Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The thinnest line

The US is right to intervene in Libya, and even better, it's been intervening in the right way: Responding to a request from a regional council to support a democratic uprising, then handing off authority to a coalition under international authority.

However, there are a million things that could go wrong. In large part, we can be certain that Gaddafi is a tyrant, but we can't be certain that he won't be replaced by another. One big way to increase the risk of this being less a revolution than a coup is to arm a faction.

President Sarkozy has pushed hard for it, but if the US is going to provide the bulk of the arms (and, inevitably, troops to supply those arms), the US needs to lead the coalition, but the US leading the coalition will only undermine the international support and the credibility of the rebels as a legitimate authority.

The US walks an incredibly thin line here between letting a people breathe free and clumsily stumbling into another middle-eastern quagmire.

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