Libya Talk Turns To Limited Boots On The Ground

March 22, 2011 9:37 p.m.

Conservative advocates for greater U.S. intervention in Libya are beginning to call for a limited number of boots on the ground to help rebel forces coordinate and target their attacks against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Max Boot, a longtime proponent of the use of military force to promote U.S. ideals around the world, is calling on President Obama to send special forces teams into Libya to work with the opposition leaders to coordinate their attacks on the ground with NATO airstrikes.

Boot was quick to say he wasn’t pushing a foreign occupation on the ground, which would directly violate the United Nations Security Council resolution passed Thursday giving the U.S., Britain and France the authority to use all necessary force to avert a humanitarian crisis.“This is by no means at odds with the [U.N.] Security Council,” Boot told reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning. “All I’m suggesting is there be some special forces troops to work with the rebels. I don’t think we’re going to have that peaceful and sustainable solution we’re looking for if Qaddafi remains in power.”

“We need to step up and do a little bit more to get rid of him…,” Boot said.

To avoid another prolonged and bloody civil war like the one witnessed in Iraq over the last decade, Boot said the U.S. also needs to focus on the endgame and what happens after Qaddafi is gone. For that, he said the U.S. and its allies need to dispatch an international “peacekeeping” force to avoid tribal infighting and the infiltration of al Qaeda, and any effort to do so would require another U.N. resolution authorizing it.

Ray Takeyh, an Iranian-American Middle East scholar and former State Department official, also warned of a protracted battle in Libya if the U.S. is not more forceful in trying to take out Qaddafi, recalling Saddam Hussein’s ability to escape capture for months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“It’s really the nature of his personality [not to give himself up],” Takeyh said. “There’s really no place he can go where he’s exempt from prosecution from war crimes.”

Takeyh also suggested the U.S. pay less attention to the Arab League’s seesawing of support for U.S. and other NATO-member military action. The League’s support was critical in winning the U.N. resolution authorizing force, but in days since its president, Amr Moussa, has criticized the air strikes as exceeding the resolution’s mission of humanitarian relief before walking back those comments.

The commander of the British air force’s operations in Libya has said the five-day missile campaign has destroyed Qaddafi’s fleet of aircraft, according to a BBC report.

“We are watching over the innocent people of Libya and ensuring that we protect them from attack,” said Air Vice-Marshall Greg Bagwell told reporters during a visit with British aircrew based in Southern Italy.

“We have the Libyan ground forces under constant observation and we attack them whenever they threaten civilians or attack population centers.”

The comments came as NATO members struggled to agree on whether to take on an expanded role in Libyan and prevented the U.S. from handing the campaign against Qaddafi to other allies, according to a report in Bloomberg.

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