Expert: Embattled Regimes Built Own 'Funeral Pyres'

A critical move for the United States in Libya now is to move the rebel forces center stage and get out of the way, says Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush. He favors arming the Libyan forces fighting against Moammar Gadhafi, and playing more of a supporting role.

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GUY RAZ, host:

President Obama is scheduled to address the crisis in Libya on Monday. Mr. Obama has come under criticism from some lawmakers for taking too long to explain U.S. objectives in Libya.

We called up Stephen Hadley, the former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, to find out what kind of advice he'd give the president if he were in the White House today.

Mr. STEPHEN HADLEY (Former National Security Adviser): I would have, first thing, had the president say: Gadhafi's attacked his own people; he's lost his legitimacy; he has to go. I would have recognized the transitional council. And I would have given the rebels anti-tank weapons and anti-air weapons so they could enforce their own no-fly zone, anti-tank zone.

Because the narrative we want out of this is where it began two weeks ago, which is that the Libyan people try to overthrow a tyrant. And we helped them. Unfortunately now, the narrative is looking much more like the United States, the West is intervening to topple a government in the Arab world. That is not a good narrative for the United States.

RAZ: Let's assume that Gadhafi is ousted or voluntarily leaves. What happens next?

Mr. HADLEY: So, one of the reasons why I think it's important that we embrace and recognize this transitional council is that when Gadhafi goes - and I think it's in our interest that he do go, very much so - we need to then go to that transitional council and say look, we will help you establish a free and democratic Libya.

And since it's a pretty ragtag army, it may be there will be some role for even an international peacekeeping force, to buy Libyans time to sort out their future. And I think that's one of the most important points here.

These transitions from authoritarian regimes to - hopefully - democratic regimes are hard to manage. And they take a lot of time, particularly because there aren't the institutions of democratic society. You know, authoritarians don't build democratic institutions; they stamp them out.

So I think it's very important that these states take their time, use the help that the international community can provide, in order to have an orderly transition to a stable, democratic outcome.

The Tunisians are doing that. They're taking their time. My concerns about the Egyptians is there seems to be a bit of a rush. The military wants to hand over power, and they're accelerating the date for parliamentary elections. I think that's a mistake.

They need to let people have time to organize civil society, organize political parties, so when the Egyptian people vote, they have some alternatives to simply choosing between the old National Democratic Party of Mubarak, and then the Muslim Brotherhood - the Islamist party that's been underground in Egypt for decades.

RAZ: Do you think there is a connection between the so-called freedom agenda of your former boss - President George W. Bush - and the interventions that his administration made in the Middle East, and what is happening now?

Mr. HADLEY: I do think so, not in the sense that what's happening is the uprisings in Egypt or Tunisia being response to his call. I don't think that's the case. I think these are people who have finally decided they want to be free.

But I think what I would credit President Bush for is for seeing and saying very publicly - as early as 2002, 2003 - that our support for authoritarians in the Middle East in pursuit of security was a bad bargain. And we need to be encouraging freedom because in the end of the day, that is the way to have true stability - a democratic stability rather than the stability of a tyrant.

He was right in saying that, and he tried to push the regimes in the Middle East, those that are friendly to us - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan - tried to push them so that the monarchs and presidents of those countries would actually lead the reform process, because he saw that those authoritarian regimes, in a way, build their own funeral pyres. And the only question is, you know, what's going to be the match that starts it off?

And in this case, it was somebody in Tunisia, in the marketplace, who was humiliated by local authorities and set himself afire. Who would have thought that would touch off the Middle East? But the kindling was all laid, and the kindling was laid because these were authoritarian regimes not responsive to their people. And the people in the Middle East, like people around the world, want to be free.

RAZ: That's Stephen Hadley. He served as national security adviser under President George W. Bush. Stephen Hadley, thank you very much.

Mr. HADLEY: Thank you very much. Nice to be with you.

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