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Richard Haass on U.S. intervention in Libya

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Former Bush Administration Official: US Intervention In Libya Is A Bad Idea

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Former Bush Administration Official: US Intervention In Libya Is A Bad Idea

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former chief adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told NPR's Steve Inskeep today U.S. military intervention in Libya will only prolong war there and increase the suffering of civilians. Speaking on Morning Edition, Haass said there's no vital American interest at stake, not even oil, because Libya produces only two percent of the world's crude.

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, speaks at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Jan. 28, 2011. Michel Euler/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

toggle caption Michel Euler/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, speaks at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Jan. 28, 2011.

Michel Euler/ASSOCIATED PRESS

During the conversation, Steve replays part of Tuesday's interview with former Bush Administration ambassador John Negroponte, who supports the Allied attacks, saying they have two distinct goals: a humanitarian effort to protect civilians and a political result - to get Col. Moammar Gadhafi to leave power.

Haass is dismissive. He says the air strikes have limited success and asks "now what"? Gadhalif is likely to survive the air attacks so the next step is 'boots on the ground'. Haass says if those aren't American boots, then whose? And just as important, on behalf of whom?

Here, Haass says people need to realize that Americans have inserted themselves into a north African civil war:

Richard Haass on U.S. intervention in Libya

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Haass wonders why people are so confident that anybody who replaces Gadhafi in Libya will be 'fundamentally better". Will this leader be democratic, benign, respect human rights, oppose terrorism and be a friend to the United States? Haass doubts it, and anybody who promises that "is selling you a bill of goods".

Tuesday, Negroponte said the no-fly zone worked well in northern Iraq to protect Kurds from Saddam Hussein's forces. Haass says this is not the same: the Kurdish region is ethnically solid and distinct from Iraq. Libya is not similar because it's a collection of various tribes.

Haass sees the Libyan violence as a civil war, where people are taking great risks to fighting their government. It's not a 'classic genocide', where one tribe or religious group is taking on another. And although the violence is horrible, he offered this warning: just because the U.S. acts in concert with others, such as the Arab League, it doesn't mean a no-fly zone policy is wise. It's still American intervention in a foreign civil war.

Haass would rather have tried negotiating directly with Gadhafi and lifted sanctions as he complied with demands to stop attacking his people.

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