NATO’s Surrender?

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Longuet’s surprising comments apparently did not appear out of thin air. Last Monday, in an interview with an Algerian newspaper, Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam claimed that his father’s regime had been conducting negotiations the French government. The French foreign ministry immediately denied that direct talks were being held with Tripoli but admitted messages were sent through the rebel council and allies. So most likely an advanced agreement on negotiations had been reached between France and the Gaddafi regime before Longuet announced the U-turn in France’s Libya policy.

NATO’s failure to crack Gaddafi’s regime and its willingness to now end the war through negotiations will eventually have much greater consequences than the current splits appearing in the alliance. First and foremost, a failure to drive Gaddafi from power by military means will serve as a dangerous revelation and encouragement to other dictators that NATO is turning into a morally weak, willpower-lacking paper tiger that will turn tail and run when a conflict becomes too expensive or exceeds a certain time limit. As a result, NATO can expect more challenges thrown its way from thug regimes in the future.

The Libyan war has already shown the world how militarily weak the NATO alliance is. One retired British admiral found it disgraceful that NATO couldn’t get rid of Gaddafi in such a “tin-pot” operation, blaming military cutbacks for his own country’s navy’s poor contribution of only four ships. The fact that a sparsely populated country of only six million people, of whom many have risen in rebellion, and with an army of only 30,000 can withstand the military might of Europe speaks volumes about Europe’s strength.

But perhaps the worst feature the Libyan war has uncovered in NATO is that the military alliances’ governments are so caught up in their own human rights rhetoric and respect for United Nations (UN) rulings that they have actually tied their own hands behind their backs when it comes to dealing with criminals like Gaddafi. While the Libyan opposition was appealing to the world for help, President Obama and other Western leaders rushed off to the UN to get a mandate for action. During this three-week wait, however, the Gaddafi regime got over the shock of the uprising and captured the rebel-held areas of Eastern Libya, after which it sent in its secret police to hunt down rebel supporters. The resulting death toll is unknown.

What was worse, the UN mandate for action NATO finally did receive was actually a mandate for partial action. NATO was not allowed to send in ground forces, the one and only effective means of bringing the war to a quick and more humane end with limited casualties. Such quick, decisive and forceful action that ended in a deposed Gaddafi would also have shown other brutal dictators that NATO is a military and moral force to be reckoned with.

Like all half-measures, the action the UN did mandate arguably worsened the situation. Ironically, NATO bombing caused the current stalemate, from which France is currently trying to find an exit. When Gaddafi’s forces were about to capture Benghazi, the rebel stronghold, and practically end the war, NATO warplanes began their bombing campaign, which drove the government forces back to Tripoli. That was about ten thousand dead and hundreds of air strikes ago.

In the future, one can bet other hideous dictators will use the West’s respect for human rights and the UN to tie up NATO’s willingness to act against them, if NATO governments don’t do it to themselves first. They have already learned to use human shields to thwart military action, and one can probably some day expect whole populations to be held hostage.

Like NATO’s military effort, France’s current search for a diplomatic solution will neither sideline Gaddafi nor bring peace to Libya. It would be the height of naivite to expect Gaddafi to remain in his palace room. And with his prestige enhanced by NATO’s pullback, the Libyan tribes sitting on the fence in the conflict will probably now rush to support him to avoid revenge attacks. So in the end, France’s playing for the stalemate in Libya will only lead to more turmoil there and elsewhere.

Stephen Brown is Frontpage Magazine’s contributing editor. He can be reached at

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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.

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

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