James Baker: US Injected Itself in Libya Civil War

Saturday, 09 Apr 2011 02:59 PM

 

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April 9 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. “injected ourselves into a civil war” in Libya that has become a “stalemate,” said James Baker, a former secretary of state and Treasury secretary to Republican presidents.

Baker, who served as secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush and headed the Treasury Department under the late President Ronald Reagan, made the comments in an interview scheduled to air Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program, according to a transcript.

Asked by Zakaria how to get out of a stalemate if western Libya stays under the control of Moammar Gadhafi and the east stays under rebel control, Baker, 80, said: “I’m not sure you will.”

“We have a stalemate,” Baker said. “If you end up with a stalemate, then you ask yourself, OK, we’ve protected the citizens or the civilians in the eastern part of Libya. Are we better off with two states there or not? I can’t answer that question. I don’t know.”

The rebels’ six-week drive to topple Gadhafi's 42-year rule has reached a military impasse as his forces outgun the opposition and protect their military hardware, such as tanks and armored vehicles, from NATO jets by moving it into cities.

U.S. Army General Carter Ham, who commanded the opening phase of the allied military operation in Libya, told a U.S. Senate committee April 7 that the conflict is in a stalemate and the use of North Atlantic Treaty Organization air power is “increasingly problematic.”

Rebel Atrocities

“What about the rebels’ atrocities against those civilians” who support Gadhafi, Baker said. “And there are going to be some. It’s a civil war. We’ve injected ourselves into a civil war. How are we going to protect those civilians?”

Baker also said Saudi Arabia believes the U.S. was “too quick to pull the plug” on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak’s ouster followed the fall of Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the start of unrest in a region that holds more than 60 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.

Yet the biggest challenge facing the U.S. isn’t turmoil in the Arab world, Baker said.

“It’s our debt bomb,” Baker said. “We are broke. You cannot be -- you cannot be powerful militarily, diplomatically or politically unless you’re powerful economically.

“The source of America’s strength has been its economy,” Baker said. “And our economy now is in the tank. And -- and it’s just not acceptable.”

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