Intel Experts: ‘Don’t Quit Until Qaddafi’s Gone’

March 29th, 2011 at 7:44 pm | 9 Comments |

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In his Libyan speech, President Obama established the Obama Doctrine:  America would intervene to stop a murderous tyrant from massacring their citizens.  However, the President also stated that America would transfer responsibility to NATO allies and that the military action in Libya would stop short of removing Qaddafi from power. FrumForum asked experts from the intelligence community for their views on the Obama Doctrine and its application in Libya.

Many we spoke with noted that the official Obama Administration policy does not mesh with what is actually happening in Libya. Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FLA) argued that

the President had not clearly articulated what our mission is in Libya.  What are we hoping to accomplish?  What is the U.S. role in achieving those objectives?  What is our endgame? I don’t think the President has sufficiently answered any of these important questions that should have been addressed before any action was taken.

Michael Hayden, former CIA Director, concurs and also feels that actions speak louder than words.  Despite the talk that the U.S. will step back and take a secondary role, he pointed out that America is still playing a prominent part in handling surveillance, intelligence, indirect fire attack, electronic warfare, and refueling. Hayden explained that

usually we want the game figured out and I am not sure we have figured that out. The no fly zone has little relevance to the tactical situation.  Libyan airplanes were not causing the problem.  His air force was not winning the war for Qaddafi; it was the preponderance of ground power.

The Libya intervention also raises another question: should America turn against all despots, including those who were supportive against Al Qaeda?  A national security decision was made to build a relationship with Qaddafi that chose to look the other way and forget about his past criminal actions in hopes of persuading him to eliminate his biological and WMD programs.

Pete Hoekstra, the former ranking member on the intelligence committee, pointed out that for the last eight years the official U.S. policy has been that Qaddafi is an ally, not an enemy:  President George W. Bush re-established diplomatic relations, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton appointed an ambassador and President Obama doubled military aid to Libya.

Hoekstra also argued that the Obama administration’s Middle East policy is:

sending a very confused signal.  America is bombing Qaddafi who was considered an official ally, yet did nothing when there were riots in the streets against the Iranian government. What are you going to do with tyrannical regimes around the world that have a revolt?  Are we going to support those rebels?  I don’t think so.

On the other hand, James Woolsey, President Clinton’s CIA Director believes that there is no clear-cut rule to decide when to take action against despots and when not to. He would like to see the Obama Administration stop using kid gloves with the regimes of Libya, Syria, and Iran. “Don’t fool yourself: what the President says matters.  A change of government can only get better than the theocratic, genocidal maniacs in power now.  We should do everything possible to help the dissents including arming and training them.”

All those interviewed disagree with one remark from the President’s speech.  Obama stated that “broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” Those FrumForum spoke to strongly believe that once the President chose to go to war, the definite objective had to be to eliminate Qaddafi as Libya’s leader.

Hoekstra compared a wounded Qaddafi to a wounded bear, noting that:

he is the guy who ordered the bombing of Pan Am 103 and exploded a bomb outside a German nightclub that was directed against American troops.  As long as Qaddafi remains in power you can bet he will be vengeful and target American interests.  He had done it before so why wouldn’t he do it again?

Former CIA Director James Woolsey agreed and pointed out that:

Libyan civilians will not be protected without eliminating Qaddafi. It’s extremely naïve to believe that if we leave him in power he will be a nice guy. The worst thing America can do is to become tentative.

Woolsey further stressed that if Qaddafi is not eliminated, Islamic despots will be emboldened because the Libyan leader will be able to say he defeated the great Satan: America.

However, a former CIA official pointed out that replacing Qaddafi brings a multitude of problems since no one has any idea who will fill the vacuum or what the true allegiances of the rebels are.  He noted that Abdel Hakim al Hasidi, a declared Libyan rebel leader, fought against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and recruited troops to fight against the U.S. in Iraq.  Hayden confirmed that many Al Qaeda recruits as well as the largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq came from Eastern Libya.

A former CIA official explained to FrumForum that America should implement the Obama Doctrine only

when there is an abiding U.S. national interest at stake.  I do not believe that America should send military forces to a country simply for humanitarian reasons or for human rights preservation.  We should, however, commit only when there is a vital U.S. interest, such as nuclear proliferation, counterterrorism, or important economic interests.

Unfortunately, as Hayden pointed out, “By intervening we have unmistakably taken on an operational, political, and ethical responsibility. If Qaddafi is in any way remaining in power he wins,” and America loses.

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • abk1985

    Bingo. And this is why Obama and Hilary have both demonstrated their complete incompetence in the realm of foreign policy.

  • Crows_Nest

    The international community’s actions so far have been confusing rhetorically, but less confusing militarily.

    There is a logic to the military operation, and the end logic of it is regime change–but rather than making that seem to be a Western triumph, the West is attempting to preserve the narrative of the Libyan people’s victory. Perhaps with good reason.

    I suspect the rhetoric will slowly come around to this conclusion over the coming months. I suspect the reason that the military policy has been clearer than the rhetoric is simple. Those who understand this conflict understand that ultimately a stalemate is untenable. The reason is two fold:

    (1) In order to actually protect the civilians of East Libya from massacre, the no-fly zone had to be extended to attack ground forces. Once this was done, it was clear that a large portion of Libya’s already old, degraded conventional forces would be destroyed. The trouble here is that–even if we stopped where we are now–Qaddafi’s conventional forces have been seriously damaged. It is certainly an open question whether his army possesses the materiel necessary to continue fighting for an extended period. The point here is that: if a stalemate was enacted, Qaddafi no longer has conventional army necessary to maintain control over whatever portion of Libya he controls. The logic of his position, therefore, will be to bring in whatever mercenary forces he can hire to maintain his control–and that means the continued presence of a lot of foreign fighters in Libya who will have no problem slaughtering even more people.

    (2) Right now, the Coalition no-fly zone is seen positively by the Rebels. Even though it is a foreign and Western imperial exercise of power, it is seen as being in their defense. But if this conflict stalls, and Rebel forces are contained in the East, one wonders how long it will take before the Rebels change their opinion of the Coalition. That is, one wonders how long it will take them to begin to believe that the aircraft flying thousands of feet above them have no real interest in them. If they come to believe that the Allies are disengaged and distant and unwilling to help, it is quite likely they will turn to whomever is willing to help. Which is, likely as not, Al Qaeda or Al Shabbab.

    Those in the West who have realized both of these problems understand that once intervention began, there could only be one outcome.

  • jreb

    Basically there is no love lost between the US and Qaddafi, however he had been contained. Once he is gone, if he does go, there will be a power vacuum which I don’t have a real warm fuzzy feeling nor do our leaders apparently what or who will fill that vacuum.

  • armstp

    Obama on Libya vs. Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Romney, Gingrich and Carrot Top

    President Barack Obama in his Monday evening address to the nation on Libya outlined an effort of limitations. The US could not intervene everywhere, but it could intervene to good effect here. America is acting in concert with the Arab League, the United Nations and NATO, not striking out unilaterally. The most important US contribution will be up front, after which the Pentagon will turn the endeavor over to NATO. There will be no effort led by ground troops to overthrow Qaddafi. It is up to the Libyans to deal with him once his armor is neutralized (presumably in the way that the Romanians dealt with Ceausescu and the Serbs dealt with Milosevic). The US simply doesn’t have the wherewithal to do more trillion-dollar Iraq-style operations, Mr. Obama said– another limitation.

    Despite the close and elegant moral reasoning tempered by a steady pragmatism, the speech was full of genuine feeling, including empathy and outrage. It strikes me as among the better speeches President Obama has given since taking office.

    In fact, the same awareness of limitations combined with honoring obligations to allies should reinforce Obama’s determination to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, in accordance with the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement concluded between the Iraqi parliament and the Bush administration.

    Whether one agrees with President Obama or not on the Libya issue, he was clearly well-informed and in control of the facts and analysis. His fabled intelligence and cool-headedness were on display.

    It is a sad commentary that American political discourse is so cheapened and debased by demagoguery promoted by sly billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers that the responses to Obama from the other side of the aisle were sometimes comical in their ignorance.

    Potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was interviewed afterward on CNN by Piers Morgan. Trump alleged that the rebels in Libya might be connected to Iran, and that there was a danger that the US intervention might end up turning the country over to Tehran.

    Dear American politicians: Please note that while the Libyan liberation movement beseeched the West to intervene, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei roundly condemned the US action in Libya, accusing Washington of seeking a toehold in that country. In other words, bringing up some sort of alleged link of the Benghazi provisional government, which has reached out to Washington, and Iran is about the stupidest thing anyone could say about the situation.

    Michelle Bachmann, according to Think Progress, said

    “I have been very reluctant to see the United States to go into Libya. For one thing, we haven’t identified yet who the opposition even is to Qaddafi. We don’t know if this is led by Hamas, Hezbollah, or possibly al Qaeda of North Africa. Are we really better off, are United States, our interests better off, if let’s say Al-Qaeda of North Africa now runs Libya?” [03/24/11] ”

    Hizbullah is a Shiite movement of southern Lebanon. There are no Shiites in North Africa, where almost all Muslims are Sunni. Hamas is a Palestinian movement and does not have a branch franchise in Libya. The people of Benghazi and Misrata, together amounting to 1.3 million, the backbone of the liberation movement, are not al-Qaeda, which is not a mass movement. In fact, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is like a few hundred guys and is an Algerian organization. I know, I know, pointing out that Michelle Bachmann has said something uninformed is like pointing out that Lady Gaga has done something outrageous. But we are told that Bachmann made a positive impression among possible Republican voters in Iowa recently, and the world in which we live has such persons as potential presidential candidates.

    Sarah Palin wants the US military to go into Libya, kill Muammar Qaddafi and then get back out. Palin doesn’t seem to realize that 110,000 US troops on the ground took 8 months just to find Saddam Hussein after they had invaded and occupied Iraq, and that at that point were were bound by Pottery Barn rules per Colin Powell– we had broken the vase and had now owned it. That vase cost about a trillion dollars all told, as Obama pointed out tonight, along with thousands of US and Iraqi lives. Palin lives in a magical world where she can wave her wand and Sarah suddenly gets her way.

    Newt Gingrich was for the intervention before he was against it.

    And Mitt Romney is all for invading Libya, but thinks the United States should have done it all by itself without consulting allies and apparently should bear all the costs of doing so. Romney alleged that the US ‘followed France’ into Libya, though in fact the US fired 110 Tomahawk missiles at Qaddafi’s anti-aircraft batteries as the engagement was beginning, making it safe for the French pilots to fly missions there.

    Our temporary good luck is that we have a president who knows what he is talking about, knows how to assemble a complex international alliance, and has the moral vision to do the right thing even if it is unpopular. It wasn’t so long ago that none of those things was true, and you can’t count on them being true much longer.

  • dugfromthearth

    To go from the practical and realistic statement Obama made:

    “It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country -– Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.”

    To your trite strawman is absurd.

    I come to Frum Forum to read inciteful analysis of events and politics. Not to read about strawmen created and attacked. I can read much more interesting fiction in books.

    • Bunker555

      You should watch Fixed News for inciting hatred and fear. Their fiction is better than H.G. Wells.

      dugfromthe earth, your pun on “insightful” must be deliberate. Great post, thanks.

  • sdspringy

    There is NO Arab League support for attacks on Qaddafi forces by NATO aircraft, thus no Arab League support of the current Libya action:

    [blockquote]European and U.S. forces unleashed warplanes and cruise missiles against Gadhafi on Saturday in a United Nations-backed intervention to prevent the veteran leader from killing civilians as he fights an uprising against his 41-year rule.
    But Arab League chief Amr Moussa said what was happening was not what Arabs had envisaged when they called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.
    “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” he said.
    In comments carried by Egypt’s official state news agency, Moussa also said he was calling for an emergency Arab League meeting.[/blockquote]

    And the fact that Armstp has had another “Chris Mathews Moment” over yet another Obama speech hardly provides positive proof of a well reasoned Libyan policy.

    It appears recent history has played no role in the decision making process. Iraq started out with a “no fly zone”, with multiple UN Resolutions and with massive civilian casualties actually caused by Chemical Weapons. However true to form Saddam was never removed from power because of either UN Resolutions or “No Fly Zones”.

    Qaddafi will survive unless we supply military aide to the rebel faction which according to our own weak intelligence may be Al Qaeda. Rather ironic that after 10 years of Middle East wars we are now so turned upside down on foreign policy to be shooting Al Qaeda in Afghan and arming them in Libya. Is this the “Carter Moment” we have all been waiting for???

    • armstp


      I think your Arab League quote is a little dated. The Arab League was well represented in London, so I am not sure there is no support as you say.

  • abk1985

    I notice that Barry’s poll numbers are tanking. How about that. Also I note that that fearless motley crew of rebels, who each have testicles the size of grapefruit, have retreated again.