Saturday, July 30, 2011

Our Libya Policy Is Just What Islamist Extremists Prayed For

The most important thing in the fight against Gaddafi was the one we ignored - getting the job done quickly.

Time was very much of the essence in this one.  In neighbouring Egypt, Mubarak had only recently been toppled but the face of the government that would ultimately succeed him was undetermined.  al Qaeda and other Islamist groups lurked in the wings and openly proclaimed they were waiting for the right moment to make their move.    They were looking for a window of chaos.

The Libyan uprising was just what the Islamist planners so badly wanted.  It would be much easier to establish their presence within Libya, on Egypt's border, than within Egypt itself if only the Libyan chaos would drag out.

In February I wrote of the urgent need to send Egyptian forces into Libya to rapidly send Gaddafi packing:

"Who better to do the job?   In fact, with Security Council authorization, Egypt might be the only country that could make a difference in time.

Gaddafi's air force that he has reportedly unleashed on the demonstrators relies on a dozen or so, 1960's vintage Mirage F1s.  Egypt has 240, late model American F-16s plus a gaggle of modern Mirage 2000s, more than a match for Gaddafi's older French jets.

On the ground, Egypt fields modern armour including the America M-1 Abrams tank.   Gaddafi's forces rely on the antiquated Soviet era T-72 which is pretty much just target practice for the M-1.

Most of Libya's stuff is pretty old including its surface to air missile batteries which are all but useless against modern electronic countermeasures.

Egypt stands at Libya's eastern border, the part of the country that is already under the demonstrators' control.   This could be over in an afternoon.  The Egyptian air force could easily take out Libyan airfields (runways and bunkers) and demolish the garrisons of those ground forces loyal to Gaddafi.   Take out their critical infrastructure including their command and control systems and they're essentially homeless.   With no air cover and the prospect of Egyptian M-1 tanks rolling on to Tripoli, Libyan military commanders would be left with a pretty hard decision and I doubt it would go Gaddafi's way.   Probably the worst of them would just pack their bags, with or without Muammar.

If external muscle is what it's going to take to pry Gaddafi's claw from Libya's throat it'll have to come from the land of the Pharoahs."

But, of course, that didn't happen.  Our Western leaders dawdled.  Eventually they fell back on their demonstrated political and military incompetence and decided an air war would do the trick.  And so they have brought to Libya the very same result they achieved so spectacularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Fools - the lot of them.

With the Islamists moving to fracture the Libyan uprising the country could be poised on the brink of the sort of civil war that the fundamentalists exploit so well.   At this point we may have almost as much to lose from a Libya without Gaddafi as a Libya under the dictator's iron rule.   We may have ensured the Libyan people will face a future of civil war even as we have enabled Islamist extremism to take hold on Egypt's extremely porous border. 

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