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What Are Longterm Goals Of U.S. Operation In Libya?

Audio

Aired 3/21/11

Why did the U.S. decide to get involved in the ongoing battle between Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and rebels aimed at overthrowing Gadhafi's government? We discuss the latest news coming out of Libya with KPBS Military Blogger Beth Ford Roth.

Why did the U.S. decide to get involved in the ongoing battle between Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and rebels aimed at overthrowing Gadhafi's government? We discuss the latest news coming out of Libya with KPBS Military Blogger Beth Ford Roth.

Guest

Beth Ford Roth, KPBS Guest Military Blogger

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and listen you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Events have moved quickly in Libya since the UN resolution last Thursday authorized a no FLY zone and all necessary measures to protect civilians against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi. This weekend, air strikes and tomahawk missiles have been fired at Gaddafi forces, apparently strengthening the position of rebels in Libya. Join us to talk about these fast moving events and what we may expect in these next few days is MY guest, Beth Ford Roth, she's KPBS guest military blogger. You can read her posts at homepost dot KPBS.org. So Beth, what do we know about what's happening today in Libya? Any new air strikes from these coalition forces?

ROTH: Well, what I think is pretty significant, was a cruise missile that Gaddafi's residential compound, and this happened overnight. And it sort of sent more of a message than maybe something that was strategic in nature that he's not safe. We don't know if he was there, we don't know if he was hurt. But it sends a strong message that, you know, it's not just the air bases that we're going after. He's not safe. And that's, I think, a very strong message that we're sending.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, this weekend, if anybody turned on one of the networks, they saw some very dramatic pictures from correspondence in Tripoli. Lots of tracer fire from Gaddafi forces in Libya in the air. Have any coalition forces been bit by that?

ROTH: It's my understanding that no. So far, there was that striking image of a plane coming down, I believe that was a rebel force plane, but so far, none of the coalition forces have been attacked.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Give us a little background on the UN resolution that authorized these attacks. As I say, it sort of happened rather quickly, I think a lot of the world's attention was on Japan at the time. Sp.

ROTH: Right.

THE COURT: So this happened on Thursday. What is the objective of this UN mission?

ROTH: The objective is basically about defending the civilian population in Libya from attacks by Gaddafi and his forces. And the INTERNATIONAL community as said through this resolution that that will be accomplished through any means necessary, which is basically the implementation of a no fly zone, that includes all of the air strikes that we've been seeing over the weekend.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, what nations are involved in these attacks?

ROTH: Well, so far with these initial air strike, it's been France, great Britain, and the United States. But in terms of the coalition as a whole, Canada and Italy are also part of that coalition, and also I believe Katar is part of the coalition as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see. And the U.S. Navy also seems quite involved in these attacks. I've seen little graphics of ships in I guess the Mediterranean firing towards Libya. Now, is this true and what ships? And from San Diego?

ROTH: The majority of the ships that are involved in these air strikes are based out of northern Virginia, and the USS Kirsarge is basically taking the role, and that is based out of North Virginia.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see. And do we know if terror any San Diego based ships in this region?

ROTH: It's my belief that not yet. Basically the majority from Norfolk went based out of Italy, one out of Connecticut, so it's my understanding so far, basically, it's home ports that these ships are based out of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One thing about this operation that I've heard dubbed operation odd see dawn, I believe it is.

ROTH: Yes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is that the U.S. is supposed to hand over the lead of this mission to the coalition. What does that mean?

ROTH: That's a really good question, and I'm not sure if it's been answered to the satisfaction of a lot of folks out there. I know John Boehner has come out today saying we want to know, what does this all mean, we want more specifics, and basically, you know, I saw a general on MSNBC this weekend speaking and saying, well, we've got such a strong air force that we're taking the lead now, just because our air power is so great, and once we've taken care of a lot of the strategic mission of making sure that the air bases that the surface to air missiles have been taken care of, all of that, we'll sort of go back a lot bit and let France, Britain, countries that are maybe more directly impacted by what happens in Libya take over a greater role, but there haven't been a lot of specifics, and I think that's been an issue that'll come more to the forefront in the coming days.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with both Ford Roth, she is KPBS military blogger. And we're talking about the fast moving events that have taken place over the last few days in Libya. Now, do we know, there seems to be amount unknown about this mission. What are the limits? Any chance of having any sort of occupying Forbes in Libya?

ROTH: Well, Obama has made that very clear. He has said this is a no boots on the ground mission. Meaning we will have no ground forces. And a few weeks ago, defense secretary Robert gates was speaking at Westpoint and saying you will not see another war, just speaking in general, like Iraq, like Afghanistan, where we have ground forces, that that is the war of old, and we're doing something new. Now, I don't think anyone and anticipating this is gone be an Iraq, an Afghanistan, but Obama has made it clear, that we are not accepted being in any ground troops into Libya.

CAVANAUGH: Speaking of President Obama, he is very publicly on a diplomatic mission to South America, and very decisively not returning to Washington DC while all of this is going on. Is there a reason for this? Is this a deliberate move on his part?

ROTH: I think so. I think the point here is to make sure that the coalition is sort of in the forefront, and not the United States. In order to give legitimacy to this mission, operation odd see dawn. And will if Obama were to drop this visit to Brazil and head back to the United States, it might give the impression that this is a huge big deal in the you said, and that we are sort of heading the way, and sort of ruin the legitimacy of the claim that this is not a United States mission, another occupying force in an Arab country, it really is a coalition force, France, great Britain, the Arab league. So i think that's a very purposeful statement he's making by staying in Brazil, by speaking regularly about what's happening in Libya, but by making it clear that we're part of a coalition, we're not leading it, and we're going to step back at some point.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now this resolution, had to step out of the UN security council so it didn't get any negative cotes from China or Russia or any of the member on the security council, but we've heard, we just heard on NPR some really rather pointed criticism coming from some world leaders, most notably, former Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin. What did he have to say again?

ROTH: You know, he was greatly disappointed in what the United States is doing, that United States is always sticking its nose in other countries' business, but I think you have to consider the source, that Vladimir Putin and Muammar Gaddaffi, it's my understanding, have a very strong, close relationship, and you have to sort of consider the source that his statements aren't purely of a grander, humanitarian belief, but he's got his own dog in the game, I guess you would say. Whatever the saying is.

CAVANAUGH: His own agenda apparently. Last time you and I talked about this, several weeks ago, when the unrest in Libya began to make headline news, and it came on the heels of what happened in Egypt, and it looked as though it was turning nasty, that Colonel Gaddaffi was willing to hurt his are own people on a very large scale, but we talked about the possibility of any kind of outside military intervention, and at the time, there seemed to be a consensus this was no way that that was going to happen. So what changed, Beth? Do you know?

ROTH: I think it was more of the United States waiting for other countries to take the lead. When you have France and great Britain coming forward and saying this needs to change, and then it becomes something that the united nations brings force, as opposed to NATO or the United States where again there's the issue of legitimacy. If it's seen as yet another Arab country invaded by the United States, then the rebels don't have the legitimacy of their cause. And so I think it was sort of the United States waiting patiently for Europe to take more of an active role because again, they have more at stake with what happens in Libya. The refugees will be coming to their country, they get more of the oil from Libya, so also there was some of that. And also I think the humanitarian crisis became so much greater and so much more obvious, there's no electricity and gas and water. So I think the combination of those two things came together. And with the passage of this UN vote, I don't know that we had much of a choice but to get involved.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, we are in rather uncharted waters here, considering what you said from Robert Gates that perhaps we're seeing a new kind of military intervention taking place here with no occupying force. Do we have any idea, have you heard any scenarios about how this may play out in the next few days and weeks?

ROTH: Again I'm as curious I think as anyone else. We're just not getting a lot of specifics, and I upon a lot of critics of this military action are saying, well, how does it end, and when does it end, and we don't have perhaps the best history of getting out when we're saying we're going to get out, and does this mean we want a regime change, some US leaders are saying we do want to see Gaddaffi get out, and if he stays, he will be involved with terrorism and will and he will definitely strike back at us, and others say no, we're not looking for regime change, this is humanitarian, and we just want to make sure these civilians are protected. So we're getting mixed messages, and not a lot of details. So in the next few day, I would be curious to see if we get some more specifics from Obama, the military, I know John Boehner has come out this morning saying we want our specifics so I'm just as curious as everyone else, I think to find out what the plan is.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's gonna be a very active day on the blog I'm sure.

ROTH: It will, yes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, I've been speaking with Beth Ford Roth, she is KPBS guest military blogger. You can read her posts at home post dot KPBS.org. Thank you very much.

ROTH: Oh, thank you so much.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Coming up, get your questions ready. Two tax experts join us as These days Continues here on KPBS.

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