Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Question for Daniel Pipes

 

This is a serious question for all of Ricochet and anyone who wants to help me try to come up with a good answer to this, because I honestly don’t know what the answer is or should be. Daniel Pipes just wrote this:

Many are ready to party about the political demise of the hated, eccentric, and foul Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi as rebel troops move into Tripoli. I am not partying. Here’s why not.

The NATO intervention in March 2011 was done without due diligence as to who it is in Benghazi that it was helping. To this day, their identity is a mystery. Chances are good that Islamist forces are hiding behind more benign elements, waiting for the right moment to pounce, as roughly happened in Iran in 1978-79, when Islamists did not make clear their strength nor their program until the shah was well disposed of. Should that be the case in Libya today, then the miserable Qaddafi will prove to be better than his successors for both the Libyan subjects of tyranny and the West.

I hope I am wrong and the rebels are modern and liberal. But I fear that a dead-end despotism will be replaced by the agents of a worldwide ideological movement. I fear that Western forces will have brought civilization’s worst enemies to power.

My question: How exactly do we know that NATO did not perform due diligence? Would not publicizing the results of whatever intelligence operations they conducted have risked compromising their sources and assets? I am not saying that they did conduct due diligence: I do not know, could not know, and basically believe I should not know. I’ve made a democratic compact with my government. I trust it to keep some things secret from the world–and thus, given reality, from me–in certain spheres. I trust it to enter into treaties with other governments that do the same thing.

How would we recognize the signs of “due diligence” when it comes to something like this? 

Here is my most rational, first-principles argument for thinking he is right: Bureaucracies, especially ones that are never exposed to daylight, are sclerotic turf-aggregation machines that tend to overstate their abilities. I’ve seen that too many times, in too many contexts, across too many cultures, to be in much doubt that it’s true. I don’t know that I trust any secretive bureaucracy to perform due diligence, and I doubt, a priori, that anyone really knows what’s going on well enough to meet a reasonable legal standard of due diligence as would be defined in US law and culture.

Beyond that, I just don’t know. I’ve never set foot in Libya and I reckon it’s massively complex, like any human society–or any human being, for that matter. As a general guide, past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior, more so than any words anyone uses. If I had to place bets, Libya will resemble its past, but I don’t think I’m expressing much more than a cliche by saying that. 

There are 31 comments.

  1. StickerShock Inactive

    A strong indicator that due diligence was not performed would be the rapidly increased bombing that coincided with the reauthorization deadline for the NATO mission approaching. What changed, other than the realization that fingers would be pointing at another protracted, confused conflict where the good guys we support & the bad guys we fight are virtually indistinguishable?

    No, it’s not proof. But it so unlikely that the rebels were suddenly verfied as being on the side of the angels that it’s pretty darn close.

    • #1
    • August 23, 2011, at 4:34 AM PDT
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  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Generally, it seems that revolutions rarely end well. Ours did. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 was technically an invasion as well, even if most of the populace was actively supporting the invaders. It wasn’t aimed at changing the status quo as much as it was about kicking out those currently in charge.

    Usually, revolutions end with some uniformed, bespangled kleptocrat snatching as much wealth as he can conveniently launder: either that or a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and we all know how amazingly well those do.

    I hope that our intelligence services know what they are doing, but I’m not terribly optimistic.

    • #2
    • August 23, 2011, at 4:39 AM PDT
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  3. The Mugwump Inactive

    Your analysis is spot on regarding the nature of bureaucracy. I can only add that somewhere in the bowels of whatever bureaucratic body holds responsibility for this action, there is an expert in the lower echelons who does know. He’s probably frustrated that his recommendations have taken a back seat in the face of decision making that is entirely political.

    As to your second point, yes, Libya will resemble its past. One might think that after two wars in the region we might have learned by now not to get involved in tribal disputes. You might remember the final scene from Lawrence of Arabia where the Arab coalition comes apart as the various factions squabble over the spoils. Thus will it always be in a region where tribalism takes precedence over national identity. Look for a new strongman to dominate Libya after the dust settles.

    One point remains even less clear than the points above. What is the role of Islamism in these events? My take is that Islam will not be a unifying force in the region. The religion of the prophet has been subject to factionalism since its inception. Look for more of the same.

    • #3
    • August 23, 2011, at 4:46 AM PDT
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  4. Viator Member
    Viator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    All the Europeans needed to know about Libya:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenstream_pipeline

    • #4
    • August 23, 2011, at 4:50 AM PDT
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  5. Nick Stuart Inactive

    If anyone has a coherent explanation for what we’re doing in Libya, I’d like to hear it.

    • #5
    • August 23, 2011, at 4:57 AM PDT
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  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    ~Paules: One point remains even less clear than the points above. What is the role of Islamism in these events? My take is that Islam will not be a unifying force in the region. The religion of the prophet has been subject to factionalism since its inception. Look for more of the same. · Aug 23 at 4:46am

    Yes. Viator, any sentence that begins “all you need to know about a country” is a slogan, not a serious answer to any question. To say “it’s all about oil” is not much better than crude Marxism. Oil is one very important thing to think about in international relations. So is history, culture, institutions, leadership, technological change. The more you drill down, the more complicated this is.

    • #6
    • August 23, 2011, at 5:03 AM PDT
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  7. Viator Member
    Viator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Well you can believe the Europeans were balancing the nuances of North African politics, culture and religion. Or that they were thinking about cold winters and sources of power generating fuel to replace all the power generating capacity either removed (German Nukes) or required by various recent green initiatives (wind power stand-by capacity) and the availability of pipelines from Russia, Turkey and Africa and the implicit geo-political interests underlying each source.

    Natural gas is a highly desirable fuel since it is relatively cheap, heats residences nicely and NG power generation is both less expensive to build, quicker to get on-line and is flexible enough to mate well with wind power.

    • #7
    • August 23, 2011, at 5:27 AM PDT
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  8. katievs Member
    katievs Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    We also have the recent experience in Egypt to give us reason to doubt that this administration is in the due diligence business.

    • #8
    • August 23, 2011, at 5:41 AM PDT
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  9. Tony Martyr Member
    Tony Martyr Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Just for those interested in Pipes generally (and let’s face it, who isn’t) – some comments in this Australian TV appearance. Plus obvious and growing crankiness at the “logic-and-argument free zone” that passes for public political debate here (you can see him itching to say, “I’m listening to you out of politeness, but why should I take your opinion seriously when it’s contrary to the evidence and/or you present no rational basis for it?”)

    • #9
    • August 23, 2011, at 5:50 AM PDT
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  10. Profile Photo Member

    I’m reading multiple warnings from various people, not just Daniel Pipes, that we need to be careful to support more secular, democratic factions in Libya and not support the factions that would lead to a government dominated by Islamist policies.

    It would not surprise me to see that democracy in countries dominated by Islam will result ultimately in governments dominated by Islamist thought and policy, and hostile to Israel, America and true freedoms such as the freedoms of religion, of expression and of association.

    Is it true that Erdogan once said democracy is like a train– you get off when you get to your destination? We have seen this in leaders like Chavez. Get yourself and your cronies elected democratically, and then once in power, start undermining the institutions and structures of democracy itself.

    Will the democracies being birthed in the Middle East last? I’m not sure.

    • #10
    • August 23, 2011, at 5:58 AM PDT
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  11. civil westman Inactive

    I used to give our federal government the benefit of the doubt when it came to foreign policy. Nowadays, I assume it is as inept as it is in domestic policy. Arrogance begets ignorance of those pesky unintended consequences. Chief among them is ascendant radical Islam as a politically-unifying force.

    In the past few days, the disposition of WMD’s (chemical, biological and thousands of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles) in Libya and Syria has received attention in the blogsphere. The potential that these will fall into the hands of groups literally dying to use them, in my view, will ultimately cloud the optimism as to the so-called ‘Arab Spring.’ This single factor may well outweigh all other considerations as to the outcome of these revolutions.

    What is fundamentally different today is the fact that a handful of non-state actors can kill thousands or even millions, given modern horrific weapons formerly only at the disposition of state actors who used to be deterrable. All bets are off. Our actions may well have created a new bazaar where these weapons become readily available to those itching to use them.

    • #11
    • August 23, 2011, at 6:08 AM PDT
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  12. Mel Foil Inactive

    Once the Revolution is successful, then comes the revolution to take over the Revolution. I think anybody that says they know how it ends is lying. NATO is gambling on Libya’s improvement, and that’s not really their job. There’s plenty of room for Libya to become even more of a problem than it was before.

    • #12
    • August 23, 2011, at 6:13 AM PDT
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  13. Schwaibold Member
    Schwaibold Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    When the new government of Libya fails to fulfill all hopes and dreams, then what? New riots? Does NATO then help the new rebels, or the old rebels?

    At least when Ghadafi and Assad killed their citizens, it was difficult to blame the United States (though I’m sure the ‘arab street’ was buzzing with conspiracy theories). The new Libyan regime will be NATO’s, and America’s, responsibility.

    I’ve heard countless comments from average people in the region where they say they hate the US because we meddle in their affairs, we come in and impose our will. How is this different?

    Ground Zero Mosque Imam Rauf said the US was to blame for 9/11 because ‘we created Bin Laden’. Who did we create this time?

    • #13
    • August 23, 2011, at 6:21 AM PDT
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  14. Matthew Gilley Inactive

    It’s not thought through for sure, but I have a strong visceral reaction to the bipartisan hand-wringing over Libya: “Who cares?” Gadhafi/Qaddafi/Khadafy was a pig. He had American blood all over his hands from West Berlin and Lockerbie. He flaunted international law and the laws of the sea, and the only thing to stop him was the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. He financed and kept the company of other pigs. He’s not gone yet, but his exit appears imminent – and that’s a reason for celebration.

    Do we know what will replace him? Absolutely not. If it’s better, fantastic; if it’s as bad or worse, we’ll deal with it. But is uncertainty over succession in Libya a reason to keep the Mad Dog of the Middle East in place? Hell no.

    • #14
    • August 23, 2011, at 6:23 AM PDT
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  15. Talleyrand Inactive
    Tony Martyr: Just for those interested in Pipes generally (and let’s face it, who isn’t) – some comments in this Australian TV appearance. Plus obvious and growing crankiness at the “logic-and-argument free zone” that passes for public political debate here (you can see him itching to say, “I’m ..· Aug 23 at 5:50am

    You have beaten me to posting the link Tony. As a fellow Aussie, I think it should be noted that the program linked is provided by the Australian Federal Government broadcaster ABC funded to $AUD 1B per year from the tax payer.

    The program Q&A in particular is known for its unbalanced questioning, strong left bias on the panel (usually 1 conservative, and 5 liberal/progressives). The ABC is biased to the left; much like that of USA PBS and NPR current affairs programming. The ABC’s Tony Jones aint no Jeremy Paxman of the BBC

    This is the ABC program that during Q&A with the former Prime Minister Howard, displayed a tweet inciting, and then was followed up by a member of the audience throwing his shoes at the former PM.

    BTW good to see another Aussie onboard at Richochet, Tony, & love the pseudonym (assuming it is a reference to Australian comedian Tony Martin).

    • #15
    • August 23, 2011, at 6:26 AM PDT
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  16. Tony Martyr Member
    Tony Martyr Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nope – Occam’s Razor, old mate. It’s just me!

    Yes, Tony Jones would have regarded Doug Cameron as a conservative! My bet would be that an ABC staff survey would go majority Greens by voting prefernce.

    • #16
    • August 23, 2011, at 6:49 AM PDT
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  17. Crow's Nest Inactive

    It is not clear to me that NATO conducted due diligence, but I am not in a position to know that with certainty.

    It is also not clear to me that we had a whole lot of alternatives here.

    If we were talking about Qaddafi circa 2003 edition, then yes, I say, he is preferable to a hardline Islamist Iran-esque state. Not least of which because that sort of government on Egypt and Tunisia’s borders makes it very difficult for a moderate governments to come to power anywhere in the region.

    But Qaddafi in 2011 wasn’t behaving like Qaddafi 2003—he was, by all accounts, ready to commit genocide. That, too, would have destabilized neighboring countries like Egypt and made it more difficult for moderate governments to come to power. And, had we supported him or turned a blind eye to both Libya and Syria, then we basically confirm what the Muslim brotherhood has been preaching to the people of these states, and we perpetuate another generation of terrorists.

    So, as I said, its not clear to me we had a whole lot of options here. Not one of the few available was good.

    • #17
    • August 23, 2011, at 7:13 AM PDT
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  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    Crow’s Nest: It is not clear to me that NATO conducted due diligence, but I am not in a position to know that with certainty.

    CN, I have no idea who you really are, but I always have the sense that you’re living in an adult world, not an armchair, and I appreciate that.

    • #18
    • August 23, 2011, at 7:19 AM PDT
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  19. Crow's Nest Inactive

    Aw, shucks, thanks, Claire. I am exactly who my profile says I am. Hopefully one day we can rectify the fact that we haven’t met.

    • #19
    • August 23, 2011, at 7:38 AM PDT
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  20. Douglas Inactive

    How did the Cedar Revolution turn out? Egypt’s?

    It’s a well-worn phrase, but we really have seen this movie before.

    • #20
    • August 23, 2011, at 8:22 AM PDT
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  21. Norm McDonald Coolidge
    Norm McDonald Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    Crow’s Nest: It is not clear to me that NATO conducted due diligence, but I am not in a position to know that with certainty.
    CN, I have no idea who you really are, but I always have the sense that you’re living in an adult world, not an armchair, and I appreciate that. · Aug 23 at 7:19am

    He’s an active duty naval officer who has read his Plato, his Thucydides and graduated the Naval War College (going from memory on one of his posts) so there is a lot to like.

    • #21
    • August 23, 2011, at 8:25 AM PDT
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  22. Ward Inactive

    While it certainly isn’t all about Oil, the Italians were believed to be the only EU peripheral country with the ability to self-fund their over-indebtedness. They get half their oil from Libya. I fear this represents a powerful incentive to shoot first and ask questions later but of course everything will depend on how things play out on the ground from here as has been said already.

    • #22
    • August 23, 2011, at 8:34 AM PDT
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  23. Cas Balicki Inactive
    Tony Martyr: Just for those interested in Pipes generally (and let’s face it, who isn’t) – some comments in this Australian TV appearance. Plus obvious and growing crankiness at the “logic-and-argument free zone” that passes for public political debate here (you can see him itching to say, “I’m listening to you out of politeness, but why should I take your opinion seriously when it’s contrary to the evidence and/or you present no rational basis for it?”) · Aug 23 at 5:50am

    I tried to make it through your linked broadcast and couldn’t do it. It was the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) with accents—meaning insufferable. I think people like Daniel Pipes are real heroes. They go into these situations and treat liberal morons with respect. I must be getting too old, I just don’t have the patience. I used to be able to listen to idiots in past, I can’t anymore. And yes, I should be more respectful, but every time I show idiots like these respect they only take advantage. Life is just too short.

    • #23
    • August 23, 2011, at 8:39 AM PDT
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  24. raycon and lindacon Inactive
    Viator: Well you can believe the Europeans were balancing the nuances of North African politics, culture and religion. Or that they were thinking about cold winters and sources of power generating fuel to replace all the power generating capacity either removed (German Nukes) or required by various recent green initiatives (wind power stand-by capacity) and the availability of pipelines from Russia, Turkey and Africa and the implicit geo-political interests underlying each source.

    Natural gas is a highly desirable fuel since it is relatively cheap, heats residences nicely and NG power generation is both less expensive to build, quicker to get on-line and is flexible enough to mate well with wind power. · Aug 23 at 5:27am

    Your position would be more credible if NATO were supporting Qaddafi, their partner in construction of the pipeline to Gela, instead of an unpredictable and possibly Islamist group who are unlikely to maintain the pipeline deal.

    • #24
    • August 23, 2011, at 8:48 AM PDT
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  25. Crow's Nest Inactive

    I don’t claim credentials that I don’t have, so just for the record, I haven’t graduated from the War College. But, I have participated in educational programs run out of there, have a fair idea who is teaching/lecturing there at a given time, have spent time in beautiful Newport, and recommend the Naval War College Review as useful reading (not always right by any means, but always though provoking).

    • #25
    • August 23, 2011, at 8:50 AM PDT
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  26. FX Meaney Inactive

    An enemy like Syria would have been an involvement more attuned to U.S. interests. The U.S. had made a deal with Gadhafi and he seemed to have been living up to it. There are a lot of bad guys who have done as bad as Gadhafi or worse, the leader of Sudan, for example, and we let them be because our interests were not affected. We don’t have the resources to right every wrong and we want to make sure our resources are available when our interests are directly affected.

    • #26
    • August 23, 2011, at 9:01 AM PDT
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  27. Talleyrand Inactive

    AFP Headline says it all really.

    “Gaddafi entrance breached: rebels”

    http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-world/gaddafi-entrance-breached-rebels-20110824-1j8rr.html

    • #27
    • August 23, 2011, at 9:09 AM PDT
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  28. Vuvuzela Inactive
    I’m very pessimistic. The glass is half-empty, and filled with piss.The Middle East + Europe + Islam + the Obama Administration = chaos and disaster. The chance of a free and democratic society emerging from Libya is zero.Everything about this war has been conspicuous in its shadowiness, including the coverage of it by the media. Something stinks.The ‘winner,’ if any, will be radical Islam, again. It will ‘win’ because the elite policy makers in Europe and America are a bunch of dunces who refuse, either out of ignorance or political correctness) to acknowledge the strength, will, and true nature of radical Islam, and the devastating threat that it poses to western civilization.If I’m wrong, it will be because I’m not pessimistic enough.
    • #28
    • August 24, 2011, at 7:56 AM PDT
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  29. Douglas Inactive
    Crow’s Nest: I don’t claim credentials that I don’t have, so just for the record, I haven’t graduated from the War College. But, I have participated in educational programs run out of there, have a fair idea who is teaching/lecturing there at a given time, have spent time in beautiful Newport, and recommend the Naval War College Review as useful reading (not always right by any means, but always though provoking). · Aug 23 at 8:50am

    Crow, do you follow the big Navy-centric blogs like Cdr Salamander, Information Dissemination, Neptunus Lex, USNI’s blog, etc?

    • #29
    • August 24, 2011, at 9:54 AM PDT
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  30. Ward Inactive
    raycon
    Natural gas is a highly desirable fuel since it is relatively cheap, heats residences nicely and NG power generation is both less expensive to build, quicker to get on-line and is flexible enough to mate well with wind power. · Aug 23 at 5:27am

    Your position would be more credible if NATO were supporting Qaddafi, their partner in construction of the pipeline to Gela, instead of an unpredictable and possibly Islamist group who are unlikely to maintain the pipeline deal. · Aug 23 at 8:48am

    I don’t want to speak for anyone else but for me, it seems all the more reasonable to believe that the Europeans didn’t do any due dilligence after the uprising against Ghadafi because of the economic imperatives they face. The fact that Ghadafi is a villianous character also helped but the spur to action was the uprising and their pocket books. I hope we are in touch with the winning elements and able to prevent Islamists from taking power but the question is do we think NATO acted hastily without much planning.

    • #30
    • August 24, 2011, at 12:04 PM PDT
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