Libya: The Short and the Long Game

There are two games at work in the Libyan crisis. The first is the short game which has to do with what is happening on the ground. At this moment, it is both confusing and ugly.  The rebels seem in disarray. The allies seem to be holding back and also ineffective in stopping the Gaddafi forces in most places from advancing and killing people at will. Yet I doubt that the coalition will permit in the end Gaddafi from wining and carrying out a policy of brutality against those who opposed.  There are rumors of all kinds, like Gadafi’s sons taking over, diplomatic mission to Greece and Turkey, etc.  And there is confusion of direction in the U.S. with Defense and State/White House speaking in different tones and directions. Something has to change the current direction of both the battle and the methods and strategy or we are in for a long-term series of bad events and bad outcomes. One problem is that American withdrawal of its forces has left a “hole” in the effectiveness, especially in close support of embattled cities and opposition forces.  

The long-game remains to find a way to create a peaceful democratic Libya without Gaddafi (or his sons), but the coalition seems confused even over long-term goals let alone tactics on the ground.  One problem is the confusion over who among the rebel leaders is really in charge of anyone. Another is we still have not put in place the organization and modalities of dealing with the end game of redevelopment, building a solid civic society and finding some way to ensure that the game will truly end with security for the people and freedom of its citizens and a recovered economy. We made that mistake in Iraq and even in Afghanistan and should not make it in Libya. Continue reading

Under U.N. Authority the Powers Act in Libya: Report from Britain

Today, after the coalition meeting in Paris on Saturday, action was immediately taken to use force against the Gaddafi regime forces. Coalition leaders made clear they did not believe Gaddafi’s promise of a cease-fire and reports were clear that attacks continue against the rebel-held positions. The first acts were against tanks in Benghazi and Libyan regime anti-air and command facilities.  Coalition leaders have called this a “multi-phased” operation. Coalition forces include U.K., France, U.S., Italy, and Canada.

As this is written from London, French fighter jets are over Libya hitting Gaddafi’s tanks and military.  French and British recognizance flights are over Libyan areas. It was reported that 20 French Mirage warplanes were over Libya. Under operation “Odyssey Dawn” some 100-112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launch by the coalition (largely the U.S. and U.K.) at Libyan targets. However, Libya has several hundred SAM anti-aircraft missiles. Continue reading

Where Do We Stand in the Middle East?: What is next? Beyond Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya…….

We seem again to be learning the wrong lessons of the significance of the Middle East upheavals. Last Thursday, the Washington Post had a editorial entitled “Last on Libya,” which wrongly criticized President Obama for what they characterized as “President Obama’s response to a dictator’s atrocities.” 

The fact is that any president has to weigh not only long term but also short term impacts of what he says as well as its costs. I personally would have desired a stronger response to the actions of Gaddafi, but as a former diplomat, I also know that he had to balance the safety of American citizens and embassy personnel still in Libya with how best to respond to fast moving events.  Continue reading