Under President Obama, America has sought to be liked. It is retreating from its status as the world's policeman.
While the world's attention has been fixed, understandably, on Japan the mercenaries and military under Gaddafi's command have accelerated their brutal attempts to suppress the uprising. First he bombed an ammunition dump, avoiding civilian casualties, to test the west's reaction. When nothing happened he moved to retake control of a few small towns. Again the West did nothing. Now his forces are advancing fearlessly. The consequences for US power are enormous. David Frum is asking the right questions on his blog:
- If Muammar Qaddafi violently suppresses the Libya uprising while America stands by, will Arab and Muslim opinion really believe that we were “neutral”? Or will they believe that we tacitly support Qaddafi – as they believed through the 1990s that we tacitly supported Saddam Hussein?
- What behavior can we expect from a Muammar Qaddafi who survives this uprising? Qaddafi turned to the West after 2003 because he was frightened by the overthrow of Saddam. Having crushed an uprising – and successfully defied an American president – which way will Qaddafi turn next? How confident are you that he won’t revert to terrorism, if not against Europe then against a newly volatile Egypt right next door?
- Iran crushed its uprising in 2009, with impunity. Hezbollah has seized power in Beirut. Hamas holds Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood is rising in Egypt. Who looks like the ascendant power in the Middle East today? Iran or the United States?
- If you are the king of Saudi Arabia, what conclusions do you draw from the fall of American ally Mubarak and the survival of American enemy Qaddafi?
- If you are the prime minister of Iraq, what conclusions do you draw from the apparent regional ascendency of Iran and the apparent decline of the United States?
- If you are a Libyan insurgent and you are offered arms by international Islamist groups, do you say yes or no?
Read all of his questions here.
The former British Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has written in today's London Times (£) urging that the Libyan rebels be armed:
"[There] should be an open and urgent supply of the necessary weapons to the insurgents so that they can fight Gaddafi on equal terms. The UN has imposed an arms embargo and some have suggested that this makes illegal any supply of weapons to either side in Libya. The UN Resolution, however, refers to a ban on arms supply to the Libyan “Jamahiriya”, which is Gaddafi’s invented name for the state he controls. It need not prevent supplies to those trying to bring him down. Otherwise, we will repeat the mistake of the Bosnian war — when the UN embargo had much less impact on the Bosnian Serbs who were, already, heavily armed. Having been Defence Secretary at that time I have, in retrospect, felt that that was the most serious mistake made by the UN. Gaddafi could hardly make successful propaganda from such arms supplies to the insurgents. He himself has internationalised the conflict by importing mercenaries from the surrounding countries of North Africa and the Middle East."
British Conservative MP, Mark Pritchard also recommended this course, nearly one week ago.
In his Times piece, Sir Malcolm Rifkind also endorses a no fly zone.