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Has the international 'farce' worsened the crisis in Libya?


Even though the international intervention in Libya was cast as a humanitarian effort to protect innocent people, the 'farcical' way it has been carried out has actually worsened the crisis, writes a well-known defense analyst. While everyone else in town today was talking about budget cuts, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies released an explosive critique of the ongoing Libya campaign. He says onetime critics of the Iraq invasion are repeating history with what he calls an ill-planned campaign. The world should have just come out and killed or deposed the Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi, Cordesman writes, instead of attempting to use half-measures to deal with him.

"[I]t has become all too clear that gambling on Qaddafi caving in has created a far more serious humanitarian crisis for the Libyan people than would ever have occurred if the coalition had acted decisively from the start and had directly attacked Qaddafi, his centers of power, and the military forces loyal to him," Cordesman wrote. "The humanitarian cost of humanitarian restraint is all too clear: Hundreds of Libyan and foreign workers have been killed, thousands injured, thousands more arrested and sometimes tortured, and hundreds of thousands lack jobs, security, and safe conditions of life.

And yes, the farce is still with us. A weak, divided, poorly led, and badly equipped and supplied set of rebel forces can only hang on with the present level of air support. Yesterday’s announcement that British and French military advisors are going to help is not going to alter that situation quickly. It will take months more – at a minimum – to properly train and equip them and it will take a radical shift in rebel leadership to give them meaningful unity and discipline."

Pentagon officials have largely washed their hands of Libya; gone are the earlier daily briefings, since NATO is now running the show, and in their place are brief updates about when American warplanes have attacked air defense targets. DoD did announce today that the State Department has recommended sending about $25 million worth of non-military assistance to the rebels, including food, medical supplies, and binoculars. (Yes, "binoculars" were named specifically.)

That assistance is on top of the "military advisors" that European countries are beginning to send to Libya. Still, official Washington is dead-set against American troops, even "advisors," joining them. Here's how White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dealt with the question aboard Air Force One today:

Q: Jay, on Libya, we have Italy, France and UK sending, essentially, boots on the ground.  I was wondering if the administration had a reaction to that and if you’ve changed whatsoever your stance on that subject.

MR. CARNEY:  The President, obviously, was aware of this decision and supports it, and hopes that -- believes it will help the opposition.  But it does not at all change our -- the President’s policy on no boots on the ground for American troops.

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