WHY LIBYA COULD BE THE REAL STEPPING STONE
A very interesting point was raised on Rush's show yesterday, and then again on Hannity. While our brave young president has made our objectives Libya as clear as couscous, it would serve our real strategic interests to take a much wider look at what's happening in the Muslim world. Ever since al Qaeda has been prominent in the minds of Americans, certain pundits have talked about the organization's stated goal of re-establishing the Caliphate. Knocking the Taliban out of Afghanistan was supposed to be the death knell of this vision, and might very well have been had we not made certain strategic blunders in recent weeks.
"Something we've never had - a country of our own . . ."
Famous words from one of may all-time favorite cinematic pieces, Braveheart. Not to bastardize a great work, but that statement pretty much sums up the opportunity al Qaeda and their brothers-in-blood are having served to them in a silver hookah. There seems to be increasing evidence (not to mention what can be inferred from common sense) that al Qaeda is working with/supporting/guiding the Libyan rebels. I'm not claiming that the rebellion is al Qaeda led or even most of the rebel fighters are Islamic fundamentalists, but then again the majority in Afghanistan didn't support the Taliban, either. At the very least it seems that al Qaeda is benefiting militarily from the civil war.
This is uber-important and uber-dangerous in regards to Libya. Al Qaeda, or an al Qaeda-esque group, has never "owned" a true nation-state of its own . . . at least not one that strategically matters. Yes, Afghanistan under the Taliban was an al Qaeda state, but strategically it is about as significant as winning Puerto Rico in the presidential election (apologies to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, no offense meant, just for illustrative purposes). Sudan for a good part of the 1990s could be considered a proto-al Qaeda state, but same there, its just not as strategically important.
So why does Libya matter? Because 1) they have something that is of value to much of the West, and 2) they share a border with Egypt. I'll take each one in turn below.
Libyan oil goes beyond Libyan oil
Libya is was the world's 12th largest exporter of oil. Virtually all of it is sent to the EU Zone. About 10% of Europe's oil supply is derived from Libya. Not a huge number, but still significant. And let's not forget, oil and the cost/supply thereof has a real multiplier effect. The Saudis have pledged to makeup for the shortfall to help stabilize the cost, but that also puts more power in the hands of the Saudis, and dilutes the competitive situation for worldwide oil supply. And that, consequently, makes the Russians all the more powerful, which can't be good for us.
Should al Qaeda gain become a major player in Libyan governance (or THE major player), then a terrorist nation would control a commodity that is necessary to the West. That is arguably more significant than, say, if the Taliban came to power in Pakistan. Yes, they would gain a small nuclear arsenal with limited capacity, but from a military standpoint, that can be taken out. Yes, there could be significant "collateral damage" (I've always hated that term), but still it could be dealt with. You can't take the world's 12th largest oil supplier out of the picture without ceding power to other nations (like Russia), and causing some economic pain. Conversely, if you al Qaeda does step in charge and we all oil production to flow, then sales of that are directly and without a doubt funding ongoing terrorism.
Spreading the Caliphate?
As digital citizens of the industrialized world, we tend to placing less and less significance on boarders (especially if you're a Democrat trolling for Latino votes!). But seriously, just because geography means less to us and the Euros doesn't mean the rest of the world thinks that way, especially if you're stated goal is growing an empire. Let's not forget that the goal of al Qaeda is the re-establishing Caliphate. Next door to Libya lies their historical cousins the Egyptians. The US administration decided that a brutal dictator that was pro-American was not worth backing (unlike a brutal dictator that is anti-American . . . Syria . . .) and now it appears the government likely to pass to the political wing if the Muslim Brotherhood. Don't think for a second that this doesn't align perfectly with the desires of the terrorists. An al Qaeda led Libya and Egypt would encompass a majority of the Islamic population of Saharan Africa, and quite frankly would be a great start on the new Caliphic empire.
What should we do?
At this point, regardless of our experiences in Iraq, it is difficult to see a road in Libya that does not lead to nation building being in our national interest. If Gaddafi Gathafi Kadafi Qaddafi manages to stay in power, he and his successors will no doubt not be satisfied just slumming around Italian brothels anymore. If he goes, I'm afraid we're looking at al Qaedastan. Neither is acceptable.
I believe all this goes back to Cairo, 2009. As our brave young president let it be known that we we're going to be so tough after all, that we didn't want to be "crusaders" anymore, and that we were sorry for all our past atrocities against the great society.
I know this section is short, and I'm not really answering the question of "What should we do?". Is it right to arm that rebels that could potentially clear the way for al Qaeda? No. It is right to not take down a mad regime that undoubtedly will energetically engage in an anti-American agenda? No. Is it ideal to use the UN/NATO as cover to put us in yet another quagmire in the International Region of Rock and Hard Place? No. So what should we do? I hate to say it, but right now hope and pray.