Libya - March 2011
Of course there is one way to justify military support to Libyan rebels but it needs a redefining of the way we do international intervention.
We keep making the mistake of occupying countries. But, we have the military might (well, the US does), the technology, the intelligence services (when firing on all cylinders), and the special forces to influence, even to determine, outcomes. Going into the Tora Bora to destroy Al-Quaeda's base in Afghanistan was justified. Removing Saddam may, or may not have been, legal/moral/sensible/justifiable (delete one or more of the above) but it didn't require the occupation of Iraq for a period longer than the Germans set up camp in France seventy years ago.
We are obsessed with achieving long term stability where long term stability is difficult. If we are to do the right thing by, in this case, rebels fighting to overthrow a murderous despot we need to find limited, short term goals which in themselves are unequivocally noble, and then we need to have the ruthless focus to withdraw very quickly indeed before things develop.
For example, we could identify what might be required to remove Gaddafi: a US led coalition involving Arab states, a couple of aircraft carriers off Tripoli, airpower forward based into Italy, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, 3 divisions of ground troops, airborne landings, surgical strikes with drone-carried hellfire and cruise missiles, etc. But, above all/absolutely above all, a plan for an incredibly quick withdrawal leaving an interim government in place with promises of elections, and no advisors or training teams left behind unless they are Arab. Once we are out, what are the chances of Libya becoming a model of democratic decorum? Not much perhaps, but at least we will have done our bit, set up conditions for a peaceful future and then departed. If those conditions are then beyond the wit of those intimately involved to achieve, well they had their chance and they blew it and we can't keep riding into Benghazi on a white charger - once a century is enough. The ethereal is everything, the concrete transient.
Civil servants, politicians, diplomats, and generals will tell you that what I am suggesting is impossible. It isn't, it just hasn't been done yet. And the thing about Rapid Deployment and Extraction (RDE) operations is that they can be repeated and they cost peanuts compared to occupation - both financially and politically.
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