U.S. Must Act Fast to Support Libyan Rebels
March 6, 2011
Beating back Kadafi’s forces at the town of Misrata, Libya’s freedom fighters dug deep to repel one of the war’s fiercest battles. Armed with defectors from the Libyan military and bands of civilians, Libya’s ragtag rebel forces pushed back Kadafi’s more superior equipped army. Kadafi’s forces have mutinied, leaving the 68-year-old dictator supported only by fraction of his military plus a loyal militia. Defections from the Libyan military are a bad omen for Kadafi’s future, fighting now for his personal survival, not to reinstate his failed regime. All major Western powers insist Kadafi throw in the towel and seek asylum. Fighting 125 miles east of Tripoli at Misrata, Kadafi’s forces are having difficulty defeating the rebel’s overwhelming numbers, backed by local tribes around Libya. While there’s much to be settled, Libya appears poised to end Kadfi’s rule.
President Barack Obama said publicly March 4 that Kadafi must step down and leave Libya. Western powers don’t support a continuation of the Kadafi regime, a rogue state that sponsored terrorism across North Africa and Europe for the past 42 years. Kadafi forever etched himself into the terrorist pantheon when her ordered the downing Dec. 21, 1988 of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 270 passengers and crew. When the U.K released Libyan Pan Am bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi Aug. 20, 2009, Kadafi gave him a hero’s welcome. Now that the Libyan revolution is well underway, Barack must do whatever it takes to topple Kadafi. Allowing him to regain control of Libya would have disastrous consequences on world oil markets and even worse repercussions for influence, prestige and superpower status of the United States.
Battle of Misrata, where what’s left of the Libyan military made its strongest push, proves that there’s legs to the Libyan revolution. “Today Misrata witnessed the toughest battle since the beginning of the revolution. Horrible attacks,” said an unnamed eyewitness, insisting that rebels pushed back the Libyan army from seizing control of the town’s main square. “The revolutionaries captured 20 soldiers and seized a tank. The town is now fully in the control of the youths,” said another resident, celebrating rebels’ victory over Libyan forces. Whether Pentagon official put U.S. boots on the ground or not, the Obama administration must do more to assure rebels’ victory. Calls for a now fly zone, while difficult to pull off militarily, must be considered. Rebels need some air support before the final push and battle for Tripoli. Without committing ground troops, the U.S. Air Force could help tip the war to the rebels.
Libya’s opposition faces a daunting task of confronting Kadafi’s well-armed military, requiring urgent military support from allied powers. Not since Kadafi bulled his way to power Sept. 1, 1969, have allied powers had a better opportunity to topple North Africa’s most rogue regime. Kadafi once regarded himself as the heir-apparent to Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, leading a pan-Arab movement to unify all of Africa. Unlike Nasser, considered as national hero for evicting the British from Egypt and the Suez Canal in 1952, Kadafi has shown himself mentally imbalanced, acting more like Fidel Castro, fueling revolution around the African continent. Given progress already made by Libya’s rebels, allied forces have a golden opportunity to take down Kadafi. While he won’t go down quietly like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Western powers can help bring him down.
Growing momentum in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee for some type of military response in to Libya pressures the White House to act. So far, the administration has been cool to the idea of a so-called “no-fly zone,” worried that taking out Libya’s air-defense system would be an act of war. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) urged restraint but considers a no-fly zone a legitimate strategy to help topple Kadafi. “The last thin we want to think about is any kind of military intervention. An I don’t consider the no fly-zone stepping over that line. We don’t want troops on the ground,” said Kerry, urging Obama to consider some type of air-support to Libyan rebels. When former President Bill Clinton bombed Kosovo March 24, 1999, it eventually toppled Serbian tyrant Slobodan Milocevic. Bombing Kadafi’s military assets around Tripoli would end the regime.
Getting down to the 11th hour, Obama must make a fateful decision as commander in chief about the appropriate use of the U.S. military. While the U.S. is already spread too thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the stakes are too high for the president to ignore Libya. Rebel forces need back-up U.S. air support to finally put Kadafi out of business. Showing Kadafi “that the president is serious when he say we need for Kadafi to go. And also, it would be encouraging to the resistance, who are certainly outgunned from the air,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), urging the president to give air-support to the rebels. No one, except perhaps Venezuela’s Hugh Chavez or Cuba’s Fidel Castro, wants Kadafi to stay in power. Presidents must pick battles wisely, just like former President George H.W. Bush when he invaded Panama and toppled Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.
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