The decision by Western powers to intervene in Libya is understandable from a moral standpoint, but it leaves open a critical strategic question. 

If the coalition refuses to add Gaddafi and senior members of his regime to the target list, and chooses instead to limit itself to preventing a slaughter of Libyan rebels and civilians by Gaddafi''s forces, the intervention could do little more than preserve a stalemate situation in the country.

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The rebels lack any form of military organization or heirachy, and most of the fighters are not trained. 

With aerial backing, they would remain alive, but could be unable to move out of their eastern stronghold and take control of Libya.

Such a scenario would ensure that Libya would become a failed, divided state, and a war zone for a long time to come, sending waves of destablization across the region, while becoming a magnet for radical elements. Leaving Gaddafi in place would also increase the chances of a Libyan-backed terror campaign directed at Europe and the US. 

If the military intervention is founded on the assumption that the rebels will eventually be able to defeat Gaddafi, then it is founded on very shaky ground indeed. 

In fact,  the coalition''s brief consensus seems to be falling apart around this very question, as Britain and other allies are indiciating that they reject President Obama''s decision to avoid a strike against Gaddafi as a matter of principle. 

My recenty published book, Virtual Caliphate, takes the reader into the heart of al-Qaeda''s online presence.



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