Could U.S. Military Bring Order To Libya?
If the violence and unrest in Libya continues, should the U.S. or other members of the international community get involved? We speak to KPBS Guest Military Blogger Beth Ford Roth about the possibility that the U.S. could step in to bring order to the country.
Beth Ford Roth, KPBS Guest Military Blogger. You can read her posts at homepost.kpbs.org.
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.
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. There are reports that bodies of protesters can be seen on the streets of Tripoli, Libya, today, Moammar al-Gadhafi [CHECK AUDIO] is the subject of an emergency UN security council meeting today. If the fighting in Libya continues to escalate, should the U.S. or the international community step in to bring order? This is not a popular question with the U.S. now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But is it a reasonable question? Does the U.S. have any military options in the region? Joining me to discuss this issue is my guest, Beth Ford Roth, guest blogger for the KPBS military blog, Homepost. You can read her latest entry at homepost.kpbs.org. So Beth, I know you're keeping a close watch on how the military is reacting to the situation in Libya. Are there any U.S. military assets in the region?
FORD-ROTH: We have one base in Africa, and it's in the country of Djibouti, and it's called Camp Lemonier, I hope I'm saying that correctly. It's named after a French admiral. And that's about 1500 miles from Tripoli, it's on the horn of Africa, so it's not really close by. Yoke there's a lot of danger of the protests sweeping that way to the horn of Africa. So that's basically, you know, the closest we are to what's going on in Libya right now.
CAVANAUGH: And you've been speaking with people, and watching other military blog, and trying to keep up with what the zeitgeist is, so to speak about what the military is thinking about this. Under what circumstances would the U.S. engaging in a role in Libya.
FORD-ROTH: You know, everyone I've spoken with just says it's not going to happen. We are so disliked and distrusted in that region that it would be a huge mistake, according to these foreign policy experts I've been speaking with for us to go in and sort of make it our business. And also any protest movement that wants to be seen a legitimate is not going to want the United Sates coming in and sort of helping out. So even if we were to take part in some sort of UN peace keeping force, just for the United State to be involved with that would be so controversial in that region. So everyone I've spoken with says said it's just not going to happen. The military is just not going to get involved with what's happening in Libya.
CAVANAUGH: We have a history, the US has a history with Libya. Some of us can remember when US air strikes were ordered against Moammar al-Gadhafi. When did that happen?
FORD-ROTH: That happened in 1986, and it was in response to Libyan bombing of a West German discotheque where servicemen, U.S. servicemen were likely to go, and two servicemen died. And so Regan ordered air strikes against Libya, and in fact Gadhafi's adopted daughter died in those air strikes. And then two years later, in 1988, I think this is what we all sort of -- when we think of Libya we think of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, over Lockerbie Scotland, on which 270 people on the plane died, many of whom were American. And 11 people on the grouped were killed. And after that, we imposed very strict sanctions against Libya.
CAVANAUGH: And that flared up again just a couple years ago with one of the convicted bombers got a compassionate release from Scotland and was transported back to Libya.
FORD-ROTH: Yes. So he could die, and that was 18 months ago. And no sign of him passing on. He's actually quite energetic, and perceived as a hero. And that's some controversy that some oil deals may be going on with BP, other oil companies sort of prompted that release, that Gadhafi said, look, we're not gonna let these deals go through, unless you go ahead and release this man. And so there's a lot of controversy there.
CAVANAUGH: Well, that is one aspect because Libya is the only African nation that exports oil. How may that enter into the question of any kind of intervention?
FORD-ROTH: Well, I think it's got a lot of people worried, especially investors. US oil prices went up six percent yesterday. And although we don't get a lot of oil from Libya, they produce a lot of light sweet crude, as it's called, and they import that to Europe, and then we get about 40 percent of our light sweet crude from Europe, and so it does affect us here at the pump. And also there's concern that, look, if it's going on in Libya, could it spread to a country like Saudi Arabia, could it spread to other OPEC nations and just drive up oil price it is across the world, and with the state of our economy, and Europe's economy, it's just not a good time for that right now.
CAVANAUGH: Now, is the U.S. military on any sort of alert in response to what's going on in Libya, in fact what's going on in all -- Northern Africa and the Arab Middle East.
FORD-ROTH: I don't know if it's coincidental, but the joint chief of staff's chairman, Michael Mullin, is in the middle east right now, and he's visiting countries like Saudi Arabia, and Djibouti, Kuwait, possibly Bahrain, and he's sort of meeting with our allies in the Persian gulf who are very worried right now and concerned that the protests will sweep into their countries and sort of letting them know, hey, the United States is still a friend to you. But Mullin has been speaking with reporters saying, we are watching what's going on with great concern. Again, no commitment of saying we're going to get involved and we're going to help out, because I don't think anyone in the military wants that, I don't think anyone in Libya wants that, but just sort of trying to ease the fears of our allies in the Persian Gulf who produce a lot of oil, and letting them know, we're still friends.
CAVANAUGH: Beth Ford Roth, thank you so much.
FORD-ROTH: My pleasure.
CAVANAUGH: And as I say, you can read her latest entry, she is guest blogger for the KPBS military blog, Homepost, that's at homepost.kpbs.org. We will keep you updated about the situation in Libya throughout the day here on KPBS. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.