France admits it armed Libyan rebels
France's admission Wednesday that it provided weapons to Libyan rebels renews debate on the legality and wisdom of arming rebels in conflicts whose outcome is unpredictable.
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"What worries us is not who is giving what, but simply that weapons are being distributed by all parties and to all parties," he also said, according to RIA Novosti. "We already have proof that these weapons are in the hands of al-Qaeda, of traffickers. These weapons will contribute to the destabilization of African states."Skip to next paragraph
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The US history of arming rebels indicates this is a valid concern, Max Fisher wrote in The Atlantic in March, when the debate over arming Libya's rebels first came up. He cites the decisions to arm the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, anti-communist militias in Argentina and Honduras, and the Nicaraguan contras as just a few examples of support that went wrong later on.
But France and the UK largely lack the same unhappy track record. The US will need to persuade them not to provide weapons by explaining to them the possible negative outcomes, Fisher argues.
The most common outcome of US-funded rebellions has been to create instability and violence that, whether in the form of intractable insurgencies or low-level sectarian fighting, tends to last far longer than whatever political conflict they were meant to resolve. The flood of arms – particularly the easy-to-use, impossible-to-destroy, grimly effective Kalashnikov rifle variants – make weapons so prolific and so cheap that terrorism, criminal gangs better armed than the police, and militias of every political and religious stripe are all but impossible to stamp out. … Violence begets violence, instability begets instability, and the U.S. tactic of arming rebels has been incredibly successful at fomenting both, but has done little to end either, often creating problems far outsizing those we originally meant to solve.
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