Maxwell on Libyan Conflict

by Bennett Hanson

Horizon Reporter

Barry Maxwell, a teacher at Whatcom Community College gives his educated input on the many issues in the Middle-East.

Barry Maxwell was a military planner on the Joint Staff on the Middle-East, with particular attention to Libya from 1994 to 1999. Maxwell has also specialized on the Middle-East as a graduate student and has taught about its history for 10 years.

Q: Why is America’s focus on Libya when Yemen and Syria also have dictators killing civilians? A: These things are usually decided on a balance of U.S. national interests involved, U.S. public opinion, expected cost in dollars, and U.S. lives.  In this case there were some national interests involved (not a lot), public opinion seemed in favor of protecting civilians (at least for now) and it looked as if the costs and U.S. loss of life could be kept fairly low.

Q; What do you think about the rebels fighting Muammar Qadhafi’s forces?                                   

A: The rebels are various groups in the region who oppose Qadhafi. They are poorly trained and being consulted by CIA agents on the ground.

Q: Do you support or oppose America arming the rebels?                                                                     

A: I am still waiting to see more about who the rebels are, and how likely this is to turn into plain tribal warfare. If we did arm them, I hope it is with fairly basic weapons and munitions, unlikely to come back to haunt us elsewhere in the world. For example, no portable anti-aircraft missiles. 

Q: Are there any ulterior motives behind the bombing of Libya?                                                                       

A: It is fairly clear that the United States government would be happy with Qadhafi removed from power. Regarding oil, the United States’ position is most likely hoping to stabilize the people as well as production and sales of oil in the region to the rest of the globe.

Q: Could involvement spark a third war for the United States?                                                   

 A: The government will try hard not to make that happen… more so than other times in history.

Q: Can Libya successfully rebuild a new government?                                                                        

A: Yes, Libya could – but it is never certain. It is not a matter of putting new people in old places.

Q: What is America’s role?                                                                                                                  

 A: The United States has escorted refugees and supplied humanitarian supplies (food and medicine).

Q: Was it unconstitutional of Obama to enact military actions without approval of Congress?         

 A: There have been hundreds of times in our history when presidents have commenced military actions without Congress’s approval. If Congress doesn’t agree with the events they have the right to refuse all funds. It is not expected of most presidents.

Q: Where do you see Libya in the next two years — regarding stability and governmental control?                                                                                                                                          

A: I have no reliable prediction for two years out.  However, 50 percent probability that Qadhafi will not be in charge then (25 percent because rebels have won, 25 percent because his own government gets rid of him), and another 50 percent probability that a stalemate and divided country happens.

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