From Fareed: Arm the rebels (once they ask)
Opposition rebels battle Gadhafi forces in eastern Libya
March 10th, 2011
12:31 PM ET

From Fareed: Arm the rebels (once they ask)

In Time Magazine this week, I write:

If there is one lesson for U.S. foreign policy from the past 10 years, it is surely that military intervention can seem simple but is in fact a complex affair with the potential for unintended consequences....

Over the past five decades, the U.S. has had very mixed results when it has intervened, by air or land, in other people's wars. But it has done pretty well when it has helped one side of the struggle.

Arming rebels in Afghanistan, Central America and Africa has proved to be a relatively low-cost policy with high rates of success. Giving arms, food, logistical help, intelligence and other such tools to the Libyan opposition would boost its strength and give it staying power.

Once Gaddafi realizes that he is up against an endless supply of arms and ammunition, he will surely recalibrate his decisions.

Check out the full article over at Time and let me know whether or not you agree.

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Topics: From Fareed • Libya

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. nc2011

    I am in disagreement on this one. I like Fareed's views in most cases. But, like others have said, arming Afghans did not help US win hearts and minds of the Pashtuns. And why is there this assumption that these "freedom fighters" or rebels will govern any different or better than Gaddafi. The people of Zimbabwe thought they were bringing a "change", but the only thing they got was a new dictator.

    March 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  2. Jae

    I think that the U.S. needs to stay out of this conflict. We have budget deficit of 14 trillion dollars. We cannot afford to take on another war. People seem to think that arming rebels, or giving assistance comes without a cost. Not only does it have a monetary cost, it has a human cost. If anyone is fool enough to think that we will just establish a no-fly zone and send weapons is sadly mistaken. Once we establish a no-fly zone, we will inevitably have to send troops in. Our Military is already stretched thin. We cannot expect to send our Military to defend every country that is in peril. As I see it, we have more than enough problems here at home that needs to be taken care. If we continue to borrow money from other countries and then turn around and spend it like we have an unlimited supply, before long, the U.S. will begin to look like a third world country and then we won't have to worry about helping anyone because we won't be able to even help ourselves.

    March 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  3. RichP, easton, pa

    Just grab 100 of them and make up 50 2 man stinger teams, spend the two days training it takes and turn them loose, that takes care of the air problem provided we give them enough reloads.

    March 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  4. Kirk693

    Well ! Well !! Now again a group of people are asking for our help from an oppressor!! (Fishing)! for them will only hurt us!,so lets sell them some of our surplus (Fishing)! equipment at rock bottom basement price's with no down payment and easy low yearly payments +10% interest, but wait!!! if they act now we will throw in the training for the (Fishing Equipment)
    (Sorry do to the high cost of American Flag draped Coffins this service will not be available at this time)

    March 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Reply
    • Kirk693

      What no(intelligent) reply? Was this to far over the head to figure out what I said?

      March 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  5. F. Daniel Gray

    I must be missing something. The US "has done pretty well when it has helped one side of the struggle. At the end of WWII the Korean peninsula was a TEMPORARILY divided nation. We chose to sponsor and expedite the formation of the ROK. The war followed, and we lost over 40, 000 lives of our military personnel. Russia opted out and we, plus China and Japan, are faced with a conundrum, and an irritant with no resolution. A similar choice in Viet Nam led to 50,000 more fatalities, and our forced exit.

    In the Mid East, we have chosen to favor Israel, and kept such as Mubarak in power for decades. The overall situation is now more unpredictable and unstable than ever. In Nicaragua and El Salvador, we chose right wing and oppressive regimes (who even murdered priests and nuns), causing massive immigration fleeing conflict, from which the countries have yet to recover.

    We forced the revolutionary Cubans into the hands of the Soviets, by backing Batista, and are now upset because the government refuses to do it "our" way. And, as a matter of fact, they are not that close to Russia, despite our reliance on the outdated Cold War concept. Don't even get me started on Jonas Savimbi, Mobuto, and our support for the Apartheid regime in south Africa. We chose Chaing Kai Shek over Mao, and are now paying the Chinese plenty. We favored the Brits over Gandhi. So Nehru et al cozied up to the USSR. Arm the rebels, some, possibly allied with Al Queda? Man, have you got the wrong number?

    Militarily, we, and NATO, our creation, are almost irrelevant, especially when facing a resilient, highly mobile, and lightly armed, adversary. Which we are doing in the Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan theater where, "success" is more illusionary than possible.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Reply
    • Alexander

      God point, Daniel Gray,

      Not mentioning U.S. help to mojaheddin in Afghanistan. Quoting Fareed original words:

      "Arming rebels in Afghanistan, Central America and Africa has proved
      to be a relatively low-cost policy with high rates of success."

      I wonder what is the definition of "success" here?

      If "success" means inflicting as much casualties to Soviet as possible, then it is a kind of success, but following the same logic Russia should supply Taliban with Igla missiles right now. Not to let Taliban win, but to make sure that U.S. pays fair a price. Somethiong like 15,000 marines dead would be a fair price.

      If "success" means creation the ugliest theocratic regime in the World - Student Democratic Union "Taliban" - then it is kind of success. And then to remind people around here, that the outcome of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was not defeat to mujaheddin, but establishing the government of National Unity of D. Najibullah. What ever it was it was sane, and viable (it lasted until 1993, longer than Soviet Union itseld; Dr. Najibullah was killed in 1996). U.S. did not want that. U.S. wants to sabotage whatever Soviet/Russia does just for the sake of sabotaging, regardless whether it is good or bad even for U.S. itself. Afghanistan has no oil and no other U.S. interests. But U.S supported Taliban in its fight against Najibullah government back in 1989...1993, after Soviets left. It is then when Taliban was brought to power. Tom Hanks (a.k.a. Charles Wilson) lied at the end of the movie: U.S. did not loose interest in Afghanistan after Soviets left. And schools were built, except that the schools were called "madrassa". U.S. lost interest in Afghanistan gradually and much later, around 1997...1999 because realizing at last the Taliban regime is kind of ugly.

      But in 2001 U.S. was reminded in a very dramatic way...

      U.S. made a U-turn. Former enemies - Northern Aliance, Kasim Fakhim (replacing Ahmad Shah Massoud who was assassinated by Taliban on Sept 10, 2001), Dr. Rabbani, Abdulla Abdullo, and Abdulrashid Dostum - some/most of whom were remnant of Najibullah Government - were all suddenly enlisted as friends. And U.S. taxpayer money were used to buy old surplus Russian tanks and weapons in order to change the equation of force.

      Isn't Gulbuddin Hekmatyar U.S. desperately trying to kill for so many years now using Predator drones is the same Gulbuddin Hekmatyar U.S. was helping 25 years earlier?

      And would the life in the U.S. be more boring (that is no opportunity for adventure for 20-years-old marines - just serve 2 years, then get you free college, then serve another 2 years and get out - routine, sucks), if U.S. WOULD NOT INVOLVED in Afghanistan 25 years ago?

      And when we start learning from the past?

      Remember U.S. base was booted out in 2005 for Uzbekistan? How bizzarre. While fighting Taliban in Afghanistan Condellezza Rice decided that the regime of Islam Karimov is not democratic enough (he is, after all, a former communist first secretary), so Uzbekistan needs a "regime change". And to facilitate toppling Karimov's regime U.S. decided to support local opposition which consists on basically religious fanatics with exactly the same ideas as Afghan Taliban. After rebelion was suppressed by Karimov's regime, U.S. base was booted out. When we start learning history, Fareed Zakharia?

      March 12, 2011 at 10:51 am | Reply
  6. steve

    People are forgetting that this isnt a homogeneous group fighting 'to overthrow a dictator'. The people of Tripoli like THEIR dictator just fine. Of all of Libya, they are of Gadhaffi's tribe and THEY have received the lions share of infrastructural development, money and jobs to date (a scenario which would surely change).
    THEY are Gadhaffi's core and REAL support, therefore displacing Gadhaffi means displacing them as well.
    This means there will always be a core faction of the country significantly opposed to whatever leadership is put in place.

    One option could well be a fracturing of Libya along tribal lines, a Libya East or 'BenghaziStan'. Already recognized by the French, they could welcome French military assistance and be a thorn next door to the hobbled Gadaffi regime. (and also generate terrorist strikes against France)
    sigh..

    March 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  7. Mary Banerian

    If anyone contributes arms to the Libyan, rebels, they are taking a gamble, not knowing well who they are, where the arms will end up, if there will be repercussions down the road, etc.
    If no one arms the rebels, I can predict the outcome. They and their families will all be killed now or later. Qaddafi kills anyone who does not agree with him.
    Do you want that on your conscience?

    March 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  8. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Firstly, I don't at all agree with Mr. Zakaria that we need to intervene on behalf of the rebels. There is simply no need for America to be shedding its blood or (borrowed) money without even being sure of the outcome. So, even if there is a massacre we should use multilateral efforts (through the UN) to bring order, and demand that Europe, and even any of the rich ME nations who wants Gaddaffi gone to chip in. Also, the greatest challenge dealing with these MErn revolutions is there are no recognized leaders, it's a disorganized band of citizens revved up revolutionary zeal. America's example helping these people has never been happy; we have been kicked in the face after we have done our job.

    Having said that, Mr. Zakaria never ever loses an opportunity to bash America and American policies while PRETENDING to be a patriot, whenever addressing issues of religious intolerance & hatred in the Islamic world. Surely while US policies may have contributed in some measure, any one who has studied Islamic history knows that it's their religion that drives them to hate all things un-Islamic. Yet again, he oversimplifies the Islamic terror emanating from the Afghans aided & nurtured by the terrorist Pakistanis as due to America turning its back on them after the war. And he justifies the barbaric Chechen thuggery & terror by oversimplifying it as a civil war, while DELIBERATELY disregarding the fact that after giving the Chechen’s independence Russia had to go back once again when Chechnya turned out be a rogue nation peddling drugs, kidnappings etc. In fact Mr. Zakaria displayed the extent to which he will go defend practitioners of his faith when he showed an UTTER LACK OF SENSITIVITY, or even BASIC HUMAN DIGNITY when he wrote his infamous article holding the Russians responsible for creating Islamic terrorist problem, EVEN AS the Russians were still PICKING UP DEAD BODIES from the dastardly Moscow a/p bombing. (Time dot com “How Russia created its own Islamic TERRORISM(!!) problem” Jan 27th 2011).
    No wonder a lot of Americans believe my former countryman (from India) Mr. Zakaria to be an Islamic sympathizer!
    Amit-Atlanta-USA

    March 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Reply
    • Alexander

      Well, thank you, Atlanta, for pointing it out. This article of Fareed Zakaria,

      http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2044540,00.html

      is, indeed, full of cynicism and hatred.

      March 12, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  9. joemash

    I'm an American that will not stand by and watch an 'animal' that should have been taken out a long time ago slaughter innocent people. The problem with the rest of Americans – all the way to the top – is that they have no 'balls'. Bullies. Dumb. But no balls. Why? Because we have that that would make the difference – weapons I spent my tax dollars developing just for an occasion like this. But you need the balls to use them. Use them and fights are over before they even begin. Korea, Vietnam if you will (although we shouldn't have been in either). A few MOABs in the right places ends this sh*t instantly. And the People can then go in and clean things up. And if anybody doesn't like it, so what! What are they going to do!? Yell and scream. This also answers those who say, oh my what if 'they' get our weapons and start using them us. You see, we lob a few more and again, its over before it began. We just need the balls!

    March 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • Alexander

      The problem with the rest of Americans is that they seem to be wiser.

      "Few MOABS will end this s... instantly?" That is, at best, too naive. Kill Gaddafi? That will only promote him to sainthood. Besides, he is not so stupid to stand in open and designate himself as a target.

      The point is that you may like Gaddafi or hate him, but it is quite clear right now that he has support of a significant portion of Libyans, who like him and see him as a natural leader. His army is made of conscripts. These kind of armies are not good at suppression rebellions of the very same people they consist of - most people do not like fight and kill their own. Yes, there are incidents of desertion, but it does not seem to collapse quickly as predicted.

      March 13, 2011 at 3:34 am | Reply
  10. ytuque

    Before we support the opposition, we should know who are they and what do they stand for. Will they oppress women, ethnic and religious minorities, homosexuals? Are they for democracy and freedom, or they just opposed to Gadhafi?

    March 11, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  11. David Robertson

    A few people who've responded here seem to understand what the realities are in Libya- decades of fear and repression & now the fear of being seen talikng to a Western jounalist, the fear of the security smashing in your door and taking away your son or taking you away, the fear of being gunned down in the streets of Tripoli because too many of you are leaving the mosques in groups. The other reality is that of hope, the dream of freedom, feeling that you have lived with a stone on your heart all your life as a Libyan & now, glimpsing the possibility of freedom, you feel that the stone has lifted. Anyone who has been following the CNN news videos coming out of Libya can hear these fears and hopes expressed.

    As far as the US getting involved, there does not seem any public official who feels that assistance should not be multilateral assistance, which would mean the US working with the UN, with NATO, with our European allies, with the Arab League, the African nations, with any global organization willing to provide assistance. Should the assistance include arms? Yes, of course, if one takes the view that turning one's back on this situation, a popular uprising against a tyrannical despot, is, for democracies like the US, a betrayal of our own love of freedom and puts us on the wrong side of history. I believe we must join an international effort to provide not only arms, but a wide range of aid- recognition of the National Council headquartered in Benghazi, food and medical supplies, satellite imagery and communications assistance &, possibly, the establishment of a no-fly zone.

    To all those who responded here with "no", I would remind them of the 'bunch of unorganized, untrained and uneducated rebels" who fired the first shot at Concord,who suffered through the winter at Valley Forge & who ultimately turned the world upside down at Yorktown. Look for the CNN video of the old man speaking in Benghazi, showing his face to the camera & giving his name, saying that, yes, for speaking like this he might die, but he is free now and he will speak out now to say "freedom is such a beautiful feeling. We can say whatever we want to say."

    Fareed, thank you again for providing this space to share our thoughts & feelings & to share those of others.

    March 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  12. JM

    Arab League should put their high tech air force and military personnel where their vote is

    March 13, 2011 at 4:48 am | Reply
  13. Hugh

    Mr. Zakaria has this one wrong. Has he forgotten that we opted for a 'low-cost' solution to Soviet occiupied Afghanistan and armed Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban.

    March 14, 2011 at 12:59 am | Reply
    • Alexander

      By saying that do you mean that Mr. Fareed Zakaria forgot to include the cost of the current war into the cost of "low-cost" solution?

      March 14, 2011 at 2:18 am | Reply
  14. Renato Santos

    Mr. Zakaria raises legitimate and valid premises on why intervention is essential and necessary. I specifically subscibe to the idea that letting things unravel in thier own natural course specially should Khadaffi survive the revolt against him or the unrest in Libya would send a chilling message and embolden other dictators or autocrats to slaughter their own people if the citizens rise up and call for their ouster.

    But I would like to inject the element of urgency and a sense of obligation and responsibility of the entire international community. It should be inconsequencial whether or not any country would benefit in intervening and aiding the Libyan people. This should not be the motivation of any country in supporting the Libyan's struggle for democracy and freedom. A more compelling and altruistic motivation is our need and obligation to fight for the oppressed, protect those who are being persecuted, and to save lives. This is a golden opportunity to dispel and debunk the propaganda and lies peddled by the radicals and extremists against the western democracies. This is an opportunity for us to show the Arab people that even without an ulterior motive or hidden agenda, we are sincere in our desire and aspiration to let them have and enjoy what we have, unbridaled freedom and democracy regardless of religion, color, and creed.

    This however, I fear is a small window of opportunity for intervention and assistance. Khadaffi has demonstrated and seem certain to make good on his threats to kill and slaughter those who oppose him. He appears to be hell-bent on clinging to power at all cost. With a mad dictator who has so little regard for the lives of his countrymen getting more desperate and threatened, Libya can be reduced to a killing fields in days. After that there will be no opposition or freedom loving Libyans to speak of. Will we wait to act when it is already too late?

    I understand the ambivalence and reservation of the international community. History has a long list of failed and disasterous interventions. But for every Vietnam, there is a South Korea. Fear of failure and the unknown should not be our motivation. It should be the promise and rewards of victory and freedom and democracy.

    Intervention now would put us in a better position than we were in Iraq until 2007-8. In Iraq, it took the world quite a bit of time to realize that the fight should be carried on by the Iraquis. In Libya, we have an ill-equipped thousands and the tribes who are willing to fight and topple a dictator. All they want is a level playing field where they won't be overpowered and silenced into submission. If the opposition and rebels are the true voice and will of the people, they must be allowed and assisted in asserting and reclaiming their sovereign will and oust this false and illegitimate leader. If the world acts now, we can severely minimize casualties and damage to property. This would mean less resources and time to rebuild and rehabilitate. If Khadaffi is allowed to camp and protect his turf and fortress, he will wipe the government coffers clean to make an example out of the rebels. Leaving the Libyan people bankrupt even if they succeed in unseating the dicatator.

    A vital requisite must be the support and approval of the League of Arab Nations. They must be drawn in and actively involved. One good reason is of course, deference to the Arab nations. Now more than ever, when some of them feel threatened and under assault by the wave of change seeking reforms, it would be reassuring to reach out to them and make them feel like we are in this together and that we have as much at stake in Libya as they have. They will be our partners in rehabilitating and rebuilding Libya. Another reason is, with unavoidable casualties and damage to property and uncertain outcomes, it is imperative that the international community establish its responsibility and control. I believe the League is already on-board with much of the International community's sentiments and position in Libya. The League's approval of the no fly-zone is approval in principle of the force and collaboration necessary to protect the Libyans and drive Khadaffi out of power. We just need to polish, refine, fine-tune and align at the soonest possible time.

    I leave it up to the military experts whether or not a no fly-zone is better than an air assault on the airforces loyal to Khadaffi. But if the no fly-zone is really a logistical nightmare, it may be prudent to opt for the latter. Even if we were to concede that it is not the airforce attacks of the forces loyal to Khadaffi which is its source of strength, airforce alone on one side will and can definitely tilt the balance of a conflict in favor of the other. The airforce of Khadaffi must be grounded and put out of commission.

    It is important that the Arab nation fully understand that Democracy is but a means to an end and not a guarantee to progress and prosperity. There are certainly benefits and rewards that come with democracy but the prosperity and progress that developed countries were the product of unity, commitment, sacrifice and political will. The countries who manage to restore their freedom must ride the crest of their newfound unity and patriotism for genuine reforms and nation-building. They must resist the trap of those countries who became complacent and less vigilant and paid the price with a corrupt, inept, and abusive government to take the place of the old government. Optimism and hope for a better tomorrow and quickly can give way to disenchantment, discontent, outrage, and frustration. This can be easily be seized by extremists and radicals to fuel their propaganda. The International community must be there to guide and assist against these pitfalls.

    With struggles for freedom in Yemen and a still unfolding political developments in Tunisia and Egypt and the instability in parts of the Middle East has adversely impacting oil prices, it would be in the interest of all parties concerned and the world to see the Libyan conflict end with the Libyan people victorious. The situation in Yemen commands a closer scrutiny and attention with a predicted water crisis to take place and the political climate still cloudy.

    There are inherent uncertainties in the outcome in Libya even if the Libyan people unseat Khadaffi. No one knows for certain what kind of government will soon rise to power to take the place of Khadaffi. But this should not deter or impede the International Community's obligation and duty to aid and support a nation fighting and struggling to have a chance to experience democracy in whatever shape and form it manifests itself in Libya. The Libyans are no less deserving of freedom and democracy than any other nation or people. At the very least, they should be given an opportunity to let them determine their own fate. While outcomes may not always turn out as we have planned, it is certainly worth all the effort and commitment we put into it. That way we never wonder what might have been and if we are lucky we can witness and take pride in contributing to what should have always been.

    March 14, 2011 at 3:59 am | Reply
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