Friday, 22 April 2011 00:00
Was the lead of the United States correct in starting a no-fly zone over Libya? I do not think so, and let me explain.
First, Libya has been a center of controversy for years. From oil issues to the downing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Libya and Moammar Gadhafi have been a challenge.
Now, with a great deal of unrest from a large segment of Libya’s population, are we trying to get rid of Gadhafi? I am not sure who is in support of the Libyan rebels? Some feel that there may be a tie to Al-Qaeda, the militant Islamic group. Others say that the rebels are interested more in a free country.
As one steps back to look at our initial actions to create a no-fly zone in Libya, now taken over by NATO, I could not help but think about other military actions taken by the United States in the past. First, look at Vietnam.
Back in 1954, President Eisenhower ruled out any intervention in Vietnam even though the French, at that time, needed our support. Then, under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, we did move into Vietnam, and our nation had a crisis over support for our military. We made no progress in Viet Nam. The simple reason was that we did not deploy enough resources to overcome the Communist attacks in South Vietnam. Out of our failure and withdrawal from Vietnam came a new set of policies, under the Reagan Administration – the “Powell-Weinberger Doctrine.”
Basically, the doctrine said that the United States would not use military force in any situation unless there was a vital U.S. interest at stake and we were willing to commit sufficient U.S. military to win in the conflict. Beyond these two critical points, there were four other elements to the doctrine.
1. Are the objectives clearly defined? In the case of Libya, I do not feel the objectives are clear to anyone.
2. Will the U.S. sustain its commitment, or will 24/7 media coverage wean the public away? As for Libya, I do not feel there was a public commitment from the beginning.
3. Will Congress support the operation? There have already been negatives about Libya from both sides of the political aisle.
4. Were there any other choices? I am not sure about an answer to the question, particularly when you understand that our objectives are not at all clear!
The final question is whether we have a clear exit strategy? I do not think so. There seem to be some behind the scenes negotiations to stop the conflict and create a truce. But, can we trust Gadhafi? And, again, who is on the other side? Would a truce really work in Libya?
In the end, we can be thankful that there are no troops on the ground. Clearly the Powell-Weinberger Doctrine was totally ignored as we started the no-fly. The outcome is probably still some time away.