A couple of weeks ago, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet caused a stir by suggesting that the Libyan quagmire could end with Qaddafi still in the country, although he would “be in another room in his palace, with another title.” The rest of the French government hurried to “distance itself” from his remarks.
Now we learn, courtesy of the New York Times, that “France appeared on Tuesday to have persuaded Britain to support a shift in attitude toward Colonel Moammar Qaddafi, suggesting that he could be allowed to remain in Libya in return for giving up power in a broader deal, including a cease-fire.”
That means no war crimes trials, and if the NATO bigwigs think Qaddafi will just stroll off to a quiet retirement in one of those port cities his forces have leveled, they’re dreaming. There’s a reason deposed dictators have to be removed from the countries they ruled with an iron fist for decades.
The new “Qaddafi can stay” storyline rippled through the entire NATO alliance, including the Obama Administration:
“Obviously him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear of Qaddafi,” [British Foreign Secretary William] Hague said. “But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine.”
After [Hague’s French counterpart] Mr. Juppé raised the idea last week, an Obama administration spokesman, Jay Carney, said Colonel Qaddafi “needs to remove himself from power — and then it’s up to the Libyan people to decide.”
Jonathan Tobin at Commentary sizes up these developments, and sees them as a signal of “defeat for NATO”:
Though the NATO bombing campaign against Libyan government targets continues, the public acknowledgement that “one of the scenarios” that could end the fighting will permit Qaddafi to stay in the country can only mean both France and Britain are coming to grips with the fact the insurgents cannot prevail. This means after months of bombing and incessant talk about Qaddafi having to go, the half-hearted humanitarian intervention could end in a fiasco that will further undermine the credibility of the West.
Despite formal recognition by Western countries, including the United States, as well as military aid and training, the rebel government in Benghazi appears no more capable of taking Tripoli today than it did months ago. While many observers thought Qaddafi’s defeat was just a matter of time, both Paris and London appear to be convinced that all they have bought themselves is a nasty stalemate that neither side has the ability to break. By stating publicly that Qaddafi may stay after the fighting stops, they are making it clear they have neither the will nor the patience to prevail.
This is very good news for Qaddafi. The talk of compromise from his opponents will convince any wavering supporters and even those opposed to him trapped in government-held territory that the dictator isn’t going anywhere. He now knows all he has to do to win is just hang on in Tripoli.
Our exquisitely deficit-conscious President has blown about $750 million on this fiasco, which is far beyond his original budget projections. We also pay a good 75% of the defense budget for NATO. On the bright side, if the quagmire is going to end soon, Harry Reid can add a few billion more dollars in “savings” to his phony budget proposal. If we can just declare a few more expensive wars to jack up the 10-year projections, then end them abruptly, we can save trillions!