Gaddafi Defiant

March 21, 2011

Today marks the third day that a coalition of France, U.K., U.S., and other nations have bombed tanks and anti-aircraft sites in Libya, and inhibited native fighter jets from taking flight. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has vowed to continue his attack on the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi while pledging to not resign as the head of Libyan government.

The aim of the United Nations sanctioned mission is to protect civilians.

The “rebel” opposition in Libya is an assemblage of groups that have been pulled together by their common desire to overthrow Gaddafi. Exactly who makes up this amalgamate aggregation is largely unknown to Western forces. It has yet to be revealed if this opposition is benign to longterm U.S. interests.

Libyan state television has persistently claimed that the opposition movement is largely made up of elements from al Qaeda. Libyan state television has also claimed that bombings from the allied coalition have taken the lives of civilians including children. Both assertions cannot be independently verified.

Due to the claims of civilian casualties, The Arab League at one point over the weekend condemned the coalition force’s broad bombing campaign.  However, the Arab League has since reasserted its support for an imposed no-fly zone over Libya. This sort of political flip-flop has caught some in the West by surprise.

It is important to remember that the Arab League is vulnerable to the sway of the masses. Leaders of the Arab states that make up the regional organization cannot be seen as being Western puppets or as being too soft to foreign aggression. The penalty for such actions in today’s political reality include the risk of being overthrown and replaced along with Gaddafi. Therefore, while the Arab League is needed for regional legitimacy for a no-fly zone, it would be a mistake to expect a full commitment to the campaign by Arab leaders.

Had there not been an intervention by coalition forces, there could have been an extensive massacre in Libya. Going forward, a quick exit strategy will need to be in place by the end of the conflict. It will be important to avoid any long term troop commitment to Libya. With an operation like this that involves several powers, it will be valuable to gain a provision for U.N. mandated elections. The quicker that the Libyans can stabilize their country, the more expeditiously coalition forces can depart.

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