Thursday, August 25, 2011
We join the Libyan people in gratefulness as we hear of Col. Gaddafi’s defeat. The fall of a tyrant and sponsor of terrorism is a great day for freedom-loving people around the world. But the path to democracy in Libya is not complete, and we must make wise choices to ensure that our national interests are protected.
First, the White House needs to avoid triumphalism. Gaddafi may be gone, but the fighting may not be complete. As we’ve seen in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we must not celebrate too quickly. There are now mounting concerns that we will see tribal and sectarian fighting in Libya like we saw in Iraq. Let’s hope that is not the case, but it must be prepared for.
Second, we must be very concerned about the future government that will emerge to take Gaddafi’s place. History teaches that those with the guns usually prevail when a coalition overthrows a tyrant. We must remember that military power ultimately resides with the rebel commanders. This should be a source of some concern. The armed opposition to Gaddafi is an outgrowth of a group called Islamic Libya Fighting Group, and some rebel commanders admit that they have Al Qaeda links. The rebel fighters are from different tribes, and they have a variety of political views. Some are Islamists, some appear to favor some sort of western democracy. We should work through diplomatic means to help those who want democracy to come out on top.
That said, we should not commit U.S. troops or military assets to serve as peacekeepers or perform humanitarian missions or nation-building in Libya. Our military is already over-committed and strained, and a vaguely designed mission can be the first step toward a quagmire. The internal situation does not seem stable enough for U.S. forces to operate in a purely humanitarian manner without the possibility of coming under attack. Troop deployment to Libya would mean placing America’s finest in a potentially hostile zone that is not in our vital national security interest.
Finally, we must make sure that terrorist groups don’t try to co-opt the revolution, as Al Qaeda is trying to do in Syria. We should continue to use our intelligence assets to monitor the situation in Libya to ensure that potentially dangerous weapons are secured, and that terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda don’t gain a foothold in Libya.
People of Libya, be vigilant. May this opportunity be used to build a free and peaceful country.