Notebook, 15 April 2011: Bitter . . .

Well, if you didn’t believe me when I posted Regime Change is the Official Coalition Goal, here you go. The road we started down when we first decided to intervene has now reached it’s logical conclusion.

Well. It was inevitable, wasn’t it? Does anyone remember when this was billed to us, the UN and the world as a no-fly zone?

Published in three newspapers, Presidents Obama, Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron have now publicly admit what many believed (me included) was always their agenda.

Actually, there was no “road” as I’ve described it here. We arrived at this destination in the first two weeks of March, and this is where we’ve remained ever since.

Libya’s Pathway to Peace


Together with our NATO allies and coalition partners, the United States, France and Britain have been united from the start in responding to the crisis in Libya, and we are united on what needs to happen in order to end it.

Author’s Note: How long do you think this coalition will last? Is giving Riyadh and Bahrain a free hand to kill protesters the price you pay for keeping the GCC in line on its “support” for this war?

Even as we continue our military operations today to protect civilians in Libya, we are determined to look to the future. We are convinced that better times lie ahead for the people of Libya, and a pathway can be forged to achieve just that.

Author’s Note: One must accept the premise made here in order to believe this premise, that Gadhafi is unreachable. (All the Gadhafis, remember. None of them can ever leave Libya ever again if they can hang on. No more art shows for Seif.)

Worse, it is a violation of procedures laid down in the Responsibility to Protect Final Report (beginning at page 45). If you’re going to cite R2P to legitimize your crimes, you should at least read it first.

We must never forget the reasons why the international community was obliged to act in the first place. As Libya descended into chaos with Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi attacking his own people, the Arab League called for action. The Libyan opposition called for help. And the people of Libya looked to the world in their hour of need. In an historic resolution, the United Nations Security Council authorized all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya from the attacks upon them. By responding immediately, our countries, together with an international coalition, halted the advance of Qaddafi’s forces and prevented the bloodbath that he had promised to inflict upon the citizens of the besieged city of Benghazi.

Author’s Note: Ah. “Holy Benghazi” is supposed to forgive all once again. I notice that the three of you always cite Holy Benghazi to justify your aggression, and let’s face it, a regime change mission is different than the humanitarian intervention that you are authorized to pursue. It is aggression. Always, when asked directly, you mention Benghazi. The three of you have admirable message control, if less than admirable morality.

Tens of thousands of lives have been protected. But the people of Libya are still suffering terrible horrors at Qaddafi’s hands each and every day. His rockets and shells rained down on defenseless civilians in Ajdabiya. The city of Misurata is enduring a medieval siege, as Qaddafi tries to strangle its population into submission. The evidence of disappearances and abuses grows daily.

Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force.

Author’s Note: I’ll address the lie expressed in this little statement later.

But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power. The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law. It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government.

Author’s Note: But it’s permissible to allow it in Bahrain? Where are the NATO strikes to protect the protesters in Yemen? In Syria? They are being murdered as well.

The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement. It would be an unconscionable betrayal.

Author’s Note: “Holy Benghazi” once again.

Furthermore, it would condemn Libya to being not only a pariah state, but a failed state too

Author’s Note: This should read: “We just don’t want Moammar Gadhafi a co-equal head of state in the international community.” Because that’s all this means.

Qaddafi has promised to carry out terrorist attacks against civilian ships and airliners. And because he has lost the consent of his people any deal that leaves him in power would lead to further chaos and lawlessness.

Author’s Note: those threats came after we started bombing, please note. Citing this as a justification of your policy requires us to be stupid enough not to notice.

We know from bitter experience what that would mean. Neither Europe, the region, or the world can afford a new safe haven for extremists.

Author’s Note: At last, the terrorism card. Which presupposes that scenario of abandoning any Libya in which a Gadhafi lives, which is your decision, and not written in stone as you would have us believe.

There is a pathway to peace that promises new hope for the people of Libya — a future without Qaddafi that preserves Libya’s integrity and sovereignty, and restores her economy and the prosperity and security of her people

Author’s Note: And what exactly is that pathway? Aid? Development? “The oil will pay for everything?” Except that BP will undoubtedly escape taxation, as Exxon does. As GE has done for two years running. As 60% of all C corporations in the US did during the “boom” years of 1998 to 2005.

But it’s Ok. I can volunteer my mother’s Social Security and Medicare to pay for it. We are All In because you gave a speech.

When will you people learn?

This needs to begin with a genuine end to violence, marked by deeds not words. The regime has to pull back from the cities it is besieging, including Ajdabiya, Misurata and Zintan, and return to their barracks.

Author’s Note: Here’s the question: Has ANYONE asked for such measures? Has anyone gone to Gadhafi with such a proposal that asked for a real ceasefire without also mentioning that you’ve a date in the Hague as well?

Where’s the diplomacy?

However, so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds. Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders.

Author’s Note: Who will be viewed as hand-picked western puppets. It’s totally unavoidable now. You’ve also inserted the CIA into the biggest CT community in the world, whose publicly stated goals would better have been performed by diplomats (sizing up the rebel “leadership”) and military personnel (FAC’s). A brilliant move guaranteed to undermine anyone legitimately running for office in Libya, thus guaranteeing that future unrest.

Well done.

In order for that transition to succeed, Qaddafi must go and go for good.

Author’s Note: Well that’s your decision. Let’s be totally clear about this. You have decided that Libya can have any leader it wants. Except anyone named Gadhafi.

At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Qaddafi has destroyed — to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society.

This vision for the future of Libya has the support of a broad coalition of countries, including many from the Arab world. These countries came together in London on March 29 and founded a Contact Group which met this week in Doha to support a solution to the crisis that respects the will of the Libyan people.

Author’s Note: I get it. Not only does Saudi Arabia and Bahrain get to “support” this war, they also get to pony up some of the reconstruction costs.

Oh, they get to murder protesters in their own country, but that’s ok with us, because we hate Iran.

Today, NATO and our partners are acting in the name of the United Nations with an unprecedented international legal mandate.

Author’s Note: THE BIG LIE. There’s no mandate for regime change in S/res/1973 (2011). That’s one you just made up. Regime change is also prohibited by R2P:

“Acceptance of limitations, incrementalism and gradualism in the application of force, the objective being protection of a population, not defeat of a state.

(Emphasis mine.)

But it will be the people of Libya, not the U.N., who choose their new constitution, elect their new leaders, and write the next chapter in their history.

Author’s Note: The Libyans can have their own Hamid Karzai.

Britain, France and the United States will not rest until the United Nations Security Council resolutions have been implemented and the Libyan people can choose their own future.

Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States.David Cameron is prime minister of Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy is president of France.

It’s hard to know where to begin. Already, I’ve had several discussions with Arabs over the Libya War (we might as well start calling it that now), over how this invasion (airspace is sovereign territory too) is stealing the revolution from Libyans themselves. Generally, I’ve been supportive of this administration’s foreign policy execution, if not it’s cyclopean focus on the “War on Terror” (yes, we ought to resurrect that phrase as well).

This isn’t an humanitarian intervention. This isn’t diplomacy. This is war. We’ve a good chance of winning it, mind you. In any overseas adventure like this, it’s very helpful to have a natural ally on the ground. An armed natural ally is even better. However, this has always been about making war. Among the coalition, peace is less a consideration than the imposition of an agenda foreign to the Libyan people. The Arab world will see it this way, and after consideration, I cannot find fault with this view.

For the record, I’m in favor of the humanitarian part of the intervention. Benghazi was most likely saved from an atrocity. It’s a problem of interventions of this sort that, if they succeed, then evidence of their necessity is never demonstrated, but I accept this because another Hama Massacre was, I think, highly possible. It is not that events ever were firmly in our control, either. The ground game changed for London, Paris and Washington the moment peaceful protesters willing to die for their country became armed rebels willing to kill for it. It is not like any of these three went looking for such an opportunity to display the prowess of their arms.

However, this is no longer never was an humanitarian intervention, and it has always been a lie to say so. This is, and always has been, an armed invasion aimed at enforcing a particular political arrangement which that nation wasn’t capable or willing to create themselves. It is sending other families sons and daughters to go to war under false pretenses. Do we all remember when this was supposed to be a no-fly zone? Do we all remember that this is how we were sold this bill-of-goods?

In this respect, it is Iraq all over again. A war of choice offering almost nothing in the way of national interests, is highly questionable in what it offers the Libyan people, but does much to weaken the international system and international law, and thus endangers countless others. Especially those in Afghanistan now who will see resources desperately needed for their own peace and development tendered elsewhere. Again.

In using force here, everybody has created an armed enemy, the coalition included. Gadhafi did it, and the rebels responded with force, which caused Gadhafi to escalate. Our turn is coming, and I have no idea how this will be made manifest, but I’m dead certain that it is as certainly predictable as the sun rising tomorrow.

I said I’d address this little lie at some point and now’s the time:

Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force.

The stated procedure is this:

In order to “protect civilians,” we are reducing Gadhafi’s armed forces, wherever they are. This also has the \added benefit\ of enabling the rebels to remove Gadhafi themselves (which was always understood). The fighters are already pissed off at us for not giving them the air support they need, and NATO has responded by asking for more airpower. Mark this. The rebels already consider the coalition to be their air arm, and NATO agrees. I’m sure many of us have seen multiple reports of the fighters saying this. If Nato aircraft find a tank or an artillery battery even in a position (or on the way to being in a position) to threaten civilians, then by all means, go bomb the damned thing (with the minimum munition necessary to disable it without causing civilian casualties ourselves). That we are now seeing testimony in Washington that the mission is successful because we’ve destroyed X-percentage of Gadhafi’s army is another tacit admission that the rebels cannot rid themselves of Gadhafi without our military help.

Make no mistake. The US, France and Britain are using force to impose regime change in another Islamic country. That’s the inescapable progression here. What began as a no-fly zone proposed to the UN Security Council, changed on day one to a reduction of Gadhafi’s units near Benghazi, changed again from the destruction of Gadhafi’s integrated air defense system (still on day one here) to a general bombardment of military targets unrelated to the no-fly zone like command and control facilities, then morphed yet again from attacks on ground units near other cities (what happened to the UN resolution calling for a “safe haven” I wonder), to the general all out attack on any military target anywhere in Libya.

A forced regime change on another Arab country. That’s now how I’m hearing it from Arabs I’ve spoken with, and when the dust settles, that will amount to received wisdom throughout the Arab Old World, and other small, vulnerable countries elsewhere.

How this works out in the end, nobody knows. The rebels have guns. Gadhafi supporters have guns too. If every tank is smashed, runs out of rounds or just runs out of gas, then it may come down to rebels in one house shooting at Gadhafi supporters in another across the street. Maybe a block away somebody with dual fifty caliber machine guns in the back of a pickup truck will join in. Along with the odd mortar round dropping on an apartment building or a school without warning. Car bombs. The assassination of prominent political figures. Beirut and Iraq all over again. It’s possible, and nobody can give us assurances that this won’t happen in Libya. Not Washington’s spookiest intelligence organs, nor the British MI-6, nor France’s External Security Directorate.

One of the reasons you live with dictators is exactly because this is often how the situations wind up. Could Gadhafi survive without help from another country? No. But who is to say that he won’t get some? From one of those members of the GCC perhaps? Maybe one of the many who didn’t participate in that vote? From someone who just doesn’t like the west and what we’re doing in Libya or elsewhere in the world? Sudan? Venezuela?

One might not have ever bothered going to Cairo University to make that speech at all.

Which isn’t even my biggest concern with this policy disaster. It’s a big one, however. While I type, real people are suffering and dying. Whether this is worthwhile is not for any of us to say. That decision lies solely on the combatants and their communities. It does not lie with me, or Washington, or London or Paris. If the rebels feel all this is worth fighting and dying for, and if Gadhafi’s supporters feel the same, then all we can do is hope it all ends as well as can be.

My biggest concern is the blatant abuse of R2P to arrive at this situation.

R2P was hard. It grew out of the blood of 657,000 Rwandans who died demonstrating that the international community doesn’t give a damn about poor, unarmed people who live far away being murdered. They would round up all the Tutsi they could find, the army would shoot into the crowd, and the interahamwe militia would walk through the field of corpses afterwards with machetes, especially imported for this moment, just to make sure.

And the international community said, “so?”

The French landed a force and took control of Kigali airport while others went through the countryside to evacuate Europeans. On one such trip, a news crew went along to a hospital, I think it was a hospital. It was surrounded. On the approach, the interahamwe militia stood by the roadside with their machetes. Waiting. At the hospital, along with the Europeans, was a small group of Tutsi, maybe twenty who had taken refuge there, pleading to be evacuated with the Europeans. Pleading with the drivers, pleading with the departing Europeans, pleading with the cameraman. Who taped it all. One woman in particular haunts me. Strong, beautiful, tragic and proud, she was magnificent.

These were among the last minutes of her life.

Shortly afterwards, the video captures the Europeans running for the cars, and as they run, we can hear the guns begin to open up.

They ran faster.

R2P was our way of trying to come to terms with this woman’s murder. It took years to develop. The effort, led by Canada, was global. The finished product was the result of enormous effort which actually succeeded in defining a statement of principles for further discussion on when, where, how, and why humanitarian intervention could justly take place. It is not, as at least one person here has claimed, international law. Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron and Barack Obama have absolutely no standing in any legal or political forum to declare that any other leader in the world has forfeited his legitimacy. Yet they did so. Nowhere in the R2P Final Report does it say that any country can declare that another country’s ruler has no place in its political future. Where did these three think they derived any kind of authority to make that determination? It is likely a principle amounting to jus cogens stature (I may be underestimating this) that only those of a sovereign state can determine it’s own leadership. This is worse than what the Russians did in Georgia. This is even worse that all the similar regime changes both sides engaged in throughout the cold war, for here is absolutely no pretense even of there being the consideration of self-defense.

R2P is not international law. Not yet, though many (including me) had hopes that it may someday be so. The coalition bought the support of some of the GCC to help ramrod a resolution through the UN Security Council (I’ve said this many times here: our diplomatic corps is excellent at execution), not under R2P, but under the Chapter VII provision because this was supposed to be a threat to the international peace. How? The rebels cannot even move far beyond Ajdabiya. Gadhafi had absolutely zero ability to take his fight out of the Gulf of Sidra. The Somali pirates have a greater reach than Gadhafi. The fact of the matter is that the situation in Libya was an internal matter until the three stooges stuck their noses in it. And handed the world another lie.

R2P will really be needed someday. This intervention will be cited as a textbook example of how not to implement it. Count on it. While R2P may not quite be finished, it’s eventual implementation is pushed further down the road and will most likely be weaker than it needs to be because of our violations of Libyan sovereignty.

I had big problems with this intervention even before it began. For well over three centuries, the international system has continually reiterated that the sovereignty of small nations must be respected. It is for this exact principle that Woodrow Wilson became the rock star (no exaggeration) of the Paris Peace Conference. It is the reason the UN was created, and only those who think war and conquest are legitimate can support this war. The practice of powerful states conquering weak states with impunity continues thanks to these three, demonstrating that we really haven’t made any progress at all. Everyone recognizes that modern Libya is the expression of Moammar Gadhafi’s meglomania, and not, as it should be, the national expression of the Libyan people. The same applies throughout MENA where 30 to 40 years seems to be sell-by date on regimes. The same applies to about one third to one half of all nations. However, it is not our place to enforce “progress” through arms. Not only is it immoral and hardly worth the human toll, but we really suck at it.

“Peace must not be made with emotion.”
   —Woodrow Wilson on his refusal to tour the trenches.

One other important point. There is no way the political solution to the problems in Libya will be won through the barrels of guns, a fact the fighters neglected to consider when they made their choice to take up arms. Does anyone foresee the day when representatives of Gadhafi supporters and the fighters sit down the table to hammer out their differences? Can anyone say with even halfway certainty that the bad actor phenomenon plaguing MENA for decades won’t deliberately upset the peace which reconciliation demands? Anyone who feels a romantic attachment to these people as some kind of freedom fighter is a fool. This is not your classic power grab either. It is the incoherent thrashings of a mob.

We may not like Gadhafi (I don’t), but we cannot deny that he has supporters who have every right to full participation in their country’s political future. Same as the rebels. At some point they and the rebels will need to sit down and somehow decide on their own pathway forward together. In their context, there’s no justification we can offer which would grant us any legitimacy in offering counsel and advice in how they run their affairs in the future. None. The people in MENA and throughout the world should have faith in our abilities and our good intentions?

Please. We take sides. We have our own agendas.

One makes peace only by peaceful means. There’s no “pathway” here but conquest, and the use of force only guarantees a tragic future.

“Pathway to Peace.” Now that’s worthy of Frank Luntz.


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