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Posted at 8:17 AM ET, 02/22/2011

What options do we have on Libya?

By Jennifer Rubin

In another demonstration of moral and political paralysis, the Obama administration is saying little about the brutal Libyan crackdown and doing even less. Paul Wolfowitz, writing in the Wall Street Journal, suggests tougher action:

The U.S. should come down on the side of the Libyan people--and of our principles and values. The longer the current bloodshed continues, the worse the aftermath will be. The U.S. silence over the last crucial days has been mocked by commentators in the Arab media, who display with relish the 2009 photo of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting with one of Gadhafi's more hideous sons, Mutassim. We will not get much of a hearing in a post-Gadhafi Libya if that is how we continue to be viewed.

A clear statement of U.S. support would be significant in itself. But the situation calls for urgent action, not just improved rhetoric. . . .

The U.S. could be helping directly or encouraging private donations to such efforts, as it did with the tsunami in Indonesia or the earthquake in Haiti.

The U.S. should also be pressing for the suspension of Libya's membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council. It should be investigating credible claims that Libyan embassy officials have threatened Libyan students in the U.S. to force them to attend pro-regime demonstrations in Washington. And it should urgently investigate rumors that cronies of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali are flying mercenaries into Libya. If the rumors are substantiated, the U.S. should work with officials in France, Tunisia and elsewhere to stop such activity immediately.

Paul also recommends the the U.S. work to "break the communications blockade by which the Gadhafi regime is isolating the Libyan people and hiding its latest crimes. Such efforts might include something as simple as providing SIM cards for Libyans who cannot use their phones or who fear that their phones are not secure."

Other foreign policy gurus are equally critical of the administration's inertness. A former Middle East negotiator tells me that the U.S. "should condemn not the violence but the government perpetrating it" and consider going to the U.N. Security Council.

Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute e-mails me:

Have they convened an emergency Security Council meeting?

Have they demanded Qadhafi step down?

Have they frozen Qadhafi and sons' assets or called on others to do so?

Have they imposed any economic measures?

Have they done anything except wait all day and issue a comment at 5 pm?

There are no easy answers, but there are clearly wrong things to do and among them is "just sit there".

Meanwhile, Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tells me, "We'd go further and tell the Libyan armed forces that the West will bomb their airfields if they continue to slaughter their people. Arming the demonstrators also cannot be ruled out. The Libyan government is already blaming the protests on foreign help, and the protesters are facing a life or death struggle. The worst policy would be to encourage the demonstrators without giving them the tools to prevail."

In sum, there is a range of potential measures, but once again the administration is stuck in neutral, seemingly surprised by and unprepared for recent developments. You'd think after a few of these episodes, they'd have developed an effective response. But, no, not this group. For people who castigated the Bush administration and promised "smart diplomacy," they surely haven't demonstrated any prowess of their own.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 22, 2011; 8:17 AM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

As per usual with Jennifer, a lot of complaints, but no actual solutions.

Kudos though for actually quoting someone with the bright idea that to help the protesters we should threaten to start bombing Libya.

Posted by: mustangs79 | February 22, 2011 9:04 AM | Report abuse

One can only wonder if the Obama administration is in place solely to give the president a free ride to his vacation spot in Hawaii. I am becoming very irritated with the slow reaction of this administration every time there is an international incident but will have a beer at the drop of the hat on things they should stay out of.
Bobby G
Williams, AZ

Posted by: BobGrinnell | February 22, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Here is a possible solution:

We may not have much direct influence in Libya, but Egypt certainly has. The United States should use its influence via the much-talked-about $1.3B aid to the Egyptian Army to urge it to take action to help the Libyans overthrow the evil Gadhafi regime AND tamp down the succeeding impulses towards civil war that could easily flare up on the resulting political vacuum. To accomplish these ends additional foreign aid should be offered.

A side benefit is that new Egypt would have an opportunity to make good its hopes of becoming a leader for good in the emerging Near East.

Posted by: nvjma | February 22, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

George Friedman, Stratfor, in general about "Revolution and the Muslim World"
http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2011/02/22/revolution_and_the_muslim_world_99407.html

The sole insight I gleaned from reading Wolfowitz last night was his clue about the tribal power in Libya. Some research revealed Libya as the MOST incoherent post-colonial construct, borders that make Iraq's artificial borders seem almost logical.

The U.S. should call on the African Union to finally drop their insistence on maintaining the integrity of colonial borders. Recognize Somaliland as an independent nation. And the AU carves up (once they get the Ivory Coast under control) post-Qaddafi Libya between Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and maybe Sudan, depending on the tribal overlaps.

Libya's desert oilfields are close enough to Egypt's border that one can muse of a good reason for Egypt's army to help 'control the chaos' that seems to be Libya's destiny. Egypt's 80+ million versus Libya's 6 million.

In Libya, follow the tribal affiliations, and hope the oil keeps flowing.

Stop imagining the U.S. under Obama can do anything that would help end the chaos.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 22, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Paul Wolfowitz, Danielle Pletka, and Cliff May?

Now that is a hand to draw to, three Neocon warmongers. All you need is Frank Gaffney to complete a poker hand of guaranteed losers, plus Steve Emerson dealing the cards.

If these warmongers are claiming to be on the side of the Libyan people, someone better watch out because there will be dealing from the bottom of the deck and we know who those guys and gals insist must win the pot in the Mideast game.

Jennifer, can't you find a better class of friends?

Posted by: Lazarus40 | February 22, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

We're just spectators in Libya, but at least Obama could make a strong statement. It's sad when John Kerry says all the right things and the administration is mostly silent.

Posted by: eoniii | February 22, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"Once bitten, twice shy." And President Obama and his administration have been bitten so often so hard that, as I said here the other day, (in another context but the shoe is fitting on either foot (how Alien -- get me the Men in Black!)) 'Obama is a very shy person.' And petulant to boot.

Posted by: aardunza | February 22, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

They appear to be following the Charlie Brown playbook -- wait for the problem(s) to go away.

Posted by: aardunza | February 22, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Munich Olympic Massacre
Constable Fletcher Murder
Rome/Vienna Airport Massacres
Berlin Discoteque Massacre
PA103 Massacre
UTA772 Massacre
IRA proxy massacres
EU Nurse Prison Sextortion
Swiss hostage extortion

Castro (for once) is right– 41.5 billion barrels of oil reserves appear to mean Kaddafi has richly earned yet another chance to massacre innocents.

Nemo me impune lacessit

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 22, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

A delightful Beckett excerpt from 'Watt' brought to you by the Kulture Korner for Kiddies to illustrate the West Wing decision-making process in the morning (to go with that shoe-fitting meme above) :

As for his feet, sometimes he wore on each a sock, or on the one a sock and on the other a stocking, or a boot, or a shoe, or a slipper, or a sock and boot, or a sock and shoe, or a sock and slipper, or a stocking and boot, or a stocking and shoe, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all. And sometimes he wore on each a stocking, or on the one a stocking and on the other a boot, or a shoe, or a slipper, or a sock and boot, or a sock and shoe, or a sock and slipper, or a stocking and slipper, or nothing at all.

Posted by: aardunza | February 22, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: K2K2 | February 22, 2011 11:34 AM

Stop imagining the U.S. under Obama can do anything that would help end the chaos.

____________________

Too right K2K2.

Where's Bush (who started 2 wars he couldn't finish) when you need him?

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 22, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | February 22, 2011 12:28 PM

We're just spectators in Libya, but at least Obama could make a strong statement. It's sad when John Kerry says all the right things and the administration is mostly silent.

___________________

We cold say the moon is made of cheese for all the good it would do. No one's listening anyway. The US has become a joke.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 22, 2011 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Paul Wolfowitz has the nerve to open his trap, and you have the effrontery to quote him. Why not ask Ghaddafi what he thinks? They've each been equally destructive.

Posted by: aj1111 | February 22, 2011 8:08 PM | Report abuse

As is par for the course, the ball is dropped, the buck is yet again passed. Yet Barry has time to do a little coaching, send the wife off on another high dollar vacation, meet with the union heads for the 600th time in the White House while his own advisers have never heard from him...

Along with sending in his goons to the sovereign states of Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio to interfere in those elected governors budget battles so as to protect the flow of payola to the democrat party.

Oh, and then we have that silly little issue of OIL. You know, that stuff that Libya produces and WE DON'T because it is now an illegal activity to use our own. We have more oil here than the three largest oil producing countries in the world and cannot go near the stuff?

This man needs to go before there is nothing left to save.

Posted by: localnet | February 24, 2011 4:12 AM | Report abuse

Word is Barry is busy, grappling with gay marriage... Need I say more?

Posted by: localnet | February 24, 2011 4:15 AM | Report abuse

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