Libya: More from Gates, Clinton and the International Crisis Group

Libya: More from Gates, Clinton and the International Crisis Group

Libya: More from Gates, Clinton and the International Crisis Group

Both Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton are emphasizing diplomacy over defense.


Happily enough, Secretary of Defense Gates, at a NATO defense ministers meeting, told reporters that NATO isn’t doing anything more than thinking about a no-fly zone in Libya but “is not ready to act on that or any other military action against the North African nation,” reports the Washington Post.

In line with my earlier post, on a diplomatic solution to the crisis, the International Crisis Group has proposed a three-step process toward a cease-fire and negotiations. I’m not entirely in agreement with the ICG’s ideas, since the organization apparently gives prominence to military action (which they call a “credible prospect of international action”) if Muammar Qaddafi doesn’t halt the use of force against civilians. (You can read their whole proposal here.) Here’s the central idea:

“The international community should enunciate clear principles aimed at ending loss of life and which it could defend regardless of the conflict’s evolution: (1) Condemnation of the use of force against civilians and of violations of international humanitarian law, with the credible prospect of international action should such actions escalate; (2) An immediate ceasefire; (3) Negotiations between the protagonists aimed at replacing the current regime with a more accountable, representative and law-abiding government.”

They propose a high-level group of Arabs and North Africans act as mediators.

Meanwhile, on the Hill, in advance of her trip to the Middle East this week, Secretary of State Clinton outlined a cautious, and fairly reasonable, US policy:

“In Libya, at the same time, a dictator is denying his people that same path forward. And we are standing with the Libyan people as they brave bombs and bullets to demand that Qaddafi must go now, without further violence or delay. Our diplomats are hard at work with our allies and partners—including in the United Nations, NATO, the African Union, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council—to isolate, sanction, and pressure Qaddafi to stop the violence against his own people and to send a message to those around Qaddafi who continue to enable this horrific attack on his own people, that they, too, will be held accountable if they commit crimes against the Libyan people. We remain engaged with the Libya Sanctions Committee at the United Nations to consider tougher measures as the situation develops. And we are reaching out to the opposition inside and outside of Libya. I will be meeting with some of those figures, both here in the United States and when I travel next week to discuss what more the United States and others can do.

“Now, the United States, through the State Department and USAID, are already providing food, shelter, water, medical supplies and evacuation assistance to those who are fleeing the violence. We have dispatched expert humanitarian teams to assess the needs on the borders, and we stand ready to expand those efforts. The military has positioned assets to support these critical humanitarian missions, and the United States military—I’m very proud to say—has airlifted home hundreds of Egyptian migrants—it may be in the thousands by now—who fled from Libya into Tunisia. This was a direct request from the Egyptian Government through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. We are considering all of our options.

“In the years ahead, we know that Libya could become a stable, peaceful society on the way to a democracy or it could fall into chaos and violence. The stakes are so high, not only, although primarily, for the Libyan people, but for the rest of the world. And this is an unfolding example of how we are using the combined assets of diplomacy, development, and defense to protect our interests and advance our values.

“This integrated approach is not just how we respond to crises. It is the most effective—and cost-effective—way to sustain and advance our security. And it is only possible with a budget that supports all the tools in our national security arsenal.”

I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that when she talks about “using the combined assets of diplomacy, development, and defense,” she’s putting defense last, for a reason.

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