Libyan ambassador to U.S. pleads: Say something, Obama

posted at 5:38 pm on February 21, 2011 by Allahpundit

But why? The singular lesson about U.S. power during the Egyptian revolution was that pretty much no one cares what The One thinks. Does this guy honestly believe Qaddafi’s going to call off a carpet-bombing campaign designed to preserve his rule because Obama says he’s “disappointed” in him or whatever?

“I want the U.S. to tell the world and to work with the countries who love peace…they have to stop this,” Ambassador Ali Ojli said, suggesting that he had resigned his post, in an interview with Al Jazeera English.

“I would never ask us to intervene physically in Libya,” he said, but called on the Obama Administration to “take a strong position that what’s happening in libya must be stopped now…and to avoid giving the impression to the Arab world that the West “has only a materialist mind — they don’t care about human rights…except when it comes to their own interest.”

“You see them raising their voices about iran … because they have some interest in in Iran…. When it comes to other countries they don’t raise their voice,” he said, adding that the Arab and Muslim world won’t “trust america or the west if they behave that way.”

Whereas a strong denunciation of Qaddafi from Obama will lead Muslims to trust America? C’mon. As I’m writing this, Hillary has just issued a statement; I haven’t seen it yet, but no doubt all the “gravely concerned” I’s are dotted and the “we urge restraint” T’s are crossed. Talk is cheap, so let’s pick up a thread from the last Libya post: Should the UN/U.S./NATO intervene with air power to ground Qaddafi’s birds? Jonah Goldberg joins Dan Foster at the Corner in saying yes, but Ace’s co-blogger Gabe Malor makes a smart counterargument. If we start blowing Libyan jets out of the sky to protect demonstrators, are we obliged to do the same elsewhere? Even in Yemen, whose regime we count on to keep Al Qaeda’s increasingly dangerous chapter there at bay? Even in … Saudi Arabia?

Foreign policy analyst Marc Lynch makes the case for intervention:

By acting, I mean a response sufficiently forceful and direct to deter or prevent the Libyan regime from using its military resources to butcher its opponents. I have already seen reports that NATO has sternly warned Libya against further violence against its people. Making that credible could mean the declaration and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, presumably by NATO, to prevent the use of military aircraft against the protestors. It could also mean a clear declaration that members of the regime and military will be held individually responsible for any future deaths. The U.S. should call for an urgent, immediate Security Council meeting and push for a strong resolution condeming Libya’s use of violence and authorizing targeted sanctions against the regime. Such steps could stand a chance of reversing the course of a rapidly deteriorating situation. An effective international response could not only save many Libyan lives, it might also send a powerful warning to other Arab leaders who might contemplate following suit against their own protest movements.

I don’t have any illusions that the outside world can control what happens in Libya, if the regime really wants to try to hold power by force. I don’t call for a direct military intervention. And I am keenly, painfully aware of all that could go wrong with even the kinds of responses I am recommending. But right now those fears are outweighed by the urgent imperative of trying to prevent the already bloody situation from getting much, much worse. This is not a peaceful democracy protest movement which the United States can best help by pressuring allied regimes from above, pushing for long-term and meaningful reform, and persuading the military to refrain from violence. It’s gone well beyond that already, and this time I find myself on the side of those demanding more forceful action before it’s too late. The steady stream of highly public defections from the regime suggest that rapid change is possible, yesterday’s speech by Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and today’s events suggest that so is terrible violence.

One alternative to U.S. intervention would be for Egypt to intervene somehow, either by enforcing a no-fly zone in the spirit of revolutionary fraternity (and a payoff from the west, no doubt) and/or by granting amnesty across the border to Libyan troops who want to defect. In fact, there’s already some religious cover for them to act: According to the Guardian, the Muslim Brotherhood’s “spiritual leader” has issued a fatwa calling on Libyan troops to kill Qaddafi. The obvious problem with an Egyptian intervention is that if Qaddafi holds on somehow, he and Egypt are at war. And, per the VDH post that I linked earlier, we’d best be careful about inviting too much Egyptian interest in its next-door neighbor given the oil interests at play. Or is that actually less of a bug and more of a feature? Libyan society may be in no condition to continue oil production in the near future after the shooting stops. Egypt, a more stable platform even given the recent revolution, might be.

In lieu of an exit question, let me quote David Petraeus’s most famous utterance: “Tell me how this ends.”


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