Monday, April 25, 2011

We Want Out...But We Also Want to Be in Charge

Today the BBC reported that NATO forces struck Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s compound. This is possibly in response to comments made by John McCain over the weekend, showing support for the rebels and calling for the US to resume its leadership role. “The fact is that it is the United States that is NATO. We ought to recognize that and we ought to continue our leadership role”

While I wonder what the other members of NATO would think of these comments, I don’t necessarily disagree with the US resuming a leadership role in NATO’s Libyan actions. However, I seem to remember many disagreeing with US involvement in Libyan when we were in charge and I feel that there was a valid reason. Namely , what is the mission we should be leading? The Obama administration and other European powers have repeatedly called for Gaddafi to step down. However, the Whitehouse has also made claims that regime change is not the goal of US involvement in Libya. Its understandable why there is confusion in the US public.

I respect that the US refrained from immediately sending in troops at the beginning of the uprising (hopefully we have learned that while we are quite good at toppling leaders, we aren’t quite as adept at regime building). We have respected the wishes of the rebel groups in Libya in not putting troops on the ground. However, the administration has failed in informing the American people of or strategy or even a stance on Libya. We began by letting the rebellion take its course. When it looked like the rebels were losing NATO as the UN to issue a no-fly zone, under which the US bombed Libyan tanks, which at the time appeared to be the main obstacle to the rebellion. When the rebels made advances, we pulled back and allowed the Europeans to take over. Now that the rebels and the Libyan Army have seemed to reach a stalemate and as the siege of Misrata continues unabated, US officials have called for the US to re-involve itself while simultaneously resuming its targeting of Gaddaffi’s residence in Tripoli.

I feel it would be better if the US either stated a policy or acted as if it had a policy other than just seeming to do as little as possible and throwing solutions at the problem to see if it works. Instead, the US should either make the decision to let the rebellion take its course (which now seems impossible given our stance that Gaddafi must go) or decide that it will openly work with the rebel government in Benghazi to work with them to help organize troops and provide both advice and assistance that will be beneficial to the rebels, while still allowing them to fight. If we say we want Gaddafi out, we need to back up our policy. Otherwise, let the rebels fight and let our humanitarian involvement not extend to destroying tanks.

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