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March 11, 2011

Tell Me How This Ends
Posted by Eric Martin

There has been an increasing chorus of voices urging the US (acting with its allies in NATO, the UN or in tandem with some ad hoc coalition of the willing) to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace, with lawmakers from both parties, as well as foreign leaders, making appeals to implement some variation of such a policy in recent days.

To some extent, this impulse is understandable given the increasingly violent clashes in Libya, with government forces making gains on rebel positions and showing a willingness to use indiscriminate force in populated areas.  

On the other hand, when pondering the involvement of US forces, first and foremost, elected leaders must consider whether such an intervention is in our national interest, and, if so, what can realistically be accomplished and at what costs.  Along those lines, it is essential to establish what the objective of the intervention would be and what future actions will be necessitated/spurred on by the initial decision to intervene militarily. To paraphrase General Petraeus, "Tell me how this ends."

Despite legitimate concerns for civilian casualties, and the potential for atrocities, thus far Qaddafi has been primarily using air power to combat rebel forces within his nation's borders.  The effect of a no-fly zone, then, would be to prevent Qaddafi from being able to use air power in that fight (as well as to safeguard civilians from airborne assaults). 

Thus, even if justified on humanitarian grounds, the no-fly zone would serve the purpose of tilting the battlefield in favor of rebel forces - though some argue that supporting the rebels should be an explicit goal in itself, with the no-fly zone buttressed (or replaced) by arms and other aid provided directly to rebel forces.  Regardless, these outcomes raise several important questions about who we are supporting, to what ends, and to what extent we will be expected to participate in the process.

1. Do we know what the majority of Libyan rebels want and how they envision the future state of Libya in the post-Qaddafi era?  While there is a tendency to view these uprisings, and their participants, through Western-tinted lenses, those Libyans that are involved in the uprising are not monolithic in their outlook, nor are they uniformly pursuing a revolutionary democratic agenda.

For example, the epicenter of the rebellion, the city of Benghazi, is home to tribal groups and other factions with a long history of hostility to, and at times insurrection against, Qaddafi. In addition, there are hardcore Islamist factions involved in the opposition movement whose presence cannot be ignored.  Further, as Andrew Exum points out, the region contributed a disproportionately large number of foreign fighters in Iraq:

Benghazi had sent more foreign fighters to Iraq than any other city in the Arabic-speaking world. On a per capita basis, though, twice as many foreign fighters came to Iraq from Libya -- and specifically eastern Libya -- than from any other country in the Arabic-speaking world...And 84.1% of the 88 Libyan fighters in the Sinjar documents who listed their hometowns came from either Benghazi or Darnah in Libya's east.  This might explain why those rebels from Libya's eastern provinces are not too excited about U.S. military intervention. It might also give some pause to those in the United States so eager to arm Libya's rebels.

It is reasonable to conclude that at least some of the groups involved in the anti-government fight have limited democratic bona fides and are, instead, motivated by a desire to settle long standing grievances and/or to engage in an ancillary struggle for power with competing factions.  Since we could be getting in bed with these groups in the near future, shouldn't the various motives/worldviews be examined at greater length?

2.  What do US forces do if the imposition of a no-fly zone is not enough to enable rebel forces to topple Qaddafi? It is unlikely that limiting Qaddafi's use of fixed wing aircraft in the fight against rebels would be decisive on the battlefield, especially if he can retain the use of helicopters (targeting helicopters is a trickier endeavor, and thus their use might continue depending on the rules of engagement applicable to the eventual no-fly zone regime adopted, as well as other logistical factors).  Further, as in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, there is no guarantee that a no-fly zone would prevent Qaddafi's ground forces from committing civilian atrocities.

However, if you think the calls for US intervention are loud now, just imagine all the appeals to moral responsibility and the loss of US credibility/prestige if our jets are patrolling Libyan skies while civilians are being massacred by ground forces, or the rebels are being beaten back.

So what should our forces do if Qaddafi quashes the rebellion despite the no-fly zone?  Do we slink away quietly?  Or, as is perhaps more likely, do we escalate our military intervention with either more aggressive rules of engagement, or the introduction of ground forces, to rescue the routed rebels?  Shouldn't we consider whether we want to take on such a commitment before we head down a path of supposed limited intervention that could tilt steeply toward a much deeper involvement?

3. What do US forces do if the imposition of a no-fly zone is enough to enable rebel forces to topple Qaddafi?  In the "be careful what you wish for" category, we need to consider what role, if any, US military and non-military personnel would be expected to play in post-Qaddafi Libya should the no-fly zone and/or other measures succeed in taking Qaddafi down. 

Libya is a country with weak institutions, and an anemic civil society, to say the least.  Given that fact, do we expect a peaceful, stable democratic state to emerge soon after Qaddafi falls?  What if, as alluded to in #1 above, some of the rebel factions have a different vision - preferring to replace Qaddafi with a strongman more to their liking rather than opening up Libya to the uncertainty of the democratic process? What if civil strife erupts after Qaddafi's exit?

Is the US willing or able to pick winners and losers from amongst Libya's domestic political arena and back those parties militarily if need be? Would such an imposition generate armed resistance and, dare I say it, another insurgency?  Even under a best case scenario, would the US want to get involved in yet another open-ended nation building exercise? If not, would we have the nerve to just walk away and hope for the best after committing to the fight initially?

4. How are we going to pay for the no-fly zone/aftermath?  With municipal, state and federal budgets going through painful, GDP-shrinking contractions, where is the money to implement a no-fly zone supposed to come from?  According to a recent study, a robust no-fly zone could cost between $100-$300 million a week to operate. Given the unknown duration of the no-fly zone, the price tag could easily reach several billion dollars eventually - not to mention the price tag for any post-Qaddafi nation building/assistance or, possibly, more invasive military involvement. 

Would supporters of the no-fly zone on either side of the aisle support a tax increase to pay for it? If not, how do we justify adding the costs to the deficit/debt at a time when we are, supposedly, making exceedingly painful choices in pursuit of the reduction/stabilization of the deficit/debt?  Are the national interests involved in actively supporting the Libyan uprising so vital that they take precedence over other interests at home and abroad that are currently being neglected/underfunded?

Those are questions we must ask and answer before taking the next step.

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Last year the US-Libya relationship was on an upward course. Libya, according to the US ambassador, was "a strong ally in countering terrorism in a volatile region. Then an insurgency arises and the US throws Libya under the bus, putting its reputation on a rebellion w/o leaders, an unknown force!

I guess there's more to it.

Embassy of the U.S. Tripoli, Libya
Remarks by Ambassador Gene A. Cretz
at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Friday, June 4, 2010 (extracts)
--The United States and Libya have just embarked on the second year of fully renewed diplomatic relations – including the first exchange of Ambassadors in 36 years. In previous speeches, I have made – and will continue to make – the case that continued engagement with Libya is in our long-term national interest.
--The U.S.-Libya relationship has rapidly expanded to include much more than cooperation in nonproliferation and science and technology.
Today, Libya remains a strong ally in countering terrorism in a volatile region. It has fought the expansion of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has condemned kidnappings, and has taken a position against the paying of ransom to kidnappers.
--Libya effectively has been attempting to make up for forty years of systemic stagnation and to re-constitute its bureaucratic and economic capabilities. We have an opportunity to support Libyan economic reform efforts while promoting U.S. business interests. . .The enthusiasm shown by Libyan government and business representatives for the Trade Mission, and their calls for more trade missions, demonstrate Libya’s keen interest in expanded commercial ties.
--As Libya takes on important roles over the next year on the international stage, including serving as the President of the Arab League and hosting the Arab-African Summit at the end of this year, the United States will support Libya’s efforts to encourage other countries to follow its model of combating terrorism, promoting nuclear nonproliferation, and encouraging Libyan efforts to promote peace, stability, and security in the region.
http://tinyurl.com/4q8s28x

Tell me why aiding an insurgency against a U.S. ally (an ally until the insurgency started) doesn't harm U.S. national security and cause increased distress to American fuel consumers (as is now happening). And what kind of signal would this material aid send to other despotic U.S. allies in other Arab lands?

In other words, the primary goal of U.S. foreign policy ought to be a better future for Americans, not for Libyans, and debating on ways that the Libyan insurgency should be helped misses the central question: Why should we help the Libya insurgency?

For one thing the U.S. recently, with David Petraeus in the lead, has been a champion of countering insurgencies not aiding them. What changed that?

The U.S. has had an enduring policy of supporting Arab despots, like Mubarak and Gadafi, and the other Arab potentates, to advance U.S. national security. What changed that?

I suspect that the U.S. policy hasn't in fact changed but rather the neocons and neolibs have suddenly, with Libya, "got religion" about democracy and civilian casualties, impulses which never appeared with U.S. military imperialism.

Hey, they figure, if it puts Obama in a position uncomfortable to him, of making policy decisions, it must be good. Obama and Clinton are not disappointing them -- they're spinning and twisting as expected.

This is an instance where NATO, EU, and the UN should step up to the plate, both militarily and fiscally. Hopes for a democratic Libya and the welfare of the Libyan people aside, if you follow the money (oil) it is the Europeans who are most intermediately and adversely affected by the situation.

The real story of the New Deal: What actually happened in the 1930's was that a million-strong Communist movement in the United States generated the pressure which forced Franklin Delano Roosevelt to come up with the New Deal--16 Social Programs which included the Social Security Act. At that time and most recently on Channel 13 Public Television Roosevelt was given credit for "saving capitalism." "Saving capitalism," from WHAT pray tell? From a Socialist Revolution in the United States! It was that close! So, the New Deal, which TODAY is only a dream--instead we get the No Deal and The Bad Deal because there is currently a ZERO Communist movement in the United States--was actually just a BRIBE in the 1930's. The Working Class did not have to take that bribe! So WHY did they take that bribe??? At a point in time when they did NOT have to take that bribe! The answer is that they took that bribe, the New Deal, because of the deliberate misleadership of Josef Stalin, who himself was NOT a Communist although he was a member of the Communist Party and had wormed his way into becoming the General Secretary, a position which Lenin opposed! Prior to the 1917 Russian Revolution, the most important and significant event in the Twentieth Century, Stalin voted against taking state power on each and every vote that was take prior to the revolution. He always voted with Kamaniev who always voted against! This included the vote taken the night before the Bolshevik party led the Working Class, (70% of whom supported the Bolsheviks) and 30% of the Peasantry which included the all-important military WHICH WAS IN MUTINY, to take state power. Stalin played a counter-productive role in the Revolutionary War and much later in 1924 after becoming General Secretary, poisoned Lenin while Lenin was recuperating from his second stroke. All the details of what was well known since the 1920's were all published in the Moscow News, Jan-Feb, 1989. Stalin murdered the remaining leaders of the Bolshevik Party most of them in a series of show trials but others through outright assassination. His position internationally was well known: Socialism in one country--in practice meaning Socialism in no other country. The USSR was only a Workers' State not Socialism, the first stage of Communism. Communism is a stateless society which has never been practiced and can never be put into practice until capitalism has been overthrown in its center--the United States. In addition to sabotaging the Working Class movement in the U.S. and throughout Europe, Stalin sent 50,000 Chinese Communists to their deaths before Mao got his head together and stopped accepting directives from Stalin. Finally in 1943 Stalin ended the Communist International altogether. So much for Stalin being a "Communist." Stalin rode the back of the Russian Revolution and drew all his power from it and was compelled to defend it albeit rather poorly starting out as mentioned by murdering Lenin. We have to build back a million-strong Communist movement her in the United States like there was in the 1930’s and carry it through to a Socialist Revolution in the United States. CAPITALISM OFFERS A WORLD WITH NO FUTURE!

The capitalist dictatorship is lying to us about every topic in the news and there are no exceptions to this. It is crucial to define and explain the Big Lie Technique which is used on virtually all topics: There are 2 parts to the Big Lie: 1.) The first part of the Big Lie is that the lie must be BIG, because most people only tell little lies and are entirely unprepared for a Big Lie. 2.) The second part of the Big Lie Technique is to repeat the lie over and over again from every media source including textbooks and films until it is accepted as truth or accepted at least as partly true, when it is most invariably entirely false. In addition, lies may be lies of commission or crucial lies of omission. Both are unacceptable. The MEDIA, including the medical and science media is simply a privatized arm of the U.S. “intelligence agency,” an actual army of legions of professional liars in every area of politics and academic discipline and includes even so-called “comedians” working in service to the capitalist dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires. The U.S. media is very similar to Blackwater, Dyncorp, Custer Battles and Triple Canopy, etc. the armed military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, except that the media has always been privatized. The reason that the capitalists are able to get away with their lies and waging war economic, biological and psychological (brainwashing) with virtually NO ORGANIZED OPPOSITION is that today there is no Communist movement in the United States. But right now here in New York City 95% of those interviewed smell a rat and agree, given the choice, which they are NOT, that we need a new system based on human need not private profit. That means Socialism not Fascism. Capitalism cannot be turned into Socialism because of its inherent (now) ONE-WAY dynamic which leads to Fascism, barbarism and the end of civilization, a DYNAMIC which is totally independent of the WILLS of the individual capitalists and politicians who nevertheless RIDE that dynamic to the top based on the extent that they express and further the interests of that dynamic. The system controls them NOT the other way around. This is hard for most people to understand. People are taught to think in terms of individuals and good guys and bad guys and this forms the basis for elections under capitalism, which is the primary weapon of capitalist deception. Under capitalism there are NO good guys and bad guys. Under capitalism they are ALL BAD GUYS, AND THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE. (As you know there is an exception to every rule--including this one!) The proof for this is that there is not ONE capitalist politician anywhere who is saying that capitalism is a failure and has had its day and needs to be replaced with Socialism through a Socialist Revolution in the United States. All capitalist politicians try to encourage the false illusion that capitalism can be reformed. That is the basis for the Presidential elections and all elections by extension, which are the Number One Weapon of Capitalist Deception. The “elections” under capitalism perpetuate the false illusion of “reform” under capitalism, which is the Number One Big Lie of capitalism. The word “democracy” under capitalism is simply a euphemism for capitalist dictatorship and enslavement. That applies here in the United States and everywhere else as well. And if you tune into any news show or cable show only ONE question is actually being discussed no matter what the issue it is. All discussion reduces to only one question! What question is that??? The only question being discussed under capitalism is HOW BEST TO PRESERVE CAPITALISM! Nothing whatsoever about human need. So we need to organize back the one million strong Communist movement we had in the 1930's. Google up the Declaration of Independence and Check it out. So we actually have a legal basis and justification for calling for MUTINY in IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN and all U.S. armed forces as in Vietnam, the real reason and the only reason that the Vietnam War ended in 1975! Disarming the capitalist dictatorship is the Precondition for ALL social change in the United States and worldwide.

The U.S. Government meaning the U.S. capitalist dictatorship has lost ALL LEGITIMACY TO RULE! Let’s stop talking about reforming capitalism! This is not your country and it is not my country. This country belongs to the dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires. Not you and me. WE own NOTHING! The banks and dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires owns everything. If you miss a payment on your mortgage you are in the street. Same thing with your car! Miss a payment on your car and you have no car. So lets stop talking about “why don’t we do this or we do that.” Who “we?” Never ever say ”we” or “our” when talking about the U.S. Refer to the US as the capitalist dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires or capitalist dictatorship. We are NOT talking about changing the government! That is already done with the periodically staged phony “elections.” We have to talk about getting rid of the economic-political-social system of capitalism, which can ONLY be accomplished through a Socialist Revolution in the United States. Lets STOP identifying ourselves with the crimes of the dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires who stage sham “elections, where whoever wins WE LOSE! We have to stop thinking in terms of reforming capitalism through “protests” which are really aimed at leading seriously motivated people to defeat while allowing them to VENT their energy uselessly and harmlessly to the capitalist dictatorship. Today 95% of New Yorkers already agree that we need a new system based on human need not private profit. That is a Communist response actually although those polled would not necessarily identify themselves as Communists because they have been brainwashed that Communists are "the bad guys." In other words the capitalists have inoculated the masses against the only solution to the entire complex of problems confronting humanity, the majority of which have been created by capitalism, now in its Final Stage of Permanent War and State Terrorism and do not understand: that the enemy of my enemy is my friend and the friend of my enemy is my enemy. This is inductive reasoning the reasoning of science! The capitalist dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires (capitalism) is our primary enemy although few actually understand that completely or are able to explain it in as many words at this time because of the relentless brainwashing. Remember that in the final analysis all wars are won and lost on morale and every movement begins with the call. The capitalists have presently demoralized their own subject populations, which have no Communist organization of any kind at the present time. And the capitalists know it! The masses have been rendered ANTI-COMMUNIST! That's why the capitalists are able to wage economic war (and biological war and psychological war) against their very own populations right now, for example, using the false pretext of budget deficits, which they methodologically and deliberately create through the failure to tax all income and implement a progressive tax structure. The capitalist dictatorship which has lost all legitimacy is thus able to wage economic war against its own people by substituting Supply-Side Economics/Trickle Down Economics, Bush/Obama Tax-Cut Economics, $4.7 Trillion Bank Bailout Economics, Budget Deficits, etc. for large-scale public jobs programs as in the New Deal and WWII, and then blame the present Depression (NOT Recession!) on the masses themselves for "living too high off the hog." Zero public awareness, ZERO organization and anti-Communism brainwash is why the capitalist dictatorship is able to get away without taxing ALL INCOME but only the first $106,800 (!) and get away with it!!!!! Then they falsely blame increases in healthcare costs for the “need” to eliminate pensions, jobs and social programs. Those millionaires and billionaires have drained us totally dry! When they talk about ”taxpayers” they do not mean themselves! They mean the Working Class and the Poor primarily! The ”Middle Class” designates small business people, doctors, lawyers and the direct servants of the capitalists. The capitalists have total contempt for the intelligence and organization of the Working Class. And the situation is going hell bent for leather to the right as this is being written.

The U.S. REGIME CHANGE GAMBIT IN THE MIDEAST AND GULF STATES: Because the situation has deteriorated for the United States so far in the Mideast and elsewhere, the U.S. dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires has organized the beginning of a Mideast-wide and Gulf states-wide campaign of REGIME CHANGE. They are also including Iran, the Peoples' Republic of China and as many enemies as possible as well as regimes considered VERY friendly to the U.S. dictatorship. You remember how often Bush called for "regime change." Well, what is happening in the Mideast and Gulf is precisely regime change using THEIR Internet organizing tools such as FACEBOOK, Twitter, etc. (THAT is why they--Time magazine--made the CEO of FACEBOOK the "Man of the Year.") There is no "revolution" going on in Tunisia, Egypt, or Bahrain! A genuine revolution in today's world with an international Working Class is a Socialist Revolution and involves a CHANGE IN PROPERTY RELATIONS. It means getting rid of the dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires. All the U.S. capitalists want to do with their regime change gambit is to substitute the sham "elections" of capitalism for the very unpopular strong men who have been in power many of them for 30 years. The primary weapon of deception of the capitalists is the Presidential "election" and ALL elections by extension. There are no exceptions to this! The reason for this is that "elections" perpetuate the Number One Big Lie of Capitalism--That capitalism can be reformed. But capitalism can NOT be reformed because of its (now) ONE-WAY DEVELOPMENT SEQUENCE or DYNAMIC. it is crucial to define and explain the Big Lie Technique which is used on virtually all topics: There are 2 parts to the Big Lie: 1.) The first part of the Big Lie is that the lie must be BIG, because most people only tell little lies and are entirely unprepared for a Big Lie. 2.) The second part of the Big Lie Technique is to repeat the lie over and over again from every media source including textbooks and films until it is accepted as truth or accepted at least as partly true, when it is most invariably entirely false. In addition, lies may be lies of commission or crucial lies of omission. Both are unacceptable. The MEDIA, including the medical and science media is simply a privatized arm of the U.S. “intelligence agency,” an actual army of legions of professional liars in every area of politics and academic discipline and includes even so-called “comedians” working in service to the capitalist dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires. The U.S. media is very similar to Blackwater, Dyncorp, Custer Battles and Triple Canopy, etc. the armed military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, except that the media has always been privatized. The capitalists are trying to head off the growing Islamic Fundamentalist movement in the Mideast, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. They want to head off Islamic Fundamentalist change under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, which at this point in Egypt is quite docile and has been taken over from within so that it can be integrated into an "electoral democracy." Be advised that "democracy" under capitalism is nothing but a euphemism for capitalist dictatorship and enslavement. "Elections" are the Number One Primary Weapon of deception of the capitalist dictatorship of millionaires and billionaires. Because whoever wins in a capitalist "election" you and I lose! Because capitalism cannot be reformed! CAPITALISM OFFERS A WORLD WITH NO FUTURE! Ronald Reagan murdered the son of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and almost killed Qaddafi himself on April 15, 1986. The United States—NOT QADDAFI—NOT LIBYA—brought down the Lockerbie jet airliner on December 21, 1988 as a MASS PROVOCATION killing 243 passengers sacrificed to wage a never ending media onslaught against Libya and Qaddafi which was followed by years and years of economic sanctions, only lifted when Qaddafi agreed to plead guilty to something he and Libya had nothing to do with in order to have the economic sanctions lifted. A very high-ranking scapegoat, bdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, the former director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Tripoli, agreed to go to jail for the sake of having the economic sanctions removed. And then was freed by the Scottish government, who knew the whole thing was a total farce with the support of British Petroleum who wanted concessions from Libya, who gave them! On June 23, 1985 the U.S. blew up Air India Flight 182 after Rajiv Ghandhi told Ronald Reagan to during his visit to the U.S. shortly before. Later, Rajiv was assassinated on May 21, 1991 by the U.S., which is the only country which had both the actual motivation, the so-called “intelligence,” spying capability to know precisely where Rajiv Ghandhi would be in order to allow the transportation of the Tamil Tiger assassin/suicide bomber Thenmozhi Rajaratnam to the tiny obscure village, Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu state. The U.S, has a well-known and long history of blowing up airliners.

What is happening right now in Libya is an attempted coup d’etat. Those fighting against Qaddafi would not get anything in return for laying down their lives for nothing but BUSH STYLE—REGIME CHANGE, which is precisely what is going on!! Qaddafi made several mistakes: 1.) He invited the capitalist oil companies into Libya. 2.) He threatened but did not follow through on his pledge to redirect the oil money to the Libyan people. Hugo Chavez actually has redirected the oil money to the Working Class and the Poor of Venezuela and he has no problem with popularity. Chavez is hugely popular despite unrelenting U.S.-directed false media propaganda campaign against him and non-stop provocations. 3.) Qaddafi also made the mistake of not watching his back. The Libyan people do have LEGITIMATE grievances, which will NOT be improved one iota with a U.S.—backed coup d’etat or DIVISION OF LIBYA, which the U.S.-led capitalist dictatorship considers is the next best thing. Divide and Conquer is the name of the game for the capitalist dictatorship! The oil companies and the United States bought off all the Libyan ambassadors and sections of the Libyan armed forces to take a position against Qaddafi. The U.S. controls the militaries of virtually all the Mideast countries in alliance with the U.S., and now the U.S. and NATO are now threatening to invade Libya beginning with a “no fly zone,” when it looks like their coup d’etat is about to fail!!” A “no-fly zone” is an act of war first requiring that the US/NATO first destroy Libyan air defenses! They have also now instructed their puppet, the Arab League, to make a special request to the U.S. and NATO to please, please come invade Libya beginning with a “no-fly zone,” because it looks like their “rebel army ”is collapsing. Capitalism is in its final stage which is designated Permanent War and State Terrorism. The “War on Terror is the pretext to maintain capitalism in its final stage. Capitalism is fundamentally based on war, mass murder, crime and subjugation to steal new resources and markets in order to increase private profits. It should be very clear to any person who knows the history of Libya and the U.S.-led capitalist dictatorship what is happening in Libya today! Controlling the military is how the U.S. is able to ensure that under no circumstances that the deliberately created social unrest which capitalism has created through the exploitation and super-exploitation of the Working Class and which is organized through “Facebook” and “Twitter” gets organized in the direction of a Socialist Revolution. Islam is inherently REACTIONARY as are all religions and helps keep the lid on for the capitalist dictatorship.

1. Better to ask the rhetorical question of "Do we care?" Rhetorical since we do not care what the Libyans want. What matters is, of course, what we want, and the rebels will be supported only insofar as they bend to our eventual desires.

But to the original question, I think we have no good idea what we want to see there overall, depending as it does on how Egypt, Tunisia, etc shake out. We do have influential elements that wish control over Libyan resources, and this will be the absolute aim of any intervention in the near future.

2. This is a much more pertinent question. This is the one that is likely to keep us honest.

3. Depends upon 1.

4. Non-issue.

I'd say the realpolitik will support Qaddafi and democracy be damned. The US will not support democracy in this part of the world any time soon.

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So far, Gaddafi's forces have relied on airpower selectively. But Gaddafi is shrewd. My fear is that he is either choosing to bleed the opposition to death, rather than invite global action with a broad massacre, or waiting for the world to prove itself unwilling to act. Then he may well begin killing civilians in large numbers.

We cannot wait for that to happen. We need to take concrete steps now so that we are prepared to implement a no-fly zone immediately if Gaddafi starts using his airpower to kill large numbers of civilians. Diplomacy is urgently needed to build broad support for a no-fly zone.

The most important imprimatur should come from the United Nations, where debate should begin immediately over a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone. China and Russia have expressed reservations. If the Security Council fails to authorize action, those of us determined to protect Libyan civilians will face a more difficult choice should the violence escalate.

So our diplomatic efforts must extend beyond the United Nations. The support of NATO and the African Union are important. To avoid the perception of NATO or the United States attacking another Muslim country, we need the backing of the Arab world.

On that front, there are promising signs. The six Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council have called for a U.N.-imposed no-fly zone. The Arab League may consider a similar proposal on Saturday. Muslim nations in particular should support preparations for intervention if the violence spirals out of control.

Gaddafi cannot be allowed to think that he can massacre his people with impunity. And he cannot be free to make those attacks more lethal by using his airpower. If the United Nations cannot approve a resolution for implementing a no-fly zone, then the United States and its allies in NATO and the Arab world must be prepared to prevent a massacre like the one that occurred in Srebrenica in 1995, when more than 8,000 men and boys were slaughtered.

Even imposing a no-fly zone would not be a panacea. It probably would not tip the balance if Libya deteriorates into a full-scale civil war. But it would eliminate airstrikes and save the lives of civilians. It is a tool that we should be ready to use if the situation warrants and would signal to the opposition that it is not alone.

Before we reach that decision, the international community needs to provide humanitarian assistance and medical supplies to the rebels in eastern Libya. We should not allow them to be starved into submission.

The one option that should not be on the table is American ground troops; no one wants to see U.S. forces bogged down in another war, especially in another Muslim country. And, as President Obama has said, we must not deprive the Libyan people of full ownership of their struggle for freedom or give Gaddafi a useful foil and scapegoat.

Perhaps the mere threat of a no-fly zone will keep Gaddafi's pilots from using their helicopters and fighter jets to kill their own people. If it does not, we should be crystal-clear that we will lead the free world to avoid the senseless slaughter of any more Libyan citizens by a mad man bent on maintaining power. We should also make clear that the United States - just as we did in Bosnia and Kosovo - is taking a stand against a thug who is killing Muslims.

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