Symposium: The Mismanaged War Against Libya

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In this special edition of Frontpage Symposium, we have gathered a distinguished panel to explore what American — and Western — interests are served by the coalition’s war against Libya. Our guests today are:

Michael Ledeen, a noted political analyst and a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is the author of The Iranian Time Bomb, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership and Tocqueville on American Character, and he is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal. His latest book is Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West.

Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest official ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc. His first book, Red Horizons, was republished in 27 languages. In April 2010, Pacepa’s latest book, Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination, was prominently displayed at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians held in Washington D.C., as a “superb new paradigmatic work” and a “must read” for “everyone interested in the assassination of President Kennedy.”

Dr. Walid Phares, an expert on the Middle East who teaches Global Strategies in Washington DC. His most recent book is The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East.


Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad, Stealth Jihad and The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran.

FP: Walid Phares, Mihai Pacepa, Michael Ledeen and Robert Spencer, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.

Robert Spencer, let us begin with you. What is your position on the coalition campaign, with U.S. involvement, against Gaddafi?

Spencer: As the U.S. fired over one hundred Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya Saturday, the objective seems clear. Barack Obama declared that “we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy.” He explained: “Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.” But he didn’t explain how acting forcibly to remove Muammar Gaddafi would indeed be in America’s interests. And that is a case that is not as easily made as it might appear to be.

How could removing Gaddafi not be in America’s interests? It is unlikely that he will be succeeded by Thomas Jefferson. The fact that Gaddafi is a reprehensible human being and no friend of the U.S. does not automatically turn his opponents into Thomas Paine.

Obama has affirmed his support for “the universal rights of the Libyan people,” including “the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny,” but he has never specified who in Libya is working to uphold and defend those rights. He has praised “the peaceful transition to democracy” that he says is taking place across the Middle East, and yet the countries where uprisings have taken place have no democratic traditions or significant forces calling for the establishment of a secular, Western-style republics.

Eastern Libya, where the anti-Gaddafi forces are based, is a hotbed of anti-Americanism and jihadist sentiment. A report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center reveals that over the last few years, more jihadists per capita entered Iraq from Libya than from any other Muslim country – and most of them came from the region that is now spearheading the revolt against Gaddafi.

That may explain why Libyan protesters have defaced Gaddafi’s picture with the Star of David, the hated symbol of the Jews, whom the Koran designates as the “strongest in enmity” toward the Muslims. There has been a notable absence among the protesters of anything equivalent to “Don’t Tread On Me” flags or other signs that what the uprising is really all about is establishing the ballot box and the give-and-take of open-society politics. The Libyan protesters have chanted not “Give me liberty or give me death!,” but “No god but Allah!”

Abu Yahia al-Libi, a Libyan who heads up al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, has warmly praised the uprising in his homeland, calling on Libyans to murder the tyrant and crowing: “Now it is the turn of Gaddafi after he made the people of Libya suffer for more than 40 years.” He said that removing Gaddafi as well as other Middle Eastern autocrats was “a step to reach the goal of every Muslim, which is to make the word of Allah the highest” – that is, to establish a state ruled by Islamic law.

And America’s Tomahawk cruise missiles will have helped bring about such a state in Libya.

Pacepa: I fully agree with Robert Spencer.

There are few people on earth who want to see Gaddafi removed from power more than I do. I could write a book about my reasons, and maybe someday I will. Here I will just say that, after I was granted political asylum by President Carter (1978), Gaddafi set a $2 million bounty on my head because I had revealed his secret efforts to arm international terrorists with bacteriological and other weapons of mass destruction. But my personal animus against Gaddafi is my own policy, and it should not have anything to do with the policy of the U.S. Nor should the personal hatred for Gaddafi on the part of other Americans, such as those whose relatives he killed at the La Belle nightclub in West Berlin (1986), in the Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie (1988) or elsewhere, be raised to the level of U.S. foreign policy.

The U.S., policy toward Libya—and any other country—should defend and promote only the interests of the United States. Unfortunately, the current events taking place in Libya show that our administration does not have any coherent foreign policy toward that country, and that U.S. foreign policy simply blows with the prevailing wind.

The name of the wind propelling the current U.S. policy toward Libya is Sarkozy. The president of France has no real policy toward Libya either, and he is also blowing with the wind—the wind of the 2012 presidential elections, where he is seriously threatened by the socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Rattling sabers has always helped French politicians in the short run–in spite of the fact that France has lost every war it ever started.

Just three years ago, President Sarkozy welcomed Gaddafi and his 400-person entourage on a five-day royal visit to Paris, allowing him to set up his Bedouin tent near the Elysée Palace. “Gaddafi is not perceived as a dictator in the Arab world,” Sarkozy explained at the time, adding as further justification: “He is the longest-serving head of state in the region.”[i] Now this justification is Sarkozy’s reason to go to war against Gaddafi. “France has decided to play its part in history,” Sarkozy gravely announced from the steps of the Elysée Palace just before starting the war against Libya. “The Libyan people need our aid and support.”[ii] But he, and the rest of the Western World, still do not really know who those people are that he decided to protect.

All we know for certain about the “freedom fighters” opposing Gaddafi is that they fight with Kalashnikov in hand, and that Kalashnikovs have no history of promoting freedom. A recent article published in the prestigious Le Monde goes a step further, revealing that these “brave Libyan freedom fighters” are dominated by jihadists espousing the same complaints of “Westoxification,” accompanied by the Jew-hatred and broader infidel-hatred that permeates the Arab world.[iii]

President Obama has also praised Gaddafi in the past. According to press reports, last year, around the time Gaddafi called Obama “our son,” the U.S. president earmarked $400,000 for two of Gaddafi’s charities. The money was divided between the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, run by Gaddafi’s son Saif, and the Wa Attasimou, run by Gaddafi’s daughter Aicha.[iv]

Now President Obama is also facing elections, also in 2012, and he is having at least as much difficulty with the electorate as Sarkozi has. A new war would certainly help. Americans are patriots, and their support for our troops might occasion them to move to the back burner their discontent with Obamacare and with this administration’s disastrous spending habits.

The U.S. has made it abundantly clear to Gaddafi that he had better not try any more dirty tricks against us. He got the message and has so far been quiet toward us. There are plenty of evil dictators in the world who kill their own people, and whom we do not attack. The United States is not the police country of the world.

War is a matter of life and death. It should be never used as a way to win elections.

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  • crackerjack

    This has to be the most stupid campainge in modern military history.
    Leading man Sarkozy, Gadaffis former buddie, is in it for his upcoming elections. Obama is in it to play world leader an not look like a whimp. NATO doesn't know if it is in it right now, but discussions are ongoing. Rumania is sending a ship! Nobody in Denmark cares a hoot, but there in it anyway. The Arab-Leauge, who legitimized it, were carefull to leave their air forces grounded and immediately critizise "civilian" casualties. Solely the Germans smelt rat, and politely refrained.

    Nobody knows who these "rebels" are or what they stand for. What we do know is that most of their supposed leaders, like Abdul Jalil, served under Gadaffi, Jalil as justice minister. ( LOL). We also know that Al Quaida has repeatedly called for support of these rebels and the removal of Gadaffi, who over the past few years has recieved extensive Western support as a "partner" in the "Worldwide War against Terror".

    So here we have yet another Western lunatic campainge, set to end in utter and compleat desaster.

  • al Kidya

    Now Obama is soft-peddling his way out of the war and leaving it in the hands of the French and British by the looks of things.

    There will be no winnders in this conflict.
    I equate this to a North African tribal war and, sad to say, just as other African tribal wars have taken millions of lives in the past, this tribal war will do the same. It is the nature of the beast.
    It almost appears the only reason for the UN to suddenly approve a no-fly zone over Libya would be based on the fact that Libya is an oil-rich country rather than basing it on human rights abuses. If the latter be the case then why didn't the UN make an effort to help poor African countries that tried to overthrow their countries tyrants.
    This operation could turn into a long and protracted war with no end in sight.

    I don't believe in entering any Islamic country and fighting their wars. It is akin to trying to break up two fighting dogs; one of the dogs or both can suddenly, and without warning, turn on you. Let them fight it out and simply ensure our defenses are in the best of shape. That defense includes the state of Israel.

    • franz von fear

      …..compared to Western, Christian wars , African tribal wars would seen negligible . But every beast has its nature, I guess.

      By the way…………When did Israel become part of "our" defense? As far as I know, Israel rejected the West when it bombed the Britisch out of their mandate. I would seem strange that Western defense now entails supporting Israeli land conflicts with its neighbours.

      • MixMChess

        If Israel were not a secure military ally, the US would have to deploy its own troops to the Middle East to ensure the stability of the region: "U.S. military analysts estimate that the U.S. would have to spend the equivalent of $150 billion a year in the Middle East to maintain a force equivalent to Israel's."

        • franz von fear

          The US does deploy its own troops in the Midd-East. In Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Katar, Jemen, Bahrein..etc. These nations have also participated in US military operations such as Destert Storm and Iraqi Freedom and stood in the front line of combat. Due to Israel's political stance in the Midd-East, Israel's military assets are of absolutly no benefit to the United States. Israeli miltary participated in neither Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, the intervention in Afghanistan nor in the ongoing intervention over Libya.

          • MixMChess

            What? Israel provides strategic and military aid to the U.S. Its "navy and air force are the major deterrent forces in the eastern Mediterranean. Israel effectively secures NATO's southeastern flank, without having a single American soldier stationed in its territory. Still, the superb military installations, the air and sea lift capabilities, the equipment and food storage capacity, and the trained manpower to maintain and repair sophisticated U.S. equipment are instantly at hand in Israel. It is the only country in the area that makes itself available to the United States, in any contingency."

            As Global Security reports, "Israeli technological know-how has made it an equal partner in research and development of defensive military strategies… [Israeli firms developed] the Amos and Ofeq satellites and the world's first operational anti-missile missile system, the Arrow, unmanned air vehicles (UAV or pilotless aircraft) systems, including the Hunter….Python and Popeye "smart" airborne missiles…passive armor, naval decoys, …ceramic armor, air-breathing propulsion, and air-to-air, air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missiles."

            A primary goal of the US foreign is to support friendly nations and to foster democracy and human rights. Israel is one of the only nations in the middle east that has lived up to these ideals. It is one of the few (and probably only "true") democracies in the Middle East.

          • franz von fear

            Israel is not in NATO. NATO's South-East flak is secured by Turkey. Israel's first and last participation in a wester Midd-East conflicht was during the ill fated Suez Crisis. All subsequent US and Western military conflicts in the Midd-East occured in the publicly stated and diplomatically explicitly emphasized absence of any Israeli military participation whatsoever.

      • MixMChess

        Zionists only directed political violence at the British due to the strict immigration rules the British had established (which prevented millions of Jews from from finding sanctuary in Israel during the Holocaust, and instead perishing at the hands of the Nazis). In fact, the King David bombing was only after British troops invaded the Jewish Agency confiscating large quantities of documents. At about the same time, more than 2,500 Jews were arrested.

        Besides, long BEFORE the Jews directed any animosity at the British, the Palestinians had been attacking and sabotaging them in a clear pattern of TERRORISM.

        During the 1936-39 Arab Revolt, "British patrols were cut down by snipers, the new [British] airport at Lydda was burned, troop trains were derailed, and the oil line from Mosul to Haifa was badly damaged. As the killings and sabotage increased, so did British reprisals….From July to November 1938…perhaps 16,000 local and imported guerillas were engaged in the insurrection, and they succeeded almost completely in paralyzing civil authority outside the nation's larger cities and in the Jewish agricultural areas. All interurban transportation was prohibited at night, as Arab infiltrators laid mines and explosives along roads and highways."

        In fact, in a 1936 the British prepared the, "Report by His Majesty's Government to the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Trans-jordan," which stated the following: "There have been widespread acts of murder and other outrages by [Arab] gangs of armed terrorists. Apart from attacks in which British soldiers, airmen and police as well as many Arabs and Jews have lost their lives, the activities of these armed gangs have included repeated attempts to disorganize the means of communication, cutting of telegraph and telephone wires, derailing of trains, and attempts to prevent roads from being used by traffic. Considerable material damage has been done seriously affecting the economic life of the country and several attempts have been made to damage and set fire to the oil pipe-line between Haifa and `Iraq."

        • franz von fear

          Your missing the point here. Arabs and Zionists both rejected British, Western influence and control in the region. Israel, erected on this stance, can now hardly claim to be sole champion of Westen influence and inforcer of Western control.

          • MixMChess

            Wrong, Zionists never rejected Western influence. In fact, Israel adopted a parliamentary system similar to Britain. Israel only rejected the British as a colonial occupying power (which undoubtedly they were).

            The Arabs rejected both the British and Western influence completely. During the cold war they came under Soviet and Marxist influence. The Baath parties in Syria and Iraq were influenced by the Soviets (and Nazis). Israel on the other hand quickly became an ally of the US, France and Britain in addition to other Western nations.

  • tim heekin

    bin laden plan is working perfectly. His goal was to hurt the US, get the US to attack and them bleed it. Continue the assault on the Little satan, Israel, and remove the dictators of the Middle East in order to make room for the Caliphate. Again, his plan is working perfectly. He could not have predicted the advent of Obama but this blessing is obviously the work of Allah to provide the believers with such fortuitous "leader" of the Great Satan. If bin laden is alive he shouldn't need any viagra for the forseeable future as is blood is certainly up.

  • USMCSniper

    This symposium, although interesting, failed to convince me that this unconstitutional and very costly war with Libya is required because of actual or eminent danger to the United States, or is in the strategic interests of the United States. Just who are these so-called civilians we are allegly protecting? All I see a whole lot of rebels carrying weapons anywhere from AK-47s to MANPADs along with light artillery.

  • P. Dennis

    Two words that always seem totally irrelevant to any Islamic society or Muslim culture are "freedom" and "democracy." We in the West keep insisting on grafting these foreign concepts onto those who only believe in Islam, i.e. "submission."

    Muslim scholars expand it to "submission to its rules includes leaving what does not concern him, meaning that which is not connected with what is important to one, be it in word or deed. The matters that concern a person are those connected with necessities of life in gaining a livelihood and having a safe return in the afterlife. "

    Where can "freedom" and "democracy" fit in to that philosophy? It never has, and never will. We're wasting time and energy. The essence of their philosophy is closer to the exact opposite of "freedom," as history has proven. If they truly believed in democracy or freedom, they would love and probably worship the Jews above all else. They know their bible and history, and we know ours, for example:

  • umustbkidding

    Exactly what sane person comits his country to war and goes on vacation in the same week?

    What is it that this man has to do in order for us to throw him out? Is there nothing? Are we as Americans so denuded that we have zero gumption left? This is a reason for a anti war demonstration.