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WILLIAMS: Operation Libya a success — go home

- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2011

Another chapter of the Arab Spring concluded with Col. Moammar Gadhafi's death Thursday. The U.S. played a significant financial role in tumbling his regime. We lost no troops and avoided political turmoil by putting no boots on the ground.

There are important lessons that can be learned, such as the use of counterterrorism exercises and technology as opposed to flesh and blood to win wars. We should study and learn how to enhance our ability to effect regime change without risking the lives of military personnel. Gadhafi was like many other dictators, including Saddam Hussein: He needed to be removed for the sake of the people. Let's hope our future military exercises will be based on such humanitarian principles and not on political expediency or the agendas of our foreign allies.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit to Libya last week highlighted the success of NATO's mission to oust Gadhafi. Sure, NATO and the allies claim that they were there simply to "protect civilians." Yes, they did do that, but that protection was entirely one-sided.

Make no mistake: Operation Unified Protector had one goal - keep Europe's oil flowing (79 percent of Libyan oil exports went to European Union countries). Russian, Middle Eastern and Chinese media are calling out NATO's pretense of "protecting civilians," but you don't see much pickup in Western sources. Interesting considering how many of those same sources derided the war in Iraq as a blatant oil grab by the U.S. Never mind that we get the majority of our oil from domestic sources and nearby Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. Even now, Iraq is a distant fifth in exporting crude to the U.S.

Gadhafi was no friend to the West, even with the overtures he made since Operation Desert Shield, so it wasn't a difficult decision to side with the rebels. Especially when providing them with enough support to defeat a dictator they had no real shot at otherwise overthrowing meant that the U.S. then could extract demands of the new government by way of infrastructure and oil development contracts.

I can tell you in all confidence that the military side of NATO wants to call the mission a success and go home. The only reason that it is ongoing is because the politicians in Brussels and political pressure from allied governments wanted to make sure they didn't end up with egg on their faces if Gadhafi somehow mounted a decent insurgency. There is also the possibility that the anti-Gadhafi coalition fragments and the militias start fighting one another for power. It is hard to claim you are "protecting civilians" when you stand by as your recent allies rack up the collateral damage. You also want to make sure your recent investments in an underdeveloped oil-producing nation are fully secured before you move in.

A calculated move to be sure, but it begs a question on the issue of morality. The U.S. has long been lambasted for playing "world police," and we have done nothing to discredit that claim when we so frequently find leaders to oust and countries to occupy out of sheer economic convenience.

What can we say about the precedent set by our killing of Osama bin Laden? Retribution was surely coming bin Laden's way, but by our actions as leaders of the free world have we suggested that when we have issues with people around the world that we just kill them?

Reports coming out of Libya have stated that Gadhafi was wounded and was being taken alive so that he could stand trial but then took a bullet to the head during a firefight. Although that is highly plausible, I have my doubts.

All in all, I do not believe it is right to help overthrow regimes for no other reason than the U.S. has deemed it politically or economically expedient.

c Armstrong Williams, author of the 2010 book "Reawakening Virtues," is on Sirius Power 128, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.

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