Home > Interviews, LIBYA, POLITICS > Libya:Gaddafi was the main target of Libyan operation – expert

Libya:Gaddafi was the main target of Libyan operation – expert

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Laaska News Oct. 29,2011
John Robles       AUDIO           INTERVIEW


Photo: EPA   

Interview with J.M. Berger of INTELWIRE.com and the author of the book Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam.

Photo: EPA 
The Libyan situation has changed drastically in the last few weeks. Where do you think the country is headed?

It’s very difficult to say right now. From a western perspective. We really don’t know a lot about the rebels. We don’t know what kind of plans they have for a political transition. This is all being decided now. We did have the announcement this week that the new government will be based on Sharia law and whether that means it is going to be a full-fledged Islamist government or something more in the model of Iraq, where the constitution is based on Sharia but there is still a strong democratic elements. So we are in a waiting mode to see what happens with this. Depending on if they are going to take a parliamentary route or not. But clearly it’s going to be more Islamist than it currently is.

How do you think it’s going to play out with the US in the region?

What we lack right now is a really clear political consensus in this country on what our position is regarding Islamist states and whether they are conducive to our national security and our foreign relations. We are seeing the emergence of a lot of different kinds of Islamist movements, which are more moderate than some of the Islamic governments we’ve seen in the past. But there is really no consensus in our political process about what kind of end states we’d like to see for these Arab spring countries, other than very idealistic, pie-in-the-sky dream of democracy everywhere. No one is really prepared to have that kind of conversation here and I think it’s going to be a while before anybody can really approach the subject this way in the country. One of the problems with our foreign policy is that we don’t have clear reasons why we intervene in one place and we don’t in another. The situation in Syria is certainly very bad for the people of Syria. I don’t want to hazard a guess as to whether Assad can survive this.

It seems to me and to a lot of people around the world that the whole operation was just to get and kill Gaddafi. What do you think about that?

I think that was clearly the goal of the operation. I mean Gaddafi’s presence in the country as a threat to his population was the stated reason for this. So, with Gaddafi gone and no visible loyalists stepping up to take his place, it is appropriate, within the context of the rationale that was given, that we are leaving.

What do you think about the way he was killed?

I think it was pretty unfortunate. I think a trial would have been better. It was pretty ugly thing. But that’s not something we could control and the leadership of the rebels couldn’t stop that either – there was a lot of pent-up emotion that came out. But it was certainly not in keeping with the international standards and really not an ideal resolution for this. A trial would have been better.

I don’t know if you can counteract or speak to the statements made by John McCain – I’m sure you’ve heard of them – threatening other world leaders.

John McCain is not in the position to make decisions about the foreign policy in this country, nor is he going to be.

I hope not either.

Sure not. He is not a player in the current presidential election, you know. He is expressing his view but he is not going to decide anything.

You don’t think he’ll end up in the White House next time?

He is not even running. It’s too late in the process for him to jump in.

The thing I found strange was: Obama comes out – he makes statements about victory, McCain comes out – he makes threats, and the White House says nothing. They didn’t say anything about it. So, basically, in the minds of many, they are supporting what he said. How could they claim the death of Gaddafi as their own victory if apparently it was carried out by independent rebels in the street?

I think it is important actually to the US that this not be seen as the US having taken out Gaddafi. We provided support to the population and they did the work. We just provided air cover. And even the United States relative to Europe, had a relatively lower role in this. So, I think it was important in the minds of the people crafting this policy that, whatever change happened in Libya, it would be owned and operated by the Libyan people.

It just seemed to be: we took him out, we’re going to take you out if you don’t follow our line. And that’s what it came across as with McCain and all his statements about victory and “We did it!” and everything else.  

I don’t think that reflects the Obama administration’s view on foreign policy. Based on what the Republicans are saying, I don’t think that there is any thirst for that kind of foreign policy either. I think that America has certainly learnt from what’s happened in Iraq and what happened in Afghanistan and I don’t think we are looking to pick fights. But certainly the Obama administration has outlined what it has called its responsibility to protect the policy and it’s going to lead to more interventions. I think the idea is that it’s going to be more limited and they are going to be focussed on taking out specific bad actors.

Again, taking out actors. You don’t have a problem with that?

I wouldn’t say that I endorse that policy. I’m just saying what this policy looks like. But what I think is that I would like to see a public dialogue in this country that better defines how and where we use legal force in the world. I am open to different approaches to using our military strength. But I don’t think that we’ve seen a clear statement of principles that would guide how that strength is used. And I think that’s a real problem for us. And I think that’s not just a foreign policy problem. I think, generally speaking, US policy in the recent years has been very ad hoc. It’s just pretty much opportunistic taking action for the sake of taking action. I am not seeing a scheme of thoughts that goes behind this and allows us as Americans and the rest of the world to understand how the US is going to act in any given situation.

Like a bunch of builders, building a building, without an architect.

Right. Something like that. Since September 11 we’ve had a very reactionary set of policies and we’ve seen this within our country in terms of how we handled the banking crisis, for instance. And we’ve seen it in our foreign policy. What I think we would benefit from is for the president to come out and outline in very clear terms what we feel our scope of authority to act outside of the country is.


Laaska News.