iOS app Android app More

Ashwin Madia

GET UPDATES FROM Ashwin Madia
 

Arms to Libya? Bad Idea

Posted: 04/04/11 08:40 AM ET

Should the United States send arms to the opposition in Libya? It's a question that President Obama won't yet answer, saying it's neither ruled in nor ruled out. At least one of our NATO partners, Turkey, is sounding alarms against the idea.

"Our view at the moment is negative because there is no party state established at the moment. In our view this could also create an environment which would be conducive to terrorism and that would, in itself, be dangerous," said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Let me add to that. Not only could it be conducive to terrorism, it could end up supporting existing terror networks.

We simply do not know who makes up the opposition in Libya, or who is trying to work their way into it. Admiral Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe said, "we have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hizbollah, we've seen different things [in Libya]."

Whether there are just "flickers" or something more robust that's growing, introducing American arms into the conflict could very well be handing arms to terrorist groups that turn them on American military personnel, after they're through with Gaddafi. The only safe passage for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is air passage. Hand some stinger missiles to the opposition in Libya, and they can easily make their way to areas where insurgents and al Qaeda need them most, to shoot down our men and women in uniform. Even if we're as careful as humanly possible, and give no arms directly to al Qaeda or other terrorists, in a nation rife with poverty, it is all too easy to imagine Libyan opposition selling the arms to terrorists who are willing to pay.

We've been down this road, of course. In our attempt to first drain the Soviet military, and then hand them a stinging defeat, we gave the "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan arms support. In the short-term, it absolutely worked. In the long-term, the Mujahidin led to al Qaeda which led to 9/11, and other terror attacks, both successful and failed.

Of course, Libya isn't totally analogous. But it may be even worse. There was no real anti-American terrorist group in Afghanistan to speak of, back in the 1980s. So, in that sense, it was much more difficult to ever predict that the arms and support we sent to rebels there would one day be turned against us by terrorists. Not so when it comes to Libya.

There, we have a pretty clear indication that terror groups may be there now, and every reason to believe that once Qaddafi falls, al Qaeda and others will try to fill the vacuum in power, while leading pockets of resistance against any "western colonialism." It exactly what they tried in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.

Introduce arms now, and we're almost guaranteed that they'll be used against any peace keeping force sent in after current operations end, and Gaddafi is gone. And what then? Does the world abandon Libya and let it fall into complete chaos, a perfect place for al Qaeda to set up shop? Do we send in ground troops and get stuck in a third nation-building effort? These are all things to consider, before introducing American arms into the conflict. Frankly, they should have been asked before undertaking operations in the first place.