Another chapter of the Arab Spring concluded with Gadhafi’s death
yesterday. The U.S. played a significant financial role in toppling 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 learn how to enhance our
ability to effect regime change without risking the lives of military
personnel. Gadhafi is like many other dictators, including Saddam
Hussein; he needed to be removed for the sake of the people. Hopefully,
our future military exercises will be based on such humanitarian
principles, and not on political expediency or the agendas of our
Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Libya on Wednesday highlighted the success of NATO’s mission to oust Moammar Gadhafi. Sure, NATO and the allies claim that they were simply there to “protect civilians,” and 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 EU 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. could then 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 that they don’t end up with egg on their face if Gadhafi somehow mounted a decent insurgency. There is also the possibility that the anti-Gadhafi coalition fragments and the militias start fighting each other 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.