Libya: A Long War or a Limited Engagement?

Obama insists on limited engagement; Britain might specifically target Gadhafi.

ByReporter's Notebook by CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR
March 21, 2011, 8:53 AM

LONDON, March 21, 2011 -- Here in London, the parliament is retroactively voting to authorize the military invention already underway in Libya.

Meanwhile, there is a gap developing between Britain and the U.S. that bears watching. The British defense secretary today said they could specifically target Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in these bombings, calling him a "legitimate target." Concern for civilian casualties could be a factor that could dissuade them from that decision, he said.

But Secretary Robert Gates, the U.S. secretary of defense, says no, targeting Gadhafi is not our aim.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said on "This Week" Sunday that the U.S. is focused on "limited engagement."

"We're very focused on the limited objectives that the president has given us and actually the international coalition has given us, in terms of providing the no-fly zone so that he cannot attack his own people, to avoid any kind of humanitarian massacre, if you will, and to provide for the humanitarian corridors, humanitarian support of the Libyan people," Mullen said on "This Week."

Meanwhile, Gadhafi is promising a long war. He is seemingly digging in, telling the American and other international forces: You will leave defeated. We were born here, we are going to live here and we are going to die here.

But will he be able to sustain such defiance through a sustained, massive assault like the one this weekend?

In an interview with his son and close key adviser, Saif Gadhafi, on "This Week," I pressed him on that same question.

"Step aside, why?" he shot back.

And Gadhafi's former ambassador to the U.S., Ali Suleiman Aujali, who resigned earlier this month as protests rose up against the longtime Libyan leader, predicts Gadhafi will not resign quickly.

Gadhafi 'Will Never Give Up'

"I think there is one thing in the mind of Gadhafi, that he will not step down at all. He will fight until the end," Aujali said on "This Week." "He will fight. He will fight. He has no other choice. He has no shelter to go. And this is his ... attitude. He will never give up."

The Gadhafis have expressed personal frustration with President Obama in the wake of this attack. Saif Gadhafi and Col. Gadhafi, whom I interviewed in Libya a few weeks ago, both have said how much they liked President Obama. They said he was a different kind of president, not one who wanted to police the world but wanted to have good humanitarian relations with the Arab world.

But now, the Gadhafis say the Americans are going to discover they are backing the wrong people in Libya. The Gadhafis claim the rebels are an armed militia made up of terrorists.

Saif Gadhafi insists it is only bad intelligence that has led the Americans to engage in this military action, likening the situation to the faulty intelligence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq before the U.S. military invaded that country.

"It's like the WMD, the fiasco of WMD," Gadhafi said. "WMD in Iraq, and armed militia in Libya. You would understand that in Libya it's not about peaceful demonstrations or people talking about democracy. ...We are fighting the terrorists."

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