The Enemies of Our Enemy
BLUF. A key question for the international community now is whether to arm the rebels. Doing so would offer obvious advantages, but they are outweighed by the risks -- most notably the possibility that the weapons could find their way into less-friendly hands in the future. Qaddafi's weapons caches alone pose a long-term threat not just to Libya, but to other states in North Africa, including Tunisia and Egypt. Allied forces should not contribute to the problem.
The air campaign, while unlikely to depose Qaddafi on its own, has bought time for more creative means of rebel support -- ones that do not increase the danger of unintended consequences. If improving the rebels' military capacity is necessary, the international community should provide training rather than weapons. Assisting insurgents is a classic form of unconventional warfare, and it does not necessarily mean putting Western personnel in Libya. The United States can help by facilitating rebel communications and delivering virtual instruction on such military basics as digging trenches and coordinating firepower. Training and advisory assistance to rebel leaders can be provided outside Libya's borders (in a neighboring state, ideally) with support from other countries in the region.
The enemies of our enemy in Libya may not be our friends. But the danger that they pose to U.S. interests in the future will be determined in no small part by what the United States and its allies do in Libya today. There is no doubt that the choices facing policymakers are extremely difficult -- intervention is often a lose-lose situation. But the international community better get used to that ambiguity sooner rather than later -- in Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, the choices will not get any easier.
Much more over at Foreign Policy