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The Corner

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What’s the Goal in Libya?



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By committing forces in Libya on behalf of the rebels based in Cyrenaica without quite knowing who they are, what they believe in, or what kind of government they would institute upon achieving power, the NATO allies did something unprecedented in March 2011.

This irresponsible undertaking means that Western forces are engaged in a weird roll of the dice: Moammar Gaddafi may be a monster, but at least he is an isolated one who can inflict relatively little damage on American interests. The Cyrenaica crowd could be Islamist, in which case it might inflict much more damage on those interests.

As we know so little, I propose an unconventional policy which makes sense in these unusual circumstances: Rather than seek to drive Gaddafi from power, let him survive as ruler of Tripolitania (and Fezzan), while keeping him out of Cyrenaica. In other words, let there be two Libyas, one based in Tripoli, one in Benghazi, one ruled by Gaddafi and one by his opponents.

Over time, we can see which is the better of the two. When that judgment has been reached, we can help the better Libya defeat the worse one and assist it to take over the whole country.

Again, I acknowledge that this is an abnormal policy, not to speak of one directly opposed to the current U.S. policy of dispatching Gaddafi, but NATO’s incompetent, amateurish, emotional, and non-strategic policy does push one in an abnormal direction. 



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