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Rubio: Let’s Make Libya Into Somalia

Marco Rubio has sent a letter to Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell on Libya, and he reminds us why we shouldn’t take him seriously on foreign policy:

I am writing to seek your support for bringing a bi-partisan resolution to the Senate floor authorizing the President’s decision to participate in allied military action in Libya.

Furthermore, this resolution should also state that removing Muammar Qaddafi from power is in our national interest and therefore should authorize the President to accomplish this goal. To that end, the resolution should urge the President to immediately recognize the Interim Transitional National Council as the legitimate government in Libya.

Shorter Rubio: Let’s compound our horrible mistake by breaking international law, and imitate the most impulsive, foolish decisions of the French.

While Congress absolutely should and must vote on Libya, escalating things with a Libyan Liberation Act or something of that sort and recognizing a ramshackle rebel leadership as the government of Libya would make a horrible Libya policy even worse. By some accounts, the National Council is rapidly losing the confidence of eastern Libyans, and it is extremely generous to claim that it is functioning as a government of anything right now. As John Lee Anderson reported:

What they are not is organized. No one can explain how the Benghazi council works with the National Council. Last week, another shadow government, the Crisis Management Council, was announced in Benghazi; it was unclear how its leader, a former government planning expert named Mahmoud Jibril, would coördinate with Jalil, or whether he had supplanted him.

The rebels barely have a fighting force, and it is doubtful that most Libyans outside of Cyrenaica would accept a government based in Benghazi propped up by Western support. Rubio is proposing that we follow the example of international support for the Somali Federal Transitional Government, which controls Mogadishu and a few other pockets and wouldn’t even control most of that without Ethiopian intervention. Worse than our own South Ossetia, which is at least theoretically independent from Georgia on its own terms, the U.S. would have to pretend that the Benghazi Provisional National Council is the Libyan government and that it has sovereign claims over the rest of the country. Once the U.S. recognizes the council, we will find that this obliges us politically to keep them from failing. This would not hasten Gaddafi’s departure, but it would fracture Libya and start the U.S. down the long, excruciating path to partitioning Libya. This would almost certainly mean that the rebel council would come to be seen as lackeys of Western powers, and most Libyans in the areas controlled by Gaddafi might conclude that keeping Libya together is more important than removing Gaddafi.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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