If Gadhafi goes, then what?

If Gadhafi goes, then what?

July 20th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

There are serious concerns that at least some factions of the rebels who are trying to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi have ties to terrorists or are actually engaging in terrorist activities.

NATO's top commander, U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, told the U.S. Senate that "flickers" of al-Qaida have appeared in the rebels' ranks, and outside investigators have determined that some rebel forces have committed war crimes.

Most recently, rebels who have captured certain Libyan towns are accused of burning down homes of people they suspect don't support the rebellion, according to Human Rights Watch. The rebels also are accused of looting clinics and shops of those they believe oppose them.

None of that is to say that Gadhafi's forces are anything close to "innocent." They have engaged in atrocities against Libyan civilians, and many people of good will would welcome a removal of Gadhafi from power.

But it is, at a minimum, disturbing that President Barack Obama embroiled our military forces in international air attacks on Gadhafi's military in the midst of Libya's civil war. Besides the fact that the president never got the constitutionally required congressional authorization to attack Libya, it is simply unclear that the rebel forces whom our aerial attacks are aiding are an improvement on Gadhafi himself.

And yet now, the Obama administration has also given formal recognition to the rebels as the official government of Libya.

We can readily understand the desire not to treat Gadhafi as "legitimate," given his oppressive behavior over the years. But throwing the full backing of the U.S. government behind rebels whose motives are at best uncertain is not wise.

There are hints that Gadhafi is trying to negotiate a way to exit Libya. We won't miss him if that happens. But our country should be very careful about lending aid or moral legitimacy to his presumed successors, when we don't know exactly what they intend to do in Libya.