Bid to end Qaddafi's reign poses risks

Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi arrives at a hotel to give television interviews in Tripoli, Libya, March 8, 2011. AP Photo/Ben Curtis

Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi
Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi arrives at a hotel to give television interviews in Tripoli, Libya, March 8, 2011.
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

On the anniversary of the 8th year since the Iraq war began, U.S.-led coalition forces struck Libya with a bit of "shock and awe."

Operation Odyssey Dawn has so far crippled Libyan air defenses, but just how the UN Security Council sanctioned offensive to quash pro-Qaddafi forces evolves in the coming days is uncertain, especially as it pertains to Qaddafi himself.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday that air strikes in Libya had been "so far very effective" but that "it's difficult to know" what would happen to Qaddafi in the coming weeks.

Experts: Endgame for Libya uncertain

Qaddafi has vowed to fight on, promising a "long war," and his troops have been digging in outside Ajdabiya, on the road Benghazi and Tobruk in the east as rebel forces.

"Interference in our affairs has no justification," he said. "We are better than you because of our will. We are going to fight, we are going to fight for every square of our land. We will go as martyrs. We are dreamers, we will not give the land away," Qaddafi said on Libyan State TV Sunday.

Complete coverage: Anger in the Arab world

Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denied that the coalition is targeting the Qaddafi, but noted the Libyan head of state won't be safe if he happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as a surface-to-air missile site.

Mullen told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation on Sunday, "We still believe that Qaddafi has lost his legitimacy to lead and must go. However, the goal of this resolution is not regime change. Rather, it authorizes the use of force with an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing. These two things aren't contradictory."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner echoed Mullen's message when asked whether Qaddafi should go.

"There are a lot of steps in front of us," Toner said. "We're enforcing the UN resolution now. We have been clear that in the long term we don't see Qaddafi as a legitimate ruler and we think he should step down. We will continue to apply pressure on him and his associates. We're going to continue discussions with the opposition...that's separate and apart from what's going on right now with the military operation."

In a press conference from Santiago, Chile, on Monday President Obama said, "I have... stated that it is U.S. policy that Qaddafi needs to go. But when it comes to our military action, we are doing so in support of U.N. Security resolution 1973. That specifically talks about humanitarian efforts, and we are going to make sure that we stick to that mandate." 

CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate, former deputy assistant to President Bush and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism from 2005 to 2009, has a less nuanced view of the current situation regarding Qaddafi's future. "The real objective here seems to be toppling Qaddafi, though no one seems to want to talk about that, and certainly that's laying in the works here as we talk about the next steps," he said.

In an email to Politico's Playbook, James G. Rickards, senior managing director and co-head of Omnis, Inc.'s Threat Finance & Market Intelligence practice, offered what may be the foundation to implement a more aggressive push for regime change in Libya:

"Libya is a big deal and not helpful to the world economy. At a minimum: Oil supplies disrupted, oil price increase is a drag on growth, war expenditures rip another unbudgeted hole in the budget ... Worst case: All of the above, plus: Qaddafi survives and Libya is split between east and west (Benghazi and Tripoli). Egypt exerts dominance over the Benghazi half. Qaddafi teams up with al Qaeda and unleashes a wave of terror in Western Europe in revenge for U.K., Italy and French participation in the coalition, Russia rearms Qaddafi, China gets the oil and Europe is driven closer to Russia (energy dependence now with no nuclear coming online and no Libyan oil). Over time, this starts to look like Iraq from 1991-2003, with a no-fly zone and ineffective oil-for-food sanctions and Saddam (now Qaddafi) still in power and a permanent thorn in our side. ... Markets hate uncertainty and this situation has nothing but."

An even more rogue and treacherous Qaddafi aligning with al Qaeda and using its oil to trade for arms, as well as other parts of the region, such as Yemen, spiraling out of control, isn't a future that the West wants to see.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin on U.S. versus Qaddafi

  • Dan Farber On Twitter»

    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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