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Thread: The Libyan Conundrum

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    The Libyan Conundrum

    The Libyan Conundrum

    For the U.S., this presents a powerful opportunity. For decades, Arabs have regarded Washington as the enemy because it has been the principal supporter of the old order creating a bizarre series of alliances in which the world's leading democracy has been yoked to the most reactionary forces on the planet. It has also produced a real national-security problem: the rise of Islamic terrorism. Al Qaeda's first argument against the U.S. is that it supports the tyrannies of the Arab world as they oppress their people.
    I don't know about you, but I completely agree with Fareed, and think this is an excellent analysis of the situation.
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    Re: The Libyan Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    The Libyan Conundrum

    I don't know about you, but I completely agree with Fareed, and think this is an excellent analysis of the situation.
    In terms of policy solutions, I believe that an approach that would allow the U.S. balance its interests and ideals would be to supply a limited arsenal of anti-aircraft missiles (e.g., Stingers) to the anti-Gadhafi forces, along with other arms. Those forces would then be able to degrade the Gadhafi regime's fighter jet and helicopter operations.

    However, in terms of actual combat, I do not believe the U.S. should become involved. The fighting should be left to Libya's people. They will need to win their revolution. The task won't be easy and it has been exacerbated by the growing reality that the anti-Gadhafi forces became over-extended from trying to head west too fast before they had established sustainable supply lines. Morover, I believe they are making a tactical mistake in not destroying oil refineries from territory they must vacate (hopefully, temporarily), as that allows the Gadhafi forces to capture refined fuel that can be used to facilitate their operations.

    Mr. Zakaria's view is not much different from mine with respect to providing arms, etc. He explained, "Arming rebels in Afghanistan, Central America and Africa has proved to be a relatively low-cost policy with high rates of success. Giving arms, food, logistical help, intelligence and other such tools to the Libyan opposition would boost its strength and give it staying power."

    However, on one issue I have a basic disagreement with Mr. Zakaria's piece.

    He writes: For decades, Arabs have regarded Washington as the enemy because it has been the principal supporter of the old order — creating a bizarre series of alliances in which the world's leading democracy has been yoked to the most reactionary forces on the planet.

    Although some of the alliances might have seemed "bizarre," especially when judged by U.S. ideals, there was nothing bizarre about them. Interests (global access to oil) and the Cold War rivalry made such arrangements matters of necessity. The U.S. could ill afford to have stood strictly by its ideals and ceded the entire region to those willing to do business with its many authoritarian regimes (the Soviets would have been delighted to fill the vacuum). The Near East was geopolitically vital during the Cold War. Even afterward, it remains vital given its oil resources (disproportionate share of the global resources).

    Pursuing the national interest can and often does entail trade offs. Sometimes, those trade offs can be very difficult.

    For example, the U.S. made a strategic blunder in failing to back the Shah during the rising Iranian revolution. The revolutionary nature and perspective of Ayatollah Khomenei was well-established in his large set of writings and speeches. Anyone who was familiar with the Ayatollah and his body of work should have understood that he was both illiberal, radical, and anti-Western. Clearly, the Shah was an authoritarian ruler, but he was also a reliable ally (helping out during the Arab oil embargo, conducting commerce with Israel, etc.)

    Not surprisingly, what followed was even worse. Aside from purges and an full-fledged reign of terror during which the regime consolidated its power, Iran's people are not much more free today than they were under the Shah. Unlike the Shah who was not anchored to religious doctrine and could be pragmatic at times, the Clerical rulers tie themselves to a rigid interpretation of religious doctrine and are uncompromising. Moreover, the Iranian regimes that followed during the post-Shah era have been hostile to U.S. interests and also revolutionary in seeking to overturn the region's balance of power (against U.S. interests and allies). In short, U.S. interests were damaged and Iran's people did not benefit thanks to a naive hope that the Ayatollah would usher in a democratic era consistent with American ideals, even as the Ayatollah's life and works strongly pointed to harsh authoritarian rule and an anti-Western foreign policy.

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