Your humble blogger has been furiously revising his book manuscript for quite a few days now. As my last post might have suggested, it's possible that during this frantic dash to polish up my prose, my perspective on world politics might be a bit askew.
And finally, there's this morning's news from the New York Times' Ismail Khan:
Nearly 250 prisoners escaped after a massive attack on one of the main prisons in northwestern Pakistan on Monday night, a senior security official said.
Authorities imposed a curfew in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, after the overnight attack on the 100-year-old central prison there, which had held more than 500 prisoners. All roads leading to neighboring restive tribal regions of North and South Waziristan were blocked and a search has begun, officials said, adding that six prisoners had been recaptured.
“The attackers have melted away in the population,” one official said.
Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the banned Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan, said that around 150 fighters took part in the attack and that they freed two hundred inmates. He said two militant fighters were killed in the attack.
In the attack, more than 100 militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy arms rode in on motorbikes and vehicles and then blasted the prison walls and broke open locks on cells, freeing 243 prisoners, including 30 militants, the security official said.
Now, I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but as a member of the commentariat I'm fully aware of the Rule of Three. [This rule of three?--ed. No, not that one. Oh. This rule of three?!--ed. No, not that one either!] Three similar things hapening means.... it's a trend!!
So, as I spend the next 48 hours
drinking heavily and making animal sacrifices to appease the writing gods checking my footnotes, I would appreciate it if some smart terrorism experts could confirm that what's happening right now is not some strange replay of... well.... this:
For the record, I don't think Herman Cain is stupid. I do think he's willfully ignorant about anything to do with foreign policy however. If that wasn't manifestly obvious prior to this weekend, please watch the following conversation between Cain and the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal editorial board regarding Libya:
I have a personal preference that ignoramuses should be drummed out of presidential politics as quickly as possible, but that was just painful to watch. Needless to say, I don't think the boning up is helping all that much.
I don't care if this man is leading the polls in Iowa, or is still running a strong second (or a weak third) in the national polls. I suspect he's on the downside of his popularity bubble -- and for the sake of my own sanity, I just can't pay any more attention to Herman Cain's foreign policy views.
There's a mercy rule in Little League, and I'm applying it here -- unless and until Herman Cain surges back in the polls again, or manages to muster something approaching cogency in his foreign policy statements, there's no point in blogging about him anymore. I can only pick on an ignoramus so many times before it feels sadistic.
Reports are flying around the interwebs that the last Gaddafy holdout of Sirte has fallen, and that Gaddafi has been killed -- Blake Hounshell has the grisly photo here. A few scattered thoughts on this:
1) This photo comes on top of numerous reports that Gaddafi was captured or wounded or whatnot. Given past NTC statements and reversals, I'd like to see further confirmaion. In the meantime, as I stated on Twitter this AM, I think we can clarify it this way: Gaddafi has been captured, Qaddafi has been killed, and Khadafy is still at large.*
Readers are invited to suggest the fates of other spellings of the Libyan dictator's name in the comments.
2) Assuming that Gaddafi really is dead, Adam Serwer tweets that how this came to pass "makes a huge difference." Well.... maybe. I suspect it won't matter all that much in Libya -- and to be cold-blooded about it, there are ways in which the spectacle of a capture and trial might have been more problematic. I'm not even sure that Gaddafi's fate affects the new Libyan regime's image and reputation overseas.
The more serious effect might be in how this kind of outcome affects the behavior of other autocrats. As Giacomo Chiozza and Hein Goemans observe in Leaders and International Conflict, the private incentives of leaders profoundly affect their use of force. Simply put, when leaders have expectations of a violent demise if they lose power, they have a more powerful incentive to use force to stay in power. So, congrats to Libya, but this is simply going to harden the hearts of Bashir Assad and others out there determined to stay in power through any means necessary -- including instigating cross-border conflicts.
3) At the risk of seeming like a grump, I'd prefer a situation in which the best news in world politics is something other than "[INSERT SCUMBAG'S NAME HERE] is dead!!" Because for the past six months, these kind of deaths have been the high points.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not sorry bin Laden or Al-Awlaki or Gaddafi have departed the scene. This probably is addition by subtraction. I'd just like it if there were other sources of addition.
What do you think?
*I should probably stop tweeting right now and end on a high note.
Fareed Zakaria thinks that the Libya intervention signals "a new era in U.S. foreign policy":
The United States decided that it was only going to intervene in Libya if it could establish several conditions:
1) A local group that was willing to fight and die for change; in other words, "indigenous capacity".
2) Locally recognized legitimacy in the form of the Arab League's request for intervention.
3) International legitimacy in the form of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
4) Genuine burden sharing with the British and French spelling out precisely how many sorties they would be willing to man and precisely what level of commitment they would be willing to provide.…
The new model does two things:
First, it ensures that there's genuinely a local alliance committed to the same goals as the external coalition. This way, there is more legitimacy on the ground. And if there is anything Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us, it is that local legitimacy is key.
Second, this model ensures that there is genuine burden sharing so that the United States is not left owning the country as has happened so often in the past.…
In the future, we will again have to follow this limited model of intervention.
This sounds great, except that the set of criteria that Zakaria lists is so stringent that I seriously doubt that they will be satisfied again in my lifetime. Russia and China regretted the U.N. support the minute after it passed, and the president of the Arab League had buyer's remorse almost immediately after NATO started bombing. Even if the Libya operation looks like a success from here on out, there's no way that list of criteria will be satisfied. Ever.
Now, for those readers worried about the creeping militarization of American foreign policy, this might sound like a great idea, as it creates a ridiculously high barrier for military intervention. And, indeed, so long as these criteria are only used to satisfy humanitarian military interventions, it sounds good. Except that most military interventions aren't strictly humanitarian. The moment core national interests kick in, these criteria get downgraded from prerequisites to luxuries.
So Zakaria is wildly inflating the importance of the sui generis nature of the Libya intervention. But that's OK; he's a pundit, not an actual policymaker. There's no way anyone working in the White House, say, would make such a simplistic, facile -- hey, what's in this Josh Rogin FP interview with Ben Rhodes?
This week's toppling of the Qaddafi regime in Libya shows that the Obama administration's multilateral and light-footprint approach to regime change is more effective than the troop-heavy occupation-style approach used by the George W. Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan, a top White House official told today in a wide-ranging interview.
"The fact that it is Libyans marching into Tripoli not only provides a basis of legitimacy for this but also will provide contrast to situations when the foreign government is the occupier," said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for communications, in an exclusive interview on Wednesday with . "While there will be huge challenges ahead, one of the positive aspects here is that the Libyans are the ones who are undertaking the regime change and the ones leading the transition."…
"There are two principles that the president stressed at the outset [of the Libya intervention] that have borne out in our approach. The first is that we believe that it's far more legitimate and effective for regime change to be pursued by an indigenous political movement than by the United States or foreign powers," said Rhodes. "Secondly, we put an emphasis on burden sharing, so that the U.S. wasn't bearing the brunt of the burden and so that you had not just international support for the effort, but also meaningful international contributions."
Rhodes said that the United States is not going to be able to replicate the exact same approach to intervention in other countries, but identified the two core principles of relying on indigenous forces and burden sharing as "characteristics of how the president approaches foreign policy and military intervention."
Excuse me for a second; I have to go do this.
Look, ceteris paribus, burden-sharing and local support are obviously nifty things to have. I guarantee you, however, that the time will come when an urgent foreign-policy priority will require some kind of military statecraft, and these criteria will not be met. The Obama administration should know this, since its greatest success in military statecraft to date did not satisfy either of these criteria.
There is always a danger, after a perceived policy success, to declare it as a template for all future policies in that arena. Pundits make this mistake all the time. Policymakers should know better.
As I type this, most of Tripoli is now in the hands of Transitional National Council forces and supporters, two of Muammar Khaddafi's sons are in custody, and the backbone of Khaddafi's military has been broken. TNC forces do not control all of Libya, but they control an ever-increasing amount of it, including all of its oil infrastructuire. The whereabouts of Gaddafi, Khaddafy, and Qaddafi are still unknown, however.
So, six months after a spontaneous protest movement morphed into armed resistance and NATO got involved.... what does this all mean? With events on the ground still evolving, let me suggest the following list of tentative winners and losers from this operation:
1) The people of Libya. I think it's safe to say that an overwhelming majority of Libyans are pretty pleased that they're no longer living under the thumb of the Qaddafi family. Juan Cole has a pretty triumphalist post up about how this is playing out. He's a bit overoptimistic in places, but this point rings true -- appearances to the contrary, this was not a civil war:
It was not, if by that is meant a fight between two big groups within the body politic. There was nothing like the vicious sectarian civilian-on-civilian fighting in Baghdad in 2006. The revolution began as peaceful public protests, and only when the urban crowds were subjected to artillery, tank, mortar and cluster bomb barrages did the revolutionaries begin arming themselves. When fighting began, it was volunteer combatants representing their city quarters taking on trained regular army troops and mercenaries. That is a revolution, not a civil war. Only in a few small pockets of territory, such as Sirte and its environs, did pro-Qaddafi civilians oppose the revolutionaries, but it would be wrong to magnify a handful of skirmishes of that sort into a civil war. Qaddafi’s support was too limited, too thin, and too centered in the professional military, to allow us to speak of a civil war.
Brian Whitaker makes similar points in The Guardian. This fact does not necessarily mean that an armed insurgency won't persist, but even if it does, it would lack domestic political legitimacy.
2) NATO. Quick, was the 1999 Kosovo operation a NATO success or a failure? During the operation, it seemed like a failure, as a) everyone thought it was taking too long; and b) the operation expost the operational gaps between the U.S. and European forces. After Kosovo ended, however, it seemed like a victory... because it was.
This operation parallels the rhythms of the Kosovo intervention, but in many ways represents a bigger victory. The UK and France shouldered a greater share of the burden, there were no casualties in the alliance, and this operation directly led to regime change (whereas Kosovo had only an indirect effect on Serbia). As Blake Hounshell has observed, at the cost of $1 billion, Western involvement was totally worth it.
3) Air power advocates. Eric Schmitt and Steven Lee Myers' New York Times account of the march into Tripoli suggests the ways in which NATO air power played a critical role in aiding TNC forces on the ground. Stepping back, one has to conclude that NATO's air power was a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for Libya to play out the way it did. Despite some neoconservative calls for even heavier intervention, however, Western boots on the ground were not necessary.
4) Tunisia and Egypt. If TNC forces are able to consolidate their hold on Libya and restore some semblance of law and order, that means the return of more than 680,000 Libyan refugees. This would be good not just for Libya proper, but for the countries housing most of these refugees -- namely, Egypt and Tunisia. These countries are attempt their own transition into more representative regimes. Eliminating the socioeconomic pressure of displaced Libyans is an unalloyed good thing for the political development of Libya's neighbors.
5) President Obama. To quote Eli Lake: "President Birth Certificate has done what Reagan and W could not: end Gadhafi's reign and kill bin Laden." It's worth noting that oth operations took more than six months to play out. While he won't necessarily be this blunt about it, Obama can now credibly argue that patience + determinaion = badass military statecraft.
1) Other authoritarian despots, particularly in Africa. I don't want to overstate this -- I'm skeptical that the scenes from Tripoli will lead to spontaneous uprisings in Damascus and elsewhere. Still, this is the kind of event that will always make other despots nervous.
In the case of African authoritarians or quasi-authoritarians, the fall of Khaddafi also leads to the permanent end of a pipeline of cash from Libya to his friends in Africa.
2) U.S. cable news networks. Useless. Totally f$%*ing useless. Seriously, until FOX news started airing live footage from its SkyNews partner, I got vastly more information from my Twitter feed than any of the cable news nets. That's when they were even covering events in Tripoli -- I think it took MSNBC something like five hours to realize there was something worth covering. Yesterday's performance was just embarrassing.
3) Realists. The United States should never have intervened!! It's a civil war!!! Libya is an example of the militarization of American foreign policy!! The U.S. will be drawn into an expensive quagmire that is not a core national interest!! Air power alone will never work!! Many, many other realist cliches!!
Readers are warmly welomed to provide realist rationalizations for why they are still right/will be proven right in the future in the comments.
4) KT McFarland. There has been a lot of stupid American punditry on Libya, but I think McFarland's FoxNews.com essay from last Friday takes the cake as the Dumbest Thing I've Read on Libya in the past month. Thankfully, it's also completely obsolete.
5) President Obama. [Wait, how is he a winner and a loser?!--ed.] On the one hand, Obama certainly wins by insulating himself against foreign policy criticism. On the other hand, foreign policy victories in the bank are quickly forgotten -- just look at the way in which bin Laden's death translated into a transitory blip for Obama's popularity.
In 2012, the only issue any voter cares about is the economy. A successful operation in Libya will mean less news coverage about Libya and even more coverage of the economy … which is not exactly Obama's strong suit at the moment.
Kim Sengupta and Solomon Hughes have one of those exclusives in The Independent that's an equal mixture of intriguing and dubious on the current situation in Libya. Here's the lead:
The Libyan regime is preparing to make a fresh overture to the international community, offering concessions designed to end the bloodshed of the three-month-long civil war.
The Independent has obtained a copy of a letter from the country's Prime Minister, Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, being sent to a number of foreign governments. It proposes an immediate ceasefire to be monitored by the United Nations and the African Union, unconditional talks with the opposition, amnesty for both sides in the conflict, and the drafting of a new constitution.
David Cameron and Barack Obama met yesterday to try to find an exit strategy from a conflict increasingly appearing to have no definitive military solution in sight. The US President acknowledged that the allies now seem to face a long, attritional campaign.
Reading through the whole story, I certainly believe that Libya sent out a cease-fire proposal. What I don't buy is the notion that various NATO countries are eager to accept such a deal. That part seems much less clearly sourced.
There's also this interesting Financial Times story by Michael Peel and Sam Jones suggesting that Libya's sovereign wealth fund has less money that previously anticipated:
Libya lost billions of dollars on sophisticated financial products sold to Muammer Gaddafi’s sovereign wealth fund by some of the world’s leading financial institutions, according to a confidential Libyan government document.
Banks and hedge funds led by France’s Société Générale are named in about $5bn (£3bn) of deals involving the oil-rich nation, some of which had resulted in heavy losses by the middle of last year.
One of the most striking losses, outlined in an internal report for the Libyan Investment Authority, was a 98.5 per cent fall in the value of the sovereign wealth fund’s $1.2bn equity and currency derivatives portfolio....
The report for managers of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, dated June 30 last year, said its bank and hedge fund investment products had fallen in value from about $5bn to roughly $3.5bn, out of the body’s total assets of $53.3bn.
This is an interesting strategic dilemma for NATO. On the one hand accepting a cease-fire would potentially end an intervention that has lasted longer that top policymakers apparently expected.* On the other hand, a cease-fire doesn't exactly scream "geopolitical win." There's always an incentive to hold firm and count on the Gaddafi regime to crack.
If you were Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, or David Cameron, which bet would you make? A cease-fire now or rolling the dice for a more complete victory?
As the fallout from Dominique Strauss-Kahn and The Chambermaid's Tale continues,
the guy from the Dos Equis commercials French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy is taking quite a beating inside the United States. Lévy -- or BHL for those in the know -- is a longtime friend of Strauss-Kahn -- or DSK for, well, you get the idea. After DSK's arrest, BHL penned the following in the Daily Beast:
I do not know what actually happened Saturday, the day before yesterday, in the room of the now famous Hotel Sofitel in New York.
I do not know—no one knows, because there have been no leaks regarding the declarations of the man in question—if Dominique Strauss-Kahn was guilty of the acts he is accused of committing there, or if, at the time, as was stated, he was having lunch with his daughter [we actually know that, given the timeline, DSK's lunch with his daughter is not an alibi, as even his defenders acknowlege --DWD].
I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet....
And what I know even more is that the Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally, but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it’s absurd.
This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other....
I hold it against all those who complacently accept the account of this other young woman, this one French, who pretends to have been the victim of the same kind of attempted rape, who has shut up for eight years but, sensing the golden opportunity, whips out her old dossier and comes to flog it on television.
I do not know the extent to which BHL fact-checked his column -- for example, the French woman he accuses of being opportunistic now actually went public in 2007 only to have herself censored on French television.
I do not know the extent to which BHL is aware that DSK's other sexual indiscretions appear to have a greater element of coercion than had been previously realized.
I do not know why BHL's understanding of "cleaning brigades" is somewhat at odds with the reality of how American hotels actually function.
So, this raises an exceptionally uncomfortable question for some foreign policy commentators. BHL might look like a horse's ass right now, but six or seven weeks ago, he was playing a very different role. According to
BHL himself multiple press reports, Bernard-Henri Lévy was the interlocutor between Libya's rebels and the rest of the world. He therefore played a crucial role in getting French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- and therefore, the West more generally -- to intervene in Libya. This caused some consternation at the time. It would obviously set off even louder alarm bells now.
Given this role, Ben Smith tweets a very valid question: "So if the order of DSK-gate and Libya are reversed... do we go into Libya?"
This touches on some very interesting questions about temporality, causation, correlation and counterfactuals. What are the necessary or sufficient conditions for a policy outcome to occur? Do events have to happen in a particular sequence to reach a particular outcome? Was BHL either a necessary or sufficient condiition for the UN/NATO action in Libya?
My answer would be that Bernard-Henri Lévy's intellectual reputation was neither necessary nor sufficient for Operation Odyssey Dawn to take place. Consider the following:
1) French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been more circumspect than BHL in commenting on DSK, reflecting the general muteness of the French political class on the topic. It seems unlikely that BHL's ardent advocacy would have caused Sarkozy to listen to him any less on Libya.
2) One of the key aspects of the Libya decision was the compressed time frame in which it had to be made. Qaddafi's forces seemed on the verge of retaking the country within a week. Debating whether BHL was an honest broker or not seemed pretty peripheral to the real-time changes on the ground in Libya. It's worth remembering that the Arab League and the UN Security Council acted very quickly by International Organization Standard Time, and I certainly don't think BHL had much of a role to play. On the scale of things, one would have expected the "flickers" of Al Qaeda presence among the Libyan rebels to have acted as a bigger brake, and yet that fact did not derail the policy either.
3) Without in any way diminishing the allegatioons and official charges against DSK, there is a difference between the (mostly) venal sins of BHL and the French political class, and the (mostly) mortal sins of Qaddafi and his family If the Libya decision was happening right now, my hunch is that it would drown out much of the Franco-American contretemps over
American puritanism French misogyny one person's failings.
What do you think?
With all the press leaks about covert operatives, high-level defections, and behind-the-scenes negotiations with top Khaddafi aides, I think it's safe to say that the United States is running quite the little psy-ops campaign on the Libyan dictator [Are you trying to spell his name a different way in each frakkin' post?!--ed. Er, yes. Oh. Ok, then--ed.] That's not to say that these things are only being done to psych out Khaddafi, but I'm assuming that's a large component of what's going on.
In many ways, however, I think the news coming out of the Ivory Coast might be the most effective psychological pressure on the Libyan strongman. The Financial Times' William Wallis reports on the current state of play:
The battle for Ivory Coast’s presidency has reached a critical phase as forces allied to Alassane Ouattara, president-elect, have advanced into the commercial capital Abidjan after a lightning offensive from the north designed to oust incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.
Mr Gbagbo, who refuses to concede defeat in last November’s polls despite near universal recognition of his rival’s victory, looks increasingly isolated as the noose tightens around the city of 4m people.
Reuters quoted a military source in Mr Gbagbo’s camp on Friday confirming an attack overnight on Mr Gbagbo’s residence in Abidjan but said that pro-Gbagbo forces were still putting up resistance at state broadcaster, RTI....
South Africa’s foreign ministry reported that Mr Gbagbo’s army commander and personal friend, General Phillippe Mangou, had fled with his family to the residence of the South African ambassador. In another blow, the head of the gendarmerie reportedly defected to the president’s rival.
Choi Young-jin, the UN envoy to the country, said the police had defected as well. Reuters reported early on Friday that Mr Ouattara’s forces had taken control of the state television station, which then ceased broadcasting, and were attacking Mr Gbagbo’s residence.
There are many ways in which the Ivory Coast is not like Libya, but there are some striking similarities. Like Libya, the Ivory Coast is a single-commodity export economy, making sanctions relatively easy to implement. Like Khaddafi, Gbagbo became an international pariah after rejecting the November election results (well, a pariah to everyone but Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma). The UN and the relevant regional bodies acted swiftly to put Gbagbo under mulilateral economic sanctions. Gbagbo, like Khaddafi, refused to see the handwriting on the wall and took every coercive action possible to maintain his hold on power.
If these reports are accurate, then Gbagbo is on his way out, and the end will not be pretty. That will likely spook those loyal to Khaddafi. True, the Libyan leader controls greater resources, but then again, the Ivory Coast doesn't have NATO getting up in its grill.
This is not the best outcome for the Ivory Coast -- obviously, it would have been better if Gbagbo had acknowledged the election results and set an example for the rest of Africa. Given how things played out, however, Gbagbo's departure from power will be an affirmation of the ways in which multilateral pressure can affect change.
The Ivory Coast is also a reminder that multilateral efforts at coercion -- whether military or economic -- often look ineffective or flawed right up until the moment that they actually work. Which is to say, for all the carping, whinging, bitching and moaning going on about how the Obama administration is handling Libya, none of it will matter if Khaddafi eventually leaves. And the fall of Gbagbo will be one more data point to freak him and his supporters out.
President Obama is scheduled to address the country this evening on Libya, and the odds are pretty good that Ben Rhodes will be writing the bulk of the speech. I'm sure the speech will be interesting, full of false choices for the Obama administration to surmount and the like.
Still, what I'd love to see is Rhodes' first draft -- you know, the one where he just spits out exactly what he thinks Obama is thinking on Libya, warts and all.
Well, fortunately, due to your humble blogger's vast
and imaginary network of sources inside the Beltway, I have secured a copy of that first draft of the speech, reprinted below for your edification:
FIRST NOTES/DRAFT OF POTUS LIBYA SPEECH
By Benjamin Rhodes
I'm addressing you, my fellow Americans, because my administration's message on our
war limited humanitarian interventionkinetic military action in Libya has truly and totally sucked. Seriously, I'm gobsmacked at how f***ing incoherent we've been in communicating our rationale to the foreign policy community and the American public. The bickering within my administration and within the international coalition has not helped -- sweet Jesus, multilateralism can be a royal pain in the butt sometimes. No wonder public support has been relatively anemic (although there's also the fact that I'm launching another war when all Americans care about right now is the domestic economy).
How bad is it? I'm getting hit by the neocons for moving without Congressional permission less than a week after I was getting hit by them for not moving quickly enough!! Thank God for Newt Gingrich, or I'd look really bad. Now I'm getting flak from the left on not being consistent with R2P when, in fact, anyone who knows anything about R2P knows that I'm doing the best I can. Seriously, I'm supposed to intervene militarily in Bahrain and Syria too? Sure, right after I send the 82nd Airborne to liberate Tibet. At least I can ignore the criticism from those who went on junkets to Tripoli last year. Hypocrisy sure is a bitch, huh?
What kills me, what absolutely kills me, is that in just ten days, without any boots on the ground, we've accomplished one whole hell of a lot. First off, if we hadn't intervened, the rebels would have been routed in Benghazi, and Khaddafy would be in control of the entire country again. OK, so maybe the "100,000 dead" figure was a bit exaggerated, but surely the fall of Benghazi would have created hundreds of thousands of Libya refugees flowing into Egypt, which is exactly what that country doesn't need right now. Anyone who doesn't realize that the situation in Libya and the situation in Egypt are connected is a f***ing moron (which, since we forgot to mention this fact for an awfully long time, apparently includes my messaging shop).
Now, the situation on the ground looks pretty much like how things looked during the high tide of the Libyan rebellion. So long as our air support continues, that's now the worst-case scenario -- and you know what, that's actually pretty tolerable. It would mean that the rebels would control about 70% of Libya's oil reserves and that the regions of the country most hostile to Khaddafy would be free of his grip. Over time, sanctions will start to hit Khaddafy's resources, the Libya Transitional Council can get its act together, and we can burden-share with NATO a hell of a lot more. The Libyans don't want our boots on the ground any more than we want to have them there -- so further escalation is not in the cards.
All the while -- and remember, this is the worst-case scenario -- the United States will have accomplished two direct deliverables and quite a few positive policy externalities. Directly, we averted a humanitarian disaster and created a buffer in eastern Libya that eases any economic or humanitarian pressure on Egypt (which is where our strategic interest lies).
In many ways, the policy externalities are even bigger. The biggest bonus is that, for once, our hard power is actually augmenting our soft power. Those images on Al Jazeera of Libyans saying thank you to the United States -- that's pure soft power gold. When you compare how the U.S. government has handled the Arab Revolutions to Al Qaeda or Iran, the contrast is pretty stark. What's happened in Libya has helped to obscure our more realpolitik response in, say Bahrain. Oh, and we managed to find a purpose for NATO.
Is this messy? Duh, of course! Could this intervention distract us from The Big Picture? Maybe for the past week and this week, sure, but it's not like Iran or China is really exploiting what's going on in the Middle East -- they're too busy trying to pretend it's not happening domestically. As for North Korea learning that it's a mistake to give up their nukes, I'm pretty sure they'd learned that lesson way back in 2003, thank you very much.
Look, I'd have loved for the messaging to be clearer, and in retrospect it would have been good if we'd had asked Congress for authorization, but this is what happens when you make foreign policy on the fly in a region wracked by revolution. It's not perfect, but if you think about the counterfactuals real hard, I'm fully confident that the benefits massively outweigh the costs of this intervention. So there.
The New York Times' Jason McLure reports that Libya leader Muamar Qaddafi did not take well to losing his perch as the head of the African Union:
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi , the Libyan leader, delivered a rambling rebuke of fellow African heads of state Sunday after they chose to replace him as chairman of the African Union and failed to endorse his push for the creation of a United States of Africa.
“I do not believe we can achieve something concrete in the coming future,” said Colonel Qaddafi, before introducing President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi as his successor at the African Union’s annual summit meeting, held in Addis Ababa. “The political elite of our continent lacks political awareness and political determination. The world is changing into 7 or 10 countries, and we are not even aware of it.” (emphasis added)
This is interesting. It would appear that Qaddafi has been reading himself some E.H. Carr. Carr argued in Nationalism and After that the nation-state eventually the world would agglomerate itself into about 10-15 superstates. Which is fine, except that Carr wrote his book in 1945 -- and the world has been trending in the exact opposite direction ever since.
Colonel Muammer Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, pledged to introduce free-market measures by the beginning of next year in an unprecedented speech extolling the virtues of capitalism. “After four months, everything will be in your hands,” he told Libyans. “Do not be scared ... begin discussing this issue and prepare yourself ... because this is a crucial and inescapable matter.” The leader, who on Monday celebrated the 39th anniversary of the coup which brought him to power, has presided for almost all these years over an economy controlled by the state, allowing only a small private sector which often came under pressure to limit its growth.... Mr Gaddafi appears to be preparing his country’s people for a smaller state role in the provision of services such as health and education. “The money that we put in the education budget, I say let the Libyan people take it,” he said. “Put it in your pockets and teach your kids as you wish, you take responsibility.” He also said consumers would be able to demand better services from the private companies which will now provide telephone and electricity services.Speaking on behalf of all capitalist lackeys: it's real swell and everything that Khaddafi wants to join the club, but given his past track record on... well.... everything, I'd like to make sure the Mont Pelerin society refrains from inviting him to their next shindig.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.