Published: March 21, 2011
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has long been a thug and a murderer who has never paid for his many crimes, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The United Nations Security Council resolution authorized member nations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and was perhaps the only hope of stopping him from slaughtering thousands more.
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The resolution was an extraordinary moment in recent history. The United Nations, the United States and the Europeans dithered for an agonizingly long time and then — with the rebels’ last redoubt, Benghazi, about to fall — acted with astonishing speed to endorse a robust mandate that goes far beyond a simple no-fly zone. More extraordinary was that the call to action was led by France and Britain and invited by the Arab League.
American commanders on Monday claimed success in attacking Libyan air defenses and command and control operations. Over the weekend, there were strikes against Libyan aircraft on the ground, forces headed toward Benghazi and even Colonel Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli. Colonel Qaddafi remained defiant and announced plans to arm one million loyalists. He gathered women and children as human shields at his compound. On Monday, his forces drove rebels back from the strategically important town Ajdabiya.
There is much to concern us. President Obama correctly agreed to deploy American forces only when persuaded that other nations would share the responsibility and the cost of enforcing international law. The United States is already bogged down in two wars. It can’t be seen as intervening unilaterally in another Muslim nation. But even with multinational support, it should not have to shoulder the brunt of this conflict.
After endorsing a no-flight zone 10 days ago — a move that allowed the Security Council resolution to go forward — the Arab League is sending mixed messages. This military operation requires the Arab states to reaffirm support for the coalition and contribute their own arms, forces and cash. Qatar made a commitmment: four fighter jets. Colonel Qaddafi will find it easier to dig in his heels if he thinks the region is divided.
There has been unsettling dissonance from the allies, too. The operation was portrayed as led by France and Britain. Yet the Americans — which have the ships and cruise missiles to take out Libyan air defenses — are actually directing this phase. They say command will soon shift, but it’s not certain if that will put NATO, France or Britain in charge. A permanent alternate command needs to be established as soon as practical and the broadest possible coalition must be engaged.
We also have questions about the objective. President Obama has said Colonel Qaddafi has lost legitimacy and must go. He also insisted the military aim is only to protect civilians and American ground troops will not be deployed. We hope he sticks to those commitments. There are enormous questions: What will the United States and its allies do if the rebels cannot dislodge Colonel Qaddafi? At a minimum, they must be ready to maintain indefinite sanctions on the regime while helping the rebels set up a government, should they actually win. Mr. Obama should have brought Congress more into the loop on his decision, and must do so now.
There is no perfect formula for military intervention. It must be used sparingly — not in Bahrain or Yemen, even though we condemn the violence against protesters in both countries. Libya is a specific case: Muammar el-Qaddafi is erratic, widely reviled, armed with mustard gas and has a history of supporting terrorism. If he is allowed to crush the opposition, it would chill pro-democracy movements across the Arab world.
A version of this editorial appeared in print on March 22, 2011, on page A26 of the New York edition.
We should be sure about our moral position in Libya without any hesitation. The people of Libya went peacefully to ask for their freedom and the crazy tyrant Qaddafi went after them to slaughter them. He even paid to mercenaries to kill them and we found no surprise that the wealth of the Libyan people in the hands of crazy Qaddafi and his family. Our objection should be very clear the end of the inhuman tyranny of Qaddafi and allow his people to have true elections and find their own leaders. There is no going back which will mean that America is a weak moral power and the world should not respond to humanity will but to the desires and the tight control of tyrants. America has to win more the Arab street since the tyrants now are more afraid of them which will push them to stand with us against Qaddafi. Make it for them no choice option. A good idea beside the covert operations to get Qaddafi is spreading leaflets from the Libyan opposition to count all the evil of Qaddafi and how the Libyan wealth in his hands. If they leave Qaddafi they will be welcomed as brothers and sisters and the wealth of Libya will go back to the Libyan people. President Obama has to give a new great speech that will make Libyan regime fall down as he did with the Egyptian regime. America did not act as a police man but the Libyan people has a holocaust that was starting and someone has to stop it. Our moral intent and objections are in the right side of the history and our call is rightful.