Our Prez maintains radio silence on Libya....
Arab rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain all employed violence against their popular uprisings. But the actions of the Libyan regime are on a different scale. What is occurring in Tripoli and other cities is not only lethal repression but also crimes against humanity. The United States has used its influence to restrain such violence by allied governments, most recently in Bahrain. Now it should join with its allies in demanding that the Gaddafi regime be held accountable for its crimes.
The first way to do that is a public call for regime change. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that it was "time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed" in Libya; European leaders made similar statements. But the regime's actions demand much more forceful action, including an immediate downgrading of relations and the raising of Libya's case before the U.N. Security Council. The United States and the European Union should make clear that if the regime survives through violence, it will be subject to far-reaching sanctions, including on its oil industry.
Whether or not the Gaddafis remain in power, they should be brought to justice for the bloodshed they have caused. If a new government does not emerge in Libya, the Security Council should request that the International Criminal Court take up the case. Arab authoritarian regimes, and dictatorships around the world, must get the message that they cannot slaughter their own people with impunity.
Elliott Abrams sees Gaddafi's 42-year misrule ending soon, and calls for seeing that the riches he stole be reclaimed. Paul Wolfowitz urges that Western nations & the UN team up to stop Gaddafi's atrocities. The WSJ editors go further, suggesting that we inform Libya we will bomb its airfields if planes & choppers are used against protesters. Bill Kristol labels "pathetic" the Team Obama response to Libya, and suggests NATO enforce a "no-fly" zone. Also at The Weekly Standard, Lee Smith slams the President's "deafening silence" re Libya. LS addresses the "kiss of death" chestnut about US public support being harmful to those whom we wish to help:
“It is remarkable,” says Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush White House, “that the administration appears to believe at the same time that our government is headed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is globally beloved, and that if he states his support for any cause it is immediately doomed or at least damaged. This may be some complex cognitive dissonance, but it appears more like simple confusion.”
The same is true of the White House’s decision to keep its support of Iranian protestors muted, for fear that the Islamic Republic might turn even more vicious. This policy seems to be a result of the Obama White House buying into the “kiss of death” fallacy. This line of thinking holds that since the U.S. is so hated in the Middle East, American support for any political cause in the region can only backfire by undermining the cause.
The “kiss of death” thesis was a favorite of liberal journalists during the Bush years who were eager to have another instrument at hand to attack the Republican president. Having just returned fresh from meetings with local businessmen, political activists and other so-called liberal opposition figures in the region, it never occurred to columnists like Fareed Zakaria and Roger Cohen that the meetings arranged for them were directed by Middle Eastern regimes for a specific purpose. The regional powers knew that U.S. journalists were by and large opposed to Bush, so the regimes saw in the American media a channel to put out a message that suited their needs. Middle East rulers wanted to keep the U.S. out of their own affairs, but instead used regime mouthpieces to couch it in terms that soothed the liberal conscience: U.S. interference was bad for the region’s liberals and opposition figures. Therefore, anything the U.S. touched amounted to the kiss of death.
The thesis is absurd on the face of it: if it were really true, then Washington would have an instrument so powerful that it could bring down adversarial regimes with a mere whisper. After all, a public statement to the effect that Washington considered President X a dear friend and would do anything in its power to keep him enthroned for the rest of his life and ensure the succession of his progeny until the world ended would presumably send the Muslim and Arab masses to the streets until they had President X’s head on a stake. But the “kiss of death” thesis has no basis in reality; it is merely a political tool that Democratic operatives in the U.S. media used against Bush. However, since Obama’s anything-but-Bush foreign policy is based on the same principle underlying the “kiss of death” fallacy, it is no surprise that the administration believes in its veracity, and this is why it is now tongue-tied.
And what about the country's oil? Oil revenues drive Libya's economy: they provide 95 percent of Libya's export revenue, 80 percent of total government revenues and 25 percent of Libya's GDP. Libya's 1.6 million barrel per day (mbd) production (here are details on Libyan oil industry) represents about two percent of the 85 mbd total world daily production. Libya's oil, consulting firm Stratfor notes, is produced in two regions, one in the extreme west and the other in the extreme east. The country is split along power lines now, with Gaddafi based in Tripoli in the west while protesters draw their strength from Benghazi in the east. Libya refines about one quarter of its oil locally.
Italy is the country most dependent upon Libyan oil, getting about one quarter of its oil from there. But the country cannot run its oil industry without outside help, which is evacuating due to the unrest. Ex-CIA agent Robert Baer writes in TIME that Gaddafi's minions are sabotaging Libya's oil-fields. The Saudis have excess capacity to cover loss of Libyan oil, but what will they ask for in return? Backing Bahrain's leaders, with whom the Saudis are allied?
David Pryce-Jones predicts Libya post-Gaddafi would be a failed state, as 42 years of misrule leave a country with no public or private institutions capable of real governance. Western governments are boosting arms sales to the region--these go, of course, to the governments, not their immiserated subjects.
Seems that our Prez, who is a real tough guy when warning regimes allied with the US to ease up on protesters, cannot bring itself to make more than a perfunctory gesture re Libya--the WSJ editors eviscerate as "feckless" the UN Security Council resolution that to Team Obama constitutes action--and even less re Iran, regimes incomparably more brutal than those of our allies and, to boot, responsible for decades of terrorist attacks killing Americans. Gaddafi, tougher than The One, vows to fight to the bitter end.
Bottom Line. We cannot do much regarding governance in a disintegrating Libya. But we should stop the slaughter, if only so as not to appear utterly impotent in face of a tinpot tyrant trying to hang on to his tyranny. Above all, we should be tougher on our enemies than on our friends.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, 9/11, National Security, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, UN, Conservative Politics