With Gadhafi’s Death, Is Libya the Next Iraq?
Long oppressed by their strongman leader, the rebels finally had their day. With immense military and political help from the West, they first toppled the regime, and later, the dictator himself. At long last, “freedom” was theirs, although as we have come to know, one person’s freedom is another’s hell.
And how did the rebels show their appreciation to their liberators? By showering them not with roses, but roadside bombs, bullets and vitriol. Their message? “Thanks—now get out.”
So it was in Iraq, and so it will be in Libya.
Amazingly, Western leaders either don’t read history, or, more likely, do so and arrogantly think they can avoid the same mistakes.
The objective of the U.S. and NATO was to remove Moammar Gadhafi. Well, mission accomplished. But once again, the age-old adage applies: Be careful what you wish for … you might just get it. And get it they did, but now what? How much more blood and treasure will be expended to maintain a presence in a country that was a) stable, b) a Muslim “ally” of the West, and therefore c) didn’t need an occupying Western presence?
Sadly, too much.
There was no question why the U.S. became involved in Libya. It wasn’t about stopping a dictator or civilian deaths. And it’s wasn’t about democracy and freedom. It was because Libya produces a lot of oil. Period.
Need proof? Among numerous examples, just look at Syria. They continue to massacre their citizens and foment terrorism, but their petroleum production is but a fraction of what Libya pumps out annually. Case closed.
So America once again did much of the heavy lifting, giving its imprimatur for the airstrikes that led to the rebels taking down Gadhafi.
But it seems that we have forgotten one small thing. Those rebels—who brutally and gleefully executed Gadhafi in full view of cameras, and are now “running” the country—are the same folks who comprised the largest fighting force outside of Iraq to engage the United States military in that country.
That bears repeating.
We just backed the very same people who have been shooting at us for the past eight years. A naïve question, to be sure, but did anyone in charge actually bother to think about this before participating in the regime change of a sovereign nation?
The rebels, who are no longer rebels but now governmental “leaders,” have tasted power. They are getting used to carrying out the law—their law—on the spot, administering justice as they see fit. To think that they are just going to lay down their weapons (which we provided) and obey orders from a civilian politician is a fairy tale. Just look at the recent revelation that upwards of 20,000 portable surface-to-air missiles, each capable of downing a jetliner, are missing and feared to be in unfriendly hands. What a shock.
The result will be chaos and armed factions roaming the country. And when they are pressed further, look for car bombs and oil pipelines to start exploding.
Kind of like … Iraq.
But the West can’t have that, so by its own admission, it will be sending in ground troops. And as history shows, that is never a short-term proposition.
Of course, since European countries are broke and wholly incapable of sustaining any military operation, the United States will inevitably be drawn further into the Libyan quagmire.
In the hope of not repeating past mistakes, there are two lessons that should be heeded by what will hopefully be a new administration next year:
1) Credibility is everything. Nowhere is a nation’s word more important than on the world stage. If a country that prides itself on being of high moral character lies and betrays, it’s credibility is shot. Period. It’s a lesson the United States still hasn’t learned.
For example, America urged the Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein at the conclusion of Gulf War I, pledging support to help them overthrow the dictator. But the U.S. reneged on that promise, leading to the needless slaughter of many. Because of our credibility gap, we were forced to expend enormous effort to convince the Kurds to join the coalition in the Gulf War II.
Fast-forward to the present, and it is apparent that lesson has gone unheeded, as the Libyan debacle clearly illustrates.
Gadhafi was never an angel, not in the beginning of his 40-year reign, nor at the end. But he showed himself to be a leader with whom the West could effectively work, even if his transformation was rooted in self-preservation.
In no uncertain terms, Gadhafi was told to shape up or face the consequences. To his credit, he did, and then some. He admitted complicity in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing and paid reparations, dismantled his WMD/nuclear program, and stopped harboring terrorists. As a result of his positive actions, Gadhafi’s nation was removed from the Terrorism List by the George W. Bush administration, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stating Libya was rewarded for its “renunciation of terrorism and the excellent cooperation Libya has provided to the U.S.” in the war on terror.
And yet, despite U.S. assurances to Libya that the two nations would be conditional allies, that “excellent cooperation” wasn’t good enough. America broke its word by helping to eliminate a leader who had done everything the United States had asked of him. With that kind of “credibility,” is it any wonder why many leaders have chosen a path at odds with America? Venezuelan General Hugo Chavez comes to mind.
This results in needless roadblocks in diplomatic, political and economic negotiations around the world. The damage from one thoughtless decision can take years to repair, with Libya the latest example.
2) It is time for energy independence. Despite the inherent common sense of energy independence, both from economic and security perspectives, it remains a policy neither political party chooses to advance. Sure, the rhetoric is there, but that is where it ends.
Rather than tap into the largest natural gas deposits in the world (the Marcellus and Utica shales), the vast oil reserves in Alaska, the Bakken Formation in North Dakota, and the reserves under the Rockies, which may be the largest on the planet, and drill offshore, the politicians continue the disastrous policy of relying on petroleum from hostile nations.
Put another way, if Libya, and the entire Middle East for that matter, wasn’t sitting on huge reserves, America wouldn’t give it a second thought, with the exception of its security guarantee to Israel.
But because neither party will pursue energy independence in a meaningful manner, job creation suffers, inflation rises, and America’s fighting forces remain in the crosshairs.
So once again, America is involved in yet another conflict with no clear objectives, which will only create more uncertainty in world markets that are already on the verge of collapse.
Common sense dictates that America should stop playing policeman to the world, become energy independent, put the interests of its citizens before the people of other nations, and, above all, keep its word.
Don’t hold your breath. As Voltaire said, “Common sense is not so common.”