Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Consequential choice

Truth or Consequences?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s message on Libya’s ceasefire declaration was basically: she’ll believe it when she sees it.

“We are going to be not responsive or impressed by words. We would have to see actions on the ground. And that is not yet at all clear,” she said. USA

President Barack Obama put it in starker terms: “Muammar Gaddafi has a choice.”

The Libyan government must comply with the U.N. resolution or face the repercussions, Obama said. “Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable.”

And if Gaddafi doesn’t comply? “The international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action,” Obama said.

Washington Extra – Changing palette

Not so very long ago a no-fly zone over Libya seemed like an option on the outskirts of what the United States was considering in trying to pressure Muammar Gaddafi.

OBAMA/Since last night, apparently a no-fly zone might not be enough, and the United States is now pressing for air strikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery. What changed?

“It is not our feeling … that a no-fly zone is a snap-your-fingers, one-size-fits-all solution to a problem. And what we want is action on a variety of items that can improve the situation in Libya,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, without agreeing with the premise that policy had shifted.

How bad was Intelligence Czar’s Libya “gaffe”?

USA-INTELLIGENCE/The columnist Michael Kinsley once quipped that in Washington a “gaffe” is when a political notable accidentally tells the truth. Intelligence and national security officials are describing the latest controversial statements about Libya by National Intelligence Director James Clapper as that kind of “gaffe.”

At a Congressional hearing on Thursday, Clapper said that rebels trying to oust Muammar Gaddafi from power had lost momentum and that the Libyan leader could well survive for some time to come. “We believe that Gaddafi is in this for the long haul…He appears to be hunkering down for the duration.”

“This is kind of a stalemate back and forth,” Clapper said, but added that, “I think over the long term that the (Gaddafi) regime will prevail.”

Dueling analyses over Libya’s future?

clapperThe  Director of National Intelligence dropped a bomb – metaphorically — in the  Senate on Thursday when he testified that Libyan rebels are not likely to oust Muammar Gaddafi and predicted that eventually “the regime will prevail.”

James Clapper’s  jaw-dropping prediction, as Washington, NATO and the United Nations search for a way forward and Libya lurches toward civil war,  prompted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to call for his dismissal.

And it prompted some flame-throwing from the White House.

Tom Donilon, Obama’s National Security Advisor, said Obama is happy with Clapper’s performance, but he had tough words for Clapper’s analysis.

Washington Extra – Say it ain’t so

The White House says it knows that just telling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to go, doesn’t make it so.

LIBYA-GADDAFI/SONGaddafi “has clearly shown that he doesn’t intend to leave just because we said so,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The head of intelligence told it like it is, Carney said. “Director (James) Clapper stated what is true, that Colonel Gaddafi is hunkering down, we all know that.”

Lugar warns U.S. against war in Libya

momarIn recent days  some U.S. senators have been urging President Obama to consider military intervention to help Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gaddafi.

Not Richard Lugar.

The top Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee said little  while a senior member of his own party, John McCain,  repeatedly urged the United States to pursue setting up a no-fly zone over Libya.

On Sunday Democrat John Kerry, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, suggested that Washington might want to  ”crater”  runways used by Gaddafi’s forces.

Top Navy officer hesitant to predict Libyan future

CNOU.S. Navy Admiral Gary Roughead lived in Libya as a child before Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969, and says the experience only underscored how difficult it can be to predict the region’s future.

“Having spent some time in the Middle East, to include actually living in Libya, I am always hesitant to predict what the future may be there,” Roughhead, the Chief of  Naval Operations told a Senate committee Tuesday. “It’s still a very uncertain period that bears watching.”

Roughead lived in Libya in the 1960s when his father worked for Standard Oil, the company that later became Exxon. He left to attend high school at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1969, just months before Gaddafi overthrew Libya’s King Idris. He returned to the country during his college years at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Washington Extra – Will it fly?

It wasn’t quite spilling the beans, but White House spokesman Jay Carney did in one sentence clearly list the top three options being considered on Libya: humanitarian aid, enforcing the U.N. arms embargo, and contingency planning for a potential no-fly zone.

Then it got a bit murky. LIBYA-PORTS/

“I just want to stress that the military options that we talk about are not limited to a no-fly zone, but include a no-fly zone as an option,” Carney said.

“It’s a serious option … and it’s not a simple one that you can simply say, ‘Oh, let’s have a no-fly zone, snap your fingers and it happens’.”

Washington Extra – Trying it out

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… oh wait… sorry, just some trial balloons floating around…

President Barack Obama took a harsh tone on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at today’s news conference.  USA/

The way he repeatedly emphasized “COLONEL” was an effective reminder that Gaddafi was not an elected leader like a president, but rather a military man who took power through a coup.

Washington Extra – Table options

What to do about Libya? Options. So many options.

President Barack Obama is taking his time to think it all through. The White House today threw down the line: “There are no options we’re taking off the table.” OBAMA/

That deliberately leaves murky whether military action is being contemplated.

Former President George W. Bush used the “all options are on the table” line from time to time when talking about Iran’s nuclear program, leaving some wondering if he was signaling an attack on Iran. Obviously he never did.

One option is enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. The United States imposed no-fly zones over Iraq for a decade and it didn’t shake Saddam Hussein’s grip on power.