When you fight other people’s wars, you get other people’s outcomes. This is the glaring danger of the Libyan intervention.
“The intelligence that I am receiving at this point makes me feel that the leadership I am seeing are responsible men and women who are struggling against Colonel Gadhafi,” Admiral James Stavridis testified to Congress last week. “We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hezbollah, we’ve seen different things, but at this point I don’t have detail sufficient to say that there is a significant al Qaeda presence or any other terrorist presence in and among these folks.”
Admiral Stavridis, meet Abdel-Salam Rigayi. “We want a society based on the Koran,” Rigayi told the told the Associated Press. “Freedom of religion—we don’t want it,” the Libyan rebel training in Benghazi explained. “We want the freedom to practice our religion, but we don’t want freedom for Jews and Christians and to have naked women and alcohol.”
The sentiment among the foot soldiers is also evident among the commanders. Abdul Hakim al Hasadi, one of the leaders of the uprising against Qaddafi, made his way to Libya after fighting against Americans in Afghanistan. Captured in Pakistan 2002, al Hasadi spent much of the last decade in captivity in Pakistan and Libya. Al Hasadi claims to have recruited about 25 jihadists to kill Americans in Iraq and has been a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Now he commands a rebel group in Eastern Libya.
So unsure is the Obama administration about the composition of the Libyan fighters that, according to the Washington Post, they have sent CIA operatives into Libya to determine who, precisely, we are aiding.
What the U.S. government glimpses as a flicker, al Qaeda sees as a wildfire. “The mujahedeen around the world are going through a moment of elation, and I wonder whether the West is aware of the upsurge of mujahedeen activity in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco,” noted Anwar al-Alwaki, the American-born al Qaeda cleric believed to be in hiding in Yemen. “Our mujahedeen brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Muslim world will get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation.”
Though the Obama administration and their al Qaeda enemies may both be guilty of wishful thinking regarding the nature of the uprising, Libya is surrounded by evidence suggesting that a takeover by religious extremists is very possible. To the West, the Algerian government cancelled elections in 1992 when it became obvious that the Islamic Salvation Front would cruise to victory. The ISF aimed to transform Algeria into an Islamic state. To the East, and more recently, the beneficiary of the Egyptian revolution, still dubbed “secular” and “nonideological” by the New York Times, has been the Muslim Brotherhood. A vote to speed up elections was largely interpreted as a victory for the Brotherhood, the group with the greatest organizational head-start in the former one-party state.
Throughout the Libyan intervention, Western leaders have failed to answer the necessary question that nevertheless is seldom asked in such situations: What happens next? Voids generally are not filled by wishes. The Western wish underlying Operation Odyssey Dawn is that a people steeped in Islam, but completely innocent of constitutional representative government, will embrace the latter. The architects of the campaign against Qaddafi show themselves as familiar with the Libyan people as the Libyan people are with them.
Contrary to the popular saying, the enemy of our enemy isn’t necessarily our friend. Muammar Qaddafi has murdered Americans in the skies over Scotland and in a German discotheque. His sons infamously massacred spectators at a soccer match in 1996 when the crowd chanted hostile slogans. The recent slaughter of opponents of the socialist regime, then, is in keeping with its bloody, 42-year history. Qaddafi, “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution,” is no friend to the West. But neither, it seems, are his adversaries. The U.S. doesn’t have a dog in this fight amongst dogs.
“I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies, and our core interests,” President Barack Obama explained to a primetime U.S. television audience last week. “That’s why we’re going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold.”
The Osama bin Laden-led terrorist group seeks a foothold in Libya. Does the president realize that the loudest cheers for his war come from al Qaeda?
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008),Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Sky News, PBS, CSPAN, and other networks. He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.