An editorial at Bloomberg.com argues that threatening revenge for the September 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is the wrong policy for the U.S.
As reported earlier in Digital Journal, the Obama administration has leaked information that it is preparing targets that could be hit in retaliation for the Benghazi attack by militant Islamic groups. The targets would be militants thought to be involved in the attack. Drones are already operating in eastern Libya and drone attacks could be launched if authorized. In part, this strategy may be designed to make Obama look tough prior to the presidential election. However, the editorial argues that an attack would be bad policy and counter-productive.
The editors admit that Islamic militancy is a growing concern in North Africa but claim that drone attacks or commando raids could feed extremism. Instead, the U.S. should support local government efforts to control extremists. These extremist groups are not directing their activity at the U.S. but at local governments for the most part.
The rebellion in Libya and the coup in Mali have caused a breakdown in security that has worked to the benefit of militants. Al Qaeda in the Maghreb now operates in Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Although the group claims allegiance to Al Qaeda, they are a regional rather than global threat, unlike Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, which has tried to launch attacks on the U.S. homeland.
Another group, Ansar al-Shariah, is a loose grouping of militant militias dedicated to imposing Shariah law in areas they control. With its new drone technology, the U.S. has the capacity to seek out and attack militants wherever they are. However, doing so may alienate the general public against the U.S. Having helped overthrow the Gadaffi regime, the U.S.still has considerable good will among many Libyans, as was shown by the demonstrations against Ansar al-Sharia units after the Benghazi attack.
Unilateral drone attacks however, especially if there are civilian casualties, could quickly turn Libyans against the U.S. The relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. is evidence for this. If the U.S. targets these groups, they may decide that they should target the U.S. as well as local governments.
The editors agree that security should be strengthened for U.S. personnel in Libya but instead of taking direct and perhaps unilateral action, the U.S. should help train Libyans so that they themselves are able to provide security. A long term approach, rather than some immediate dramatic military intervention is the best policy for the U.S. to pursue.
Libya faces a great many internal difficulties. I am not sure that the U.S. can do much to settle some of them. There are tribal conflicts. There are militias that remain to be disarmed. Finally, there are regional issues. Eastern Libya, desires to become virtually autonomous. As yet the central government does not even seem to have established its rule over the entire country and it also lacks unified armed forces that could enforce order.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com