Many say the current presidential race is the most uncivilized in modern American history. Civility in public discourse, why it seems to have hit a new low and long-term implications for the democratic process.
In Libya pro Gadhafi forces continue to attack regime opponents with tanks, warplanes, artillery and rockets. There are reports that the western city of Zawiyah has been recaptured. Toward the east Gadhafi forces continued to stage fly-overs and bombing runs. Leaders in France and Britain are seeking UN resolution to authorize a no-fly zone. President Obama has said all options are on the table, but has held back from endorsing any kind of military intervention. Join us to talk about the on-going crisis in Libya and the debate over how to respond.
- Thom Shanker Pentagon correspondent, The New York Times, and co-author, "Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda."
- Danielle Pletka vice president of foreign and defense policy studies, American Enterprise Institute.
- Jessica Mathews president, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Fighting in Libya is now in its third week. Many say the desperate situation unfolding there demands some kind of international response, but there is no consensus on just what to do. In the U.S., Senators John McCain, John Kerry are pressing the Obama administration to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Joining me in studio to talk about the situation and debate over military intervention, Jessica Mathews, she is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Thom Shanker, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute. We do invite your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. Good morning to all of you.
MS. DANIELLE PLETKAGood morning.
MR. THOM SHANKERGood morning, Diane.
REHMThom Shanker, if I could start with you, what are the latest reports on what's happening in Libya?
SHANKERRight. Well, the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi made his usual dramatic appearance last night, showing up at a hotel in the capital of Tripoli. All the correspondents there gathered in the lobby, but he chose to be interviewed just by one, a Turkish correspondent, whose report was released early this morning, Diane.
REHMThey waited for about seven hours for that interview...
REHM...did they not?
SHANKERWell, yes. I don't know what their production issues were, but what Qaddafi said was rather interesting. He really drew a line in the sand -- if you'll pardon that old metaphor -- saying that should any outside power attempt to impose a no-fly zone, that the Libyan armed forces would rise up, and Qaddafi pledged his people would support him. That part of it is, of course, very uncertain and, of course, wrong. But his pledge to attack and try to defend against a no-flight zone is certainly something that military planners have to look at. And it shows that if intervention is ordered, it would have to be a forced entry over, you know, a Libyan objection. And, probably, it would look a lot like war.
REHMWhat areas of Libya do the rebels hold now? What areas does Muammar Qaddafi and his supporters hold?
SHANKERRight. Even though the country of Libya is the size of Alaska, all the activity that we're seeing right now is really in a belt along the Mediterranean coast. It's where the population is. It's where the cities are -- the oil infrastructure. Qaddafi, of course, owns the capital. In some ways, he's really just the mayor of Tripoli and no longer the leader of Libya because there are strong uprisings both in the east of the country and in the west.
REHMNow, there were reports going back and forth yesterday that Muammar Qaddafi and a rebel leader were talking that Qaddafi was saying he had an offer to exit. Any truth to that?
SHANKERWell, one of the problems with that, Diane -- it's the same one that's sort of bedeviling the American military as they try to reach out to the rebels to discuss possible support -- we don't really know who the rebel leaders are. We don't know if there's one faction or many. So while Qaddafi may have been in contact with a rebel leader, it is hardly a unified opposition acting as a coherent armed force.
REHMThom Shanker, a Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times. Turning to you, Jessica Mathews. The Obama administration has said all options are on the table. What does that mean?
MS. JESSICA MATHEWSWell, it means that, while they attempt, I think, to avoid military intervention, they don't want -- they want to keep the pressure building on the people around Qaddafi. And, I think, one of the important things to remember in all of this is most of this is not directed at him, but it -- directed in what remains of a regime around him. There are any number of possible kinds of intervention, of course, the no-fly, no-drive zone, which would be even more demanding on us, but also the questions of whether there needs to be a ground component -- not necessarily American, and, indeed, probably not American, but perhaps from the Arab League or the African Union -- organization of potential humanitarian protection zones, arms embargos, arms sales, identification, location of assets and freezing of assets.
MS. JESSICA MATHEWSA big part of what they're trying to do now, in addition to organizing multilateral consensus or attempting to find it, is to build a ratcheting sense of closing in pressure on the people who still remain with him, in a sense that if you hang with him, history is not on your side, and you're going to be punished for it. So all these steps are ways to try to do that.
REHMSo lots of options on the table and publicly talked about. Danielle, you say a public debate over these options is not positive. Why not?
PLETKAI think it's not so much that we shouldn't have a public debate. Anytime you debate the use of U.S. military force, it's right to have an informed public discussion about it. The problem really is that the Obama administration's internal deliberations have been played out on the public stage, and so we've seen an enormous amount of disarray. The president was very quiet at the outset for reasons that he suggests of U.S. presence in Libya, U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya. Once our American citizens got out of Libya, he was a little bit more vocal, but he waited a little while to call for Qaddafi to step down. We appeared enthusiastic about a no-fly zone at the outset. Then suddenly we were unenthusiastic. Secretary Gates was very unenthusiastic.
PLETKASecretary Clinton seemed more -- all of this is mixed messages that, first of all, confuse those we seek to help in Libya, confuse those we seek to intimidate in Libya and confuse our allies about our intentions. It's really that public debate that I'm talking about.
REHMWhat do you think, Danielle Pletka, could be accomplished by a no-fly zone?
PLETKAIt's a very reasonable question, Diane. We've taken to talking about a no-fly zone as if somehow it's going to be a panacea, and I don't think it's right to suggest that it would be. Let's say that we were able to put a no-fly zone in place with or without U.N. approbation and sanction. Even if we were able to do so, that wouldn't necessarily stop Qaddafi from using his ground forces, his artillery. No-drive zone, even that would not necessarily stop him, and that's an escalation over a no-fly zone, which we haven't even decided we're going to support. But it would, I think, take away some of the momentum that Qaddafi has over the opposition. It would deny him the ability to intimidate people wantonly in the way that he has been, and it would be an important humanitarian step for us.
REHMThom Shanker, what could -- what would have to be in place to accomplish a no-fly zone?
SHANKERRight. Well, now that we know Col. Qaddafi has pledged to, you know, reject and rebuff and fight back against it, if you look at the history, it would probably have to open with a series of missile strikes on Libyan air defense systems -- their radars, their missiles, their command and control, even their runways. That is an act of war -- attacks on a sovereign nation. But you'd have to do that to protect the pilots. United States and its allies have large air forces in Europe. The carrier Enterprise has been sort of lollygagging in the Red Sea, moving toward the Suez Canal. Its exact speed is classified, but it could be off Libya in 18 hours or so once an order was given. With a carrier in place, with the air forces in Europe, you could do this.
SHANKERThere's a command ship called the Whitney that's now docked in Italy that would probably put to sea to do all the command and control of a no-fly zone, and also to make sure that civilian and aid aircraft are not caught. But it could take several hundred aircraft because you not only have to have the attack aircraft, Diane, you have to have search and rescue in place. You have to have refueling. You have to have AWACS and other intelligent surveillance and reconnaissance. So it's a 24/7 mission that could require hundreds of aircraft at a time where Afghanistan is a great obligation, where Iraq is not completely silent and where the administration has to look at other countries in the Middle East and balance its natural -- its national security interest versus what's going on in Libya today. Could the military do it?
SHANKERAbsolutely. Is it the right thing? That's the debate underway that Danielle referenced.
REHMIs it the right thing, Jessica?
MATHEWSI certainly don't think it's the right thing now. Air power hasn't been decisive in this struggle to begin with. So, as Tom suggested, this would not necessarily be the answer, but, more importantly, it's an open-ended commitment. This is really the Colin Powell Pottery Barn thing. You're in -- it's not that you've broken it, but you've bought it. And the -- how this will play out, both at the military level but, even more importantly -- excuse me -- I think, at the political level, who the opposition is, whether the opposition can come together, what you do with a country that has basically no institutions other than the colonel.
MATHEWSYou know, Tunisia and Egypt, you had two regimes who threw out the guy on top. In this case, the guy on top is the regime, and there's very little else of it. So you are faced with a -- with trying to govern or help govern a gigantic country with nothing there.
REHMBut, Danielle Pletka, what happens if we do nothing?
PLETKAWell, that's really the great question, Diane. And, I think, that part of the problem is that, while there should be doubts about a no-fly zone, I don't think it's quite the heavy lift that some want to suggest. I think that it is -- I think it is eminently doable if we're willing to exert the will to do so. But there is a great debate about whether to do it or not. The answer, however, is, if we do nothing, we don't return to status quo ante. We're not going to go back to the state where Qaddafi was quietly and comfortably repressing his own people with the support of, you know, Mariah Carey and the London School of Economics. It's not going to be like that.
PLETKAHe is now a rat in a corner, and he is a dangerous, dangerous man. I want to analogize it perhaps a little bit imperfectly to what we saw in Iraq with Saddam Hussein. When we encouraged the people of Iraq to rise up against Saddam, told them we would protect them, didn't, he then spent the next few years oppressing the living daylights out of them.
REHMDanielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, Jessica Mathews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Thom Shanker of The New York Times. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back as we talk about U.S. and U.N. and NATO options in Libya. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Jessica Mathews, as Danielle Pletka has said, you had, first, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coming out and saying, maybe we need to establish a no-fly zone. Then Secretary of Defense Gates came in and said people who talk that way don't understand the full impact. Danielle has just said maybe it wouldn't take as much as what Thom Shanker has said. What's your view?
MATHEWSOh, I think it's a very significant military commitment, and one has no idea where it ends. There are no easy lines to draw. People who say, well, we'll just do this, and it seems surgical and at a distance and safe. So what happens with the first person who gets shot down? And what happens if it doesn't work, and you have to move to no-drive? What happens if you actually have to ground helicopters as well as fixed-wing aircraft? Much harder job, much more intensive. It does require moving assets from elsewhere. But, as both Thom and Danielle said, it's doable. The question is, is it wise? And the thing that seems a bit absent in the public debate so far has been the question of how deeply are U.S. national interests, as opposed to our emotions, engaged in Libya.
MATHEWSI think we're seeing the beginning of a gigantic historical sweeping movement across this region, and there are any number of countries in which -- which are far more important to our national interests than Libya -- Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iran. There's a certain degree here both of setting a precedent -- we go here, why don't we go there? -- but also of keeping our powder dry for potential developments that we can't foretell right now that are far more important to our national security.
REHMBut let me ask you the same question I asked Danielle. What happens if we do nothing and other dictators around the world see us do nothing...
REHM...and see a Qaddafi-like figure simply open arms on their citizens, begin shooting, and we do nothing?
MATHEWSWell, first of all, of course, this will not be the first time we did nothing. Five million people -- 5 million people -- died in Congo. A quarter of a million people died in Darfur. That's not to say that's a good outcome. But I don't -- what I don't accept is no-fly zone or nothing. There's lots more, and there's lots more that we're already doing in between a military action like this and doing nothing. So I think that there is a -- as I said earlier -- a range of activities that can create a closing circle and a growing sense of threat to people around that may well not be decisive.
PLETKAI sort of was very struck by something Jessica said just a moment ago. This is a question of U.S. national interest versus emotion. I mean, I think you are absolutely right. Emotion has taken a very -- has taken a big part in a lot of the public discussion about what's happened in Libya, in large part because it came on the heels of Tunisia and Egypt and because Qaddafi's reaction has been so brutal, so disgusting. I saw a video yesterday of a little boy screaming in pain, who had been shot by Qaddafi's forces. That does bring out emotions, but I -- so, I think, it's fair to try and step away from that. Just looking at our national interest, which is a very proper question to ask, we have to remember who Muammar Qaddafi is. This is the man who brought down Pan Am 103.
PLETKAThis is a man who was developing nuclear weapons program until he gave it up in the wake of our invasion of Iraq. This is a man who has a chemical weapons store. Now, we can say whatever we want about how things were two months ago. Right now, he's a man who has been condemned unequivocally by the president of the United States, almost all Western powers. He's not suddenly going to kill all the people who hate him and then rehabilitate himself as a member of society. That's a threat to our national interest and something we do need to anticipate, no matter what.
REHMThom Shanker, let's talk about some of those other Western powers. Britain and France are reportedly going after a U.N. resolution to authorize a no-fly zone. What does it take to get that kind of resolution?
SHANKERSure. I mean, you would have to overcome the great reluctance of both Russia and China on the Security Council. Both of those countries, for both internal reasons, international reasons, routinely oppose resolutions for outside intervention in the domestic affairs of another state.
REHMAnd have they already signaled such…
SHANKERThey certainly have. It would be very hard, even for NATO, to act without a U.N. resolution, although there have been instances in the past. I think the next step we should watch is Thursday. Tomorrow, there's a defense ministers' meeting in Brussels at NATO. Secretary Gates, who, today, is at the change of command at Africa Command, which would be the American military headquarters that would oversee any Libyan mission. So you have Gates at Africa Command today, at Brussels tomorrow. What the defense ministers decide -- whether action, no action, words or deeds -- will be very significant.
REHMWhat about the Arab League?
SHANKERThey are meeting and talking as well, although they don't really have the resources to impose a no-fly zone. There's also history there as well of not sending their armies into the army of another state in the region. I don't think that would really be the way it would go. But, I think, Jessica made a good point. There are a number of less invasive steps the U.S. could take, and some of them are already underway. There's a lot of American intelligence and surveillance resources now focused on Libya.
SHANKERThat could be shared with the opposition. There's jamming aircraft that could fly in international air space and sort of muddy the communications of Qaddafi's forces. Even supplying humanitarian aid into safe zones outside of Libya has an effect on internal politics. And, I think, there's probably some quiet communications with Qaddafi's inner circle -- business leaders, military commanders and others -- as we did before the invasion of Iraq, saying, you need to think about your future. Which side of history do you want to be on? So the questions we're asking today about what side of history does America want to be on, those questions are being posed to Qaddafi's inner circle as well.
REHMThe current situation means that Qaddafi's forces fly over and bomb innocent people. What can we do to stop that now, Thom?
SHANKERWell, again, we've been talking about these options. There's the no-fly zone. That's at the extreme. The one sort of step back from that would be to air-drop in weapons, anti-aircraft guns -- that sort of thing -- to the opposition, try to enable them to more effectively enforce their own no-fly zone and defend themselves. There are logistical issues there. We also don't know who the opposition is, but it's a less invasive intervention.
REHMDanielle, Qaddafi is saying any Western intervention would signal that the U.S. is really after its oil. How much is oil at play here?
PLETKAOh, it's a hard question to answer. You know, I'll say the same thing that I always said about Iraq, which is that if we were really interested in the price of oil, we would do nothing because the price of oil stays down when there's less conflict, when there's -- and it doesn't matter who's in control. You know, as long as someone's in control, the oil flows. The more there is on the market, the lower the price is, period -- end of story. This really, in my opinion, isn't in any way about oil, though I would say that oil has become a very potent weapon in the hands of both Qaddafi and his enemies who now control Benghazi and two -- possibly two other ports inside Libya. They will -- they are beginning to explore how they can use the resources of oil and exports to help themselves. And that's going to be very interesting as it plays out.
MATHEWSI think there's a -- if I can just...
MATHEWSI agree with everything that Danielle just said, but there's a -- probably, you have to play this out further, which is if we intervene in Libya, we may raise expectations elsewhere in the region, in other oil-producing countries, that we then cannot meet.
REHMSaudi Arabia, Bahrain...
MATHEWSSo -- well, Saudi Arabia is Armageddon, but even short of that. So we also have to -- I mean, the -- this is incredibly important to history, gigantic history that's playing out in a totally unexpected way. And before we leap in with something that seems both discreet and simple, it is neither of those things. And it has consequences that, just as when we first got involved in Afghanistan against the Soviets, you have no idea. Then you have to think through what it may be like 10 years when those weapons and those people are turned around and shooting at you. So where are -- the expectations we raise and the commitments that we make that we, then, may not have available elsewhere has got to be a part of this decision also.
REHMWhat if the U.N. should decide to somehow go in and establish a no-fly zone? What would be the overall objective there, Thom?
SHANKERWell, the overall objective, of course, would be to suppress flights of extreme aircrafts, the fighters and bombers. More difficult, but possible, is to keep the helicopters on the ground. It's interesting, Diane, over the weekend through yesterday, attacks by the combat jets dropped by 50 percent. It was mostly helicopters. So even Qaddafi is sort of setting his own military agenda, thinking a no-fly zone is coming. What would happen if there was a U.N. resolution -- and I know American policy -- they would try to make this as international and as large a coalition as possible, trying to get as many European, North African, Middle Eastern countries, so it wouldn't be a no-fly mission stamped made-in-the-USA.
REHMBut would all those countries be willing?
SHANKERWell, that's a very good question, but I think more of them would be under the cover of a U.N. resolution. And even if they were supplying modest numbers of aircraft or planners or vessels, it wasn't a U.S.-only mission. I think that's one of the things that this administration would make as its priority if it were to move ahead.
REHMDanielle, suppose you can't get a U.N. resolution. Would you want to see the U.S. go in nevertheless?
PLETKADiane, it's a softball to me. I'm not -- I'm not as concerned about U.N. resolutions. We waited for a very long time and saw many, many lives lost in the Balkans because we couldn't get a United Nations resolution. And I think that -- I'm not in the least bit saying when we're going to be able to get a U.N. resolution allowing a no-fly zone in Libya. The one thing somebody said to me yesterday, which I think was absolutely true, is the more that the Chinese and the Russians see that we are committed to pursuing this no matter what, the more likely it will be that we will be able to get a resolution.
PLETKAIf they see that as the sole avenue that we are willing to use, then they are absolutely going to stand in the way. So we need to be pretty aggressive about diversifying our routes forwards. Even if that's not the end of the game, we still need to explore all the options.
REHMDanielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8550. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. And let's go first to Arlene in Garden City, Mich. Good morning to you.
ARLENEGood morning. Diane, I'm calling because I recall when we were talking about going into doing a preemptive strike to Iraq so many years ago, we didn't consider the blood and treasure that we would have lost as a consequence. I don't know if people are looking at it the same way. But, it seems to me, if the Defense secretary says, no, this is not prudent, why not listen?
PLETKAI want to think Arlene is absolutely right. We should listen to the secretary of Defense. But, at the end of the day, this is a decision that needs to be made by the president. And, frankly, I would have liked to have heard what the president wanted before I heard the debate among his cabinet as to whether this was or was not a good idea. Will it cost in blood and treasure? I hope it would not cost in blood, but you can never be sure. Will it cost treasure? Absolutely. We do need to weigh all of those questions as we look at the humanitarian crisis in Libya and make a prudent decision about the right way forward.
MATHEWSI don't think I have anything to add on that except, perhaps, to say that we do have an overstretched military right now. This would require the diversion of some assets and -- from other theaters. It's a -- I think what Secretary Gates was trying to say is that this is not a trivial undertaking.
REHMRight. Exactly. All right. Let's go to Mindy in Germantown, Md. You're on the air.
MINDYMy point is whatever happened to negotiation? Why can't we go and bring the two warring countries to the table to negotiate a peace settlement? Why must it always be the first impulsive reaction that we have is to go to war to supply arms to one side? This is not one side dropping one -- with bombs on innocent people. This is a civil war.
REHMAny possibility of negotiation out there, Thom?
SHANKERWell, I mean, as we've heard today, Qaddafi says he's speaking with one of the rebel leaders, but we don't know whether that rebel leader is truly speaking for the entire group. And, just to make clear, the U.S. is not dropping bombs. They're not supplying weapons. The negotiations that your listener is talking about would be something internal to Libya, but the American government has been very judicious in moving forward. They didn't leap to intervene.
REHMLet's go to Athens, Texas. Hi, Charlie.
CHARLIEYeah, hi, Diane. I just want to stress something about what it's going to take to do a no-fly zone. Okay? I helped plan -- was on the scene in 1986 when we went into Libya. Let me remind everybody, at that particular time, that was just a single strike that went in over a few hour period. Okay? We had three aircraft carriers. It had to be on station to do that. We had the 42nd electronic support -- Electronic Combat Wing out of England, the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing involved in it from England. We had huge diplomatic problems because people, you know -- nations like France didn't want us overflying their country and then dropping bombs on somebody else. So anybody there that thinks that this is a easy undertaking is very misinformed.
SHANKERIf I could just add to that very cogent assessment, one jet was also shot down, and there were reports of civilian casualties from American bombs that went astray. So not only is it a difficult undertaking, but there are huge risks both to those carrying it out and to innocents on the ground.
REHMJessica, would you be in favor of a U.N.-sponsored move?
MATHEWSIf the situation gets to a point where we could see that this would make a decisive difference and if we can get a multilateral agreement that has at least a token role for the Arab League and the African Union, I think that's critical. And if we feel we -- that there is no other way we can avoid a massive humanitarian catastrophe, that gets close to my conditions.
REHMJessica Mathews, she is president at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Short break. More of your calls when we come back.
REHMWelcome back. We have many callers waiting. We'll go now to Terence in Louisville, Ky. Good morning to you.
TERENCEGood morning. Thank you for taking my call. I have a little advice from ancient Greece, from a commentator, Thucydides, commenting on the Athenian mood at the time of the Peloponnesian Wars. Okay, here we go. "The ability to understand the question from all sides meant one was totally unfit for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man." I hope someone takes that advice.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Jessica Mathews, do you think it's important not just to concentrate on the U.S. but on other countries? It seems to me that's taking in all sides.
MATHEWSYeah, I -- you know, the -- this is a series of events of just enormous historical consequence -- just huge. And it's always in a situation like that there's a ton of uncertainty, which -- but, I think, the long term potential here is enormously positive for the U.S. But its importance -- I think its historical importance is sort of in direct proportion to the degree that we are not involved. What made Tunisia and Egypt -- what has transformed those countries and transformed the Arab mood across the region was the sense that people rose up and did this themselves and that it was not about any ideological ism.
MATHEWSIt was about individual liberty and dignity. And we need to keep that in mind as we make these decisions also. I've been just struck by how quickly this discussion tends to become about the United States. What can we do? What -- how do we feel?
REHMWhat should we do?
MATHEWSWe -- our first thought has to be about what it feels like in the region and what its meaning is there. And an intervention by the United States, even under multilateral cover -- although that may ultimately be unavoidable -- will change that.
PLETKAWe were talking about this a little bit during the break. And I said to Jessica that what struck me is that the United States has played a role, and it's a role that I think we need to examine very carefully because the people in Tunisia and the people in Egypt and the people in Bahrain and elsewhere have stood up against rulers that have been supported for decades by the United States. And I think that the United States -- and this is a very nonpartisan Islam -- is complicit in supporting the dictators that have been bedeviling the lives of hundreds of millions of people of the Arab world and Iran. And we need to examine exactly why it is that we were less open to the rights of these people, and why we were so unwilling to see them articulate those hopes for freedom, lo, these many years.
MATHEWSWell, we know the answer to that. The answer is very clear. We chose oil and stability over uncertainty and political...
PLETKAAnd human reform.
SHANKERWell, I guess, my only thought to what my two colleagues in the panel have said and if your listener was able to quote his favorite analyst, Thucydides, I'll quote one of my favorite strategic thinkers, which is Spider-Man, who said, with great power, comes great responsibility. And, I think, the United States has historically sided with dictators for national interest. But, I think, since the street revolts began, I think one can see a number of steps the government has taken to show great restraint.
SHANKERThe Defense Department Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, the chairman, reached out to their counterparts in Egypt, delivering a very clear message. Your military cannot attack the people. You are an army of the nation, not of the government. And I think some dialogues are underway with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia today. And so, perfect or imperfect, I think this government is trying to exert its power with responsibility.
MATHEWSI agree with that.
REHM...to Gilbertsville, Ky. Good morning, Jeffrey.
JEFFREYGood morning. And thank you for taking my call.
JEFFREYI have just one question because the oil, from my understanding, from Libya, actually is sold more to the European countries. And we're not hearing anything from the European countries over their involvement, or maybe I'm missing it. And I am glad to hear that we're pushing more for the Arab countries and African countries for their involvement. And I don't believe we should be involved other than what you're discussing this morning. And I appreciate this really good and -- discussion this morning. And I always thank you for your programs, Diane Rehm. You're excellent.
REHMAnd thank you for listening. Danielle.
PLETKAActually, I think the caller is a little bit wrong. The Europeans really have been surprisingly forward-leaning on the question of Libya. David Cameron, the prime minister of the U.K., was really out in front. He was one of the first who was talking about the possibility of a no-fly zone. He and the French president, Sarkozy, German Chancellor Merkel all have been very forward-leaning, were out in front of the United States in condemning Qaddafi. On the question of oil, that's true. Libya does absolutely supply more oil to Europe than to the United States, but, of course, that is irrelevant. Oil is a bucket, and it doesn't matter where it's slushing around in the bucket.
REHMWould the U.K. and France take joint action without the United States, Thom?
SHANKERThat's a question that's certainly under discussion, and we'll hear more about that Thursday at NATO. The British, in particular, have done combined operations with U.S. military very effectively. And there have been NATO missions in the past, such as in Balkans, that were undertaken without a U.N. resolution.
REHMAll right. To Princeton, N.J. Good morning, Linda.
LINDAGood morning, Diane. I may have misunderstood something earlier in the program. I had expected that you had at least one journalist on there.
REHMWe do. Thom Shanker of The New York Times.
LINDAAll right. Well, my comment was, as someone who does a lot of writing herself, I'm always fearful -- and it certainly happened during the invasion of Iraq -- when journalists -- and that's not to single Mr. Shanker out -- refer to their own support of a position of a government. In other words, when one says we -- meaning the United States -- I think journalists should remain above the fray and speak independent of their citizenship in any matter, especially regarding war.
SHANKERWell, sure. I think you could scrub my comments today, and you would be unable to find any political view or endorsement of any political statement. If I used the word we, well, I am an American citizen...
SHANKER...and although I'm a journalist for a great newspaper that is very objective and independent, I am a citizen of this nation, and I, you know -- happy to use the word we.
REHMThanks for your call, Linda. To Jacksonville, Fla. Good morning, Angie.
ANGIEGood morning, Diane. My concern is very, very profound and it affects many countries as we have seen in the last years. Please listen to me. I know it's difficult to understand me.
REHMNo, it's fine.
ANGIEOkay. We have been in many countries, intervening -- Somalia, Africa, the Congo, Darfur -- and that has not changed. Instead, it has been (word?) to divide and also seek the support of the United States or any other countries. We don't want to reward any kind of internal rebellion in any country because that is not the way to go. We want to encourage people to talk to each other, or, if they have their own problems, they should negotiate it. And if we go to the U.N., I don't see a country that doesn't have internal problems that will work to crush another country because it's presenting an internal rebellion.
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. Danielle.
PLETKAWell, I'm a big believer in people power and in people standing up to their governments. I think that dialogue is always the right choice when dialogue is possible. When one side is in prison, when dissidents are being tortured and murdered, then dialogue becomes difficult. And that's the situation we find ourselves in in Libya today. So up the rebellion, as far as I'm concerned.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Mark in Baltimore. He says, "Why is the argument always in the context of national interest? Is there no moral argument for us to get involved there? Everyone talks about sweeping changes taking place in the Arab world. If Qaddafi succeeds in turning back the rebels, how much of a chill will that put on other movements toward democracy?" Jessica.
MATHEWSI'm not sure -- excuse me -- that it will be a tremendous chill. It will be significant. There's no question about that. But the distribution of power in each of these countries is totally different than the forces at work. So one -- the only country, I think, that has a region-wide impact is Egypt, and that has an enormous -- you know, if what had happened in Tunisia had not happened again in Egypt, its importance would be tiny, so you can't really tell. But the moral arguments go both ways also. And as we've talked -- and one -- what's -- what happens too easily in the U.S. when we think we can use our hammer and we found a nail, is to forget the national interest argument, sidestep it.
REHMLynn sends a message on Facebook. She says, "If Qaddafi is thrown out, do your guests have any idea who they would feel comfortable with in replacing him and why?" Danielle.
PLETKAWell, that's really the biggest problem with all of these dictatorships, is that when you spend decades repressing civil society, what you find is that, when the dictator disappears, you have two elements of an opposition. One, an opposition that is in disarray as a result of years of aggression by the dictator, and, two, the Islamists, those who have been able to organize in mosques -- one of the few areas that really are -- remain not completely but partially sacrosanct in the Muslim world. And so it's a very fraught question. If -- when Qaddafi goes, what comes next? I don't think that we have any idea, and I don't think the people of Libya have any idea either.
REHMMm hmm. Thom Shanker, would you agree?
SHANKERAnd that's certainly one of the problems that the military planners are confronting, both as they try to figure out who to help and who to, you know, coordinate with. But if you look at, you know, using the phrase, you broke it, you bought it, should there be an American intervention? Whatever government follows Qaddafi would, in many ways, be America's adopted son and daughter. We cannot shed responsibility. We don't know what could come next. It could be very bad.
REHMBut, now, look at what's happening in Egypt, for example. There is this difficult transition period to find a leader, and some of the old guard is moving back in.
MATHEWSOr not -- well -- or never left.
MATHEWSI mean, one way you can look at what happened is that you have the Mubarak regime, minus Mubarak. So the question of how you can get from today -- I mean, almost every day as the protests have continued, there's been another slice of that regime, and there's been a lot of movement. But getting -- allowing enough time for non-Islamist parties to organize and come into being -- and at the same time so that the military moves out of a governance role, the primary governance role -- that's a balancing job that's just phenomenally difficult.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to John in Eunice, Texas. Good morning. You're on the air.
JOHNHey, good morning, ma'am. I am from Sierra Leone, and I have witnessed first time what Qaddafi did to support the rebels in Sierra Leone. If America is trying to intervene acts of moral grounds, then why not Sierra Leone? Why not Liberia? Why not Congo? Why not Uganda? Why not Rwanda?
REHMIs there a clear answer, Thom Shanker?
SHANKERWell, I think that's probably the sharpest and smartest question anyone could ask right now. And, sir, I salute you for calling in with that. That is how the question of national interest versus humanitarian need has to be balanced. Yes, we are all human beings. Yes, we feel so badly about slaughter. But if the U.S. cannot intervene everywhere, how does one make the decisions where to intervene?
REHMAll right. And on that very question, to Galesburg, Mich. Good morning, Chris.
CHRISThank you. This country is constantly talking about democracy and people's rights. And for years, decades, we tell people to rise up against their leaders. And that's what they do, and then we don't support them. We get involved in the states like Somalia, which hamstring us from going into Rwanda. We got involved in Iraq, which make us afraid to do this. And there comes a time when people rise up and a small push from us could lead to a great movement. As far as quotes goes, Mark Anthony to the Romans -- there comes a tide in the lives of men, when taken at the flood, leads on to greater victory.
REHMWe have many, many classic scholars in our audience this morning. Thank you for that call. Danielle, how much support is there in the Congress for Sen. McCain, Sen. Kerry's point of view to go in with the no-fly zone?
PLETKAThat's a very interesting question, Diane, and I'm not sure of the answer. We've had a couple of members of Congress express some serious reservations. I think Sen. Lugar, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday, and Sen. Kerry's counterpart actually expressed some doubt about it. And I don't think we know. But I think the caller also makes an important point, which is that this is a job that we tend to do when we focus on it because we're drawn in by a rebellion in Libya or in Egypt. But this should've been a job that we assigned ourselves for many, many years.
PLETKAThe truth is that helping democracy movements isn't about coming in, flying in at the last minute and saying, hey, guys, let's meet with you in -- you know, in a Starbucks on the corner. It's really about helping to build institutions along the way. And I would say that we have not put enough emphasis in our foreign policy on that institution building in a whole variety of countries, sometimes for rational reasons, but we really need to rethink that.
REHMLast word, Jessica.
MATHEWSWell, that opens a gigantic box, and, you know, we are always juggling conflicting interests. In the case of Egypt, we were looking at a regime, which had made peace, albeit a very cold peace, with Israel that supported us in our efforts to find an Arab-Israeli settlement that worked with us on keeping the situation at Gaza under some control and against terrorism. Democracy policy is never easy, and it's never a matter of the rebels are just the good guys.
REHMJessica Mathews at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Danielle Pletka at the American Enterprise Institute, Thom Shanker, The New York Times, thank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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