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Muammar Gaddafi and Libya: Five Options For President Obama


When President Obama finally spoke on the Libyan crisis on Wednesday, he failed to call for Muammar Gaddafi’s removal—the most logical step for ending the bloodshed Obama and Gaddafiin Libya.  Although the Administration moved quickly to call for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month, it has been slow to call for Gaddafi’s ouster, despite his long history of terrorism, like the Lockerbie bombing, and other clashes with the United States. The most significant action that the President announced was the dispatch of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Geneva  to attend a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

This is not enough. The Human Rights Council is notorious for being slow to condemn blatant human rights abuses by countries aligned with certain members of the 47-member council.  As it happens, Libya earned a seat on the Human Rights Council in 2010 – an ironic point that would make it difficult to make any meaningful steps to remove the ruthless dictator.

It's a no-brainer that President Barack Obama should do more to help the Libyan protesters bring down the monstrous regime of Muammar Gaddafi.  The dictator’s recent decision to kill hundreds of people last week was the final straw.  The tough question is what.

Even the left has been highly critical of Obama’s lack of action, characterizing his leadership during the Libyan uprisings as a pathetic, dithering response that has been both cynical and naïve. Ouch!

Mr. President, here is a list of possible suggestions that have more teeth than any proclamations that will be made by the dysfunctional Human Rights Council:

1. Impose sanctions immediately on the regime. We already froze Gaddafi’s 32 billion dollars in assets. The United States has repositioned ships and aircraft closer to Libya.  But beyond flexing military muscle and freezing a record $32 billion in Libyan assets, Washington has limited influence on events inside Libya. We should now call on all states to halt arms transfers to the regime, as Britain and France have already done. We should also contact Gaddafi’s closest European ally, Belarus.

2. Tell the dictator to flee Libya and go to Belarus.   We can do this by quietly encouraging our European, Russian, and Middle Eastern allies to exert influence on Gaddafi to flee to his closest military and political ally-- the European dictatorship of Belarus. Belarus is the last dictatorship in Europe and is controlled by an erratic despot who is Gaddafi’s closest ally. For this reason, it the most logical place for Gaddafi to take refuge in and why the Obama administration should encourage this option before hundreds more innocent protesters die in Libya.  

3. Create a No-Fly Zone over Libya to prevent more protestors being killed.  The Unites States should greatly consider imposing the kind of no-fly zone that the United States, Britain and France used to protect Kurds in Iraq from the savagery of Saddam Hussein.

The United States would not be alone in this endeavor; Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has already proposed a no-fly zone.

The United States has already moved the USS Enterprise carrier strike group to the area near Libya.  A No fly zone could be the next logical plan of action.   "One of those actions under review is a no fly zone... it is under active consideration," said Secretary of State Clinton.

4. Work with Libya’s tribal networks and the newly freed eastern city, Benghazi, to undermine Gaddafi.  Given the lack of organized political parties and disintegration of much of Libya’s weak army, Libya’s traditional tribal networks are the most promising means of rapidly organizing an alternative to the regime. Many have joined anti-opposition forces. Tribal chiefs in the region still exert a great deal of influence.  Washington should quietly make contact with key tribal leaders and encourage them to work together to consolidate the opposition’s growing territorial reach and further constrict the regime’s base of support.

Rivalries between Tripoli and its second biggest city, Benghazi, were partially responsible for the successful uprising in that city. The West could help create more pressure on Gaddafi by working with its interim council, which has stated recently to be the face of the revolution.

5. Encourage more defections from Gaddafi’s regime. Not all of Gaddafi’s men are loyal to him…. And most do not enjoy they idea of killing unarmed protestors. Already, there has been a great deal of defections happening. The United States should work with other states, particularly Egypt, to contact and encourage Libyan officials in key positions in the army, police, and intelligence services to continue turning against the regime.

Those who reject the opportunity to do so should be put on short notice that if they keep shooting and killing their citizens, they'll be prosecuted for war crimes after Gaddafi falls. Nobody likes going down with a sinking ship.

So Mr. President, I realize it is in your nature to be cool, reflective, and thoughtful. The people in Libya do not need a thoughtful, academic lecture on human rights and the merits of democracy. They need swift action before more innocents die. Please, for their sake, consider using some or all of these five suggestions.

Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com