Ongoing shortages could leave the rebels too weak to topple Qaddafi, but the U.S. may be in a position to help
As Libya's protesters-turned-rebels fight a series of hard battles with forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi, the United States -- and the much of the world -- struggles to find a meaningful response to the conflict. U.S. lawmakers have proposed such aggressive options as enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya or arming anti-Qaddafi rebels, both of which the White House has kept on the table. Critics of these plans argue that they risk involving the U.S. in another military engagement. But there's another option that the U.S. could consider, one that might give anti-Qaddafi rebels crucial help while avoiding the messy complications of direct involvement: Send food.
Food shortages in eastern Libya, the largest rebel-controlled area, have reached dire levels. Fighting has left food stocks depleted and food supply chains in shambles. Around Benghazi, food prices have reportedly risen by 50 to 75 percent. Due to its poor suitability for agriculture, Libya imports the majority of its food, which has become largely impossible since fighting broke out. The United Nations-run World Food Program is attempting to alleviate the food shortage, but so far with little success. Last Thursday, a ship that the World Food Program had chartered to carry 1,000 tons of flour to Benghazi, the provisional capitol of the rebel leadership, abandoned the trip after reports of attacks by pro-Qaddafi aircraft in the area. As food runs out and the conflict drags on, eastern Libya's food crisis will only get worse. Qaddafi appears willing to use the shortage as a weapon against the rebels, reportedly blocking food from reaching the besieged rebel-held town of Zawiya.