March 21st, 2011
08:56 AM ET

Don't bet on a brief or limited war in Libya

By Tony Karon,

Even if no American ground forces are committed to Libya, it's increasingly unlikely that the conflict will end without some foreign boots on the ground.

The Libyan state has essentially collapsed into two rival administrations, each having armed many thousands of their supporters. Even in the best-case outcome, foreign troops will likely be needed on the ground to enforce and maintain the peace until a new Libyan state can be created.

That's not a job the U.S. or any other Western country would want, and most Arab countries may have more pressing concerns on their minds. (Keep an eye on Turkey to become the key player in the coming days and weeks.)

The Libyan war, for that is plainly what it is, was launched with neither a clear end game nor a clear strategy.

It began as an emergency action to prevent the fall of Benghazi. But now that Western military power has been brought to bear (let's not kid ourselves that Arab participation is anything much beyond symbolic), Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron could find themselves owning a broken and very dangerous situation on the ground in Libya.

Many of the arguments for intervention derived from the Western experience in the Balkans during the 1990s, beginning with the breakup of Yugoslavia and culminating with the Kosovo conflict in 1999. It's worth remembering, then, that NATO troops were involved in Bosnia for 12 years, and there are still 8,700 NATO troops in Kosovo, which remains a ward of the West.


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Topics: Libya • Military

soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Onesmallvoice

    I have a horrible suspicion that the U.S. will sooner or later send troops into Libya to take over that country. The right-wing thugs in Washington never give up until they get what they want. This is an American war no matter how you slice it!!! How repulsive!!!

    March 21, 2011 at 9:38 am | Reply
    • Timothy

      You are ignorant. Even though a democrat president has started this war you still blame it on republicans. You are nothing more than a puppet for left extremists. How does it feel to not have a mind of your own?

      March 21, 2011 at 10:26 am | Reply
      • Onesmallvoice

        isn't that the other way around,Timothy? It seems to be you who is sticking up for the right-wing thugs in Washington,not I. I do think for myself whereas the government does not and have a love for justice. What's wrong with that???

        March 21, 2011 at 11:44 am |
      • Willyd

        What war did our president start, Timothy? The only war we started was under the Bush administration. This current war was started by the fed-up Lbyan people when their "leader" started killing his own people. Then, they turned to the UN for help. The UN, not the US, has responded. Fact checking should take precedence over name-calling, don't you think?

        March 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
      • Richard Nielen

        Timothy, you hit the nail on the head. That's why our left-wing friends have to attack you. Their "Messiah" has failed them, not to mention, waded into another war.

        March 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
      • College renegade

        You are both fools! This country will not survive the next 20 years in its current form! A socalist revolt is upon us, will you rise up or be trampled by the wave of change!?

        March 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
      • BRBSanDiego

        Yo tiny Tim – what planet did you migrate from? I will bet any amount of money that the US will have soldiers on the ground (probably do already) before the end of March. Intelligence, special ops, and weapons are already in place just waiting for some marines to enact surgical strikes. The right wingers will not let this opportunity slip away i.e. quick blast against some Libya thugs, claim victory, give out medals, and puff up their chests. Same shtttttt – different day. Your kids will get a tour of Libya next decade.

        March 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
      • Wilbur

        College renegade,

        A socialist revolution? Sorry pal that will never happen. Socialism has Been proven a failure time and time again! Look how well Chavez is doing with his economy in ruins. The central problem with socialism is it runs counter to the ideas of competition and incentive. Without those later two you have no sustainable innovation and the resulting progress. As flawed as our system is to day it is by far the most succesful the world has ever seen.

        March 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
      • Rick From Los Angeles

        Please do not call eachother names. If you have issue with a point of view, discuss it like civilized human beings.

        This is a War not of our doing. France & England wanted to go to war, our President was looking for ways to stay out of it. When the U.N. declared open season on Kadafi's regieme, it is a matter of US honor to lead the charge. To not do so would severly damage our credibility. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is the price we have to pay to be the world super power. Pehaps in a few years China can take this role from us. Be then again would that be a good thing?

        March 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Ray

      you don't seem to be encumbered by facts or information.. how nice,, it must be freeing to be so freaking clueless

      March 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • Dan

      Onesmallvoice. Timothy has got you, dude. You can't blame this on the Repubs. This is a police action ordered by Obama with no involvement from Congress.

      March 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Reply
    • blah9999

      This one, you can fairly say, "Obama's fault."

      March 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Reply
      • SureYaDo

        dont like him, didnt vote for him cant wait till hes gone, but i gotta say this was the right thing to do. if you have the power to stop mass murder, and you dont, you might as well have pulled the trigger yourself.

        March 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Johann

      I can't believe how naive and ignorant you are about world politics. Maybe you think when innocent, unarmed civilians spontanoeusly rise up against a dictator who has been in power since the late 60's, the rest of the world should turn their backs and allow them to be slaughtered? If we would have had the ways and means to take out Hitler and his government early on when he began slaughtering Jews, Poles, handicapped people, mentally retarded, etc. would you have said we whould stand on the sidelines? The problem with pacifism and isolationism is that it doesn't work with evil leaders, and it allows the oppression of killing of innocent people.
      I agree that national security dictates when we decide to interevene militarily, but that is to be expected. Oil is a national security issue, as is Europe and our allies, nuclear weapons, Israel, etc. We will always intervene with the full force of the U.S. military when any othose issues become unstable.

      March 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Reply
      • Natalie

        How many of you posters have served in the military? U.S. troops will be on the ground in a span of about a month. My son is one of them, I myself am a veteran of the Gulf war, and can't stand to see what is going on. We are not the World Police, or the World babysitter. I'm real tired of having to leave my real life, my family and friends, to go stomping around the world for some oil or some maniac killing his people. I live in a big city where murder occurs daily, but I don't see any troops coming to our rescue. Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with this picture?

        March 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • USA401

      To say its anyone’s fault is very far off from what has happened. As a collective alliance the UN has stepped in to aid the Libyan Rebels and potentially stop mass murder of Ghadhafi enemies. If action on the US's part did not take place critics would say it was a failure of the Administration. If the Administration jumped into Libya before the UN, it would have been a failure of the Administration. If we calculated the strike and coordinated with our Allies, it is seen as the failure of the administration. So it appears the dip-$h!ts on both the extreme right and extreme left are never happy unless they get their way and force the narrow minded beliefs on the public.

      I for one am happy we coordinated our attack because it allows us to do what we do best. Get in, kick some @55 then go home. Enough of this expensive 'nation building' BS.

      March 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Reply
    • Me

      "Right wing thugs"? Oh come on. Get real. Don't be pathetic. You should change your screen name to Onesmallmind.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Reply
      • AK

        And you should change your name to me es stupido.

        March 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • mobrule

      hmm, that's funny, I thought a left wing thug was the one pulling the trigger on this one. guess when you're a koolaid head, everything gets twisted to fit your fantasyland.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      They've already have people like Onesmallvoice here, that fail to understand the party system means nothing. Their all in it together even if they come off like enemy's in public. The current party system and media do nothing but divide the country. It allows people like you to point the finger at a group instead of an issue or the cause of it.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Reply
    • test

      cia test

      March 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • chris

      so you're saying Obama isn't really the president? that's a new one, even for liberal hypocrites.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Reply
    • Benji

      You're all puppets for someone elses agenda. First off, "war" shouldn't be in the title. There is no war going on except a civil war. All that we, the UN forces, are doing is creating a level battle field on which the Libyan people can fight. The revolutionary soldiers of Libya dont have fighter jets or hundreds of helicopters, so the UN voted on taking Gadhafis upper hand and destroying it, which was passed by an international counsel. Dont forget, the French were the first ones to cross the border, then the US and Britian launched cruise missiles at radar and anti-aircraft missile systems. Finally, no foot soldiers will EVER set foot in Libya. We have no reason to join their civil war after evening the battle field as well as the League of Arab Nations would never allow it.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Reply
    • Dan mogensen

      Poor Obama!!
      He so cleverly failed to withstand the crushing forces of his own government dictating the US's foreign policy.
      Libya is his downfall. Democrat or republican, same circus.
      On the Dollar, it says, in God we trust!! So, in Money we trust, not God. shameful as it might sound. Folks, this is reality. Clear enough about US's interests in Arabian Oil. They'll do whatever it takes to create several new governments to exert their own influence to preserve their interests.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:06 am | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    The duo Erdogan and Gül is a blessing for Turkey. Wish them luck, if they would be appointed to mediate in the Libyan conflict, which can not be solved so quickly. Colonel Gaddafi is extremely shrewd and lots of surprises lie ahead of us. Players like Germany, Russia, China and India would be welcome by Gaddafi as mediators. Chavez could still contribute unilaterally if he doesn't feel comfortable in the league.

    March 21, 2011 at 9:43 am | Reply
  3. james

    We just never learn do we? I thought I voted for a President with enough sense to avoid getting tangled up in more middle eastern boondoggles. I'd be less ashamed if we simply admitted we were invading for the oil rather than lying through our teeth that it's to "help" the people. Obama is such a disappointment.

    March 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Reply
    • Dan

      Obama and the Dems failed to recognize the axiom, "With whatever measure you mete, it will be meted out against you." That's what happens when you spend all your time judging and screaming about the actions of others - you end up proving that you're no better.

      March 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Reply
      • Rick From Los Angeles

        Your statement makes no sense. This is not about the President this is about America's place in the world. If we want to stay on top, action like these need to be takem, and we have to be at the forefront. This is not a Dem or Repub problem, this is a USA problem.

        March 21, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • SHRIKE

      1. Libya is North Africa, not the Middle East. 2. The U.S. doesn't get any of it's oit from Libya, since Khadaffi's Libya is a terrorist sponsor state. ie. they help train, arm and shelter terrorists.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Reply
      • FFFF

        Of course we get oil from Libya. Same witrh Iran. DO you think that oil is seperated by country and that is how we choose? No, it goes to the open market as one giant commodity..

        March 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
      • Benji

        FFFF doesnt know what hes talking about. Of course its bought by country. What do you think, all crude is exported to a giant tank and their profits come from a percentage? No, its bought from a supplier within a country. As for where we get our oil, we get none from Libya and Iran. The US main exporters for oil are Canada, Iraq, Angola, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria; with Nigeria selling nearly half of all its oil to the US. Oil can be tracked to it source just like anything else, its got to be shipped from somewhere right?!?!

        March 21, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Ed

      Yeah said it ALL...That is what this is an INVASION FOR THE OIL....Not for the People!!!...There are Members of Congress and Senators who feel the same!!!

      INVADE..CONQUER AND DIVIDE...People are already saying that the UK and France are lined up' behind Us!!..

      March 22, 2011 at 2:06 am | Reply
  4. kutesagfire

    I agree James , but at the same time Obama really has no say .... its like the adjustment bureau (2011) he has to be on plan ... with what they want . It's a struggle between good and evil ... sadly .

    March 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Reply
    • blah9999

      What?? No. It's not like Adjustment Bureau. This is real life, not Hollywood. You need to go back to your mother so you can learn the difference between real life and make-believe.

      March 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Reply
      • kutesagfire

        Look no need for the smart remarks this is the internet , and if I want to make the remark and compare in to a Hollywood movie than I can . What is the big deal ? The people have no say in what happens in this country and no other country has any say to how there country should be ran without America's involvement. Truly do you think that Obama makes all his decisons ? If you think so ,you are the biggest fool of them all . Libya has oil that is called " baby crude oil " that does not take much to be refined its what America is truly digging for liek the others have posted. Ask your mother, if this country has been fair or for the people ? Lets be fair !

        March 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  5. Tom

    I completely disagree with this pseudo-analysis. The support of Gaddafi is based on money from oil. The recent military action is step 2. The first step was freezing his foreign assets. The acceleration of the attacks indicates this was a good beginning. Without money, he cannot pay his mercenary army. Arming his popular supporters will eventually backfire, as it has in many other conflicts. After the people get some power, they decide how they want to use it. It all depends on the tribal leaders, if a power broker within the rebels can arrange a coalition, then it will be over in 30 days.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Reply
    • kutesagfire

      Ok you may not agree with the analyis , but when other's say they are dissappointed with Obama's calls on certain issues , do you think it is him that is in control ? He up for possible re-election heis poll numbers are down ... he has people riding on him to do this and that .... it is not all him !

      March 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  6. hasc

    Historically many leaders have suffered from the illusion that a few well-placed bombs (or missiles) will decide the outcome of an armed conflict. This has the makings of a long, ugly civil war and we have come down on one side of it, like it or not. Gaddafi knows he can hurt us and our allies by dragging this out, so that is what he will do.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Reply
    • Rick From Los Angeles

      A few well placed bombs can have tremendous effect. Bengazi nearly, those well placed bombs eliminated the attackers. Now the rebels can breathe. When those well placed bombs are in support of those willing to take advantage of this then it can make the difference, whether this will take a long time. Yes but not for us. France and England wanted this war. We will eliminate the Libyan military but they have to rebuild the nation.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  7. Knowmore2

    Just what we need, another war. Well,we do what we do best and our number 1 export is war and death. We should be ashamed.

    March 21, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Reply
    • SureYaDo

      what exactly should WE be ashamed of I wonder? What is worse, the bully or the bystander with the power to stop the bully and does nothing?

      March 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Reply
      • Natalie


        You must have never served in the military or had kids who did. Our military is already spread way too thin, our own country is in disarray, and now we have more crap to deal with? You have a central theme in your posts regarding the fact that if we do nothing, then it is like pulling the trigger ourselves. I suggest you get off your self-righteous high horse, grab a gun, and let's go to Libya!!!!

        March 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  8. saiga762

    Why are we involved in this mess? how is it our business? They wanted to rise up against their government. Good for them. How is it our problem? Oh that's right, Barry will work hard to protect his moooslim brotherhood. What a joke this all is.

    March 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • Rick From Los Angeles

      It's our probelm since we are the supposed leaders of the free world. Obama is duty bound to respond when the UN calls for action. Basically we are the worlds B&^#H. When there is danger and the world cries out for help. We have to respond whether we like it or not.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  9. Fromyak

    When will we learn our lessons? Every time we so call "help" the people in the Middle East we just give them more ammunition to hate us. Lets build more missles to protect our own borders, drill more oil in our own country and take over Mexico and give the Israel a new homeland closer to us. That makes more sense than saving people who will turn our generocity against us.

    March 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • SureYaDo

      Hate America much? you do realize Obama is a democrat right?

      March 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • kutesagfire

      You are right , even though those countries are at war with each other why are we so damnnnn concerned .... OIL Look how we've gone and blown up bibical sites , not cool

      March 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Reply
  10. keith

    there are already boots on the ground, they're just not officially admitting it. Those planes can't exactly bomb without someone on the ground pointing the way to some extent. I can probably guarantee that there are SAS troops, maybe Navy Seals and even French special forces who are acting as forward air controllers.

    March 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Reply
    • AK

      Were you born stupid or did the doctor drop you on the head while slapping life into you?

      March 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Reply
    • Rick From Los Angeles

      No need to send people where sattelites and spy drones have free reign. We know what and where the Libyan assets are and can detect where they moved to without putting boots on the ground. Welcome to the 21st century.

      March 21, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  11. ed

    were not going after qudaffi were going after alquada people on drugs killing libians

    March 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  12. Minos

    @ On every Small and Incoherent Voice - Your brain has a partisan "clot" that prevents coherent thoughts to manifest from it. You claim you "love justice" but yet you fail to appreciate that the spirit and intent behind NATO involvement in Libya is first and foremost to prevent the revenge fueled mass killing of human beings by a ruthless tyrant. If that's not justice, what is? Your mind is constipated with partisan waste and blind bias - wake up and own the fact that Obama made this call and be proud of it! Saving thousands from a bloody massacre is a GOOD THING no matter what side of the aisle you sit on. Plus, anything to add stability to a oil rich country is just practical governance in an effort to avoid yet another downward pull on our already shaky global economy. But it's easier to skip past thoughtful reflection and go straight to childlike "big animal" pictures (Donkey = good, Elephant = bad). How embarrassing for you. You should see a doctor about getting a stool softener for your brain and share some with the rest of the hardcore Right and Left wing morons out there. When you blame the right wing for a call that was clearly made by a Democratic President, it's time to look in the mirror and admit you need professional help.

    March 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Reply
  13. BullCrap

    What the hell. Our President bama sipping wine with Brazil... Why not stay home and tend the problems with have here. Budget, War, etc. What's this about no pay for the Military after April 8th, 2011, No federal pay, Nothing! I can bet bama adminstation will be in bank lines to cash their pay checks? duh!!!

    March 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • Big~Tuna

      This guy BullCrap is well known locally here. He has had several indecent exposure arrests and two arrests for fornication with barnyard animals.

      March 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  14. Me

    We should bomb the heck out of the pro-Gadafi forces, and then arm the heck out of the rebels. No US troops needed on the ground.

    March 21, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Reply
    • John

      Until they start to support al Quada

      March 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  15. It's Me

    Nuke 'em and be DONE with 'em.

    March 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  16. Human

    Why not sort out the dictator with dialogue, war is conventional method, this 21st centary don't you think we should be more trendy to resolve thing in a respectful way FIGHTING, ALL THESE BOMBING IS VERY CHILDISH....

    March 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Reply
  17. Big~Tuna

    All the problems in Northern Africa can be laid right at the door of the Vatican. If the pope had not been so strident in his opposition to condoms most of these protesters would not have been born. Following to a logical conclusion ~ this would have precluded the huge right-left Washington war machine from having anything to get involved with. It is a well know fact that the Vatican holds large bloclks of Haliburton in its massive portfolio. The Vacitan has the largest stock holdings in the world ~ larger even than the likes of the Saudi royals. War is a very high dollar endeavor and the Pope is a big pusher of wars ~ for centuries. The Vatican has held Krupp Arms stocks since the early 1800s.

    March 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Reply
    • SureYaDo


      March 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  18. John

    Not to worry folks. The Chinese will eventually balk at continuing to fund American aggression as it becomes more and more evident the prospect of being repaid is nil, and wealthy US citizens will NEVER allow their taxes to increase to pay for continuous wars. Then the military will be starved for funding. And when enough US soldiers return from doing their patriotic duty only to find that a grateful nation has no job and no future for them there will be less heroism on the part of young men and women. Why fight for a country that continues to tell you that you are too expensive and ships potential jobs overseas? Why fight for a country that wants to beat down your ability to support yourself and your family in any reasonable fashion? Waving the flag and shouting USA, USA, USA only works at the Olympics.

    March 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • Big~Tuna

      What if they gave a war and no one came?

      March 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Reply
    • SureYaDo

      ya but shouting "fire" works everywhere, "American Aagression"!? where is your sense of disgust at the extermination of Lybian rebels? America haters like you will spin everything America does into another reason for your anger

      March 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Reply
      • John

        You are a fool! Disgust with extermination? You bet. But that is taking place all over the world and only a fool thinks we can police the whole world. I'm more disgusted with the fact that fools like you believe in policing the world but have a problem with paying for it. That will eventually bite you and "partiotic" folks like you in the backside. Do you speak fluent Chinese?

        March 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
      • SureYaDo

        so you would be ok if we stood by and let kahdaffi eliminate all the rebels? obviously we cant police the world but if we didnt help where we could we would be just as bad as them, and thowing insults doesnt make you seem smarter or better informed than anyone else so you might want to reign in the "you're a fool" stuff, and you can keep your "down with America" rehtoric .....its weak

        March 21, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  19. DDM

    The war may continue on, but USA better be out within this week or our citizens are going to start ripping this nation apart in protest. The uber rich are getting richer while ordinary taxpayers are already stuck with trillions in debt. Get out of this war and the other 2 endless wars in rat-holes full of people that hate us. No fooling!

    March 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  20. davey

    come on people. barry soetoro needed a war to call his own.

    March 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
    • Descarado

      Hillary broke Obama's cherry on the use of American military might. America's made-for-the-boob tube President got reamed and pegged by a woman who also happens to be the only person in Obama's regrettable administration that has any cojones. You go, Hillary...all the way to the 2012 Democratic primaries so we can be rid of this cotton candy, pansified fruit loop, Better a woman with cojones than Obama.

      March 21, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Reply

    By Joseph Foster
    Email . My book, ‘’Destruction of America", subtitled "Stand up for America” will be available September 2011 at all major bookstores. Visit MY BLOG

    NATO action in Libya.
    I agree and support a no fly zone as to Libya, when the people rebel against a tyrant and he attempts to crush them by Air power; it is time for free loving people in the world to stand up to Tyranny.
    If the rebellion was small in number then perhaps one may hesitate, but the number were in the thousands, even some members of his military split and those that no longer supported the tyrant joined the rebels.
    The world shall never forget that Gadhafi approved terrorism by his state that downed a Pan Am flight with the loss of innocent lives.
    In 1986 president Reagan labeled Gadhafi as an enemy of the United States.

    Those that abstained were troubled by the fact that the rebellion is an internal matter and foreign powers had no right in interfere, that argument is not valid given the facts that Gadhafi was using none Libyans nationals to kill his people.
    Libya is an Arab country all of the other Arab countries urged the west to implement a no fly zone over Libya.
    Gadhafi has used most of the Libyan wealth from oil to further his personal interest and left millions of his people poor, it is time for the west to end
    The regime of this Tyrant of evil, as they did to Saddam, he should be buried along the side of Saddam.
    Think for one moment had NATO not reacted in time he would have crushed
    The rebels and thereafter killed all of those that oppose him, moreover imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Libyans that had joined the rebels.

    We shall never forget while the world stood by including the United States, Churchill finally put Hitler on notice that if he were to attack Poland Britain will intervene, on September 3, 1939 Britain stood alone against Hitler, yes the U.S. gave him material support but did not enter the War until Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.
    Churchill famous word of praise for the Britain Air force quote;
    "Never in the field of human conflict, has so much, been owed by so many, to so few!"
    Winston Churchill – September 1940

    March 21, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Reply

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