concerns are not the only ones in Libya. Every day the war there
continues drains many millions of dollars from the U.S. economy in the
form of high oil prices, slowing the recovery. There is no guarantee oil
prices won't rise significantly higher, especially if demonstrations
continue on the Arabian peninsula and possibly break out in Saudi
Arabia. Time is not on our side.
The only objective for which
the U.S. will likely consider taking serious risks is the removal of
Qaddafi's regime and, hopefully, its replacement with a constitutional,
representative government that maintains the country's sovereignty and
As Obama meets with his advisers to
consider what the U.S. can and cannot do, here are the options he is
likely to consider. He will weigh the risks of involvement against the
dangers of non-involvement, the efficacy of intervention against the
likelihood of backlash, unilateralism against multilateralism, the needs
of Libyans against the needs of the U.S. It is a daunting list with
many trade-offs and no clear best choice.
Action Under United Nations Authority
More strictly enforce the financial sanctions already in place. Italy
-- and likely other states with close financial ties to Libya -- is not
yet enforcing the UN-approved financial sanctions on Libya's sovereign
wealth funds. Libyan individuals and front companies who escaped the
initial asset freeze could also be targeted. The U.S. could lead a
concerted effort to determine where Qaddafi is still getting money from
and stop the flow. But this would require convincing states that do not
already enforce the sanctions to begin doing so, which may be against
their financial self-interest.
(2) More strictly enforce
the arms embargo. .Libya has imported its arms mainly from Russia, Czech
Republic, Serbia, and more recently Italy. It is not clear that these
and other countries have withdrawn all technicians and stopped all
shipments, in particular of spare parts.
(3) Draw global
attention to the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation. The
ICC prosecutor did well last week to give a press conference outlining
his efforts. He could be encouraged to deploy investigators at least to
Benghazi if not closer to Tripoli. The ICC could also set up a website
on which Libyans could document abuses. There is a great deal of
information coming out via Twitter and other social networks that could
be collected more systematically so that it can be properly investigated
once on-the-ground access is possible. As the investigation moves
forward, it will appear more threatening to Qaddafi, and could act as
more of a deterrent.
(4) Enforce land, sea, and air
blockades around Libya. These would enforce the arms and travel bans, in
addition to helping to detain individuals being investigated by the
ICC. The blockades would also position U.S. and allied forces offshore
for further military action, if ever needed.
and broadcasting. Jamming Libyan military communications would be
consistent with the spirit of the existing UN Security Council
resolution and could have a substantial effect on Qaddafi's ability to
wage war against the rebels along Libya's long Mediterranean coast. We
could also begin broadcasting international media outlets into Libya to
help spread information and galvanize opposition, as Al Jazeera and Al
Arabiya did in Egypt.