Video from the Libya Front: What Was the US Thinking?

So Libya is screwed and the United States is doing little to make the situation any better. As the stalemate between rebel forces and Qaddafi troops solidifies and as intervening forces actively call for a negotiated settlement that undermines international law, two issues are becoming more apparent for the United States. First, it is increasingly clear that thee United States may have been more than a little over-anxious in the decision to intervene, causing many to overlook the many consequences of war. Secondly, it seems as if the White House has little intention on cleaning up the mess it helped create.

Al Jazeera’s program Fault Lines, explores the American decision to intervene in Libya. Though the second half focuses mainly on the role oil played in the intervention (personally, I think oil was not a large factor), the first half discusses why the US pushed so strongly for intervention without, perhaps, considering the post-Qaddafi consequences. Leslie Gelb, of the Council on Foreign Relations, believes that the entire intervention was a foolish exercise without foresight:

And the way we intervened was an act of stupidity. It wasn’t going to save the lives, it was going to end up, in my view, killing even more Libyans and dragging us into an open-ended conflict for which we’re going to have responsibility long afterword to prevent the winners whoever they may be from killing the losers.

Unfortunately, Gelb seems to be spot-on, as revenge violence is now widespread and the rebel structure seems to be at best disorganized (at worst, perhaps, completely divided). Unfortunately, it seems as though the United States has little intention on providing support for the Libyans once the humanitarian intervention-turned-regime-change mission is complete. Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department until February of 2011 said that the post-conflict role of the United States should be limited:

The minute there is a peace agreement or  a lasting cease-fire, politically, of course we are going to do everything we can to support a good government in Libya, but we have no military responsibility. And if the country stays in conflict for the  foreseeable future that is not our responsibility and I would not make it our responsibility

Yet, the end of the Qaddafi regime is most likely going to be only the beginning of conflict for the country. As John Negroponte, the former Director of National Intelligence, says in Front Lines, “I think probably the most important thing one can recognize is that the removal of the dictator is just the beginning of what could end up being a very long and complicated political process with many pitfalls and minefields along the way.”

The end of active conflict between the rebels and Qaddafi troops does not mark the end of the war and it certainly does not mean the end of American responsibility, according to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine that was used to justify NATO involvement. Yet the evolution of western involvement in Libya from humanitarian intervention to regime change as well as the apparent disinterest in playing an active supportive post-Qaddafi role in Libya has further hurt the credibility of R2P.


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