Lesson from Bosnia: Arm the Libyan rebels
Lybian rebels unload rocket propelled grenades from a car.
March 24th, 2011
12:33 PM ET

Lesson from Bosnia: Arm the Libyan rebels

Editor's note: Angel M. Rabasa, a member of the Bosnia Train and Equip Task Force in the early 1990s, is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp., a nonprofit institution whose mission is to help improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis.

By Angel M. Rabasa, Special to CNN

The Gadhafi regime retains overwhelming military superiority over the Benghazi-based Interim National Council. Unless the military imbalance is redressed, Gadhafi will retain the ability to threaten or renew his attacks on his opposition. As long as this situation persists, international military involvement in Libya - to enforce the no-fly zone and prevent ground attacks by Gadhafi's forces - will likely have to continue.

What the United States did in Bosnia might hold the key for an effective response to the crisis in Libya. In Bosnia, the United States sought to redress the military balance, which since the onset of the war in 1992 had heavily favored the Bosnian Serb army.

To restore balance and create conditions for lasting peace in Bosnia, it was necessary to establish a capable Bosnian Federation army. A "train and equip" program was implemented by a small interagency group based in the State Department.

Despite the Europeans' skepticism and dislike for the program, it succeeded. The program raised donations of several hundred million dollars from Muslim countries, supervised the purchase of military equipment for the armed forces of the Federation and arranged for a U.S. contractor to train Federation troops. The program also helped promote other U.S. objectives in Bosnia by diminishing Iranian influence and ensuring the departure of the foreign fighters.

Read more here.

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Topics: Libya • Middle East • Military • Perspectives

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soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Good idea! Arm the rebels, so they can address their issue. In this part of the world, dignity and honour are important. The rebels have to earn the legitimacy of the Libyan people and the respect of the world, if they want to build a new nation.

    March 24, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Reply
    • Nickell

      Arming them is a terrible idea. Those weapons will end up in the wrong hands somehow.

      March 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Reply
      • Bud Tree

        They already have.

        March 27, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      If You want to get rid of Your Enemy... You either Arm those fighting Him are do the fighting Yourself!!! I would rather Arm the People fighting Him...

      March 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  2. Hartman

    This is ridiculous. Explain to me how it is not a hypocrisy to arm subversive militia groups, while criticizing the same thing: Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. performed by Iran. So is it everybody's right to shape the world how they see fit? Is this allowed by International Law, and how can the US claim exclusive right to conduct this behavior, while excluding others from doing the same thing?

    This war is a crime. Arming and supporting a subversive military with the effect of overthrowing a country, while warping the definition of linguistic reality – Receiving a mandate to protect civilians, and then dramatically increasing the state of human suffering under false pretenses. You should have come out to begin with saying bluntly "We feel like overthrowing Libya and we will do it without UN, without Congress, and with last-minute approval from the President".... And if you did that you should have more support from the people of the world. As it is, you deserve no support, and I hope you get none.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Reply
    • joemash

      Very easy. Those folks are using the arms they obtain to attack another nation. THESE folks will use the arms to protect themselves from slaughter and to transform the gov of their nation. As for the rest of your arguments "crime"?! while slaughtering and threatening to slaughter more is not!?...he will be indicted for Crimes Against Humanity, you sound like 'Cartman'.

      March 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Reply
      • Sigege

        Why no people thought of arming the French rebels 2 years ago? Arming them to break France into pieces would benefit USA since France was against the later. Why not arm the indians so that they can get independance from USA and drive those white invadors out of this land? Why not give indians freedom?

        March 26, 2011 at 11:33 am |
      • The Crow

        @ Joe Mash

        Great reply to his comment. PWNED!

        @Sigege

        Arm the Indians? Are you serious? They are such a minute percentage of the population now. According to the Cia World Factbook, Native Americans and Alaskan natives make up only 0.97% of the population. And how many of them actually identify themselves as being Americans? How many don't live on reservations? Countless.

        Stupid Statement.

        THE CROW

        March 27, 2011 at 12:48 am |
      • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

        He will either leave are be killed!!!

        March 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      The only crime would have let Gradafi kill His People!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Reply
      • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

        Sigege: It will take the People to get rid of Him not the United States!!! That is the only way They can win...

        March 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  3. Sami

    WE DIDNT HAVE THE OIL AND 95 % OF THEM WERE MUSLIMS THATS WHY U AMERICANS DIDNT GIVE US WEAPONS !

    March 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Reply
    • Bud Tree

      You sir, are correct

      March 27, 2011 at 12:55 am | Reply
  4. HurryHurry2012

    Oh yeah, because this will totally work! I read an article regarding the same type of tactic but that was used during the iran iraq war. The article was posted yesterday or so on http://www.democracypending.com

    March 25, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  5. Mike

    I can imagine those politicians who get kick backs from the arms industry would be keen to do this.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  6. Jerkinp

    Lesson From Afghanistan Don't Arm The Libyan Rebels!!

    March 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • JFRA45

      IT SEEMS YOU MIGHT BE RIGHT.
      DO NOT ARM THEM IF EVENTUALLY THEY WILL USE THOSE ARMS TO GO AGAINST US.
      IT HAS BEEN REPORTED, BY THE TELEGRAPH, THAT THE REBELS HAVE AL QUAEDA FIGHTERS.
      TO ME, THIS IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.
      IF THIS REPORT IS TRUE, WE SHOULD PULL OUT,AND NOT GIVE THEM ONE BULLET.
      OBAMA WOULD BE A HERO IF HE WENT ON NATIONAL TV AND EXPLAINED OUR POSITION

      March 26, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
      • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

        He will be doing it Monday!!! You People just won't give Him a chance...

        March 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  7. MIRJANA

    OIL,OIL, OIL – that is the only true ! Please do not talk about democracy and so on.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      You got the Republicans to thank for us needing it so bad!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  8. Vincenzo Ruello

    Italian film scientist discovers skin and hair on face body of the Shroud of Turin. Three toes ripped off left foot see Vincenzo Ruello youtube

    March 26, 2011 at 4:44 am | Reply
  9. SalSal Gamboni

    Didn't we learn our lesson in Afghanistan?

    March 26, 2011 at 7:34 am | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      We learned a better lesson through Iraq!!! Bush's way was wrong and Obama Way was right...

      March 27, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  10. Alena

    It will be all right, never new Bosnia.

    March 26, 2011 at 7:56 am | Reply
  11. robert

    Let us level the playing field,arm and train the rebels so they can defend themselves and take matters into their own hands. The libyan people will be grateful and we won"t have to get involved in a 3rd war. ( see Bosnia) Why is it ok for the Iranians,Hezbollah etc.to fight with no rules but we can't. That's a sure way to lose all war's.

    March 26, 2011 at 10:05 am | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      It is better for the United States to supply Them than Russia and China to do it!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  12. Wayne

    One thing for sure, US Presidents have been lying all these years to the world when they waged wars on Islamic countries.

    March 26, 2011 at 10:24 am | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      Only the Republicans Presidents!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Reply
      • Alexander

        USAMY or USARMY?

        March 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  13. Wayne

    The UN Resolution 1973 mandates us to protect civilians.
    Acting as the rebels' air forces and arming the rebels go beyond the scope authorized by UN.

    What is the point keeping lying to the world?
    Why not straight away tell the truth that we want to overthrow kadahfi's regime?
    And now since the rebels cannot do the job, we have to roll up our sleeves and do it on our own?

    March 26, 2011 at 10:48 am | Reply
  14. JFRA45

    I HAVE READ FROM THE TELEGRAPH, THAT THE REBELS HAVE AL QUAEDA FIGHTERS.
    IS THIS THE START OF ANOTHER AFGHANISTAN REBELLION, WHERE WE WIND UP ARMING A GROUP WHICH
    HATES US.
    HE IS A BASTARD AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN KILLED AFTER LOCKERBEE.
    HOWEVER," THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS MY FRIEND"
    OUR GREATEST THREAT AND ENEMY IS AL QUAEDA.
    WE SHOULD NOT SUPPORT ANY GROUP WHICH HAS THEM AS MEMBERS.
    RATHER, GADAFFI , THAN A REGIME WHICH IS AFFILIATED WITH AL QUAEDA

    March 26, 2011 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      Wayne: Why do You think Obama waited for the Arab League, UN and NATO before We got involved in it!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  15. Sigege

    Majority of USA people, 70%, are surporting military action in Libya. That's why the USA is crazy and self-big.

    March 26, 2011 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • JFRA45

      PERHAPS THEY ARE NOT AWARE, OF THE AL QUAEDA CONNECTION.
      I ONLY SAW IT AS A LINK FROM DRUDGE.
      THE STORY FROM THE ITALIAN PRESS IS IMPORTANT AND SHOULD BE CONFIRMED.
      I WAS PRO-REBEL BEFORE SEEING THIS ARTICLE.

      March 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Reply
      • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

        WHY ARE YOU YELLING??? You have a choice to let the People die are help the Rebels!!! I rather take My chances on the Rebels...

        March 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Bud Tree

      @Sigege

      You got your numbers from Bo-Bo the clown. It's the other way around.

      March 27, 2011 at 1:02 am | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      That is because the American People believe in Democracy and lives of Other People!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  16. B-Spring

    Yea... that makes sense. I fee like we did the same thing in Afghanistan..., maybe the same thing in Iraq. Just a question... 10 years from now we won't have to go back there will we? I mean come on, are you people blind? Just because our president lacks courage and foresight to not get involved a war that doesn't benefit us, don't act like its the coalition's responsibility to arm the rebels. If they want to have a revolution, let them. Remember from our own revolution back in the founding of the US. The French only came to protect us when we were viewed as legitimate. Don't make the mistake of arming people who are not ready to take control.

    March 26, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • americanthug

      guys f.b.i knows what to arm to those so called rebel,,,,,,,,coz they ve got lots xperience like afganistan,bosnia,,,u name it...

      March 27, 2011 at 8:33 am | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      All We can do is help the Right fight the wrongs!!! We can't help what happens afterwards... All We can do is Support Them!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  17. raja

    Well, the west can go on arming the rebels just as they did in Nicaragua and the Balkans. Don't call on the UN when Iran helps the Shias in Bahrain, Yemen and Russia/China helps the monarchists trying to get back their lands in Hawaii. What if the Puerto Ricans want to go their way? What did they do in Spain. The freedom fighters want their freedom for forty years and have been fighting. Go ahead so Russia/China can now sell arms to Taliban, Columbian freedom fighters et al. What did the west do in the past in the many African states that had civil wars.?
    Western policy stinks and the west, which was stagnant for years, is now declining very rapidly..soon the allies will split over morals. France and Britain are into this big time since their heads of states are failing at home. International brinkmanship is a must for them to survive.
    The new arms manufacturers are hoping that the west will open an new front for the marketing of their weapons...go ahead O Wild Wild West. ...decline thou art afoot, take thou what course thou wilt.

    March 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      Better Us than Russia are China!!! At least that way We will hopefully have some control over what will happen there...

      March 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Reply
      • Elena

        OR* My God... ESL, I hope?

        March 27, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  18. whoknowsbud

    find out who backed the rebels and if irian did? get the h out of libia and vamouse un and usa. lets stay out of others affairs.we must clean up our on door step people first. just good news from whoknowsbud.

    March 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      We did that there until We were asked to insist!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  19. raul

    last time we armed rebels it was against russia now where in afhghanistan fighting the same ones we trained

    March 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      At least in Afghanistan not Iraq We aren't the Only Ones fighting there!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  20. JT

    Why in the world would you arm the Libyan rebels before you really know who they are? This is what happens when you have an incoherent Foreign Policy and you don't have an end game plan. What is the plan for Syria? Another no-fly zone? Should we arm the rebels there as well? Fighting wars by proxy doesn't work. Either get in and do it right or stay out of it entirely. Fighting battles with half measures to appeal to specific political interests is the road to disaster. Interestingly enough all of our enemies have already figured this out but our current administration is clueless.
    JT
    http://www.alittleleftofright.com

    March 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      Because You would wnt to get rid of Gradafi!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  21. marcopolo nugyen

    Libya the country you cannot to compare with the other as Irag or Afhghanistan, because the situation is difference
    the leaders of opposition with rebels are came from the Gadhafi !s regime in the past they was well regconized by the
    US military and even among the Arab countries, the Mouammar Gadhafi they just want to speed up the propoganda and
    therefore the Gadhafi !s regime strived to conveince that the rebel and opposittion is such Al -Quaeda or terorrist group,
    the people beleive the US and coalition countries should to provided arms good weapons to rebels with opposition inorder they can fights and very soon the regime 42 years Mouammar Gadhafi will be defeated it...request quick action..???..

    March 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Reply
  22. Alexander

    Recently an ultra-liberal newspaper called "Newsweek" posted an outrageous claim that 2,405 people shot dead
    throughout the U.S.A. since the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, that is during the last couple months, see

    http://www.newsweek.com/2011/03/13/2-405-shot-dead-since-tucson.html

    ...may be we need to invite Chinese Liberation Army here to protect civilians here in U.S.A and enforce some sort of
    "no gun zone". Obviously U.S Government fails to do so, or looking the other way, or is too busy doing more important
    things, like promoting democracy across the world. Outsourcing? Why not. ...just my five cents.

    March 27, 2011 at 12:38 am | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      The American People can take care of Themselves!!! The Rebels are quite that Fortunate...

      March 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Reply
      • Alexander

        Do you mean that American People can shoot themselves without outside help? Welcome to South-central LA!

        March 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  23. Wayne

    It is a well established principle for Chinese to stay away from other countries' internal affairs and chinese have no intention whatsoever to promote or impose their values on white people. No, thanks, your invitation to enforce the "no-gun zone" in US is declined.

    March 27, 2011 at 7:10 am | Reply
    • Larry Kegel (USAMY)

      We be a lot better off with the kind of weapons are allowed in This Country!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Reply
      • Alexander

        Here is another example of two Americans sorting out their differences:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12869141

        Defecating dog sparks US shootout .... I love it.

        March 27, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  24. Larry Kegel (USAMY)

    The only way to get rid of Your Enemies is to help Those fighting Them!!! You have no control over what happens afterwards...

    March 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • Alexander

      So enemy of my enemy is my friend? How many times it needs to backfire before you start learning?

      Let me make a point here, and try to prove that I am wrong: on a longer term, say 50-year time scale,
      U.S. Government is no smarter than a heat-seeking missile: it simply locks and chases whatever piece of
      metal in the sky happened to be in the field of view. It does not matter whether it is Obama, Bush, Clinton,
      or whoever. First it was the evil empire of Soviet Union. Then it was Russia (communism turned out to be
      completely irrelevant, communism or not, it is cold war any way). Then bin-Laden threw flare into the sky,
      and the whole thing is deflected and chases what is called terrorism. Now it is new democracies in Arab
      word.

      March 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  25. Independant Fellow

    OH yeah, arm the rebels like we armed the mujahadeen (terrorists). So that they can use the arms later against our folks. This is not Bosnia. Iraq was happy we toppled Saddam, then they started planting the roadside bombs. The guy that wrote this article is a cold war era moron. Big college degrees and no brain. He would have been perfect in the Cheney Rumsfeld Wolfawitz war planning think tank.

    March 27, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  26. JoeHo

    afghanistan...nothing further

    March 28, 2011 at 5:35 am | Reply

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