- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even if you think as I do that squirmishing in Libya was the right move, it is prudent to consider how it could go wrong. Here are some thoughts about that from "C," a career intelligence expert specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. They are particularly helpful at a time when we are told that the Obama administration is covertly arming the Libyan rebels. Consider this a checklist of what not to do if arming the rebels fails to do the trick.
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2. Find this is both not enough and Qaddafi’s forces overrun, confiscate,
and use arms against rebels and coalition air forces
3. We try air assault against Qaddafi’s ground forces
4. Find this is insufficient and leads to excessive collateral damage
5. We try to convince coalition to place boots on the ground
6. Notably France and other members reject land invasion
7. NATO can’t gain consensus to modify Resolution 1973
8. United States bites the bullet, air assaults known Qaddafi military bases, and
lands troops in Libya
9. Muslim nations raise unified cry that U.S. interest is Libyan oil and
Qaddafi becomes a hero with broad-based Islamic support, notably Iran
10. We pull troops from Afghanistan (not a bad thing, just not soon enough) for Libyan engagements (rings just like from Afghanistan in 2002 to prep for Iraq)
11. Pakistani ISI and TTP move with impunity across the FATA and begin
retaking Afghanistan (sounds like May 2002 - summer 2003)
12. Meanwhile Qaddafi’s forces melt into southern Libyan desert leaving us
with a broken country #1 (courts won’t allow confiscated billions to be
used by "coalition" for Libyan rebuilding), a latent desert threat, and
Afghan as broken country #2
13. Iran sees this as opportunity to "Balkanize" Iraq and presses
negotiations with Syria, Turkey, the Kingdom, and Jordan to carve out pieces of Iraq for all
Tom: To this I would add that I would expect unrest in Syria and Jordan to add to the pressure to push out the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees now in those countries. Most of them are Sunni, and if they go back to Iraq, many will find their former residences occupied by Shiites not inclined to move out.