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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Obama’s Slippery Slope to War and Beyond

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” — Sun Tzu

On Monday night President Obama told us we would turn over command of the no-fly zone to NATO and we would not have boots on the ground. He also told us Gaddafi should go, but there were no plans for the U.S. to take him out. Obama assured us that our role would be limited and we would be leaving Libya as soon as possible.

All of this ballyhoo was delivered 24 hours before Gaddafi, knowing what our plans were, began seriously attacking the rebels and driving them back towards Benghazi. Without heavy weapons and fuel for their Toyota and Nissan pickup trucks the rebels are beginning to succumb to the forces loyal to Gaddafi.

Now the White House has “leaked” a classified document stating that Obama has authorized a covert action to take Gaddafi out — a real Mitch Rapp type of assassination, or will he use predator drones with hellfire missiles.

Fox News has reported that; “President Obama has signed a secret presidential finding authorizing covert operations in Libya, a U.S. official told Fox News, although the administration says it still hasn't decided whether to arm rebel forces there.”

“The presidential findings establish a framework of legal authorities for covert action. They can authorize specific actions, such as arming the rebels, or establish authorities under which future actions might be taken after permissions are given to undertake them.”

“In other words, covert actions won't start until the president signs off again.”

“Another senior American official, however, says CIA operatives are already on the ground in Libya and are currently gathering intelligence and aiding rebel forces.”

“The Pentagon has begun drafting plans for arming the rebels if needed, sources told Fox News, but officials caution that no decision has been made because not enough is known yet about.”

Note that last paragraph where the issue of arming he rebels is being considered. This would definitely be an escalating step, something contradicting what Obama told us on Monday night.

US involvement in the Kosovo War was based on a principle first espoused by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain — "We have a responsibility to act." President Bill Clinton wasn't convinced at first, but after Blair's unyielding campaign to sell his idea, Clinton went along. It was the world's first "humanitarian war", and to this day the guiding principle of Western leaders boils down to a single, undefined phrase — "We have a responsibility to act."

President Obama had nothing to do with the principle's creation, but he used it Monday night in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington to explain why the US went to war with Libya. His speech was aimed as much at the peoples of the world as it was at the American people, and he left no doubt in anyone's mind that nations of the world "have a responsibility to act" to defend suffering humans wherever they may be.

Like socialism, in theory it sounds wonderful — the right thing to do, but in practice, it's full of holes because it is such an open-ended, nebulous concept. The problem with the principle begins to break down with the first word, "we." Who is "we"? Is it the UN? Is it NATO? Is it the quartet? No one has yet clarified who "we" are, but if the "we have a responsibility to act" principle is going to be our guiding global principle, someone will have to. In due course, you can bet that someone will.

The "we have a responsibility to act" principle becomes even more problematic when the word "responsibility" is introduced. What is "responsibility"? Is it a duty, a task, or a job? If it is, then who gave it to "us"? The UN? In Libya's case, the answer is yes, but in other instances the answer is no. Take Iraq, for example. The US and its allies were going to take action in Iraq. That was clear from the beginning, but the UN didn't go along. In the end, a "coalition of the willing" simply assumed responsibility, invaded Iraq, deposed Saddam Hussein, and replaced his dictatorial Baathist regime with a democratic government. We are still enmeshed in that struggle, but the "we have a responsibility to act" principle is no clearer now than it was in the 1990s when it was first introduced.

The final problem with the "we have a responsibility to act" principle lies in the definition of the phrase "to act." Broadly defined, "to act" can mean anything from invasion to no-fly zones to embargos of various sorts to anything the "we" decides is their "responsibility." People who have dedicated their professional lives to law enforcement realize how thorny this arrangement is because it violates every principle of jurisprudence that we have come to accept and respect. It's the global equivalent of vigilante justice, and it can't and won't survive.

To become a legitimate guiding principle, the "we have a responsibility act" principle must clearly define "we," "responsibility," and "to act." Absent those definitions, the "we have a responsibility act" principle leads to chaos and potential repression on a global scale by a "coalition of the willing" or the UN or any other group that sees as its duty the responsibility to take any action it chooses to bring about any outcome it desires.

Will the "we" be the UN? Maybe, but it's doubtful given the UN's current configuration, its spotty record, and its propensity for manipulation by individuals and groups with dark agendas. Will it be NATO or a similar group? Not likely because NATO and groups like it are simply alliances of nations, subgroups of "the nations of the world." In the end, defining "we" will challenge the very concept of "sovereign nation" because if the "we" has a "responsibility to act," then nations by definition can't be sovereign.

We are in the process of defining what has come to be known as "one world government." In due course, the questions I've posed will have to be answered, and they will be answered. When they're answered we will have a "one world government" with laws, regulations, taxing authority, and enforcement powers — everything a global government will need to operate.

I'm not telling you this because I think it's the right thing to do. I'm bringing it up because it's inevitable, and it's taking place right now. This is something Obama has preached since 2009.

So what will be the solution for Libya if the “rebels” cannot beat off theOttoman_Provinces_Of_Present_day_Libyapng counter attacks by Gaddafi’s loyalists and we cannot take him out? My guess it would be a divided Libya, a divide that dates back to the Roman Empire when the region was called Cyrenaica and Tripolitania with Cyrenaica in the east going to rebels and Tripolitania in the west staying with Gaddafi.

An analysis by Stratfor states; The Gadhafi regime has effectively lost control of the east, where opposition forces are concentrated in and around the cities of Benghazi and Al Baida. The opposition is also encroaching on Libya’s dividing line, the energy-critical Gulf of Sidra, with the directors of several subsidiaries of the state-owned National Oil Corporation announcing they were splitting from Gadhafi and joining the people.

To the west, Gadhafi and his remaining allies appear to be digging in for a fight. Residents in Tripoli, many of whom turned on Gadhafi after witnessing the gratuitous violence used on protesters, are reportedly stockpiling arms, unsure of what will come next, but expecting the worst.

A swath of nearly 500 miles of desert lies between the opposition and Gadhafi strongholds. And herein lies the historical challenge in ruling Libya: the split between ancient Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The Cyrenaica region has a long and rich history, dating back to the 7th Century B.C. This is a region that has seen many rulers, including Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians, Ottomans, Italians and British, and has long been at odds with the rival power base of Tripolitania, founded by the Phoenicians. At the time of Libya’s independence and through the reign of King Idris I (whose base of power was Cyrenaica), Libya was ruled by two capitals, Tripoli in the west and Benghazi in the east. For most Cyrenaics, Benghazi — and not Tripoli — is seen as their true capital.

It was not until Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s 1969 military coup that overthrew the monarchy that the Tripolitanians could truly claim dominance over the fledgling Libyan state. But in a country divided by myriad dialects, tribes and ancient histories, Tripolitanian power could only be held through a complex alliance of tribes, the army’s loyalty and an iron fist.

The divided state was an artifact of the Cold War in which nations conquered or liberated at the close of WWII were partitioned into zones controlled by the Western Allies on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other. These included East and West Germany and North and South Korea, with Vietnam partitioned into northern and southern halves in 1954. The Germanys merged through the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989. Only Korea remains divided, a circumstance that may be corrected at any time.

We are now facing the possibility of an East and West Libya. Hostilities over the next few weeks are likely to fall into stalemate, with Coalition air power preventing Gaddafi from utilizing his armor and heavy artillery to sweep aside the rebels, and the rebels unable to take Tripoli or the surrounding cities due to their hodgepodge composition and simple military realities (operations become harder for an attacker as he enters the enemy's home territory, partly due to simple geometry — acting along "interior lines" makes it easier for the defender to maneuver — and the morale advantage of fighting in defense of "home."

Both factors are widely attested to in military history — like northern Virginia in 1863-1865 or the German-Soviet front in 1945. There are things that air power alone can't do, and taking ground is one of them. American or European ground forces would annihilate Gaddafi's loyalists, but it seems unlikely that they will enter combat. That being the case, we can look forward to the seesaw battles of the past few days settling down into a stalemate over the next week or two, one that can only be broken by serious military effort or a diplomatic coup. Both, in my opinion, are unlikely.

We will then have the de facto states of East and West Libya, one based on Tripoli, the other on Benghazi, with Sirte acting as the rough demarcation point. Interestingly, this almost duplicates the old imperial Roman division into the provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. This means the U.S. and Europe are in for the long haul, exactly the case as in Iraq and Afghanistan. The no-fly operation will have to be maintained until further notice, probably with added efforts to assure that Gaddafi remains bottled up.

Libyan Oil Fields mapWe could argue that neither state is viable in the customary sense, but that doesn't matter. In the end, it turned out that neither East Germany nor South Vietnam was viable in the circumstances facing them. This is probably also the case with North Korea. But all of them managed to hold on for a lengthy period, South Vietnam for thirty years, East Germany for forty-four years, while North Korea exists still. They hung on for the same reason — outside support. The two Libyas can do the same. East Libya will be supported by the U.S. and the EU, while Gaddafi's kingdom will have to do with support from pariahs such as Mugabe and the Sudanese military clique and possibly China. Cash flow will not be a problem. Both sides have access to the country's oil, the preponderance of active fields going to the rebels, who also possess more refining and storage capability. (Did I hear someone say that Gaddafi's share of the oil can be interdicted? You can Google "Oil for Food".)

Without exception, the divided states acted as flashpoints throughout the Cold War period. South Vietnam embroiled both France and the U.S. in lengthy, failed wars. East Germany (particularly as regarded West Berlin, located far behind the East-West borderline) served as a picture window that the Soviets could toss a brick through every time they wanted to create an uproar. North Korea fills the role of international pest to this day, uttering threats, firing missiles, and sinking patrol boats whenever the dear leaders feel they aren't getting enough attention.

We could expect the same from a divided Libya, perhaps from both sides. Gaddafi, needless to say, will want revenge, and he is a man who knows how to get it. He has an effective intelligence service capable of any style of covert action. He can also reach out to Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and what have you, any of which will be delighted to work with him. (Even Al Qaeda, with which the colonel has had issues in the past.) If Gaddafi is not taken down, expect much more in the way of exploding airliners and falling buildings. Keep in mind that Gaddafi is not only brutal and cunning; he is, by any ordinary measure, not quite sane.

Amanda Marshall reports in Fox News; “Despite the forward march, however, historically al Qaeda has long maintained a strong underground presence in predominately Sunni Muslim Libya. According to the CIA World Factbook, 47 percent of the Sunni population is made up of people age 25, nearly half of whom are unemployed.”

“In 2007, The West Point Terrorism Report concluded that the second largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq, traveling through Syria, came from Libya, second only to Saudi Arabia. Of those, the report concluded that the majority came from the Northeast, particularly the coastal towns of Darna and Benghazi where the rebel groups have been strongest in the current fight.”

As for East Libya, its status as number two source (behind Saudi Arabia) for Jihadi fighters, and the news that precisely such people are involved in the rebellion, should have been reported on more than it has. An East Libya under UN protection could serve as an excellent staging area for any given Jihadi group. No doubt we'll have a lengthy speech from Obama explaining why this is necessary.

We can avoid much of this outcome simply by assuring that Gaddafi is eliminated as soon as possible. This does not necessarily entail an armored division roaring down the road toward Tripoli a la Montgomery and the 8th Army, welcome though such a sight would be. My suggestions would include covering Tripoli with leaflets promising a million bucks and legal immunity to whoever knocks off the colonel. But there are other alternatives — a decapitation strike by way of B-2 Spirit, or a Predator Drone. Gaddafi is at bay, and one way or another, he can be taken out. The Western stance that his person is somehow inviolate after decades of crimes against his own people and the world at large is simply a public-relations move, an opportunity for Obama and the Europeans to adapt a moral pose by asserting, "We go by the rules, even with someone like Gaddafi." This is asinine. Medieval culture had a category for the Gaddafi type: the outlaw, the man whose crimes put him beyond the law's protection and who could be killed by anyone as they pleased. Gaddafi is an outlaw and should be treated as such.

Through their unwillingness to stand up to Josef Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisors (along with Winston Churchill in this case), created an unstable, dysfunctional, and blood-soaked postwar world. A student of FDR in all things, Obama (and let's not kid ourselves as to who's really calling the shots here) is recreating an identical situation.

As reported in the Daily Telegraph; “In transferring command and control to NATO, the US is turning over the reins to an organization dominated by the US itself, both militarily and politically. In essence, the US runs the show that is taking over running the show.”

“This is not inevitable, and can be corrected with quick and decisive action. Sun Tzu wrote, "In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare." We've seen enough in the past few years to verify that dictum. We don't need yet another lesson.

And so we wait. Opposition forces in the east will conduct quiet negotiations in the west to determine who will defect and who will resist; the United States and Italy will be lobbied endlessly by the opposition to enforce a no-fly zone over the country; the external powers will continue to deliberate among a severely limited number of bad options; and Gaddafi and his remaining allies will dig in for the fight.

As Stratfor states; “If neither side can acquire the force strength to make a move, Libya will return to its historic split between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica with separate bases of power. If one side takes a gamble and makes a move, civil war is likely to ensue. Sometimes it really is that simple.”

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