Obama on Libya: Not making hasty decisions

Libyan rebel fighters occupy the oil center of Brega as opposition forces cede ground to Gaddafi’s advancing forces.

The White House pushed back yesterday against pressure from some lawmakers for direct intervention in Libya, saying it first wanted to figure out what various military options could achieve.

“It would be premature to send a bunch of weapons to a post office box in eastern Libya,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “We need to not get ahead of ourselves in terms of the options we’re pursuing.”

The Obama administration faces sharp criticism, especially from Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators, for its cautious approach to the turmoil in Libya but has signaled it will not be rushed into hasty decisions that could suck the military into a new war and fuel anti-American sentiment.

One major obstacle: Officials are still trying to identify the main actors within the opposition groups fighting to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The aims of these groups are unclear, including what type of government they might set up if Gaddafi falls.

President Barack Obama said yesterday he wanted to “send a very clear message to the Libyan people that we will stand with them in the face of unwarranted violence and the continuing suppression of democratic ideals that we’ve seen there.”

Scenarios

Where does Libya’s armed conflict go from here?

» Military stalemate. This for now looks like the most probable scenario. Stalemate would in effect produce a divided country and raise complex questions about trade and political relations with the oil producer.

» Rebel victory. Many Libya-watchers see this as the most likely outcome in the long-term, based on the calculation that Gaddafi’s forces have spilled too much blood in the last few weeks to retain legitimacy. But how quickly could victory come?

» Gaddafi defeats the rebels. This is the least likely scenario, mainly because the rebels control a huge chunk of territory and seem very well entrenched there.


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