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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/31/11

The Handwringing Over Our Support for the Rebels in Libya

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There has been much handwringing of late over President Obama's decision to support the rebellion in Libya.

Perhaps it goes with the territory. He has expanded the war in Afghanistan, furthered the use of drone strikes and missile attacks into Pakistan and Yemen so he is not above suspicion when it comes to our entry into Libya, albeit his vowing not to use U.S. ground combat troops.

So U.S. entry into ANY armed conflict raises legitimate suspicions of what is our real motive in Libya i.e. isn't it really just an extension of our militarism and imperialism and our thirst to control Libyan oil?

Then there's the Arab "spring" of spontaneous, grass roots rebellions where the people of Tunisia and Egypt were able to oust the dictators in their respective countries without any outside interference [1] so doesn't western engagement into Libya now place that Arab "spring" in jeopardy? And what about the rebellions in Yemen, Bahrain, now happening in Syria? Are we to assist the rebellions in those countries? And what's the "standard" to determine whether outside involvement into these people led uprisings is warranted or necessary?

These are all legitimate criticisms and as was said previously, U.S. engagement in ANY armed conflict automatically raises suspicions of just what are our true motives.

But from here Libya and Qaddafi present a unique case vis-Ã -vis all the rebellions now happening in the Arab world.

Qaddafi alone has been absolutely ruthless and relentless in killing his own people. He shows no remorse, not even a hint of conscience in his willingness to slaughter Libyans as long as he retains power. There is little doubt from here his forces would have overrun Benghazi without the U.N. authorizing entry into the war. Qaddafi made it all too clear; he would "go into closets and kill the rats" unmercifully.

Was there any doubt about his intentions to ruthlessly put down the peoples rebellion in Libya by ANY means at his disposal? Does the world just stand by idly and let this happen?

The U.S. entry into Libya along with Britain and France was the correct thing to do. And let's not forget the people in Benghazi celebrated and wanted outside support and coming to their aid. This was NOT seen by Libyans as an outside invasion i.e. Iraq or Afghanistan. This was and continues to be a humanitarian effort in support of the Libyan people's rebellion against Qaddafi.

Now once that decision was made to enter into the conflict in Libya on the side of the rebellion, that choice must be done fully and completely and not with half measures.

The rebellion is clearly outgunned by Qaddafi's forces whose troops of elite combat units and African mercenaries are better equipped and trained than the rebel forces. The latter are mostly civilians with no formal military training or experience and are little match against forces that have superior fire power (tanks and artillery) that Qaddafi still possesses despite western allies' aerial bombardments that have destroyed many of his tanks and artillery.

So besides allied air cover, the rebels now require a serious upgrade in small arms and artillery to adequately compete against Qaddafi's forces. The rebels have shown they have the youthful energy and desire to fight for their country. But they have little chance to prevail without the upgrade in arms.

This is no time for the west to dither on whether to arm the rebels adequately to level the playing field against Qaddafi. It needs to be done without delay.  

[1] Libya is not Egypt or Tunisia. The military in those two countries were formidable and weren't marginalized and left to wither as Qaddafi has done in Libya. Qaddafi feared his generals would stage a coup against him so over the years he let his army wither and instead built an elite personal security force (led by his sons) equipping them with modern arms and training. He also brought in black African mercenaries paying them well for their loyalty. So even as many of the Libyan military have defected and sided with the rebellion their opposition doesn't match the strength of the generals powerful influence in Tunisia and Egypt whose opposition and siding with the people was able to bring about the abdication of Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt.

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