Libya: Time for the Jaw, Jaw

posted at 12:30 pm on March 26, 2011 by J.E. Dyer

It would be fascinating if it didn’t involve US troops and America’s reputation. Almost unnoticed by the US media, players in the Eastern hemisphere are actively planning to enliven the Libya situation with negotiations, which we can assume will quickly be dubbed “peace talks.”

The African Union has been maneuvering to gets talks going since Saturday, the first day of coalition air strikes. AU members are solidly opposed to the intervention in Libya and hope to end it with a brokered solution to the civil war. Their plan is to launch negotiations on Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (where the AU headquarters is hosted) and bring together representatives of Qaddafi’s government and the self-proclaimed Transitional Government of the rebels. Other nations’ representatives are thought to be invited; presumably the US will have at least a routine diplomatic presence.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon seems to think representatives of Qaddafi and the opposition intend to be at this AU-sponsored meeting.

France and Britain, meanwhile, which urged implementation of the no-fly zone and ponied up the first forces for it, are now proposing to hold talks in London with representatives of the US and Arab, African, and European nations. This proposal is to produce a conference that starts on Tuesday, 29 March. The London conclave may not technically be the “steering committee” proposed by Nicolas Sarkozy for the direction of the military operations, but it is sure to be the focus of Western political decision-making about what this whole Libya thing really means.

(Note:  I just heard Hillary Clinton state her intention of attending the London conference.)

Winston Churchill, who gave us the aphorism that “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war,” might or might not approve.  The multi-venue approach is certainly disjointed – and reminiscent of the rival attempts by the West, the Communist bloc, and the Non-Aligned Movement to negotiate the same international problems back in the 1960s and ‘70s.

The London gathering seems fated to have difficulty getting things done; the AU meet in Addis Ababa is less predictable.  The threat of Tuesday’s conference may put a fire under Qaddafi to work with the AU and achieve some kind of agreement with the opposition. It will clearly matter how the rebels are represented, and I would give the AU an edge over Western governments in knowing which opposition figures to cultivate for a successful outcome.

The AU wants to establish that Africa can police its own; there may be a particular advantage in the AU’s activism as well: the growing disenchantment of its members with the posture of Iran in Africa. Most AU governments tend to look with disfavor on transnational Islamism of any stripe, Sunni or Shi’a.  That could well color their approach to the different groups represented in the Libyan insurgency, and with positive results.

It remains to be seen if the AU can either induce Qaddafi to go, or gain Western governments’ consent to his staying on a set of conditions. The AU’s incentive is strong to present a fait accompli to the West.

On the other hand, it’s not as clear that the attendees of the London conference have pressing incentives to secure a solution. Launching a military operation was, in a way, almost too easy for the various governments involved. Regarding “kinetic military action” as a routine thing – almost as a small thing – makes it less likely that these governments will feel urgency about bringing it to an end.

I wouldn’t count the AU out.  It would be a significant diplomatic coup for it to trump the London conference with an executable solution.  Qaddafi has a long history with the AU and a lot of friends in it; the Libyan opposition’s representatives may prefer to have a ceasefire and transition brokered by their choice of AU governments, rather than wait to see what the London conference does.  The next few days will be worth sticking around for.

J.E. Dyer blogs at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions” and as The Optimistic Conservative.  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

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Where do I issue my vote for withdrawing and letting the Libyans hash it out themselves?

Bishop on March 26, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Libya has no Khat. Why are we there?

[email protected] on March 26, 2011 at 12:41 PM

The African Union…


Get our military personnel out of there NOW!

Khun Joe on March 26, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Where do I issue my vote for withdrawing and letting the Libyans hash it out themselves?

Bishop on March 26, 2011 at 12:33 PM


There is no scenario where America wins, or even breaks even. Let the savages murder each other, it’s what they want to do, and who are we to say no?

Rebar on March 26, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Agree, we should get out, ASAP.

What’s so terrible about “this was a mistake, and we’re out of here”? Pretense of perfection by a country, much less Ø, is absurd.

jodetoad on March 26, 2011 at 1:04 PM

obaka must have been told that this would be easy-breezy, very quick, and great for his re-election.

what a frakin’ tool our troops have for a CIC.

ladyingray on March 26, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Let’s get out before France surrenders at one of these conferences and leaves us holding the bag.

cartooner on March 26, 2011 at 1:47 PM

This whole thing is a joke. The “rebels” are a bunch of disjointed tribes with different allegiances throughout the country and we’re treating it as if it’s some autonomous government.

Most of these rebels don’t even have a chain of command.

It would be like Obama trying to sit down with “tea party rebels” to hammer out an agreement on ObamaCare. There is no tea party leadership. It’s a group of individuals working independently who happen to have a common goal.

Now, France, I’m sure, has some people in line that they would like to prop up as the rebel “leaders”. In other words, whoever they think can gain control of those oil fields and refineries. Problem is that the oil fields and refineries will be split up between the different tribes.

This is all a huge, massive joke at the expense of people’s lives and American dollars.

ButterflyDragon on March 26, 2011 at 3:23 PM

No doubt the Libyan situation is a quite the mess.

QUESTION => The MOST IMPORTANT part of this mess is what cause things to get this way?

Answer — the Libyan population doesn’t have any 2nd Amendment protections. Libyan citizens have no arms to protect themselves from an out of control central government. For that matter, there are probably many who feel they don’t have arms to protect themselves from various factions in the ‘Rebel’ forces.

Folks, it’s fine to complain about this mess, who didn’t follow the rules, what are the rules, who did this or that wrong. Complaining with the goal of scoring some political points is unlikely to solve anything.

Don’t get distracted by the trees while ignoring the forest!

The “forest” defining the core of the Libyan mess is just another fine example of why the US and it’s 57 states do quite well with a 2nd amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms. It’s also illustrative of how those countries who don’t grant a right to bear arms to it’s citizens don’t fair so well… Ditto of freedom of religion, but hey, is that news?

Libya is just one of many fine examples of what happens when these basic rights are denied to people. It should also be noted that the gun grabbers of the UN aren’t much help on this issue. The UN solution is to have some top down policing of peace — like that’s working so well around the world. You can also bet that without 2nd amendment rights (as well as other basic rights) being part of the solution in Libya that whatever ‘solutions’ are offered through some UN gun grabbing solution, the solutions are likely to be very flawed in the short and long term because they will not address these core basic rights. And some of the fault for these results should be directed at those (conservatives) who choose to debate the trees while ignoring the forest…

drfredc on March 26, 2011 at 3:25 PM

Barack Obama and AlQ are now definitely on the same side in Libya.

Heckle on March 26, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Jaw Jaw Kinetic Mandibular Action

Christien on March 26, 2011 at 9:01 PM

They can sit down with the AU and break bread and feast on Pygmy meat


they do

Sonosam on March 26, 2011 at 11:51 PM

Has it passed through your mind, yet, that this war really IS a war for oil – – – for the Europeans? I’ve NO idea why they think al Qaeda will give them oil at a lower price, though.


herself on March 27, 2011 at 3:54 AM

Can somebody link me a transcript of that Cairo speech?

I understand it was awesome!

BigAlSouth on March 27, 2011 at 7:43 AM

The UN idea of peace talks can best be illustrated by North and South Korea, those Peace Talks have been going on for nearly 60 years. In that time we have kept Military Stationed in the South to help protect them from the North. I see the same thing happening in Libya. I say let the Africa Union and the Arab League handle the situation and come home, impeach Obama and get on with our lives.

old war horse on March 27, 2011 at 10:47 AM

If past is prologue in this circumstance, it’s more likely that it’ll be time for the Jaw Jaw Binks.

VekTor on March 27, 2011 at 9:28 PM