Debate: When To Intervene? : The Two-Way At what point should the U.S. and its allies step in when a government is cracking down? Two experienced foreign policy hands have slightly different views.
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Debate: When To Intervene?

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Debate: When To Intervene?

Debate: When To Intervene?

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

And in this part of the program: intervention in Libya. What can it achieve? Is it necessary?

For weeks, Libyan rebels and their supporters have been calling for it. People like this young woman, Asma, whom our reporter Eric Westervelt spoke to as she was trying to leave Libya for safety in Egypt, she wanted to see action against Moammar Gadhafi.

Ms. ASMA: No-fly zone, anything. Just don't stand there and watch us die like you're going to take his money and, like, his account banks stopped. He's not going to stop. He's on the way to Benghazi.

SIEGEL: He's on the way to Benghazi, she said, the city where anti-Gadhafi forces are still in control.

Well, last night, the United Nations Security Council approved a no-fly zone and then some. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had this to say earlier today.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): Colonel Gadhafi's refusal to hear the repeated calls up until now to halt violence against his own people has left us with no other choice but to pursue this course of action.

SIEGEL: That course of action, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in Libya. It specifically excludes a foreign occupation force.

Will it work, and it is a wise use of military force? Well, joining us now to talk about that are two observers who have taken very different views of imposing a no-fly zone. Retired US Army General Wesley Clark, who was Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, the top general in NATO, wrote a very a skeptical article in the Washington Post, with the title, "Libya Isn't Worth the Risk." He joins us from Little Rock, Arkansas. Welcome.

General WESLEY CLARK (Former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO): Thank you.

SIEGEL: And Anne-Marie Slaughter, who was director of policy planning at the State Department until last month, is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton. She defended a no-fly zone in a New York Times op-ed article called "Fiddling While Libya Burns," and joins us from Princeton. Welcome once again.

Ms. ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER (Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University): Thank you.

SIEGEL: Anne-Marie Slaughter, you favored imposing a no-fly zone. If this U.N. resolution is the right move, can you describe what would be a successful outcome of its application?

Ms. SLAUGHTER: Gadhafi leaving power and a government that is then formed that is representative of the Libyan people broadly. But the point of the no-fly zone is to get him out of the country.

SIEGEL: General Clark, you wrote about the problems of the U.S. enforcing a no-fly zone. Does the support of the Arab League and the very active roles that Britain and France and I gather Italy are talking about, does that make this whole thing less problematic for you?

Gen. CLARK: Well, certainly. And I was asked, when I wrote the article: What were the lessons of previous interventions? And how do they apply to Libya? And the basic lessons are: First of all, have a clear objective. Get your legal position straight so you have the basis for intervention, bring in your allies and then use decisive power -economic, military, legal and diplomatic - to accomplish the end and get it over with.

SIEGEL: Just a few days ago, you were saying if this were up to the U.S., it wouldn't be sufficiently in our national interest to do all of this. But what I hear you say now is: Number one, if it's multinational, it's a toggle switch. If it's in our interest, it's in our interest to be all in and to go in with great force.

Gen. CLARK: Well, what I was saying is that the first rule is: What is our national interest? And is it worth it? They've made that decision. But this will ultimately come down to the U.S. versus Gadhafi. And in that case, use decisive power. Don't drag it out. Get it over with.

Ms. SLAUGHTER: Well, I do think it's actually, though, important to emphasize that this is a regional security issue that the region, including other Arab countries, have decided to deal with through a U.N. resolution, a no-fly zone and whatever other measures are necessary.

We don't want to turn this into a narrative of the U.S. versus Gadhafi, and I would say also: We have to avoid letting Gadhafi draw us into bombing urban targets and certainly then killing civilians because he wants us to be bombing in the cities so he can show pictures of Libyan children dying because of Western bombs.

SIEGEL: I'd like to hear from both of you on this other point. What does this say about the U.S. role in the region if, indeed, Moammar Gadhafi crossed a line when he fired on his own people? Today, we have dozens of demonstrators being fired on and killed in Yemen, and we see some linkage between these various moves of protest.

How do we craft a policy out of going into Libya because there's a crackdown but supporting a crackdown elsewhere in the region, where we feel differently about the government? Ann-Marie Slaughter?

Ms. SLAUGHTER: This is one reason I wanted us to move as fast as we could move. I would've liked to have seen this U.N. resolution at least two weeks ago because what's really at stake is not just - it's not Libya per se. It is our position with respect to the ongoing protests across the Middle East by young people who are 60 percent of the population across the Middle East.

And our position in Egypt, and I'm very proud of the position we took in the end, was to push very hard with - on the military not to use force.

Now the picture is mixed. Now Saudi troops are in Bahrain. The Yemeni authorities are reported to have killed over 30 in what sounds like a real massacre in the center of Yemen, with snipers on the roof and protesters.

And it is going to be much harder now for us to insist on this line that governments have to negotiate peacefully, they can't fire on protesters. These issues have to be resolved without force.

SIEGEL: General Clark?

Gen. CLARK: Well, I agree with Anne-Marie, but the circumstances are different. In Bahrain, the government has been under long-standing pressure from a Shia community, backed by Iran, and they tried to accommodate. They offered negotiations, and some of the leading figures in the opposition refused those talks. So it's a much different circumstance.

It's a little bit different in Yemen, but it's not the same as it was in Libya. And we have to have some degree of particularity in our policy toward these states.

But the country we're not talking about is Iran. And one of the most important impacts of what we're doing in Libya is the impact on Iran. That showdown with Iran is coming, and this should be a very strong warning to Iran that they are not invulnerable.

Ms. SLAUGHTER: Well, I, you know, I think there's the traditional way we've defined our interests, and I think we have to update that definition to take account of what really is a huge change in the Arab world backed up by demographics.

And the governments themselves have maintained power often by fanning sectarian violence, by focusing populations on what's happening outside, whether that's Israel and Palestinian or anti-Americanism.

And what the young people are saying is: We don't want to be manipulated. We want a decent government that is accountable, and we are not going to be continually the cat's paw of either thinking about Iran or thinking about Sunni versus Shiites or thinking about, you know, Arabs versus the Western imperialist world.

There is a set of issues here that they are very clear about what they want, and thus far, they've been successful if governments don't use force against them.

SIEGEL: Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter and retired General Wesley Clark, thanks to both of you for talking with us today.

Ms. SLAUGHTER: Thank you.

Gen. CLARK: Thank you.

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