Hey Obama, stay the heck out of Libya

March 24th, 2011

President Barack Obama, right, and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi pictured during the G8/G5 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, on July 9, 2009. (AP). (AP)

“We don’t want and we won’t accept any foreign intervention on our soil. We started this revolution, and we will finish it.”

Those are the words of Abdul Hafidh Gogha, the spokesman of the provisional government recently set up by the pro-democracy rebels in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

The situation in Libya is getting worse by the day. Muammar Gadhafi has made it clear that he will not be forced out of power, and his violent crackdown on anti-government protestors has resulted in hundreds of deaths. Some even say the death count could be over 1,000.

Meanwhile, the country has been all but split in two. The eastern half of the country is largely controlled by the rebels, while the west – including the capital of Tripoli – remains mostly in Gadhafi’s hands.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Libya is experiencing a civil war.

As the violence continues, however, the two sides seem to have reached a stalemate.

So is there anything the U.S. and the rest of the international community can do to tip the balance in favor of the rebels?

Although the United States was initially slow to take any action until all Americans were evacuated from Libya, the Obama administration now says that all options are on the table. Over the weekend, a number of sanctions were placed on Gadhafi in an effort to isolate him economically and financially.

The administration is also considering military intervention. Two of the most popular ideas seem to be arming the rebels and enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya so that Gadhafi can’t use his air force to bomb rebel positions. Some have even mentioned the possibility of carrying out air strikes against Gadhafi compounds as the U.S. did in Kosovo in the 90s.

However, military intervention – unless used for humanitarian purposes like delivering medical supplies or evacuating refugees – would be a bad idea for both Libya and the United States.

First of all, military intervention would undermine the legitimacy of the rebels and the revolution. Libyans have made it clear that they want to do this on their own, and if they receive American military aid, pro-Gadhafi forces can claim the rebels are just pawns of the United States.

Secondly, the United States should only use military power when our national security is threatened. The U.S. does not need to constantly flex its military might in order to deter our enemies. Rather, it needs to conserve its military capabilities and only use them when we need them. We can support the rebels diplomatically and economically, but Libya – whether democratic or authoritarian – poses no strategic threat to the United States.

So hopefully Obama listens to Gogha, and keeps the military out of Libya.