Thursday, March 31, 2011

Boots On The Ground

President Obama has insisted that no US ground troops will join in the Libyan campaign.  Now we learn that CIA operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks.  Apparently they are wearing sandals.
The New York Times reports that several weeks ago the President signed a “secret finding” authorizing the CIA to provide arms and other support to the Libyan opposition forces.  While the CIA has yet to provide the arms that the rebels sorely need they have been gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of Qaddafi’s forces and co-coordinating NATO coalition air strikes.  They have also been trying to determine the makeup of the rebel forces and gain some understanding as to where their ultimate loyalties may lie.  There are concerns that the rebels may include facets of Al Qaida and their loyalties may turn against the US once Qaddafi is defeated.
This is a muddled and dangerous mess that the President has led us into.  The President has involved us in a foreign civil war that is only growing more complicated, more dangerous and more expensive with each passing day.  And make no mistake this is America’s war.  The President has said Qaddafi must go.  When the President of the United States says Qaddafi must go…he WILL go either voluntarily or in a body bag.  Anything less will be seen as a defeat of this President and this country. You can call it a NATO operation all you want.  You can say that the US is handing off control of the operation to NATO forces.  But this is not Sarkozy or Cameron versus Qaddafi.  To the entire world this is a standoff between Obama and Qaddafi.  This is an American operation using primarily American missiles, warships, fighters and yes, boots on the ground; and it will continue to be an American operation until it is completed.
So when will the mission be completed?  The end game is unclear.  The President has said that we are there for humanitarian purposes.  But he also has clearly stated that Qaddafi must go.  What will happen when we leave?  We saw what happened in Afghanistan when we left to focus on Iraq.  Does anyone believe a similar carnage will not occur once we pull out of Afghanistan?   So we remove Qaddafi…then what.  There is the very real possibility that the rebels that we are assisting may be even worse than the current regime.  We know nothing about them yet we have spent over $600 million dollars thus far supporting them.  If we remove Qaddafi will the power vacuum that is sure to occur leave the country wide open for an Al Qaida stronghold?  After all the rebel capital of Benghazi has been a breeding ground for Al Qaida terrorists since 911.
The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that Qaddafi must go.  The only way to accomplish that goal is with military forces on the ground.  That has been clear since people began throwing rocks at each other centuries ago.  Right now our army consists of a ragtag group of rebels who are untrained and poorly armed.  They made great advances while the US was conducting the bombing raids.  Now that the air support has been withdrawn the rebels are in full retreat and have lost virtually all the ground they once held.  There are comical stories of the rebels mishandling rocket launchers and firing them backwards.  A hotel housing the western press corps was recently shelled by an eager but misguided rebel combatant.  Many of their current weapons date back to WWII.  The US is contemplating providing arms to the rebels.  But you can’t just airdrop a bunch of sophisticated weaponry out of a C-130 transport.  Proper use of these weapons requires extensive training.  That means the insertion of US military personnel to train and support the rebels.  And in what direction will those weapons be pointed once Qaddafi is removed?  Does any of this sound familiar?
The rebels are not capable of defeating Qaddafi’s forces.  Unless someone inside his inner circle does the deed the US marines will be tasked with his removal.  Once Qaddafi is gone then what?  The truth is we have no idea?
So what could the President have done differently?  His supporters argue that had he allowed Qaddafi to massacre tens of thousands innocents he would have been roundly criticized.  But innocents were massacred in Darfur and are currently being massacred in Syria, Tunisia and Bahrain but we do nothing.  Obama supporters say that by entering Libya we are sending a message that tyrannical behavior will not be tolerated by the world community.  This same rationale used to explain the removal of Saddam in Iraq.  But even as we leveled Bagdad; Mubarak continued to oppress his people in Egypt, as did Assad in Syria, Ahmadinejad in Iran etc. etc.
The fact is that the President erred when he authorized that first missile strike.  For once he gave that order he committed us to another war in another Muslim country without a clear objective, without an exit strategy and without a clear understanding of the consequences.


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