To the Shores of Tripoli

Why Operation Odyssey Dawn Should Not Stop At Benghazi

Courtesy Reuters

As Catherine Ashton, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, wrote in a March 18, 2011, New York Times editorial about the European Union’s options in Libya, “sometimes the toughest question in world politics is: ‘And then what?’” In light of the furious pace of the negotiations surrounding the previous day’s adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 -- which extended a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized the international community to take whatever additional measures necessary to protect the country's population short of sending ground troops -- it is not surprising that no one had really stopped to consider her question. Indeed, more time seems to have been spent getting the European Union, the Arab League, the G-8, and the Security Council to agree on the language than on the content. Still, if those hurried diplomatic negotiations seemed a Herculean task, they may pale in comparison to the challenge that comes next: keeping Libya intact and on the road to recovery.

For his part, U.S. President Barack Obama promised that intervention would be short -- a matter of "days, not weeks." And British Prime Minister David Cameron admonished that international involvement should be limited to stopping Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s violence. Both caveats will prove unrealistic.

At this point, the international community has two options: to either protect the opposition movement in Cyrenaica, the vast eastern province in which Benghazi is located, but not force Qaddafi out of power, or make Qaddafi’s ouster an explicit goal. The former seems to be what Cameron had in mind when he spoke of selective containment -- perhaps in an attempt to sanitize international involvement. It was also echoed in Obama's call for short-term intervention. Still, this kind of containment is neither possible nor feasible. Indeed, it would defeat the very logic of Resolution 1973.

Of course, ongoing military strikes will undoubtedly strengthen the rebels’ resolve. Seeing the destruction wreaked by the international coalition, Qaddafi loyalists are unlikely to put

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