Thursday, March 31, 2011

Calm down, sorta

While Andrew Sullivan is pretty pissed off about the news of CIA personnel on the ground in Libya and the apparent news of a Presidential order, possibly signed before Resolution 1973, signaling increased support for the rebels, I'm only mildly surprised. There were reports of British special forces and intelligence officers in Benghazi since the first week of March. Although that initial British foray ended in embarrassment and a public withdrawal it would have been more surprising to find out that they, or other members of the current alliance, hadn't tried again than if they had.

With air strikes being championed even before 1973 had been passed and military assets being moved to Malta and the Mediterranean, there was going to be some sort of intelligence gathering/targeting operation on the ground in Libya to do the legwork needed for the intervention. Even though Obama has insisted that this operation will be limited and will not involve American military personnel on the ground, I don't see the use of CIA units as a violation of that statement or some nuanced "tennis shoes versus boots"distinction that is being called out by Sullivan or Yglesias. The CIA is not a branch of the military, is actively involved in covert intelligence gathering operations world wide, and it would be ignorant of the realities of missile and air strike targeting to think that someone on the ground wasn't directing those strikes. What would be more disturbing would be to find out that it was the rebels themselves doing that. More so Sec Gates stated emphatically that there will not be troops in Libya "as long as I’m in this job." That seems to be a better gauge of whether or not we will see American forces on Libyan soil in the future. But then again, who knows.

Addressing the second issue of providing arms, I think that's a pretty awful idea as I've stated before. Forgetting about the legality of arming the rebels, especially in light of the arms embargo on Libya that was a central component to Resolution 1970, there is little reason to think that heavy weapons in the hands of unskilled volunteers is going to turn the tide. If anything, to change the direction of this war the rebels need outside help not in the way of arms but in the way of training. And thus back to the problem of putting "boots on the ground."

No comments:

Post a Comment