Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Give Us the Tools….

by Elliott Abrams
March 2, 2011

Rebel soldiers teach civilian volunteers at a school in Benghazi on March 2, 2011.

Rebel soldiers teach civilian volunteers at a school in Benghazi on March 2, 2011. (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters)

“Give us the tools and we will finish the job,” Winston Churchill said in a famous speech broadcast by the BBC in 1941. Yesterday, a leader of the opposition to the Qaddafi regime in Libya told the Washington Post that “providing military equipment” would help his forces.

That seems obvious. There is now a war under way in Libya, between the Qaddafi regime and most of the population. The United States has very clearly said that Qaddafi must go, as has the so-called “international community.” The problem is that Qaddafi does not agree, and he is making a fight of it. He is no doubt well aware that what awaits him if the regime falls is prosecution and perhaps execution, not some form of peaceful and wealthy exile.

There is great reluctance to engage in any form of direct military intervention, and the reluctance is understandable–though I favor establishment of a no-fly zone. For one thing, direct intervention would rob the Libyan people of what the Egyptians and Tunisians have gained by removing dictatorial regimes without foreign intervention: a sense of  control of their nation’s destiny. But allowing Qaddafi to win this war, stay in power, and wreak vengeance against all his enemies is simply unacceptable, so it would be sensible to ask what might be done to help Libyans fight back.

Sending them not only humanitarian materials–which is already being done, but should be increased–but also arms seems logical. Not troops, not American or other foreign “boots on the ground,” but the tools they need to fight back against Qaddafi, his sons, and their well-equipped brigades. If even that is too much for the United States government to stomach, could we at least press the Saudis (who have long hated Qaddafi) or Egyptians or other Arabs to supply the anti-Qaddafi forces?

The Obama administration has finally taken sides here, and the United States cannot now allow itself to be defeated by Qaddafi. Arranging directly or indirectly for the supply of some weapons to the opposition will not only provide it with critical practical assistance but also give it a huge morale boost. Such assistance would also help push more of the still-loyal Qaddafi supporters and more of those still sitting on the fence to break with him. Given the reports today of how resistant the Pentagon is to direct intervention, including a no-fly zone, perhaps the supply of arms would gather some support at DOD as a better alternative. The American position cannot, in any event, be strong rhetorical support for the opposition combined with absolute inaction. Our words must have meaning and must be the precursor to action.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by William Sacherek

    Let us not underestimate the strength and resolve of the Libyan people. They may have to pay a high price to rid themselves of Qaddafi and when they do we need to pay attention to the civil needs of the population. Our impatience gets ourselves and other nations in many an intractable situation for which we all pay dearly. As a nation we should do nothing to prop up Qaddafi but we should not be the major underpinning of his demise or we will again be viewed as “installing” a regime friendly to the US at the expense of its people.

  • Posted by oliver

    Not so fast! Who are the anti-Qaddafi rebel forces? Who are their leaders, and what are their intentions post Qaddafi? You would have us arm groups that we no little about. Let’s not rush to fall in love with the rebels because they are the “opposition”. We did this with the Afghan mujahideen militants decades ago and look how that turned out. Not wise for the West to kick another beehive. Let thier middle eastern friends arm them –trust me, they have plenty.

  • Posted by Liza18
  • Posted by Frances Turner

    Your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now.

  • Posted by виагра

    We don’t have time to stop for gas — we’re already late.

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