Commentary Magazine


Recognize Alternate Libyan Government Now

Max and Abe make good points. Strategists talk about the DIME paradigm: Every cohesive strategy should have diplomatic, information, military, and economic components. By trying to treat the military component in isolation, the Obama administration is proving it does not understand the psychological aspect of war. By telegraphing that Qaddafi could remain, the White House simply tells the Libyan leader that he should hunker down and outlast the airstrikes.

It is essential that the State Department recognize a provisional government in Benghazi now. The White House recognizes the probability that Qaddafi will use terrorists to extract revenge. The Libyans have used diplomats as terrorists before. Why give him the benefit of a diplomatic pouch or give Libyan terrorists the use of diplomatic passports?

Likewise, the Kremlin has yet to get the message that President Obama’s rhetoric has reset relations. If Obama’s interest is humanitarian protection, Russian realists have more monetary motives. Libyan money can corrupt. It led the British government to free the Lockerbie bomber, and it led Assistant Secretary of State David Welch to cash in on his Libyan connections. International oil and infrastructure firms will think twice about reinvesting in Qaddafi, however, if a competing Libyan government can dispute Qaddafi’s contracts. That Qaddafi continues to control most Libyan territory is irrelevant: After all, the international community—with the exception of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan—recognized Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, even though the Taliban controlled 90 percent of the country. Likewise, the United Nations recognizes a Somali government that controls even less territory than did Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance.

Ordering military action is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. Alas, it seems that Obama is on vacation in more ways than one.