America's Failure to Knock Out Gaddafi Emboldens Iran

(Daily Beast) Leslie H. Gelb - America's worst enemies like Iran and North Korea are saying: If the vaunted and mighty NATO and the U.S. can't humble Gaddafi and his pint-size army, "what do we have to worry about?" While the West's enemies know well NATO's self-imposed restrictions on air attacks, they assume that NATO and the U.S. would put such limitations on themselves no matter where they fought. Thus, to Tehran and Pyongyang, the lesson of Libya is that the West can't do decisive harm to them. Over the past four weeks, NATO airstrikes have destroyed about one-third of Gaddafi's ground armor, as well as most of his fixed air-defense sites and aircraft. Nonetheless, given strictures on killing civilians, NATO pilots patrolling above Tripoli last week could only watch as Gaddafi toured its streets in an open-top car. Also, NATO hasn't been able to protect rebels in Misrata because Gaddafi's troops now use civilian vehicles. As time passes inconclusively in Libya, it becomes harder still to convince Iran and North Korea that NATO is not a paper tiger. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

2011-04-21 00:00:00

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