Monday, March 14, 2011

Who is worse, Gadhafi or the Rebels?

It's an important question, and may be why the Obama Administration is so slow about interfering in the situation:

Does Obama really want Gadhafi to go?
[...] Administration thinking may go along the following lines:

"Yes Gadhafi is a very bad guy. But he quit the terrorism business a decade ago and paid compensation to the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing. He surrendered his nuclear program in 2003. He cooperates with the EU in stopping illegal migration into Italy.

"He is a reliable oil supplier and a good customer for U.S. companies and our allies. Gadhafi is reopening Libya to Western energy firms like BP. He buys grain from Western suppliers. One Canadian firm, SNC-Lavalin, has a $275 million contract to build Gadhafi a new prison. A regime overthrow would wreck that contract and many others besides.

"It's very sad to see Gadhafi crush an uprising so brutally. But we know very little about the insurgents. They may be even worse than Gadhafi. One data point is especially disturbing:

"As one report put it, 'On a per capita basis, though, twice as many foreign fighters came to Iraq from Libya -- and specifically eastern Libya -- than from any other country in the Arabic-speaking world. Libyans were apparently more fired up to travel to Iraq to kill Americans than anyone else in the Middle East. And 84.1% of the 88 Libyan fighters in the Sinjar documents who listed their hometowns came from either Benghazi or Darnah in Libya's east.'

"Do we want to take the chance of replacing Gadhafi with a Mediterranean Somalia? Tribal leaders, fighting each other, inspired by Islamic ideology -- all just 300 miles from the coast of Sicily? We could have 300,000 refugees showing up on the NATO side of the Mediterranean. Better stick with the devil we know. The bloodletting cannot last much longer, stability will return soon."

An active Obama preference for Gadhafi's survival makes sense of the administration's otherwise baffling inaction. [...]

Gadhafi's a dictator, everyone knows it. But the reason he's lasted so long is, no one can see an alternative that's better. Unless one presents itself, I doubt you will see a rush to get rid of him. If his iron fisted rule has been keeping a lid on something possibly even worse, then ousting him could be very dangerous. But then too, he's old, and won't last forever.

The choice is a bit like choosing between a rock and a hard place.

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