The only way to convince Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to step down is through a face-to-face meeting, writes former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Curt Weldon, who is leading a private delegation in Libya to do just that.
Now that the U.S. and coalition have taken international military action to stop Qaddafi from cracking down on rebel forces, Weldon writes in a Wednesday New York Times op-ed, it’s clear Qaddafi needs to go.
Weldon traveled to Libya as part of a 2004 bipartisan congressional delegation in a show of support for Qaddafi’s decision to give up his nuclear weapons program, a trip that was meant to open a “new era of engagement” between the U.S. government and the Libyan people, he wrote. But because both the Bush and Obama administrations failed to follow up on the delegations’ initial efforts, Weldon said that “no one has a plan” for how to engage with the Libyan people if he does leave.
“Today we have few contacts in the country’s leadership beyond Colonel Qaddafi himself, and we have no strategic plan for Libya after he leaves,” he writes. “Fortunately, despite the bombs still dropping on Libya, it’s not too late to act.”
The delegation, invited by Qaddafi‘s chief of staff and traveling with the knowledge of the Obama administration, includes members of Congress from both parties who hope to persuade Colonel Qaddafi to leave. “I’ve met him enough times to know that it will be very hard to simply bomb him into submission,” Weldon wrote.
But a face-to-face meeting with Qaddafi isn't enough, Weldon writes. The United Nations must broker a cease-fire in Libya and the pragmatic and reform-minded leaders in the country have to be identified and engaged, Weldon argues.