Commentary Magazine


Guns for Cash Won’t Work With Hamas

Following the pattern set by some major American cities, which have tried to reduce the supply of firearms by offering to buy guns brought in by the public, the United States is attempting to purchase missiles circulating in Libya. One of the downsides of the fall of the Qaddafi regime was that his huge collection of military toys is now on the open market since militia members and other Libyans gathered it up in the aftermath of the civil war that brought the dictator’s rule to an end. According to the New York Times, the Obama administration’s plan is as follows:

The United States would provide money and technical support to Libya’s government, which would purchase the missiles, and either lock them up in government arsenals or destroy them.

According to the Times, programs like this have worked before in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the $40 million the administration has allocated to deal with the problem should do the trick. But the State Department, like the Times reporting of the story, seems to have forgotten that some of the most dangerous weapons in Qaddafi’s arsenal are not laying around in basements in Tripoli waiting to be turned in for U.S. cash. They’ve already been exported to Gaza.

Huge qualities of anti-aircraft missiles were smuggled out of Libya as the Qaddafi regime was in its last weeks in power. Most appear to have wound up in Gaza, where the Hamas government there was able to pay cash for weaponry that may have improved their ability to fend off Israeli air attacks. Their share of the Qaddafi collection was a qualitative upgrade on their existing armaments. The weapons not only have the capacity to alter somewhat the balance of power between the terrorists and Israel but also boosted the prestige of Hamas in its rivalry with Fatah as they jockeyed for position in their unity talks.

Other Islamic terrorists in Somalia also appear to have benefited from the Libyan crackup.

All of this renders the program the Times ballyhooed this morning as too little and far too late. If Washington is really serious about rounding up the vast supply of munitions that were dumped on the black market by the war in Libya, they’re going to have to offer the killers in Gaza and Somalia a bit more than the walking around money they’re dishing out on the streets of Tripoli or Benghazi. Which is to say that American efforts to recover the arms are utterly futile even if the Times went along with the pretense that everything was just fine.

But because we know Hamas can’t be bribed to give up its new air defense arsenal, perhaps the administration can try the same tactic used when the U.S. attempted to recover a surveillance drone recently lost in Iran: They can say “pretty please.”