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Obama is correct on Libya

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By John Barnhart

    I wasn’t able to listen to President Barack Obama’s speech, last week, when he explained his Libya policy. I was at the regular board of supervisors meeting that night.

    From sound bites I’ve heard and excerpts that I have read, I’ve found that I agree with him. This would worry me if it had happened two years ago, right after getting a little bump on the head. But enough time has passed that I can safely say that my post-bump opinion of President Obama and “Democrats” in general is the same as my pre-bump opinion.
    I’m convinced that President Obama is doing the right thing in Libya. I think he was a little slow about doing it. It would have been better if we had imposed the no-fly zone a week earlier. Moammar Gadhafi had a lot of time to badly maul the rebels before we acted. It would have been even better if we had been able to make a credible threat of using military force a couple of weeks earlier. Maybe this would have encouraged some senior people, who are currently fighting for Gadhafi, to defect and join the rebels.
    Since the U. S. and friends began using military force against the Gadhafi regime, one senior government official, Libya’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, fled the country and defected. Koussa was a top Gadhafi regime official, so there are cracks forming in Gadhafi’s inner circle.
    The next step is to arm the rebels. President Obama has said that he’s considering this step, but he should have been beyond the “considering” stage a couple of weeks ago. Once again, his sluggish approach to this problem guarantees a longer war as Gadhafi’s forces still have the upper hand.
    In this case, I think President Obama’s slowness to act is not a case of foot dragging. It’s the product of an administration that, due to lack of prior contingency planning, is having to improvise on the fly. Arming the rebels is a complex issue. It will be a simple matter to get plenty of weapons to them, but what do we provide?
    Libyan conscription laws mean that there are plenty of young, and relatively young, men among the rebels who have had military training. In addition, elements of the Libyan army defected last month.  However, providing these guys with American or West European weapons presents a problem as they are familiar with Russian made weapons. This, even at the lowest level, such as small arms, would require familiarization training. For example, you are going to be in big trouble if you go to shoot somebody, only to discover that your assault rifle’s safety is on and you aren’t exactly sure where the safety switch is. Furthermore, the AK-47’s that Libyans are used to are much more dirt tolerant than our assault rifles. Ours are more accurate, but accuracy becomes irrelevant if the gun jams, because it’s dirty, when you try to fire it. Providing heavy weapons will mean training the rebels to use them, which means somebody who already knows how to use the Western stuff needs to do the training. We also need to be cautious about giving them anything that’s sophisticated and portable.
    President Obama may actually be doing this, quietly using some back-channel method. News reports at the end of last week noted that the rebels seem to have more weapons and communications equipment than they had in the past. If this is what President Obama is doing, covertly supplying the rebels while officially claiming to be “considering it,” then he has my applause. This may be the best way to accomplish that.    
    Meanwhile, Gadhafi needs an exit strategy, but I'm not sure where he would go. I once thought that we had a place for him here, then I learned that the Bronx Zoo found it's missing cobra.