What is a coalition “win” in Libya?

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice


President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice

Since we declared Gaddafi’s reign over, then we have to get rid of Gaddafi and keep Libyans safe. Since we said we are doing this for the Libyan people, they have to end up better off than before we started firing Tomahawk missiles into Libya. Since we said the Arab League will pitch in sometime, we can’t flood their borders with Libyan refugees fleeing war and bring them under pressure from their own populations. Since we will be seeking the overthrow of their dictator, we would insist on a democratic system filling the void. So what’s constitutes a “win”?

US/UK/France led coalition gets a clear win if most of the following occurs:

  • We depose, kill or exile Gaddafi and his loyalists
  • Libyan rebels demilitarize after Gaddafi is gone
  • Libya develops a democratic government in the aftermath of the intervention
  • Libyan civilian casualties are minimized (killing by Gaddafi’s forces or our 1000lb payload Tomahawk missiles)
  • Prevent a humanitarian crisis
  • UN peace keepers and Arab League military are only “boots on the ground” inside Libya
  • Coalition attacks last weeks and less then 90 days (due to the War Powers Act)
  • Arab League become primary actors in redevelopment of Libya
  • US military forces suffer little or no casualties as a result of combat

Gaddafi wins if:

  • Gaddafi or a loyalist of the same mindset maintains power

For Gaddafi: Every day he lives it makes it harder for the US/UK/France coalition to claim success. Even if we kill him in the next few days, Gaddafi and loyal military or mercenaries can foul the country by destroying infrastructure, unleashing chemical weaponry on civilians and setting land mines.

As we know from Afghanistan and Iraq, when you start losing a war, generals, and politicians who supported the action generally advocate digging in and throwing more blood and treasure at the problem.

Outside of protecting our direct national interest or extreme humanitarian crisis (genocide), if it’s so hard to come away a winner, and so easy to come away a loser I would believe that deploying military force is a mistake.

This, regrettably, is not the opinion of Obama nor his Administration’s foreign policy team.