Comfort for Gaddafi, Pain for Obama: Is This the Formula We Want?

06/28/2011 12:38 pm ET | Updated Aug 28, 2011
  • Dr. Charles G. Cogan Associate, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School

On June 24, the House of Representatives rejected a bill to authorize U.S. military operations in Libya, thus registering its displeasure with President Obama for not having consulted it before launching hostilities there. Somewhat contradictorily, the House then voted down a second resolution that would have cut off funds for certain types of operations against the Libyan regime. This was the mixed message about American will that has been sent to Libya's grotesque leader.

Muammar Gaddafi, before he was shocked by the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 into mending his ways, caused two airplanes to crash, a PANAM plane over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 22, 1988 and a UTA plane over Chad on September 19, 1989. Is it possible to imagine much worse a death than to realize that, in the next few minutes or seconds, the plane is going to crash and you are going to die in a horrible way? No amount of Libyan blood money can make up for these horrendous acts.

So why are we criticizing military action against Gaddafi? Why are we advancing the disingenuous formula that Libya is not of strategic interest to the United States? If avenging Lockerbie is not in the interest of the United States, what on earth is?

Disclosure: I was the chief of the Near East South Asia Division in the Directorate of Operations of the CIA from August 1979 to August 1984. It was from this Division that was run the covert action operation against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He is currently an Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School.