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US Caught in Name Game over Libya War

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TEHRAN, April 23 (ICANA) – As talks of a stalemate in the Libyan war begin to take shape, Press TV has conducted an interview with an American columnist, Conn Hallinan from Foreign Policy in Focus to further discuss the matter.
Saturday, April 23, 2011 10:12:17 PM
US Caught in Name Game over Libya War

Q: Now there are talks of a stalemate in Libya, in the meantime France has already dispatched military advisors to Libya, with other governments mulling the same decision. This sounds a lot like what happened in Vietnam, just before the war. Are we going to see troops on the ground? Is this what this is leading up to?

Conn Hallinan: Well, it certainly is moving in that direction. I mean they are even using the same terminology. They're saying, well they're not combat troops, they're advisors. It seems to me that the problem here is that the original UN resolution was to protect civilians. France, Britain, and the United States took that and turned it into overthrowing Gaddafi, a regime change. So now they're caught in a name game, which has to end in a regime change.

This means no negotiations, or no ceasefire. I can't believe that this isn't eventually going to turn into a major escalation, since the rebel forces at this point don't look like they're capable of defeating Gaddafi forces. I mean, vice versa. I think you have a very classic stalemate going on.

Q: Everyone had predicted that this war would end in a stalemate. Why wasn't there a contingency plan devised by the US?

Conn Hallinan: This is a very good question, I used a term in an earlier column, 'the attack of the keystone crusaders;' It's people who just simply didn't have a fall-back position. They believed that all they had to do was to unleash air power, and that would overthrow the Gaddafi regime. That's never worked in the past. Every time airpower has been used as a primary way of inducing regime change or winning a war, it failed. But they keep going back to it. I don't know what the thinking was. And now we're caught in a game. I don't see an end to the game. It looks to me like a big dark tunnel, and we're going right into the heart of it.

Q: Will Libya turn into another Afghanistan?

Conn Hallinan: I don't think it will turn into another Afghanistan simply because, it's not as big. I mean it's a big country but it doesn't have the same population, or the vast amounts of mountains. I don't see it turning into another Afghanistan, but it's going to be the metaphorical equivalent. What happened is that the rest of the world, most of the rest of the world, the United States and its allies took the UN resolution and turned it in a way that they wanted it to work and applied it. I think the effect of that is going to be that the next time this issue comes up, you're going to find it very reluctant for the UN to act at all.

I think the Chinese feel like they've been snookered in this operation. I think they thought there were going to be negotiations before hand. They are strongly condemning the attacks on the Libyan military. So this has weakened the UN, and it has isolated the US, Britain, and France. And it is creating a situation in which I don't see an endgame to. If you were to ask me what it would look like in two months, I would have no idea, except that it's not going to be good.

Q: Mr. Hallinan, you're saying there is no endgame to this. So, what was the US thinking when it agreed to impose the no-fly zone?

Conn Hallinan: Well, what they thought was that all they had to do was to shoot a few cruise missiles, launch some fighter bombers, and the Gaddafi regime would fold up and collapse. I am no fan of Gaddafi's, but he does have a base.

This is a civil war, and as with all civil wars there are two sides. We're supporting one side against the other side. This isn't a tyrant who has no support within the population. This is a very different situation. Why didn't we know that?

Q: The US with its top military brass, the elitist of the elite, with all their education, do you think they really didn't expect any of this?

Conn Hallinan: The military got order to do this. The military was not enthusiastic about doing this. It was pretty clear that they didn't want to go into Libya, but of course in our system the civilians tell the military what to do. So the civilians told the military to do this and the military at the beginning asked what the endgame would be, and now there is no endgame. So now we have a military that is greatly over-extended. It is still fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. It has some troops on the ground in Somalia and Yemen.

Q: This brings the question against how powerful the military is in the US, because we've seen Obama crumble to pressure from the military in regards to Afghanistan in the past, so why not with Libya?

Conn Hallinan: Well I think in many ways Obama wanted to do what he did in Afghanistan. I'm not so sure that the Obama administration crumbled. I think that he bought in to the mythology, that if you applied a lot of military force in Afghanistan, you could force the Taliban to the table. He's not the first president to have that illusion. I think now, the administration is somewhat reluctant to get into Libya; they have sort of turned over to NATO. NATO is totally incapable of doing an operation like this and so now we're kind of backed into the war. I have never seen a war this poorly run. In my memory of studying wars, I have never seen a war like this.

Q: Had Obama brought this by the Congress, things would have come out differently from what they are now. Would you agree?

Conn Hallinan: At least what you would have had would have been a debate, and that would have brought up questions like, what is out endgame? Is our goal the overthrow of Gaddafi, which calls for one set of tactics and strategies, or is our goal to protect the civilians, which means another set of strategies? It would have been a much healthier situation. I'm not what the Congress would have voted on, but there would have been more of a reflection, of a real unease among the American people about this Libya operation and people don't support the war in Afghanistan, and they really can't understand why it is we've gone into Libya.

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