March 28th, 2011
07:46 PM ET

Opinion: Libya war should be about winning

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/03/28/art.libyaopposflag_afpgetty.jpg]Charles S. Faddis
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Charles S. Faddis is a retired CIA operations officer and the former head of CIA's WMD terrorism unit. He is the author of several works of nonfiction, including "Beyond Repair," an argument for the creation of a new intelligence agency modeled on the World War II-era OSS. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Charles S. Faddis.

From July 2002 to May 2003, I was in charge of a CIA base in the mountains of Kurdistan, running intelligence collection operations and covert action directed at the regime of Saddam Hussein.

We had a host of missions to perform, but one of our key tasks was to persuade Iraqi military leaders to lay down their arms and come over to our side in advance of the American invasion of the country in the spring of 2003.

We made contact with hundreds of military officers. The vast majority posed no objection to Saddam's ouster. Many effectively said they planned to sit out the coming conflict. Almost none would agree to take actions against the regime in advance of seeing American troops enter Baghdad.

The reason, as we repeatedly explained to Washington, was that the struggle for the allegiance of the Iraqi military was psychological, and we were losing.

Saddam ran a regime of terror. No matter how badly many in the military wanted Saddam to go, they were still more afraid of him than they were of us. The dynamic was only made that much more difficult for us because over the years, we had on many occasions threatened Saddam, even bombed his military, and then wandered off leaving the monster in place and his people to continue to suffer.

While many of the officers with whom we had contact ultimately decided to sit out the war when it started, they took no action to depose Saddam and they refused to ever actively assist us. And, perhaps, most significantly, they emerged after the invasion, never psychologically defeated, to lead resistance against our occupation.

The Bush administration never fully understood what we were telling them in 2003. The Obama administration does not appear to have any better comprehension as it stumbles its way into war in Libya.

The time to intervene on behalf of the rebels in Libya, assuming that such intervention was going to take place, was at the high tide of the insurgency when Tripoli itself was threatened, military defections were at their peak and there was a sense that Gadhafi was about to be toppled. Even limited intervention at that point would have sent the key message that we would not tolerate Gadhafi remaining and that anyone standing by him would face our wrath.

A strong, decisive push at that point would likely have persuaded the key figures still supporting the existing regime to jump ship and brought a rapid end to the conflict.

Instead, we watched impotently for weeks while Gadhafi regained his footing and the rebels suffered defeat after defeat. Only when rebel-held Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, was threatened did we step in.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Global 360° • Middle East • Opinion
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Glen

    If the president decided to go in to Libya sooner the argument would be why so soon u guys really should let the man do his job.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  2. Kevin Anderson

    Oh and let us not forget, Republicns put Kadafi in power anyway.

    March 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  3. Kevin Anderson

    I truly don't understand what republicans want from the President. He is acting in a very responsible manner in handling Lybia. If we were smart as a nation (which I'm begining to doubt) we would render help just as he has outlined, we can help without having to put our children, husbands, wives, daugthers or who ever in harms way.
    That is one reason we are so disliked throughtout the world, we should be in the role of a protectorand not a bully. The monies used to fight a war could be used in several ways that could benifit our nation, such as educating our children, feeding and housing our homeless, treating our ill. Do you think our leaders would be so eager to send our loved ones to war if theirs were side by side with ours(yes members of government don't have to seen their family to fight in wars). Seems as thouh they are sending the average person's children out to slaughter without having to have it effect them. WELL DONE PRESIDENT OBAMA KEEP UP THE GREAT JOB EVEN THROUGH THE CRITICS AND OPPOSITION. I'm glad we have a president that actually thinks before he drops a bomb or throws a rock. Even though we may not agree with someone does that mean they have to die, thinkif your neighbors felt that way about you.

    March 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  4. Patrick

    We have no business interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign country, if we had we would have interfered in the civil wars in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Bahrain, Syria, Iran and other places. what is the difference with this one – OIL?,

    March 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  5. M Smith

    I have just heard the President address the policy of Lybia and really I am sick of the CANDIDATE. I have been a liberal since Mondale I am over it, I will not vote for this President who sits around just finding soundbytes and not address the nation with seriousness. I am so sick of his aides and his campaigning!! DONE.

    He did not answer anything that I needed to hear except blow his own horn! OBAMA DOCTRINE.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm |