On Friday I asked if we will be able to remove Moammar Gaddafi, and if so, how will we accomplish this? Most readers were glum about our prospects to oust the Libyan dictator.
Carldahlman observes: “Yes, Gaddafi will survive — because Obama lets him. By passivity and belated action, the uprising will not be given the support it needs from the US to succeed.”
DrBerkeley agrees: “It’s unlikely we will be able to remove Gaddafi (presuming we should). He’s one person leading one team fighting a fractious group of ‘rebels’ and a fractious NATO coalition.”
Stevendufresne gives the most comprehensive response, which reads in part:
The time to remove Gaddafi with minimum military force has passed. That time was when the rebels had Tripoli surrounded and a no-fly zone could have prevented Gaddafi from breaking out, as he did when he began bombing his own people. Right now the options are very few if you want to remove Gaddafi from power, and all, I would argue, involve boots on the ground. With that said, with strong American leadership and the use of the most capable military force in history, removing Gaddafi could be easier than removing Saddam Hussein, which took a few weeks. . . .
If the administration decides that removing Gaddafi is paramount and is willing to take on the responsibility of ensuring the radical elements among the rebels do not control Libya, then we must embed special forces among them and lead an assault on Tripoli. There must be a counteroffensive on the ground, where the U.S. arms the rebels and has special forces lead the counteroffensive all the way to Tripoli. At the point when the rebels have Tripoli surrounded again, the U.S. should send in the Marines in an amphibious assault on Tripoli, so that when Gaddafi is deposed, security can quickly be established in the city and an orderly transition can be implemented. A couple of Marine battalions of no more than 20,000 troops should do the job, with support from the Navy and Air Force.
All of this takes planning and resolve and that [what’s] must be done now in order for a orderly transition to take place. As it stands right now, we are supporting rebels that have radical elements within them. There is no guarantee that these elements are better than Gaddafi is and so the U.S./NATO have to take the responsibility of ensuring that the Libyan people are no worst off after we depose Gaddafi than if we allowed him to remain in power. The longer we put off the decision to act decisively the more convoluted this situation will become. Al Qaeda and other radical elements will increasingly gain strength as the Libyan people lose hope of Gaddafi being removed and resort to more desperate means to achieve what the so-called coalition is failing to accomplish. The coalition got involved in this civil war in the name of protecting the Libyan people. It’s time to remove the threat and ensure no new threat take root.
What is apparent is that the Obama administration has not thought this through, and, as it habitually does, is trying to thread the needle. David Brooks loves this sort of stuff, cooing in his New York Times column on Friday, “It is tiresome to harp on this sort of thing, but this is an intervention done in the spirit of Reinhold Niebuhr. It is motivated by a noble sentiment, to combat evil, but it is being done without self-righteousness and with a prudent awareness of the limits and the ironies of history.” Unfortunately, it is also failing, in large part because our president seems not to understand that wars must be won, not used to mollify a sliver of public opinion (or New York Times readers). We can only be grateful that this fetish for “prudent awareness of the limits and ironies of history” was not in vogue in 1861 or 1941. When America goes to war it must do so with the unflinching determination to win. If we fail in Libya, it will be a defeat for President Obama and a calamity for American credibility and leadership.