Libya: foolish to stay out / Our enemies sure aren´t (NEW YORK POST OP-ED) By BENNY AVNI 03/11/11)
Reuters News Service
Reuters News Service Articles-Index-Top
With the Libyan unrest now a full-fledged civil war watched by the
entire world, idly standing by is no longer an option.
The war between an all-powerful dictator and a ragtag group of
rebels, whose motives range from tribal loyalties and religious
fervor to dreams of democracy, is fast becoming the Mideast´s
equivalent of last century´s civil war in Spain.
Remember that? There were good reasons for America to stay out of the
Spanish conflict, including the fear that if Gen. Francisco Franco
lost, the communists would take over Spain. In hindsight, Franco´s
victory clearly emboldened his allies, Hitler and Mussolini, and
helped to usher in the bloodiest decade in human history, which ended
only with the defeat of Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan -- and
with half of Europe in Communist hands.
As in Spain, both sides in today´s Libyan war are pulling in foreign
sponsors. The Arab press is full of reports on Saudi arms deliveries
to Libyan rebels and Syrian weapons sent to Khadafy´s loyalists. Even
Egypt, despite its own turmoil, is rumored to have sent troops in to
aid the war against Khadafy, a longtime rival.
Cairo, Damascus and Riyadh deny those reports, but the region´s
sympathies are undeniable and the lines in the sand are drawn: Are
you with Khadafy or against him?
OPEC is divided, too: America´s Gulf allies, led by the Saudis, urge
an increase in oil production to reassure markets nervous over
disruptions in Libyan supply. Iran and its allies, including
Khadafy´s buddy Hugo Chavez, yearn to humiliate the oil-hungry West
and dream of prices much beyond $100 a barrel. (Cash-hungry Russia,
incidentally, is in the latter camp.)
Even the Europeans, normally a sanguine bunch, are making noises
about joining the battle, and with a military intervention no less:
Britain and France have already prepared "elements" for a Security
Council resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Given
opposition from veto-wielding China and Russia, European diplomats
tell me they´re looking out for a "trigger" that would make them
present the resolution for a council vote. One such "trigger," they
say, would be a major Khadafy-perpetrated massacre, which would
horrify the world and force it into action. (The death toll so far,
estimated in the low thousands, is apparently chump change.)
In reality, the signal they´re waiting for won´t come from Libya, but
from Washington, where President Obama continues
to "debate," "consider" and "weigh" all our options, even as he
leaves all of them "on the table."
Early on, there were many compelling reasons for America to stay out
of the Libyan conflict: Tripoli doesn´t sell us much oil; al Qaeda
might take over post-Khadafy; our military assets are stretched thin,
and so on.
(We need to keep an eye on Iran, too: This week´s International
Atomic Energy Agency´s report that detailed Tehran´s nuclear advances
all but disappeared in the noise coming out of the rest of the
Yet the future of the whole region is increasingly tied to the Libyan
crisis. If Khadafy survives, the signal to other tyrants will be:
Forget the kind of restraint that America demanded, and got, from
Tunisia´s Ben Ali and Egypt´s Mubarak. If you want to stay in power,
shoot to kill, like Khadafy.
The same lesson would also be etched in the minds of would-be
opposition forces, in Iran and elsewhere.
The United States can´t keep delegating responsibility in this crisis
to the Europeans, the Arab League or the United Nations.
We can no longer afford telling Libyans and the region that we love
democracy but we won´t lift a finger to help it materialize.
Just as with the Spanish Civil War, our failure to act now will only
leave us with a much bigger mess down the line -- one that will cost
far more in blood and treasure to repair. (Copyright 2011 NYP
Holdings, Inc. 03/11/11)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY