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Arming Libyan Rebels

The Libyan operation would have nearly a comic opera quality were it not for the fact that people are needlessly getting killed because of the fecklessness of the Obama Administration. As we pointed out yesterday, our motive for going into Libya has absolutely nothing to do with establishing a less repressive regime, the rebels are happily engaged in the slaughter of their enemies and carrying on a campaign of ethnic cleansing to force black Africans from Libya, than with one particular twit, Samantha Power, trying to prove a particular academic version of BushLiedTM.

Ignoring Rumsfeld’s warning to President Bush, the administration’s monomaniacal pursuit of a “coalition” has led to a dog’s breakfast of a UN Resolution, UNSCR 1973, which is effectively self-negating. It calls upon civilians to be protected, though apparently doesn’t extend so far as to demand the protection of civilians living in the dystopia being created in the areas where they hold sway, yet it forbids the introduction of foreign military forces into Libya in furtherance of that goal.

Now the next great idea is being floated: arm the rebels. What could possibly go wrong?

National Journal has produced a half-baked for-against column on the subject of arming the rebels. Boiled down to the bullet points:

5 Reasons Against Arming the Rebels:

  • We Don’t Know Who They Are.
  • It May Not Be Needed.
  • It May Not Be Legal.
  • It May Stir up a Hornet’s Nest.
  • It May Cost Too Much.

5 Reasons For Arming the Rebels:

  • It May Level the Playing Field.
  • U.N. Resolution Authorizes All Necessary Measures.
  • It May Stymie al-Qaida.
  • Regional Stability is at Stake.
  • Other Countries Can Provide the Arms.

Most of these, on both sides, range from merely silly to profoundly stupid. One finds It as hard to believe that supplying the rebels with weaponry is going to do anything but add a marginal cost to the expense of maintaining a no-fly zone just as one is hard pressed to understand how a suppurating civil war adds to regional stability. And as Libya is under an arms embargo, this would be a technical violation of UNSCR 1973 but as we’re already trying to bring down the regime in violation of UNSCR 1973 violating an arms embargo seems like small beer to me.

The real question is how would supplying the rebels with weapons achieve the goals of UNSCR 1973, which is to reach a political settlement between the rebels and the government. Fortunately, there is an easy answer. It can’t.

The US and its “coalition” are embarked upon a program of regime change under the guise of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. Never mind that Qaddafi’s actions haven’t come close to any reasonable interpretation of the three potentially triggering events:

Principle One stresses that States have the primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (mass atrocities).

Principle Two addresses the commitment of the international community to provide assistance to States in building capacity to protect their populations from mass atrocities and to assisting those, which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out.

Principle Three focuses on the responsibility of international community to take timely and decisive action to prevent and halt mass atrocities when a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations

Supplying more weapons, and in all likelihood more advanced weapons, to the rebels will result in several things, none of them particularly benign.

  • Casualties on both sides will increase, the conflict will be prolonged, and reconciliation will become more difficult.
  • An increase in the numbers of weapons will inevitably result in more people being involved in the conflict. This will increase the number of people
  • Advisors will have to be introduced into Libya in order to train the rebels or, alternatively, rebels will have to be brought out of Libya in order to be trained on the weapons.
  • The weapons will remain after the conflict ends but not necessarily within Libya.

Introducing weapons into this conflict makes less sense than the current strategy and that is saying something.  Unless, that is, they are accompanied by advisors to train the rebels on their usage and ground forces to speedily remove the regime and bring this conflict to an end.

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