NATO’s Surrender?

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In a major shift in its position on the war in Libya, France has announced it wants the rebels to begin direct negotiations with representatives of Muammar Gaddafi. NATO has been trying for more than three months to depose the Libyan leader in an air campaign, led by France, which has cost tens of millions of dollars and caused fractures in the alliance.

In a strong indication of mounting frustration over NATO’s lack of success from the air and the rebels’ slow progress on the ground, France’s defence minister, Gerard Longuet, said last Sunday on French television that NATO had “stopped the hand that was striking” against the insurgents and “now was the time to sit down at the negotiating table.

“We have asked them to speak to each other,” said Longuet, whose government was the most ardent supporter of military action three months ago and was the first to launch air strikes.

But the biggest surprise in Longuet’s television appearance came when he said the bombs would stop falling as soon as negotiations begin, indicating NATO will cease all military operations. Which means that Gaddafi, against all expectations, will survive. Forcing Gaddafi to leave had always been a main goal of the military campaign Great Britain and France have been spearheading.

“We will stop the bombing as soon as the Libyans start talking to one another and the military on both sides go back to their bases,” said Longuet. “They can talk to each other because we’ve shown there is no solution through force.”

Up until now, the rebels have refused to negotiate with the Libyan government until Gaddafi stepped down. France says it still wants Gaddafi out but obviously now believes NATO’s bombing campaign will not achieve this goal and is too expensive to maintain, so a diplomatic solution is now necessary. The war is costing France about one and a half million dollars a day.

On Tuesday, the French government voted to continue its military involvement in Libya for another four months, adding another $150 million to its war debt. Before the vote, France’s prime minister, Alain Juppe, said “A political solution is more indispensable than ever…” but depends on “an authentic and verifiable” ceasefire and “the departure of Col. Gaddafi from power.” As for Gaddafi, Longuet said he could “remain in Libya ‘in another room of the palace, with another title’.”

The United States and other NATO countries have never opposed the rebels’ position that Gaddafi must relinquish power before negotiations can begin. France’s two main NATO allies, Great Britain and America, were both quick to respond to Longuet’s announcement, indicating their displeasure as well as a possible breach opening up in the alliance. While one British official said there was “no daylight” between France’s and his country’s position, the State Department said in a release that “…we stand firm in our belief that Gaddafi cannot remain in power.”

The rebels were also “defiant.” After all, they rose in rebellion to destroy permanently Gaddafi’s hold on their country. Besides, they know they would never be safe if Gaddafi, his secret police and armed thugs were still around. The Libyan civilians NATO says it is bombing Libya to protect would be in danger with Gaddafi still at large.

“The only political solution is that Gaddafi and his family leave power,” said one rebel commander.

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  • Alexander Hagen

    This narrative is so flawed. Read a book on Libya. I am so tired of dealing with this tidal wave of disinformation. The only reason the campaign in Libya turned out the way it did – is because people wont pull the plank out of their eyes and learn some background on the country. I dont know if its deliberate ignorance on your part, but you are charicaturing Gaddafi's Jamahiriya. Gaddafi and his govt brought Libya from lowest development in Africa to Highest. It has no debt and lower poverty, higher education longevity, and vastly lower percent incarceration than here in the US. Women have full equal rights. A large number of Libyans are fighting for their country. Not for mercenary motives. Also as you may know – these mercenaries in some cases – are loyal to Libya as a leader of African Nationalism – the best friend of Mandela's ANC as it struggled.

    • Job B

      While your assessment of Libya i totally subjective I do agree that the UN and the associated nations have no business intervening to assist the rebels (MB) or other factions. The same is true for other sovereign nations. No organization, the United Nations or other, has any right to initiate military action or to assist a change in government in a sovereign nation.

    • Ellen

      This is all true, Alexander. Rebels have been convinced by fascist Islamists that Gaddafi is a brutal dictator who has mismanaged the country. The Muslim Brotherhood creates chaos by fomenting discontent and rebellion so they can fill the void created by the existing government's defeat.
      Go Gaddafi!

      • Ghostwriter

        What the two of you seem to forget is that Gaddafi is a terrorist. His agents blew up a Berlin disco in 1985. Much earlier,his agents also murdered Libyan exiles in Europe and one in the United States. And don't get me started on Pan Am Flight 103. Gaddafi is a monster who should have gone a long time ago.

  • crackerjack

    France, driven by the popular "intellectual" Bernhard-Henri LeviBernhard-Henri Levi, rushed into this stupid war on a "No Fly Zone" ticket and NATO felt obliged to follow. At the time, nobody in NATO could comprehensively explain who these supposed rebels were and why they deserved NATO's military support which led to European heavy-weight Germany refraining from even backing the move in the UN Security Council. The US kept a low profile from the beginning on and now are in a stage of retreat. The Arab League, who publicly supported the move, wisely kept thier own air, sea and land military out of harms reach.

    Sarkozy started this mess, it should be left to him to shoulder the responsibility of ending it together with his advisor Bernhard-Henri Levi.

  • SHmuelHaLevi

    I have no reason to be in favor of Gaddafi for obvious reasons, but I like even less the purported "nato" actors. It is known fact that France will always retreat after stupid poses and shows. They just proved it again.
    As to any role by the US present administration… Bankrupt just as the rest of it.

  • Fred Dawes

    why would he?

  • soloman4israel

    gaddafi is like all murders he hides behind the people,behind children and under womens skirts,he issues threats via his bully boys with one hand, and tries to bribe the people with money with the other hand, he is such a brave hero of the people he hides him-self away while the lambs are forced to show fake love for him,while he hides his double goes out among the people,he also ordered the lockebie bombings.
    help is needed to remove him because its the best thing for the people,but france em well france is france plenty of yap not much bite and are the wrong people to have ever been part of this conflict,if he is not removed and some form of get out of jail card is used it will send yet another message to the terrorists that they have yet again won the day against more powerfull nations,by again their use of the people of the country who as it can be seen by this cowards actions mean nothing to him,no doubt he already has a nice deep hole picked out to hide in.

  • zsqpwxxeh

    "And a holly jolly Bastille Day to you all."
    –Marshal Petain

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