COMMENTARY | In his speech at the National Defense University on the Libyan intervention, President Barack Obama made several references to Libya dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the fact it would be better all around if he were gone.
The problem is, the president did not reveal how this could happen.
“Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Gaddafi and usher in a new government.
“Of course, there is no question that Libya — and the world — will be better off with Gaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through nonmilitary means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
What “nonmilitary” means consist of, President Obama did not say, beyond waiting for Gadhafi to see reason and take a permanent vacation in – say – Venezuela. There are, however, ways to rid Libya of Gadhafi that do not involve the Marines landing in Tripoli.
First, the United States could try to kill Gadhafi. While traditionally the American government has been finicky about terminating a national leader with extreme prejudice, hits have been accomplished on terrorists all the time. Predator drones regularly send al-Qaida or Taliban leaders to hell with missiles. Sniper teams roam the wilderness of Afghanistan in the hunt of terrorists. No one would be very much annoyed if Gadhafi were to be taken out in that fashion. Of course, there are always some risks of innocent civilian casualties or of a sniper team being caught and then captured or killed.
Second, the United States can put a bounty on Gadhafi’s head. This method has also been applied in Afghanistan and Iraq to a somewhat limited effect. The question that would be in the mind of a Libyan officer considering putting a bullet into Gadhafi is whether he would live to collect the reward money.
Third, the United States can arm and train the Libyan rebels and let them march on Tripoli with a rope for Gadhafi’s neck. This will take a while, likely into next year, which is an election year, and will involve the boots of trainers and advisers on the ground. There is also the question of how many of the Libyan rebels are affiliated with groups like Al Qaeda and therefore are likely to turn those arms and training against us.
There are no good options, it seems.