Obama’s Libya Decision – The Endgame

By YeOldeScribe ~ March 24th, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

Welcome back to our week-long coverage on the situation in Libya. Tomorrow, we’ll wrap the discussion up by asking (and answering) the question “Is Libya the new Iraq?” Today, we’re taking a look at Obama’s “endgame” for Libya.

We put “endgame” in “air quotes” because we feel that endgame is one of those buzzwords that politicians and media pundits like to throw around, but nobody really knows what it means. The obvious meaning is there – it means the end of the game. But what does it mean in a political sense? In this particular case, when we’re talking about the endgame in Libya, we’re referring to what happens to the country after the US is no longer involved (or when their involvement is severely diminished).  This brings up two distinct scenarios for what “endgame” actually means. We’ll take a look at both now.

First, we’ll take a look at the endgame scenario that happens when the US passes off leadership of the combat missions to the UN/NATO. Currently, the US is leading the way, simply because we have more bombs, planes, technology, and military personnel than any other country on the planet – essentially, we’re great at blowing stuff up. But ever since the start of this little skirmish, President Obama has made it clear that we wouldn’t be at the forefront of the battle lines – and it appears he meant that sooner rather than later. As early as this weekend, the US is expected to relinquish control of combat operations to NATO. So what does it mean for US forces when that happens? Not much. The best way we can describe it is when you get a new supervisor at your job – the boss may be different, but you’re still doing the same job. This, in our opinion, isn’t much of an endgame, because the game/war doesn’t end there.

A better definition of endgame probably occurs when the UN/NATO mission is complete. There’s no timetable on how long that will take, as most of that is dependent on how long Muammar Gaddafi thinks he can stand up to the world’s military might. The UN/NATO attacks end when one thing happens: Gaddafi is no longer in power. This isn’t a situation where if he surrenders and promises not to mow down any more of his citizens the world’s going to let him stay in power. Practically one of the conditions for accepting Gaddafi’s surrender would be that he a) step down from his dictatorship and b) be held accountable for what he’s done in his country. So what’s the endgame here? That’s largely unknown. One part of the endgame is decided – Gaffafi must go. But what happens after that? Do the rebels take over and create their own dictatorship or oligarchy? Does the US get involved to repair the damage we caused. Do we insist that democracy be established in the nation – or do we go one step further and attempt to nation-build like our last president did? While these answers are unknown, our best guess is as follows: The US (and NATO, and the UN) stay on the offensive until Gaddafi is gone, then we switch to diplomatic mode, helping to establish elections and let the people handle it, and we move on.

An interesting third view of the endgame looks at the long-reaching effects of US involvement in Libya. This CNN article (paragraph 8/9) points our how the US positions in Egypt and Libya are hurting our relationships with the Saudis, something we hadn’t even thought of. (And for those of you who don’t understand the importance of making the Saudi’s happy, allow me to present four letters in refutation: OPEC.) While this has probably helped our international relations on the whole, has it hurt Obama in the US? What if this translates to him being perceived as ineffective in handling foreign affairs with non-allied nations? Does this situation come back to haunt Obama in 2012? In this respect, the endgame is even more unclear with many questions and few answers. Only time will tell for many of these issues.

As with most things in life, the issues directly in front of us are very clear. The US will pass off control authority to NATO, our troops will still be involved in strikes, and we’ll even go so far as to say that eventually, Gaddafi will step down. Anything beyond that is still up in the air.

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