Two weeks ago, we discussed the legality of the U.S. mission in Libya, which I said was in question considering it’s a military action, even if it’s not technically a war. That debate is ongoing, good Lord. After almost three months with no real regime change, it’s now time to discuss if the U.S. or any other foreign military should be in Libya at all, in light of Canada, Australia and some European countries recognizing the leading rebel group as the country’s government.
The rebels have formed a de facto leadership known as the National Transitional Council. Its chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, was a minister in Muammar Gaddafi’s cabinet, but was known for speaking out against Gaddafi’s various human rights violations. The chairman of its executive board, Mahmoud Jibril, was Gaddafi’s head of the National Economic Development Board. I suppose their disenchantment with their former boss lends some credibility to the group.
However, recognizing them as the government is an incredibly miscalculated risk, considering Gaddafi is still holding on to power. At best, they are the government of the rebels, more like a party or an advocacy group than anything else. This is how the U.S. has recognized them. Other countries have taken the “anything’s better than Gaddafi” position. I’ve known household appliances that could run a country better, but nonetheless, he’s still running it.
I have stated many times that any significant change in Libya would run up against this roadblock; nothing will move completely forward until he’s dead or in hiding. It’s well-known that various U.S. laws and executive orders prevent the assassination of foreign heads of state. I would welcome an exemption for known terrorists, especially if they were not legitimately elected.
No foreign country with troops in or over Libya is trying to assassinate Gaddafi (as far as we know). The thinking at the time was that their presence would serve as protection for the rebels. With their deaths outnumbering the deaths of Gaddafi’s forces by two to one, I’d say that’s working out delightfully. The conflict is described as a full-scale civil war; how do we feel about intruding upon other people’s civil wars?
If I voiced support for U.S. involvement before, I withdraw it. Past attempts at nation-building have never had a particularly good track record. Legal issues in Congress aside, expect this war to be added to the loss column. All NATO troops should exit before they lose more money on a fool’s errand.