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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Showing posts for "Libya"

Thinking Bureaucratically about Benghazi

by Elliott Abrams

There have been many analyses of former Secretary of State Clinton’s testimony this week about Benghazi, but most are political. Here’s a bureaucratic analysis.

Mrs. Clinton’s critics claim that she should have known about the late Amb. Chris Stevens’ requests for improved security. The Washington Post said “On the matter of why the Benghazi diplomatic outpost was so poorly defended, despite requests for additional security, she said Thursday what she has said all along — that those requests never reached her desk.” Read more »

Obama and Libya: Hold the Triumphalism, Please

by Elliott Abrams

After the death of Muammar al Gaddafi, Administration spokesmen and those journalists who pretty much take dictation from them have been triumphant. This was, they have said, final proof of the exquisite brilliance of Obama policy in Libya (despite the “howling” of critics, to quote David Ignatius). Read more »

Mr. Gates Oversteps

by Elliott Abrams

In his Congressional testimony today, Secretary of Defense Gates overstepped his authority and undermined the president’s role as Commander in Chief.

According to the New York Times, Gates first said “What the opposition needs as much as anything right now is some training, some command and control and some organization. It’s pretty much a pick-up ballgame at this point.” But, he continued, providing training and weapons is “not a unique capability for the United States, and as far as I’m concerned, somebody else can do that.”

“As far as I am concerned” is an interesting phrase. Was the secretary speaking for himself, for the Pentagon, or for the president? What if the president determines later that the United States should in fact supply arms to the opposition? Why is Gates speaking out now to foreclose the president’s options? On March 3 he called discussions of a no-fly zone “loose talk,” but it seems that experience has made him more rather than less aggressive in ruling options in and out.

Far worse was Gates’s answer when asked if there would be American “boots on the ground.” According to the Times Mr. Gates replied “Not as long as I’m in this job.”

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The Defection of Musa Kusa

by Elliott Abrams
Libya's Foreign Minister Musa Kusa addresses the foreign press in Tripoli on March 7, 2011.

Libya's Foreign Minister Musa Kusa addresses the foreign press in Tripoli on March 7, 2011. (Chris Helgren/Courtesy Reuters)

On March 30, Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa apparently defected. The UK Foreign Office statement on Musa Kusa is as follows:

“We can confirm that Musa Kusa arrived at Farnborough Airport on 30 March from Tunisia. He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us that he is resigning his post. We are discussing this with him and we will release further detail in due course.

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Give Us the Tools….

by Elliott Abrams
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.

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Who’s the Superpower? Lessons from Libya

by Elliott Abrams

China is sending a warship, among other planes and ships, to evacuate its citizens from Libya. According to the report, “The PLA Navy has just dispatched Xuzhou, a Type 054 Jiangkai-II class missile frigate, from the ongoing seventh PLAN anti-piracy task force deployment off Somalia to steam to Libyan coast to provide support and protection for the ongoing evacuation mission there.”

In recent days, the White House has been saying that the United States had to watch its words and actions because American citizens were at risk in Libya. So instead of acting, we are building a diplomatic coalition. China has taken a different tack: to use power. Instead of biting their tongue, the Chinese appear to be making it clear to the Qaddafi regime that no danger to Chinese workers will be tolerated.

That’s the path the United States should follow as well. As I’ve said elsewhere, we should be making it clear to Qaddafi and his remaining henchmen that the safety of Americans in Libya is their safety; if Americans are attacked or held hostage, they will end up the way Saddam Hussein did. But the use of power will do more than ensure the safety of Americans; it will also help bring Libya’s civil war to a better end. Today there are no doubt many Libyan officials and military officers who are on the fence. They know that a victorious Qaddafi will take vengeance against those who opposed him, so they won’t jump until they are confident he will lose. American power can help them make that decision. We too should be moving ships and planes, and visibly taking the steps that show our own power. The message should be that we want Qaddafi to lose and will help ensure that he does. The sooner we do this, the fewer Libyans will lose their lives to Qaddafi’s murderous machine and the sooner the violence in Libya will end.

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