruthless mercenaries from other parts of Africa.
We must do these things, because this is what will happen if Qaddafi wins:
1. He will immediately embark on campaign of mass slaughter against his opponents, both real and perceived, in order to ensure his continued rule and to safeguard the country for his sons. The United States, having discussed intervention and not done it, will be seen as partially responsible. By saying “all options are under consideration,” we’re already in the game. We will have sat by and allowed a genocide to proceed.
2. Respect for the United States will decline another significant notch throughout the world, particularly the Arab world. This, in the long run, is a very bad outcome.
Obama’s Mideast policy so far has been based on making the place love us. It never will. But once it doesn’t respect us, our enemies will slither out from under their rocks. If we are seen as dangling the possibility of help before the rebels and not coming through, we will be viewed – accurately – as craven. That we refuse to settle the score with a tyrant who murdered scores of Americans over Lockerbie twenty years ago will add to this perception of U.S. fearfulness in a region where memories are far longer than they are here.
3. Qaddafi, now isolated from the West because of the terribleness of his response to internal enemies, will drift back to the radical camp and possibly start supporting operations against the West, like he has in the past. He will feel he has nothing to fear from paper tigers who need his oil.
4. Those who do aspire to freedom and democracy in the Middle East will lose “hope” about the prospects for “change.” Our vacillating performance with respect to Egypt both frightened dictatorial allies and sowed mistrust of the United States among the enemies of tyranny. Failure to assist in Libya will seal the perception that our rhetoric about freedom is empty.
There are risks and downsides no matter what we do in Libya. But the risk of not intervening is greater.
Let me know what you think!