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August 31, 2011

They Never Learn
Posted by Michael Cohen

In an ongoing effort to prove that the US foreign policy pundit class is seemingly incapable of engaging in deductive reasoning, check out Roger Cohen's piece on Monday trumpeting US intervention in Libya.

The intervention has been done right — with the legality of strong United Nations backing, full support from America’s European allies, and quiet arming of the rebels. The Libyan people have been freed from a crazed tyranny. Unlike in Iraq, burdens were shared: America flew the intelligence missions and did the refueling while the French, British, Dutch and others did most of the bombing. Iraq was the wrong prism through which to look at Libya. I’m glad I resisted that temptation. Another cycle has begun.

In the end, I think interventionism is inextricable from the American idea. If the United States retreats into isolationism, it ceases to be itself — a nation dedicated, however much it falls short, to a universalist ideal of freedom.

There are no fixed doctrinal answers — a successful Libyan intervention does not mean one in Syria is feasible — but the idea that the West must at times be prepared to fight for its values against barbarism is the best hope for a 21st century less cruel than the 20th.

First things first, it is simply not possible to describe the Libyan intervention as successful . . until the war, you know, actually ends. I mean obviously it is possible; it's just really foolish. We are still a very long way from being able to make the judgment that US intervention in Libya furthered US national security interests.

Second, Cohen is definitely right that interventionism is inextricable from the American idea; but if he wants to know why he might do well to consider the deeper meaning of his argument that "West must at times be prepared to fight for its values against barbarism is the best hope for a 21st century less cruel than the 20th."  It's this sort of exceptionalist mindset; this notion that the US has a responsibility - and the capabilities - to fight for its values; that is precisely the reason why America IS an interventionist nation. Cohen seems to miss completely the connection between American exceptionalist myth-making and failed US military interventions.

Don't believe me? Check out what Cohen says earlier in the piece. In describing Peter Beinart's argument that US military intervention operates in various cycles he makes the following statement:

Beinart describes how . . . he in time became sickened by the Vietnam analogy with its recurring prescription for inaction. Shaped by Bosnia, he backed the Iraq war. The pendulum had swung. Vietnam-induced excess of caution had given way to Bosnian-induced hubris.

I, too, fell under its influence. Mea culpa. Whatever the monstrosity of Saddam, and whatever the great benefit to the world of his disappearance, the war as it was justified and fought — under false pretenses, without many of America’s closest allies, in ignorance and incompetence — was a stain on America’s conscience.

Here's the beauty of this: Cohen recognizes that what led the US into Iraq was a certain "hubris" that came from intervention in the Balkans. (This by the way is almost certainly true and helps explain why so many liberal hawks supported the ill-fated Iraq intervention.) And yet he's completely blind to the fact that he is engaging in the exact same sort of hubris regarding Libya. Cohen seems to understand the connection between humanitarian intervention in the Balkans and Iraq, but is simply incapable of understanding how his own triumphalism on Libya might presage the next US military intervention.

To be sure it's not remarkable when foreign policy pundits fail to recognize or acknowledge the inconsistency in their views re: national security policy or US military interventions. it's rather amazing when they fail to recognize it in one 800 word op-ed.

August 30, 2011

Is it the End of History for Neonservatives?
Posted by James Lamond

As Heather writes below, Peter Beinart has a very interesting piece up at the Daily Beast on the death of neoconservativism. His basic argument is that the Obama administration’s success at decimating al Qaeda leadership through counterterrorism operations rather than democracy promotion and nation building is evidence that the ideology is broken. Combine this with the culture of limits that is dominating Washington and the national debate, the ideology that rejects limits is not likely to survive. While, I wish this were the case, I think Beinart’s focus on post-9/11 neoconservatives ignores the movement’s ability to hype threats and reinvent the boogeyman.

Beinart writes

“Today, by contrast, it is increasingly obvious that the real successor to German fascism and Soviet communism is not Al Qaeda, whose mud-hut totalitarianism repels the vast majority of Muslims. It is China’s authoritarian capitalism, the first nondemocratic ideology since the 1930s to challenge the idea that democracy is the political system best able to promote shared prosperity. And not only is Al Qaeda sliding into irrelevance, its demise is being hastened by exactly the narrowly targeted policies that neoconservatives derided.”

Battling terrorism through nation-building is not the ideological foundation for neocons, just the most recent incarnation. In his history of the neoconservatism Justin Vaisse of Brookings identifies five pillars that transcend the various generations that have worn the neocon label: internationalism, primacy, unilateralism, militarism and democracy. This is what drove the Cold War hawks who criticized Nixon and Kissinger on détente and Team B-ed the intelligence on Soviet military threat and strategic objectives. These pillars can again be easily transferred to a new boogeyman. Including, the most likely candidate Beinart mentions: China. 

Beinart also points to the lack of a connection to the Republican Party as further evidence of the death of the ideology: 

"But to grasp neoconservatism’s demise, you don’t need to look at the Middle East. Just look at the Republican presidential race. None of the major candidates is attacking President Obama along neoconservative lines. None is focusing on his withdrawal from Iraq or his timetable for exiting Afghanistan or his refusal to bomb Iran. The one Republican candidate with a truly coherent foreign policy vision—Ron Paul—is attacking Obama for acting too much like a neoconservative. The other candidates don’t have any coherent critique at all, because while they know they’re supposed to call Obama an appeaser, they also know that even Republican voters have little appetite for the neoconservative agenda of continued war in the Middle East."

But neconservativism never had a wide political base, electoral force or popular movement behind it. As Vaisse writes, “nobody ever got elected on a ‘neoconservative platform.’” George W. Bush famously ran in 2000 pledging a “modest” foreign policy. As Beinart rightly points out, for what they have said about foreign policy thus far, the GOP presidential candidates tend towards the “modest” George Bush of 2000, versus the George Bush of 2003. But this is probably as much attributable the lack of a Tea Party foreign policy and a lack of a coherent world view from the broader GOP as anything else. And as Jake wrote earlier this month, Rick Perry -- a Tea Party candidate --  is being advised by Donald Rumsfeld, Doug Feith and Dan Blumenthal, all either widely considered neocons or longtime allies. 

I think Beinart is correct in many respects, particularly on the fact that the economic-centric national debate does not bode well for the movement without an economic outlook. But ultimately, even if post-9/11 neoconservativism is dead, that doesn’t mean we have heard the last from the group. 

August 29, 2011

"I'm not Dead Yet!"
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Peter Beinart has a thought-provoking article up this morning proclaiming the death of neo-conservatism.  I think he is at least premature, for several reasons:

Conservatives lack a coherent alternative.  Yes, Ron Paul is polling well and he has a coherent alternative which we wonks refer to as "offshore balancing;" and yes, neocon standard-bearers Sens. McCain and Graham are getting little resonance for their calls for a military response to Syria and more, faster military response to Libya.  But every time a GOP presidential candidate, declared or putative, has started to edge away from neocon orthodoxy on Afghanistan (Romney, Huntsman, Barbour) he has been pushed back to the standard GOP line -- or out of relevance.  The realist conservative foreign policy community is either quietly advising Huntsman, even more quietly trying to advise Romney, or just sitting back and wishing that Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Daniels or Governor Barbour would reconsider.  Recent reports that Governor Perry is reading Henry Kissinger and consulting with Don Rumsfeld; and that he opposes "military adventurism" but also thinks there might be "a military solution to a country like Iran" sum up conservatives' intellectual drift on the central questions of the nature and future of American power.

Tea Party lacks a foreign policy. It's become popular to say that neoconservatism is gone from the GOP because the Tea Party opposes it.  But that's not exactly true.  The Tea Party, being a movement rather than a political party, encompasses a variety of heterodox foreign policy views, from neoconservative to neoisolationist, as Josh Rogin and others have written. 

Bankruptcy is not the same as death.  Democracy Arsenal's own Michael Cohen wrote to me that neoconservatism died when Hamas won the Palestinian elections.  Commenters on Beinart's piece argue that it died a-borning in George W. Bush's first term.  But those were moments in which neoconservatism failed to deliver on its promises.  The gold standard, trickle-down economics, and others one could name are also intellectual approaches which still exert some considerable influence despite having been found wanting in the reality-based environment.   One can also make the argument that Center for American Progress' Peter Juul does, which is to say that the Bush Administration was not truly neoconservative, and that therefore the doctrine is not dead as it has never been tried.  (This last argumentcan also of course be made about Marxism...) 

Most dangerous when cornered.  Our neocon competitors in the intellectual sphere don't think they're defeated.  I don't hear them talking about moving to New Zealand or taking up organic farming as an alternative livelihood.  Indeed, they seem highly-motivated.  And in general it is dangerous to underestimate the staying power of determined, organized, savvy individuals -- or of simple, cheerful explanatory ideas in the US political psyche.  Remember, the neocon moment offered us a way to feel good about ourselves after national lows in the 1970s and on 9-11.  And if you don't think we're heading for a new low in the national psyche, I want some of what you're drinking.

August 26, 2011

Is Assad Next?
Posted by Kelsey Hartigan

As events continue to unfold in Libya, commentary has turned to Syria and whether Assad is “next.” 

In her latest Foreign Affairs piece, Genieve Abdo argues that Assad is likely to stay in power, due in no small part to Iranian involvement. 

Abdo writes:

Assad's chances of staying in power are greater than were those of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi. He may be forced to make some concessions to the protestors, but he still wields too much power to be removed from office completely. To date, there have been no significant defections within the Alawite-controlled military, which is key to his survival, and the Iranian-trained and supplied security forces have prevented the protests from reaching the levels of those in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. In Iran's view, much like the Tehran spring, the struggle for Syria is one of regime survival. Even if Assad should eventually fall, Iran will not stand idly by; Tehran will surely try to influence any successive government. 

Read the piece in its entirety here.

August 25, 2011

Experts Comment on What's Next for Libya, the Rebels and the Region
Posted by The Editors

As more than 40 years of Muammar Qaddafi's corrupt and tyrannical rule appears to be drawing to a close, the National Security Network held a press call this afternoon with Heather Hurlburt, National Security Network Executive Director; Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and expert in U.S.-Middle East policy; and Tom Malinowski, Human Rights Watch Washington Director and recent visitor to Benghazi.

Listen to the call here.

Some highlights include:

Tom Malinowski detailed the spectrum of groups in the anti-Gaddafi movement [starting at minute 3:20] and their “healthy relationship” with the international community [9:55]; outlined revenge killings, prisoner executions and unsecured weapons facilities and government buildings as key operational and human rights concerns [5:42]; and explained that the anti-Gaddafi movement will require money and U.N. involvement but not foreign military peacekeeping forces to facilitate transition [18:27].

Brian Katulis explained the steps being taken to consolidate control of Libyan weapons [11:18]; examined the Arab Spring in light of U.N. General Assembly dynamics [13:02]; outlined pragmatism and judicious use of power as the two pillars of the Obama administration approach to the Arab Spring [14:43]; and insisted on a reassessment of the role of political Islam in the Middle East [16:33].

Heather Hurlburt explained that post-transition leaders’ understanding that the U.S. sides with them has been and will be key for achieving American interests in the long-run (12:10).

Selected transcriptions from the call after the jump:

Continue reading "Experts Comment on What's Next for Libya, the Rebels and the Region" »

Nukes and Dictator Survival
Posted by David Shorr

Gaddafi arab league 2 Last night the guest host of The Last Word Chris Hayes did an excellent segment with Steve Clemons on how the overthrow of Qaddafi will affect other despots' survival strategies with regard to nuclear weapons. Bear in mind that Qaddafi agreed in 2003 to hand over the entire contents of his budding yet substantial nuclear weapons program in exchange for being let out of the rogue state penalty box and bettering relations with the US and others.

Recent events raise some important questions. With the benefit of hindsight, should Qaddafi regret his decision to abandon the pursuit of a nuclear arsenal? If he had continued to develop n-weapons, would other nations have intervened militarily at the risk of nuclear retaliation? And if nukes offer a dictator the most reliable way to shield themselves, does the possibility of intervention create perverse incentives for him to build a nuclear deterrent? In other words, did the US and NATO just undercut their own interests in nuclear nonproliferation? [By the way, that TV screen shot above is from the 2008 broadcast of an eerily prophetic speech to fellow Arab League leaders on the threat of being ousted, a level of candor you just never ever see (h/t The Atlantic Wire).]

Without question, there are clear trade-offs in the choice between seeking the removal of a dictator versus making a deal with him. In the Last Word segment, Steve portrays it as a sharp-edged either/or choice for foreign policy -- and the world -- as a whole. As he sees it, giving dictators perverse incentives to arm themselves runs directly counter to global nuclear nonproliferation, and President Obama has stepped on his own previously wise nonpro policy with this Libya intervention. While I see the problem, I don't see it in such stark terms. 

Confronted with a potential new nuclear-armed nation, it's vital to have your priorities clear. Speaking of incentives, no government in the world would agree to bare all in a nuclear "full monty" if they suspect an ulterior agenda of deposing them from power. For a potential proliferator, the only reasonable basis for an agreement is to bolster the longevity of their own governmental regime by emerging from international isolation and rejoining community of nations. In other words, if the US wants to remove the nuclear threat, it must be willing to tolerate the dictator. 

In the case of Libya in the early 2000s, the Bush Administration rightly pushed Qaddafi for a policy-change of verifiable disarmament -- with no hint that they would continue to treat a disarmed regime as a pariah. It's interesting to read Elliot Abrams last February in the Wall Street Journal, given that he's better known as favoring regime-change in other cases, recount the Bush Administration's rationale for treating nuclear weapons as the greater danger. For Greg Scoblete of RealClearWorld Compass Blog, that begged the question of why Bush didn't apply the same reasoning to Iran? Iranian leaders had little incentive to reach a nuclear deal with Bush when there were so many signs of an underlying objective of regime-change. And thus when the Tehran regime came under severe pressure after the June 2009 elections, the Obama Administration was at pains to cordon off the nuclear talks from the legitimacy question because of how the matter had become blurred under Bush.

With such strong arguments, then, for rewarding good nonproliferation deeds by bad leaders, why is it still okay sometimes to seek their removal. First, because the nuclear-arsenal-as-deterrent-shield isn't the rogue leader's only incentive calculation about nuclear weapons. If a government is clearly a high-value target for regime-change, then a deterrent could be crucial for survival. If an autocrat is relatively unlikely to be overthrown, however, then the international isolation, diplomatic pressure, along with any economic sanctions take their own toll. 

Second, I think we can differentiate between renegging on our end of the bargain as distinct from the other guys nullifying it. It's the same issue as with Egypt last winter: how far do the decades-old Camp David obligations extend, as a sclerotic elite continually resists reform and loses all legitimacy? Returning to the humanitarian premise of the intervention -- Qaddafi's threatened brutality against Benghazi -- we don't need to give dictators carte blanche in order to preserve the right nonproliferation incentives. If a de-nuclearized despot wants to stay in the international community's good graces, and thereby fend off forcible regime change from the outside world, all he has to do is refrain from mass atrocities. The emerging international norm of the Responsibility to Protect says that the very sovereignty of a government is contingent on exercising such self-restraint; so is any nuclear deal.

After the Fall, Continued
Posted by Jacob Stokes

Last week I wrote about the need to plan for post-Qaddafi Libya. Now the country is in the thick of things. Stabilization must begin even as Qaddafi remains in a bunker somewhere, mourning his lost Condoleezza Rice photo album. The TNC, as well as other actors and the international community, will have to make choices quickly and with imperfect information. To inform that process, Brian Fishman of the New America Foundation has a piece out on what needs to be done to prevent the sorts of insurgencies we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He begins by noting that while Qaddafi didn’t have a lot of friends, some groups did benefit from his rule—and thus could form the basis of an insurgency. Fishman writes: “The triumph of Libya's rebels over Qaddafi loyalists in Tripoli and elsewhere represents a genuine victory by the Libyan people over a corrupt ruling elite. But the narrowness of Qaddafi's power base should not obscure the fact that there are losers in this revolution -- enough of them to plunge Libya into a protracted insurgency if the postwar period isn't handled properly.” Fishman offers five pieces of advice for preventing an insurgency:

1. Do not put Western boots on the ground.

2. Put people to work, especially soldiers and technical experts.

3. Treat the defeated leadership with respect.

4. Don’t forget about the police.

5. Buy back the guns.

He sums them up: “The key is to identify social and political groups with real power and allow them to negotiate Libya's future in a structured manner rather than impose a vision from abroad or allow narrow domestic factions to monopolize government authority.”

Building on many of the same themes, RAND’s James Dobbins and Fred Wehrey suggest:

Security should be the first priority. The United States' experience in Iraq shows that a critical window exists for the rebel leadership to establish its legitimacy, win the trust of the Libyan people, and prevent the onset of looting, vendettas, and warlordism. Societies emerging from conflict invariably have too many soldiers and too few police. The international community must help Libya quickly demobilize the combatants on both sides of the conflict and build a competent police force. Much will also hinge on the swift but magnanimous application of justice, which should emphasize reconciliation rather than retribution…

Libya's limited size, favorable location, relative wealth, and homogeneous population should help ease a transition to peace and democracy, but absence of both government institutions and an established civil society suggest that the road may nevertheless be long and rocky.

To use the newest (very true) cliché in international affairs, the hardest work is yet to come in Libya. These outlines seem like a good place to start.

Options for Gaddafi
Posted by James Lamond

1706B177F687715DCE51953326CAWith the world sitting in anticipation for the news of Gaddafi's arrest it is worth taking a look at his options going forward. In June the International Criminal Court accused Gaddafi of inciting his troops to commit mass rape, and indicted him, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief Abdullah Sanussi with charges of crimes against humanity including the murder of hundreds of civilians, torture and the persecution of innocent people. Gaddafi could also face the consequences of his 41 year of authoritarian rule, his system of bribery, enriching himself and his family with the country's oil money and support for international terrorism. So what are the options going forward?

The exile option - a favorite for dictators - seems unlikely. Early on there were reports that South Africa might provide him with asylum. That has since been proven not to be the case. South Africa, as signatory to the ICC, would be required to arrest and extradite him. With 116 signatories to the ICC, there are few hiding places for the ousted Libyan leader. Zimbawe and Angola seem to be the most likely options, neither is a signatory. 

If Gaddafi does not make it out of the country and is in fact taken alive, he will have to face a trial. The big questions is whether this is tribunal from the ICC or if he will face a local Libyan court. Ideally it would be up to the Libyan people who would deliver justice to the man who persecuted his own people. This would provide closure, help with stability, and help provide legitimacy to both the legal process and the new government. The main problem, however is that the Libyan judicial system is essentially nonexistent after four decades of autocratic rule. 

Stewart Patrick makes a strong argument for ICC jurisdiction: 

“The problem, of course, is that a country must have a competent judicial system to undertake such trials in an unbiased and professional manner. The Rome Statute of the ICC accepts this logic, by embracing the principle of complementarity. That is, the Court can claim jurisdiction on one of only two conditions: when the country lacks a functioning judicial system, or when state authorities have manifestly failed to carry out a credible investigation into alleged atrocity crimes.

"If there were ever a strong case for ICC jurisdiction, it is Libya—a country with no functioning judicial system after four decades of arbitrary, dictatorial rule. Given the monumental governance challenges confronting the TNC, it could take years of international assistance before the Libyan state is capable of conducting a credible trial of Qaddafi and his henchmen. And yet there will be enormous pressure, given the understandable thirst for retribution, for the TNC (or its immediate successor) to fast-track Qaddafi to trial in a judicial proceeding that could become a farce.”

Meanwhile, U.S. policy is that the Libyan people will have to decide whether to try Gaddafi themselves for crimes against his people, or surrender him to the ICC. My thoughts are that the Libyan people have continued to step up to the plate beyond many people’s expectations and they may very well do so here. Column Lynch points out however that this is turning into a bit of a turf battle.

There are very serious concerns about a trial becoming a tool for revenge rather than reconciliation and justice. As Michelle Bowers warns regarding Mubarak's trial in Egypt: 

"The drive for retribution and punishment must not eclipse the need for truth telling, accounting, and transparency... While punishing the old regime for its crimes is necessary and important, the prosecution of deposed officials will ultimately prove an empty victory if the process does not help consolidate a new and meaningful democratic order that ends impunity, reconstructs state-citizen relations, and institutionalizes accountability and rule of law."

Continue reading "Options for Gaddafi " »

August 23, 2011

Two Sure Strategy Wins in Libya: European Action, Avoiding the Pottery Barn
Posted by Jacob Stokes

Pottery BarnJust as Tripoli was flooded with rebels, so the web has been flooded with Libya commentary. The battle for who won Libya and/or how it could’ve been done better/not at all is raging.

Some are defending President Obama’s strategy for the war. See Nick Burns, Ben Smith and Anne Applebaum in praise of the strategy. Others are, rightly, urging caution. See Spencer Ackerman’s very smart point that the war isn’t even over yet, so we might want to hold up on the Grand Pronunciations. The problem with drawing conclusions too early is that, as we found in Iraq and Afghanistan, the troubles often begin only once the old regime is forced from power. Steve Walt puts it succinctly: “Whether our intervention was necessary or wise, however, depends on how the post-Qaddafi Libya evolves.”

Those two lines of argument aren’t completely in opposition though. There are at least two aspects of the strategy that will be positive for U.S. interests, even if Libya doesn’t turn into Switzerland in the next year.

First, Obama managed to get European allies—however begrudgingly and with much complaining about how taxing the operation was for them—to shoulder much of the burden after the initial stages of the war. Nick Burns applauds that fact, and says it should extend to the post-conflict situation as well:

President Obama’s conviction that the United States should push the European allies to play the leading role in NATO’s bombing campaign should now be extended to the next stage of the Libyan people’s revolution. While the United States will be a leading actor in mobilizing international political support for the new government, European and Arab countries should bear the lion’s share of the burden of extending economic assistance to Libyans emerging from four decades of a cynical dictatorship. “Leading from behind’’ is a disastrous phrase that was never illustrative of what Obama was trying to achieve. It should be forever banished from descriptions of his policy and overall global outlook. But he is right to insist that countries that have greater historical, social, and economic involvement in Libya - France, Italy, Spain, and the Arab states - should do more. These countries must lead in assembling an international economic support package for the new Libyan government.

If Obama had gone all-in, as many argued for, that would have signaled once again to Europe that the U.S. will bear the load of any military operation, regardless of how peripheral it is to American interests, and therefore Europe should continue to feel little need to develop a robust defense capacity. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave a speech chiding the Europeans for building down last June. With the Libya operation, Obama has demonstrated to our partners on the other side of the Atlantic that, in fact, the U.S. can involve itself in an operation assuming the whole burden. So if Europeans want to call for military operations, they had better be ready to do execute them without U.S. assistance.

Secondly, both post-war Iraq and Afghanistan have been characterized by backlash among the citizens of those countries against U.S. actions in toppling the regime and then not bringing change and stability around quick enough, in addition to just plain resistance to any sort of occupation, however benign.

That’s the other benefit of the administration’s strategy so far: We’ve avoided the “Pottery Barn” rule: You break it, you buy it. At the risk of belaboring the metaphor, we (America, NATO) may have been in the store, but we weren’t the ones doing the breaking. Recently retired Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg put it this way, “The biggest factor to date is the fact that we [Americans] have not been the problem. People aren't saying the Americans are trying to do regime change. Whether in Tunisia or Libya or Egypt, we are seen as supportive of others. It's an obvious contrast with the previous administration.... And the fact that tyrants are not able to rally their people against us shows the nuance and skill of this. It's working." (This of course assumes we don’t offer ground troops to help stabilize, which is extremely unlikely.)

Whatever happens, these two aspects of the strategy align American actions and involvement with our interests in Libya and the broader Arab Spring.

Photo: Flickr

August 21, 2011

Waiting for Ghaddafi...
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

A few thoughts as we watch to see what happens next in Tripoli:

Many of the people celebrating in Benghazi and other opposition strongholds would not be alive if not for the UN-mandated, NATO-led military mission.  That is the profound success of what the international community has done since March.  What the Libyans -- and the international comminity -- make of that remains to be seen.

The Libyan Transitional National Council is not ready -- and neither is the international community.  Dan Serwer, who has seen transitional governments up close and ugly, makes a good quick argument over at Peacefare about what the UN in the first place (a framework and commitments for how former combatants are treated), the EU (a force to protect ex-combatants, economic aid) and the US and others should move immediately to do to help make this come out well.  He and the Council on Foreign Relations put out a longer report on the subject last week -- but he also lays out tonight why his comprehensive approach is unlikely to be implemented.

Sic semper tyrannis.  Looking ahead to next month's UN General Assembly, the shift since last year is momentous.  No Ghaddafi tent show along the East River.  No Mubarak.  No Ben Ali, no Saleh.  Rumors are flying in Teheran about whether Mahmoud Ahmedinejad will attend, or be arrested; if he does attend, he will be a conspicuous symbol of an anti-democratic regime, rather than the standard-bearer of regional pride he has sought to be.  It also seems unlikely that Syria's President Assad will make an appearance -- although his statement tonight seemed calculated to make sure everyone in the world thinks of him in the same breath as Ghaddafi.

Huge minuses -- and pluses -- for the cause of "Responsibility to Protect" and ability of the broad international community to intervene to stop mass killing and tyranny.  Attention has been focused, and rightly so, on how the strong identification of  the UN-mandated protection mission, NATO, and attempts to overthrow the Ghaddafi regime may have done much to discredit the idea that the internaitonal community can intervene effectively and justly when mass killing is threatened.  On the positive side, though, we see a new imediacy of  role for the International Criminal Court, with the rebels opting to work with them on the detention of Ghaddafi's sons -- and who, even John Bolton, could argue with that?

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