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Libya: Shhh, don't tell the rebels, but they've lost

March 10, 2011 |  2:07 pm

Libya-Rebels

If Libya were a prizefight, Moammar Kadafi apparently just won -- on a decision.

One minute we're debating how or if the United States should get involved in the crisis in Libya -- see   The conversation: The case for and against U.S. intervention in Libya. And the next, the red-white-and-blue corner has thrown in the towel -- see Kadafi victory or stalemate likely in Libya, a U.S. official says.

Did someone just yell "fix!"?

The Times reported Thursday on a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at which James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said that Libya could end up being split, or "you could end up with a Somalia-like situation."

Either way, because of its superior weapons and logistical capabilities, "I think over time, over the longer term, that the regime will prevail," Clapper said.

Gen. Ronald Burgess, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, echoed that. "Initially the momentum was with the other side -- that has started to shift. Whether or not it has fully moved to Kadafi's side is not clear at this time, but we have now reached a state of equilibrium," he said.

Those sentiments didn't sit well with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), though.  They may have no problem with helping the Republicans in Congress gut programs that millions of Americans need, but they don’t like a dictator running roughshod over his own people in a far-away land.

The United States may not be able to afford healthcare for everyone, but Lierberman suggested that perhaps it could supply weapons to the Libyan rebels, or share "intelligence with them about the movement of the Kadafi forces, jam communications."

Sure.  And perhaps we could take away some of the weapons our troops in Afghanistan are using to do that, Joe. Or maybe another war can be a job-creation tool? Or maybe we could cut some more safety-net programs so more Americans can suffer to pay for the weaponry to help the suffering Libyans.

Who, undoubtedly, would be really grateful, like the Iraqis and the Afghans.   

McCain, however, is worried about America's image.

"The president has said that Kadafi must go. … But we now seem to be increasingly faced with the possibility that Kadafi will not go -- that he will instead recapture control of Libya or at least enough of Libya to wage a counterrevolution of murder and oppression for a long time to come against anyone who stands in his way.

"If that were to happen, it would establish a dangerous counter-example to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. It would signal to rulers across the region that the best way to maintain power in the face of peaceful demands for justice is through swift and merciless violence.

“Perhaps the greater concern for us all should be what it would mean for America's credibility and moral standing if a tyrant were allowed to massacre Arabs and Muslims in Libya, and we watched it happen."

Earth to John: Most of the rulers in the Middle East don't need a signal to tell them how to maintain power. They've been doing it a long time. They get it. 

As for moral standing, I doubt many Muslims are looking to us for that, especially with your Republican colleague, Rep. Peter King of New York, holding hearings right now on the homegrown terrorism threat from Muslim Americans.

No, like it or not, there’s not much America can do to help the Libyan rebels. They’re fighting to free themselves from tyranny. It's their fight. In the end, their fate is tied to what Benjamin Franklin said on signing the Declaration of Independence:

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

RELATED:

Libya: To oust a tyrant

Rising to shake off the fear in Libya

Doyle McManus: One step at a time on Libya

Libyan American on Libya: 'Now I Understand'

Doyle McManus: A no-fly zone in Libya is a war cry

Unholy alliance: Leftist leaders in Latin America should be ashamed of embracing Moammar Kadafi

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: A rebel fighter runs for cover during an airstrike by government forces in Ras Lanuf. Credit: Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

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