WASHINGTON, March 11, 2011 — U.S. and international pressure has “raised the ante significantly” against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, but it’s yet to be seen if they’ll have an effect, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday in Phoenix.
Acknowledging that the situation in Libya “looks like it’s evolving into a very uneven civil war,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said President Barack Obama has made clear he’s looking at “all kinds of options.”
Fielding questions from students at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Mullen said national and international sanctions, including the freezing of Gadhafi’s assets in the United States, have sent a strong message. The chairman noted that the Gulf Cooperation Council has called for action, and the Arab League has a meeting scheduled this weekend to address the crisis.
“It is my view that [with] this international pressure -– all of us together –- we have continued to squeeze” Gadhafi, Mullen said, calling the Libyan leader “a very dangerous man.”
Gadhafi “has been decried by almost every leader in the world,” Mullen said. “The vast majority of countries have cut him off. So there is an extraordinary amount of pressure being applied.”
The chairman called the uprisings that have rippled across the Middle East in recent weeks a clear sign that people are no longer content to live under repressive dictatorships. “People are saying ‘Enough,’ ” Mullen said. “They are seeking their freedom. They are seeking democracy. They are seeking opportunities that we have grown up with … and take for granted. That is what this is about.”
The situation is not about America, al-Qaida or outside influences, Mullen said. “This is about the people inside every one of those countries saying they are looking for a better way of life,” he added.
Mullen praised the Egyptian military for the professionalism it demonstrated during that country’s unrest last month that ultimately toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The Egyptian military “did the right thing” by supporting the evolution of democracy rather than inflicting violence on their own people, he said. The chairman credited, in part, the 30-year military-to-military relationship between the United States and Egypt.
“That relationship, unbroken, I believe was a critical part in the overall outcome so far in terms of what is happening in Egypt,” he said.
Addressing another questioner, Mullen said the United States is working hard to rebuild Pakistani trust lost when the United States terminated its military-to-military relationship with that country in 1990 for 12 years. “We are trying to fill that huge hole created in that relationship,” he said.
“Our relationship with the Pakistani military … has improved dramatically over the last several years,” said Mullen, noting that he has traveled there personally more than 20 times.
Calling the region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border “the epicenter of terrorism in the world,” Mullen credited the Pakistani leadership’s decision to move large numbers of troops there from the eastern part of the country.
The chairman recognized the “tens of thousands” of casualties Pakistan has suffered to terrorists and a spate of troubling recent events: suicide bombings in Pakistan, the assassinations of former Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer and Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, among them.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)