Libya: Further down the slippery slope

It is not easy to find the right balance between our relationships with sometimes repressive and always undemocratic (in the narrow sense of voting) regimes in the Middle East and the dissidents among their citizens who criticize them. But statecraft and diplomacy are the right tools not military force (e.g. drones). Defense Secretary Gates said as much when cautioning against imposing a no fly zone in Libya a week before we under took them. Now the pundits are chattering that we have not done enough. Gaddafi is still there. President Obama is inarticulately and ineffectively trying to resist further sliding down the slippery slope to another messy engagement with another Muslim country. But the odds are against him. When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn.

The Washington Post published two thoughtful op-eds on the subject today that are well worth reading.  The first by Michael Chertoff and Michael V. Hayden is called: “What happens after Gaddafi is removed”. The other by Sarah Sewall and Anthony Zinni is called: “The military interventions we don’t plan for–those to protect civilians”

Author: Warren Coats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My recent books are One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina; My Travels in the Former Soviet Union; My Travels to Afghanistan; My Travels to Jerusalem; and My Travels to Baghdad. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.

One thought on “Libya: Further down the slippery slope”

  1. Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya form a chain of rapidly evolving countries across North Africa. We are largely observers of a struggle by ordinary people for human dignity. We saw the power of peaceful protest in Tunisia and Egypt and we witnessed the force of influence on the military of both countries as exercised by France and the United States. Libya is a curious case of guilty conscience for France for which pilots that would be shooting civilians were trained originally in France and if one flew to Libya during the 1970s one might guess the pilot was trained in France or was French. Such are the connections of Libyan air power to France that it was clear that a moral responsibility existed within France to offset the abuse of flight training received as a original gesture of good will from France namely that air power be used for self defense or commerce and not to slaughter citizens. It was particularly painful for French pilots to see people of Benghazi about to be massacred and pretty understandable that there would be a call for immediate action to reduce the potential death toll of people the pilots knew personally. The fact that Ghaddafi employed his fortune to hire mercenaries from French speaking countries was also a trigger for the French military who bemoan the demise of real influence for peace coming from French initiatives. Similarly, the British have very personal connections with Libya having created much of the infrastructure and oil sector and having bonded fairly closely with the people of Cyrenaica. The American interest in Libya would perhaps be more guarded having suffered from a terrorist attack organized in Libya and yet having done nothing much about terrorism originating from that country. As good fortune would have it, there arises the very real possibility America might do something right for the wrong reasons. To help the community of Benghazi fend off a murderer is pretty wonderful especially as the people you are defending are Muslim and descended from one of the poorest communities in the world before oil was descovered. The second world war had left the region in a state of continuous desperation and an opportunity for Russia to negotiate a warm water port in the Mediterranean for it’s fleet, which was we can surmise up to no good. The observation of how the wealth of Libya was spent on the Tripoli side of Libya showed the direction of the future development of the country favoring large hotels there. Having helped create the infrastructure of the threatened regions of Libya, I can sympathize with their plight. It’s sad that war has to be waged at all in Libya, but you can understand how people there should be given an opportunity to share equally in the world community and not live forever in fear and desperation. By waging a limited war in Libya, America might just have taken the first positive step in really fighting the roots of terrorism, which arise from protecting the illegitimate interests of dictators. Libyans will remember that it was France that took action and America that followed. In Europe, it’s common place for people to say America often arrives late to fight a legitimate war, but early to fight one that’s illigimate.

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