The West’s Moment of Truth in Libya

Well, as the world has been discussing the idea of a no-fly zone over libya for the last two weeks, Moammar Gadhafi’s jets and artillery have begun to seize the initiative against the rebels, stopping, and now it appears, turning back their advance on Tripoli.

From the New York Times:

RAS LANUF, Libya — Rebel fighters fled this strategic refinery town on Thursday under ferocious rocket attacks and airstrikes by forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The rout capped several days of fighting as bold plans of a westward drive to Tripoli by the undermanned and ill-equipped rebel army were dashed by the superior Qaddafi forces, which are seeking to retake several eastern oil cities that had slipped from the government’s control in the first days of the uprising. Heavy shelling here seemed to presage a final assault by government troops.

Under a steadily escalating barrage, hundreds of rebel fighters in dozens of trucks mounted with heavy weapons retreated east along the coastal road. In a chaotic scene at a checkpoint five miles east of town, fighters shot anti-aircraft guns randomly and ineffectually into the sky while arguing whether to flee or to try to establish a new defensive front.

This comes as the U.S.  Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told lawmakers that Gadhafi is likely to win the fight against the rebels.

From the Washington Post:

James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Gaddafi has consolidated his position in recent days and that his forces are far better equipped than the rebels, giving him a clear advantage.

“We believe that Gaddafi is in this for the long haul,” Clapper said. “Right now, he seems to have staying power unless some other dynamic changes at this time.”

Something dynamic like a Western military intervention. If Western nations and their allies are serious about aiding the rebels, the time to act is now. This rebellion is at a turning point, Western governments need to make a choice one way or the other, ASAP. It may already be too late.

  • STemplar

    Given that we still don’t have a CSG in the Med a month later I find it unlikely we are going to do anything at all. This all bodes very badly for US foreign policy overall because anyone who thinks we are going to accomplish anything with Iran or the Norks might as well forget about it.

    • Zap

      What do you want to accomplish with Iran ?

      • STemplar

        Prevent them from developing nuclear weapons and any more advanced ballistic missiles. Halt the spread of their fascist jihadist agenda in the region.

    • Jay

      bookmark this:….

      Enterprise was en route to Med via Suez on 3/1. Should be there by now, along with a marine chopper carrier.

      Libya is small potatoes.
      The big movers in the region are KSA, Iran, and Egypt. We need to keep the revolutionary spirit that is going around out of KSA, get the same into Iran before they nuke up, and do our best to keep Egypt as our ally while they work out their government.

      The CBGs and our intel guys should be focusing on the big 3, not Libya. Let the EU (who buys Libya’s gas and oil) man up and deal with it. We have real problems in real countries to worry about.

      • STemplar

        According to the USN the E is still in the Red Sea.

  • Kevin

    If anyone who isn’t a committed and well known America hater counts on the USG to protect them they are totally nuts. Obama will go to the wall to protect the Mullahs in Iran, Chavez or Castro, but will only wave his tongue as protesters get mowed down by any of the numerous “Death to America” 3rd world dictators out there.

    • Mufasa

      You are delusional and you have a child’s mind. We’re spending $40 million this year or next (unconscionably) on funding anti-Chavez (not a dictator) groups. How has Obama “gone to the wall” for any of the parties you mentioned?

  • Brian Black

    It’s a civil war. I’m yet to here a compelling reason for America, Europe, or anyone else to get involved. And were there to be outside involvement, why shouldn’t Egypt or Saudi be the ones providing the combat aircraft - rather than the US, UK and France?

    I don’t understand the obsession with a NFZ either. I thought the Libyan air force was only operating from a couple of key airfields. Surely they could be disabled during one evening, rather than through a protracted air campaign.

    • brian

      Compelling reason? He murdered over a 100 Americans on a pam am flight. Time for some pay back.

      • Connect

        Am I supposed to laugh at this?

      • Anthony

        time for us to drop the gavel of justice, that gavel has stealth and supercruise…

      • Brian Black

        And he murdered 43 Britons in the same attack. But the fact is that the US removed Libya from its list of states sponsoring terrorism, and resumed full diplomatic relations with Gaddafi and Libya 5 years ago.

        “Time for some pay back” sounds like it should be left as a tag line for an action movie.

        • blight

          Blood for oil. Or blood for getting Gaddafi to shut down his WMD program. Or both.

      • Jay

        Reagan did that already, with F-111s. Didn’t even need stealth. Scared the **** out of Qadafi. Then Bush scared him more by rolling over Saddam, and Qadafi gave up his WMD and support for terrorists.
        While Qadafi is a raving nut, but at least he is scared of us. Better than the Iranian fanatics who are raving nuts who are not scared of us.

    • randomsoldier

      how about where would we be if the french never helped us? oh yah thats right we would all be waving a british flag right now.

      • Praetorian

        We repaid that dept in WWII.

      • Brian Black

        And what would be so wrong with that?

    • LVworldview

      Compelling reason now - maybe not three weeks ago - is Saif. He’ll come after everyone - relentlessly and without mercy. Has he not said it? And he’ll have all the money in the world to do it. Watch out for this guy. He needs to be stopped now.

  • Lance

    Its a Civil war its not our place to interfere and why support either side they both are islamist radicals.

    • James

      Do you consider all Muslim nations to be populated by Islamic radicals? Those fighting Gaddaffi are fighting one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. Before the uprising, to speak out against Gaddaffi’s rule in favour of democracy meant being locked up or executed. I think the unanimous backing of the opposition is a clue as to which side holds the moral high ground.

      • Robert

        I consider all muslim nations to be composed of intolerant people hostile to any religion or set of law not their own. A violent religion/ideology that is trying to kill or enslave all peoples that do not believe as muslims do.

        • Dobbs

          You could easily say the same thing about the American Evangelical community. It’s all a matter of perspective. Religion is the fundamental problem.

          • ziv

            Dobbs, that is claptrap and deep down you know it is foolish to say it. 22% of AMERICAN Muslims think suicide bombing civilians is a laudable act. The numbers are a lot higher overseas. Do you really think that there are more than a handful of Christian evangelist nutjobs think murdering their opponents is laudable? Do you really? If you do, it really says more about your own prejudices than it does about Christians. Religion isn’t the problem, ass backward Muslim jihadis are the problem.

          • blight

            In reality, nobody has ever surveyed evangelicals about the problem. It’s just that they dont go out screaming it in foreign countries for CNN. That or their agenda is just killing abortion doctors and not mass murder.

            In any case, those unfortunate rebels need nation-state support. Think of where we would be without France, Spain and the Netherlands supporting us during the Revolutionary War. There is always that risk of a crazy Islamic radical government, but who’s to say that Gaddafi, avowed anti-American would be any better?

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            “22% of AMERICAN Muslims think suicide bombing civilians is a laudable act.”
            This figure comes from where? And how was it derived?

            “The numbers are a lot higher overseas.”
            Same questions.

            “….it really says more about your own prejudices than it does about Christians.”
            Yup. Just as Robert’s comment above says more about him than it does about muslim nations…….

            Regards & all,

            Thomas L. Nielsen

          • random3876

            where do you get your numbers from? its ignorance that pulls randoms numbers out of thin air and points fingers at a religion for there beliefs when our own religions where the same way. Muslims as a religion is still in its infancy exactly where Christianity was during the dark ages which is about how developed there society is as a whole. now wasnt there something that happened during the dark ages………………………….oh yah thats right! it was called the crusades, anything sound familar yet? and before you accuse me im catholic not muslim

      • Jay

        That’s totally true, but they are stil islamic radicals.

        I have not seen any “unanimous backing of the opposition”. We don’t even know who they are, and there seem to be a number of distinct groups.

        • blight

          It’s helped by the fact they’re not letting any diplomats on the ground, nor are they going overseas to make their case. No, they’re just wishing we would openly intervene on someone else’s soil and set a nasty precedent.

  • brian

    I am not sure the Qaddafi has a strategic path to victory, the whole country has revolted against him. Although he has some tactical superiority, the strategic depth of the rebels is basically everyone outside of Tripoli and most of the people in Tripoli. He take a town by burning it, but he doesn’t have the forces to hold anything. Eventually he will run out of supplies and men as he marches eastward with little for resupply if this turns into a pitched battle for every town. It’s like Hitler or Napoleon in Russia or Lee fighting Grant in the south, the when the ability of the other side to take losses is much greater than yours its extremely difficult to win.

    I think the most likely scenario will be a stalemate between what Tripoli can hold and the Rebel East forming a new country with all the oil wealth. Eventually Lybia will be united, and eventually Tripoli will fall.

    • blight

      If the Libyans are able to besiege Gaddafi in Sirte and Tripoli they could easily declare a new state with the other 99% of the country. Gaddafiland would be just like Swaziland and Lesotho: rump states in a bigger country.

  • oldsalt

    BHO will not be a President that intervenes in another countries domestic disputes outside of Honduras, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has already complained loudly about the evils of American Imperialism over the last 100 years. The US military doesn’t need another adventure in Libya, a country that isn’t of vital interest to the US. Libya is Europe’s headache, not ours. Let them send their carriers and strike aircrews to Libya, if they still possess them.

    The true test of the man is not Libya but the emirates and Saudi Arabia which are of supreme vital interest to the US. Will he let his left wing principals get in the way of saving the House of Saud? Will he allow Iranian backed Shiites to overthrow the emirates? These are the true tests of the Obama Presidency and it appears he will have to take these tests before 2012. If he can’t ace these tests his legacy might not be the Health Care bill, it might be $10/gallon gasoline.

  • Oblat

    America would much prefer the return of Qaddafi, which is why it is making the transparent of excuses. The latest being that we have to destroy rebel air defenses before going in.

    Unfortunately Qaddafi will inevitably fall one day and like the Shia of Iraq they will remember who betrayed them.

    With Saudis now shooting protesters in the street our empire of friendly dictators is coming unraveled.

  • STemplar

    The bottom line is whether anyone agrees or disagrees with intervention isn’t relevant. The President has stood up and staked out a position. He has said Ghadaffi needs to go. He has said he needs to be held accountable. He has sent his Sec of State to speak with opposition leadership. That is the position of the US government whether anyone likes it or not. If we do not support that check we have written with our mouth with some lead in our rear end’s we have caused damage to our ability to conduct foreign policy. That is the reality of the situation, there is essentially no ‘do nothing’ option that isn’t damaging to our interests beyond Libya at this point. Ghadaffi has called Obamas bluff. While the mindless fools we have in the executive branch hoped Libya would go like Egypt and Tunisia, that didn’t happen, and as l said their bluff has been called. Time to ante up.

    • Mufasa

      “Colonel Gadhafi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. That is good for his people.” Statements like this aren’t as hard-line as you’ve made them out to be. That sounds more like a recommendation than an ultimatum. There’s been talk of keeping “military options open”, which isn’t that forceful either. I don’t think there’s been much in the way of check-writing, unless there have been some more incendiary statements I’m not aware of.

      I think you’re pretty shockingly cavalier to deem irrelevant a carefully considered response to a potentially very important policy issue in the name of maintaining “our ability to conduct foreign policy”. If we’re going to let a few somewhat suggestive public statements irrevocably fix our important policy decisions, then we’ve already abdicated an ability to make foreign policy, nevermind its conduction.

  • oldsalt

    By “support them”, I mean the current rulers in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

  • LVworldview

    I would ordinarily consider your comments to be super macho, but I have to admit that I agree. Once we have staked our position, we can hardly back down. I do not consider the executive branch to be mindless fools though, just lacking the courage of their convictions. There is a lot of talk about democracy. But Obama doesn’t want to another war. Then his military tells him we can’t afford take away from Iraq and Afghanistan. Harsh reality. We are paying for Bush’s War and will continue for a long time.

    • Cranky Observer

      > Once we have staked our position, we can hardly back down.

      What a reasonable, intelligent, mature way to handle national and human affairs.


      • LVworldview

        Unfortunately with Gaddafi, not sure we’re dealing with a human.

        • J Weich

          It wasn’t long ago that George Bush and Tony Blair were calling Gaddafi a statesman. How fast things change when oil’s involved. Note that Libya used to ship close to 2 million barrels a day and Tunisia 86,000. Nobody gave a **** about Tunisia.

          • blight

            Well, if people can still laud Reagan after El Salvador, then what’s a little Gaddafi on the side?

      • Brian Black

        “Once we have staked our position, we can hardly back down.”

        Once there has been any action taken against Gaddafi forces - like a NFZ - can you really imagine that if such an action failed to dislodge Gaddafi, the US would just shrug its shoulders, say “sorry, you’re on your own now” and sail off into the sunset?

        Like it or not, once NATO gets involved it’s a one way street. Either Gaddafi goes, or the west will escalate its involvement. That’s why we need to think very carefully before doing anything.

    • STemplar

      The military is not interested in another no fly zone because it was an open ended fiasco that went on for 13 years and put thousands of hours on air frames. It was a complete waste because it never brought Hussein into compliance. They have preached against the no fly zone. The politicians like them because they are soft and friendly but allow them to say ‘darn it all, see we are trying!’.

      You haven’t heard anyone say in the Pentagon that if the President orders about 7 days worth of total air strikes on Ghadaffis compounds, airfields, and depots, that they couldn’t easily accomplish that. It has nothing to do with a lack of capacity, We could surge 4 or 5 carriers for a good solid week of air to ground pounding easily. It’s a lack of political willpower to simply pull the trigger.

      The Democratic party bled away all their political capital in the anti war fervor to wrest control of Congress and the White House. Unfortunately they backed themselves into a corner where it is virtually impossible short of direct attack on American for Obama to commit to any new military operations at all. It took him months to agree to the Stan surge even though it was his own picked general recommending the operation. Why, because they tied their own hands.

      • blight

        Dead on target. The pent-up demand for Isolationism is back in fashion like it hasn’t been since the ’90s. Obama is listening, unlike Clinton.

      • Riceball

        Even better than a few carriers would be to send a couple of subs and launch some Tomahawk TLAMs at choice targets. This might be a good way to test our Ohio class SSGNs.

  • IKnowIT

    You guys with the “not in our national interest” stuff really make me laugh. Was it really in France’s direct national interest to help us during the revolution? At that time, I am sure it was not back and white.

    • Zap

      They were at war with the English you were at war with the English , so yes it was

    • blight

      Anything to bleed the English back then was acceptable to eventual allies France, Spain and Netherlands.

  • @E_L_P

    Here is some help for those so eager to go. Put your money where your mouth is. Your country needs you. What are you doing to help?…

    • blight

      Volunteer International Brigades for Libya?

      • J Weich

        An American Foreign Legion? Well they are already importing Mexican grunts to fight for the US in exchange for citizenship. All empires go the same way.

  • Max

    What a bunch of gutless wonders some of you are! You couldn’t care less about people who want help to be delivered from a hitler-like dictator like Qaddafi. I’m ashamed of both you and Obama and Secretary Gates, too. Allowing Qaddafi to grind his people under his nazi boot while they cry for help. Shame!

    We don’t need to send in the army or marines; just give them air cover and training with some effective anti-tank weapons they probably already have. How hard can that be?

    • LVworldview

      Forget Muammar Gaddafi. He’s old news. The viper is Saif. Just watch him. Look at his eyes. His steaming mad and filled with hatred for us. Stop him now while we have the chance.

    • PacificSentinel

      I agree, send in some fighters to destroy his runways (no planes can take off now) and some close air support against the tanks & the rebels could probably handle the rest on their own.

  • jamesb101

    Gates said he wanted to take a rest….Obama is behind him…..

    Does Obama get blamed for losing Libya and ‘democracy fever’ in the Middle East and North Africa….

    Does NATO wade in and force Obama to coverb their butts?

    • LVworldview

      It’s all about stopping Saif. he’s a nightmare waiting to happen. Well, actually, if you are a Free Libyan, he’s already there. But once he has power, he’ll be after us.

  • Uncle Bill

    The Nixon Doctrine said we should help other people in their struggle for freedom with aid, weapons, info and occasionally, air support; but that we should not get involved in ground war in foreign countries unless America was directly threatened. ( Would that we had listened to the old foreign policy genius. Schools today and ever since have only taught watergate, watergate, watergate. That’s union teachers for you.)

    I would like to see us help a little. Specifically I’d like to see a pair of B2’s high over the Mediterranean drop a full load of SDB’s. Wouldn’t that one simple act just help oh so much?

  • Matt

    No one wants more American casualties or another long war like Iraq or Afgan. But it doesnt seem right to let rebels who are fighting for what America has advocated in the region for so long go with out direct support. I dont think anyone is proposing a US/NATO invasion, just air support. Air/cuise missle strikes allow America to help people who will likely become democratic allies and keep American troops from having to give their lives with a ground war against Lybia. Too bad Obama/Gates and those beaurocrates wont take a hard stance against oppression. Anybody else wonder what McCain (or Bush) would do if he was President? Imagine how different America would be if France didnt help us (different=still a colony). As for the idea France was at war with the Brits so its different; isnt America at war with terrorists (and the countries that support them, like Lybia)?

    • Mufasa

      Why still a colony? It’s not like we’d have been frozen in time.

      • blight

        We’d be commonwealth like ANZAC presumably.

      • Matt

        Lol good point, a Commonwealth like Blight said then.

  • Nick

    This soft power thing is really working,isn’t it Mr President?200 years ago your predecessor T.J. had no hesitation in sending in the Navy to do what’s right and necessary.25 years ago Ronnie Reagan sent in the air force and had a naval battle as well.Time to face the facts!!!This man Obama has more of a desire to be popular then to do what is right.It’s in the Western powers direct interest to help democracy flourish in the Middle East.That is the true antidote to dictatorship,corruption and terrorism.

    • blight

      You can’t spread anything at the point of a gun. Iran and South Vietnam, and the Phillippines (Marcos was anything but democratic until deposed by People Power). Even the Soviets learned you can’t spread communism without expecting it to bite you (Sino-Soviet split)

      • Uncle Bill

        Ignorant statement. Didn’t Mao have to kill about 60 million Chinese before the rest agreed to be communist? Hasn’t Islam spread by sword? Wasn’t the U.S settled by force? What the hell are you talking about man?

        • blight

          Mao didn’t kill them until /after/ he deposed the KMT. Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution /after/ 49, when communism took over the mainland. Bing!

          The Mongol Empire spread by the sword and has a even better rep of killing. They /destroyed/ the caliphate, burning Baghdad and letting the rivers run black with the ink of books.

          But there are no Mongols.

          Sword is not a 100% guarantee of spreading anything.

    • Jacob

      Soft power should be used FIRST, and military force is the backup….in case you’ve forgotten. Personally I’m leaning towards intervening in Libya, perhaps going so far as to send in ground troops if the rebels okay it. If Gadhafi wins there will be merciless reprisals against the rebels, and that can’t be allowed to happen.

  • blight

    Wish I knew what was in the bed of that Toyota truck.

    • Brian Black

      Industrial hairdryer.

  • DAge2

    Too bad, Obama was dithering. We should have intervened when the rebels had the momentum. The usual suspects would have accused us of imperialism, but at least the rebels would have won and we would have a friendly government instead of pariah Gaddy version 2.

    Now that Obama has publicly called for Gaddy’s ouster, a rebel defeat will only diminish America influence and ability to fight an emboldened Al Qaeda in North Africa. Disaster all around.

    • Mufasa

      A friendly government? For whom? The rebels are nationalists, not liberal internationalists. They believe in governing a country in the interests of its people, not in the interests of transnationals. Gaddafi has been transforming into someone that capital and its proxies in Western governments could work with for a while now. The rebels will want a focus on their own nation, which will likely come at the expense of “business-friendliness” and the country’s net oil exports. In order to have had a favorable outcome for the US, not necessarily referring to US citizens, we would probably have had to have been guilty of imperialism.

    • blight

      Considering Gaddafi is calling the movement Al-Qaeda based (presumably to try and drive a wedge between the west and the rebels), it’s not likely that Gaddafi is a friend of Al-Qaeda either. He isn’t exactly devout Muslim material either. Can’t have Ukranian nurses and still be a Wahabbi.

  • Oblat

    Bush wouldn’t have dithered - whenever there was a brutal dictatorship oppressing it’s people he’d swing into action and invade the country next door.

  • amauyong

    Sorry folks…too many over there in the med and north africa/other politicos are already in the “mad” colonel’s pockets of oil dollars….

    So they will do all they can for him. And they are doing only for the colonel’s money and more pay out for their “help”. Nevermind if their hands are collecting money dripping with the blood of innocents and civilians.

    As for the people of libya who are rebelling they are doing it for freedom, dignity and for Libya itself.

    Too bad. No thanks to those money grubbing only can see finite and impermant stuff politicos pigs! The greed beyong greed type of PIGS!

    • LVworldview

      Free Libya!!!

  • LVworldview

    Please read my comment to STemplar. Saif Gaddafi - forget his old crazy dad - is truly dangerous. It’s in our national interest to stop him noe. He’s vicious and dangerous and will never forget we treated him like an Arab when he wanted to be one of us. We cannot let this guy have that much power and money. He will be a nightmare for years. This is our chance to nip it in the bud.

  • Uncle Bill

    shitake mushrooms
    Col Cuntler
    union teachers

    Just trying to figure out what I said that got my earlier post sent to the editors for censoring.

  • Mike

    What a difference a week makes as the rebels were full of themselves back then and thought Gaddafi was going to be like Egypt’s Mubarak and simply give up; but they forget that Gaddafi is more like Saddam Hussein and willing to do anything to stay in power. The US and NATO can try to establish a no fly zone; but what happens when Gaddafi uses his SAMs to try shooting down the jets or declares such a move as an act of war and really gets nasty by trying to end the civil war as quickly as possible by using WMD or cluster bombs.

    Don’t blame Obama as NATO didn’t do anything nor did any of the other Arab countries in the region.

    • STemplar

      There is plenty of blame for Obama. He stood there and shot his mouth off about how Ghaddafi needed to go and the US support for the people of Libya. Screw up number one was when he stuck his foot in his mouth and said Ghaddafi would be held accountable regardless of is he stepped down, so he essentially backed him into a corner and gave him nothing to lose. He has talked tough about what a thug the Ghaddafi is while simultaneously moving zero real assets into place that could affect Ghadaffi’s judgment on how far he should go. There are still zero CSGs in the Med and the USAF has received zero orders for the deployment of any assets. In fact I read a piece that said while the brass at Langley said they had received zero orders for the F22s, they were taking steps to prepare.

      The POTUS’ rhetoric needs to match what they will actually do. People on the ground will take their queue from his statements. How many Libyans I wonder turned out into the street when Obama spoke and made his statements. I wonder how many would make the same choices if they knew that he had zero intentions of committing to anything except running to the UNSC for another pointless round of blathering.

      There is plenty of blame for Obama. The White House has botched the hell out of all of this. I have no irons in the fire one way or another frankly. I still think restraint of getting involved is more prudent. That is the intent of the POTUS it seems like, however, his rhetoric and actions are not one in the same. That is clear indication of naivete and a lousy national security team.