March 15, 2016: Today, the ‘17s turned their attention from the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq to its Libya branch. In recent months, much of the IS high command has moved from its traditional home in Raqqa, Syria, to Sirte, Libya. They are taking advantage of the lawlessness in Libya that still exists after the death of longtime dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. Since his death in 2011, Libya has been split into two main warring factions: Operation Dawn in the west, and Operation Dignity in the east. The constant fighting between these two groups has allowed IS to quietly thrive in Sirte. All of the fellows agreed that the United States should not largely intervene against IS in Libya and our only unilateral action should be continued air strikes on targets in Libya. Supporting one faction over another may cause political backlash and only create more divisiveness between groups in Libya when we need them to unite to defeat IS. Additionally, too much U.S. intervention in the United Nations-brokered unity government, which is internationally recognized, would merely portray that government as a puppet of the west, therefore hindering it illegitimate in the eyes of Libyans. The United States should only support a faction if it is supportive of the unity government and is willing to put its military under their control. Once this is established, the United States should provide as much logistical and intelligence help as possible, and maybe even position advisers alongside the unity force, to eventually destroy the ISIS threat. In order for this plan to be successful, Libyans must first understand that ISIS is a problem. To this point, Dawn and Dignity have been more focused on fighting each other and have ignored the insurgency of IS. Libyans must be willing to compromise to regain control of their country.
Article 1: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/libya/2016-02-07/next-front-against-isis
Article 2: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35486158
The ’17s met last Thursday (3/31/16) to discuss summer travel leadership assignments and the current state of affairs between Putin and Ukraine. As far as the Baltic Trip discussion goes, each of the ’17s was given a country (either Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Stockholm, or general leadership activities) and the month of April to become a subject matter expert of his or her respective country and develop an itinerary for the time spent in that country, as well as travel between one country and the next destination.
Following the general run-down of the Baltic trip, we had a productive discussion about the potential for further Kremlin action in Ukraine, and whether Russia in Afghanistan and Syria recently could be considered an indicator for future military conquests re: the cover article of the most recent issue of the Economist: “Hollow Superpower: Putin, Syria and the Propaganda Machine.” Ukraine is currently very reliant on Russia for economic reasons, and due to massive amount corruption and extremely inefficient bureaucracy in the Ukrainian government Ukraine finds itself unable to achieve its goal of military expansion in order to provide sufficiently formidable resistance against Russian forces. The ’17s reached the consensus that, although the Russian economy is currently experiencing a bout of depression, to Putin, military action is an end in itself rather than a means. Therefore, now that his involvement in propping up Assad in Syria has been terminated, and was for the most part successful– at least temporarily– Putin needs another military outlet in order to increase his approval ratings among the Russian people, Ukraine being the obvious candidate. Is aggression on the part of Putin dangerously imminent? The ’17s say, due to the current state of Russian affairs, not necessarily. However, it might not be a bad idea for NATO to focus its attention more heavily on that area should conflict arise.