STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Welcome to the program, sir.
RICHARD HAASS: Thank you.
INSKEEP: What's wrong with this intervention?
HAASS: The president has essentially articulated ambitious goals, but he keeps talking about how limited the means are.
INSKEEP: Let me just ask you about those two key points that you just made there. You said not vital interests. The oil in Libya does not make this a vital country?
HAASS: No. I'd say two percent of the world oil output does not make something vital - important, yes, but already, the world had learned to live with much less Libyan oil.
INSKEEP: But I want to play you a piece of tape. You worked in the Bush administration with Ambassador John Negroponte, who was on this program yesterday. And he said the intervention makes sense.
JOHN NEGROPONTE: I think what the president is saying this is a two-stage process. We're creating this no-fly zone so that the situation can stabilize, the opposition has a chance to survive, the civilians aren't being slaughtered by Mr. Gadhafi.
INSKEEP: And, Richard Haass, the air offensive does seem to have pushed back Gadhafi's forces in the last few days.
HAASS: I think anyone who is promising you any of those things is selling you a bill of goods.
INSKEEP: Ambassador Negroponte yesterday raised the example of the Iraq, where, for years, when Saddam Hussein was still in power, there were Kurds in the north. They certainly were not perfect, but they made a lot of progress under the protection of a no-fly zone for years.
HAASS: Sure, and there you had ethnically solid area. It was, as you say, Kurdish. It was somewhat distinct from the rest of Iraq, and there has - there was a lot of progress there. Why anyone thinks that Libya is an analogous situation is beyond me.
INSKEEP: I want to ask, also, Richard Haass, does the United States have a moral obligation to join the international community in stopping a leader who says that he's going to give no mercy, no pity to his political opponents, something that Gadhafi did say?
HAASS: Again, this is not a humanitarian intervention, no matter what people are saying. This is American involvement in the Libyan Civil War. This is the tribal country, and we have the essentially gotten ourselves in the middle of something that I fear - and I truly hope I'm wrong here, Steve - but I fear will be extraordinarily complicated and extraordinarily messy.
INSKEEP: We just got a few seconds left. But would you stand aside and let whatever happens in Libya happen?
HAASS: What I would have done from outset was negotiate with the government, basically try to reach an agreement...
INSKEEP: Negotiate with Gadhafi?
HAASS: But American intervention may well prolong this civil war, and it may well increase the suffering of the people we are purportedly trying to help.
INSKEEP: Mr. Haass, thanks very much.
HAASS: Thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.