Top Ten Accomplishments of the UN No-Fly Zone

1. The participation of the Muslim world in the United Nations no-fly zone over Libya has been underlined. The measure was called for by the Arab League, which has not in fact changed its mind about its desirability. Qatar is expected to be flying missions over Libya by this weekend. Other Arab League countries will give logistical support.

2. Turkey, which feels that the air mission has gone too far, has nevertheless agreed to use its navy to help enforce the boycott on the Qaddafi regime. Turkey, a largely Muslim country of 72 million, has also called on Qaddafi to step down. A general NATO naval blockade of weapons shipments to the Qaddafi regime has begun.

3. Qaddafi’s air force, which had been terrorizing the members of the democracy movement by bombing civilian cities, effectively “no longer exists.” France24 reported:

4. Tobruk is no longer in danger of being attacked and its inhabitants massacred. On March 15, this eastern city of 120,000 not far from Egypt, with its major petroleum depot, was in danger of being taken by the forces of Muammar Qaddafi, supported by his air force. There is a good metalled road from Ajdabiya to Tobruk, which Qaddafi’s forces were using. Under ordinary circumstances, Tobruk is a place from which petroleum is exported across the Mediterranean.

5. Benghazi, the stronghold of the Libyan freedom movement, has been saved from being bombarded and conquered by pro-Qaddafi armor and air force. For a refresher on what kind of danger Benghazi, pop. 700,000, was in only a week ago, , look again at this Aljazeera English video and reread this report.

Libya 3/11

Libya 3/11

6. Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city with a population of 670,000, was given a brief reprieve Wednesday afternoon when United Nations allies bombed pro-Qaddafi tank positions and the aviation academy outside the city. At night, the surviving tanks crept into the city and bombarded its center, including a hospital with 400 patients in it! All through Wednesday, pro-Qaddafi snipers took a toll on pedestrians in the downtown area. Still, the cessation of the bombardment for many hours benefited the city, which could easily have seen many times the 16 dead killed by Qaddafi’s thugs. The bombardment had ceased again early Thursday morning.

7. The no-fly zone allowed an aid ship to land at Misrata with medicines. Misrata is suffering from a lack of water, electricity and services, not to mention medicine!

8. Zintan, the desert city southwest of Tripoli, also gained a brief respite when allied planes struck near the city and forced the pro-Qaddafi tank brigades investing the city to withdraw for a few hours. The tanks attacked again late Wednesday. Some 6 were killed Wednesday instead of the bigger massacre that could have come with a victory for the pro-Qaddafi forces.

9. Instead of being a base for attacks on Tobruk and Benghazi as it was only a week ago, the major oil city of Ajdabiya has been turned into an arena of contest between the freedom movement amateur fighters and the rump pro-Qaddafi armored brigades. While pundits in the US are asking why Ajdabiya hasn’t already fallen (the Libyan army has tanks, the rebels have old rifles), the real question is how long the pro-Qaddafi forces can hold out if a no-drive zone is enforced against them by the UN allies. Ajdabiya is strategically important as the cross-roads of routes leading to some 6 major cities, but it is also a major oil city. Possession of it would much strengthen the liberation movement.

10. Now that Benghazi is not being aerially bombed nor besieged by tanks and heavy artillery, the liberation movement’s leadership has been able to meet and announce a transitional governing council, in a bid to get more organized. I saw the press conference on Aljazeera Arabic. They underlined that it is not a declaration of a government and it is not separatist. Tripoli, they insist, is the capital of Libya.

The liberation movement at the moment likely controls about half of Libya’s population, as long as Misrata and Zintan do not fall. It also likely controls about half of the petroleum facilities. If Benghazi can retake Brega and Ra’s Lanouf and Zawiya, Qaddafi soon won’t have gasoline for his tanks or money to pay his mercenaries. Pundits who want this whole thing to be over with in 7 days are being frankly silly. Those who worry about it going on forever are being unrealistic. Those who forget or cannot see the humanitarian achievements already accomplished are being willfully blind.

73 Responses

  1. Do we have any reliable evidence for how many people have actually been killed and wounded in Libya since its “troubles” began.

    I keep reading and hearing about massacres and genocide, then I read numbers like 16 killed in Misrata & 6 in Zintan.

    In the Egyptian Revolution, 365 people were killed & 6,000 were wounded. Yet no one seemed to bat an eyelid, let alone use words like massacre & genocide. As far as I can make out there were probably fewer than a dozen killed in the Tunisian Revolution,

    It seems to me that the Libyan “protesters” chose to take up arms rather too quickly. Hence they’re now referred to as “rebels”, even in the Western Media, whatever happened to “freedom fighters”, gone the way of “freedom fries” perhaps.

    The Egyptian & Tunisian protesters never took up arms, other than throwing rocks and tear gas canisters back at the security forces.

    I suspect that Qaddaffi has enough loot in country to keep this going for quite a long time. He has plenty of friends in the AU who will supply arms and materiel.

    • From Democracy Now!, one week after Gaddafi started cracking down on February 17:

      link to democracynow.org

      JUAN GONZALEZ: Sure. Well, we’ll turn to Libya first. On Thursday, as fighting intensified around the capital city of Tripoli, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi planned al-Qaeda and hallucinogenic drugs for the uprising in the country. Fighting between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces appears to be the most intense in al-Zawiya, 30 miles west of the capital. Clashes have also been reported in other parts of the country, including in Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city.The Obama administration has said the situation in Libya “demands quick action.” The U.N. Security Council is meeting today to discuss possible sanctions as the violence in Libya continues. Some rights officials estimate the death toll could be as high as 2,000.According to reports, protesters are preparing for their first organized demonstration in Tripoli today. The New York Times reports residents have received text messages informing them of a protest throughout the city. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera Arabic reports Gaddafi’s security forces are deployed around mosques to prevent protests after Friday prayers.

      Up to two thousand people in the space of a week. And that was a month ago.

    • The Egyptians and Tunisians, unlike the Libyans and Syrians and Bahrainis were not massacred by state forces and heavy armor when they resorted to peaceful demonstrations.

      Ghaddafi’s friends cannot supply him with tanks and howitzers. So if it comes to man-to-man battles, guess who has the numbers and the upper hand?

    • The Egyptian & Tunisian protesters never took up arms

      The Egyptian and Tunisian protesters weren’t fired upon by tanks, artillery, and aerial bombardment.

  2. Well done. Without this outside help, the tyrant would have swept Benghazi by now.

  3. With all my deepest respect to you Juan, I think Americans should show a little humility. We had to endure years of lies and abuse from the NeoCons because we opposed the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Now when we question the intentions of US, Britain and France in Libya we get the same treatment, this time from the US left.

    Deeply frustrating.

    • Well, the Left has split. You have the post-colonial, ideological, and reactionary Left who believe no leaf falls from a tree without the CIA being behind it (trying to syphon raw materials) and then you have the liberal-democratic (and pro-small capitalism) Left who put the principles of freedom and human rights ahead of ideology and discredited historical determinism.

      In other words, there is a split between the socialist-nationalist-pomo left and the non-socialist (or social democratic) left.

      It is about time this would happen, and for good historical reasons. I hope it brings some rationality and empiricism back to political discourse.

    • The cries of the NEOCON HAWKS predate the war in Iraq. The “Hearst Spanish War Doctrine” was my feeling about Iraq. The Libyans uprising seems much more organic. Time will tell.

    • Criticism has come from both the right and left, and it can only be expected considering the US record of invading Muslim countries; that being said, most of the criticism and comparisons to Iraq and Afghanistan are misinformed. This is a UNSC sanctioned intervention, with the support of Tukrey and the Arab Leugue. We should, on the other hand, carefully scrutinize how the US proceeds from this point, and make sure they reduce their role in coming days, while allowing the regional countries to lead the coalition.

    • Simon A,

      Can you not see that the no-fly zone is the only thing that stopped the massacre in Benghazi that Gaddafi intended to carry out? The US left see that and support the action being taken.

  4. I’d like to know your response to the claim that the rebel army consists of only 1000 trained men.

    • And another 16,000 volunteers that are getting on-the-job training, as per the TNC spokesperson.

    • That was 1000 defectors from the actual Libyan military. The rest of the ‘rebel’ forces are untrained civilians who grabbed whatever they could find and got 5 minutes of training in how to not shoot their own fingers off. Saw interviews early on remember out of a dozen guys, most were students, shopkeepers, engineers, even one doctor.

  5. How long it takes will all depend on how stubborn Qaddafi will cling to power (it seems, very), and how long his military will believe they have a future supporting him (we don’t know). Slowing down Qaddafi’s advances and thereby giving the rebels more time should help them a lot. It must certainly have helped refugees.

    • Pepe Escobar indeed has a checkered record, and his article doesnt make it any better.

      This article by Escobar is just one huge “whataboutary”. Instead of decrying Ghaddafi’s atrocities and celebrating the liberation of Libya, Escobar is lamenting the house of Saud. Then he tries to discredit the UN coalition by another irrelevent whataboutary on UN being hypocritical on Saudi Arabia.

      He also commits an egrarious mistake claiming that the Saudis want to see Ghaddafi’s regime destroyed. All indications are otherwise that the Saudis do not wish the Arab Spring domino effect to arrive at their shores. If anything, the Saudis would want Ghaddafi and Assad to remain in power.

  6. Mr. Cole,

    Your portrait of this operation is dishonest.

    You keep portraying this action as if the Arab League is completely on board and that the US/Europe merely responded to a request for a no-fly zone from them.

    I would like you to please read the transcript of Phyllis Bennis’ appearance on Democracy Now (scroll down) in which she explains the sequence of decision-making in the White House:

    link to democracynow.org

    Please respond to it. She makes it clear that it was the White House that first went to both the Arab League & the African Union for something stronger than a no-fly-zone. The African Union refused to cooperate while the Arab League was convinced to go along with a vague NFZ operation.

    If this was merely to save the people of Benghazi, that was done on the first day. Why then did the bombings continue? This has now turned into a regime change operation.

    I find these two articles (surprisingly from the New Republic) far more thoughtful than your own writings on this issue:

    link to tnr.com

    link to tnr.com

    • “If this was merely to save the people of Benghazi, that was done on the first day. Why then did the bombings continue?”

      It was to protect libyan civilians and civilians are still being attacked elsewhere in the country.

    • So what is wrong with a regime change operation?

      Libyan’s deserve popular sovereignty – don’t they?

    • As the neocons never tire of reminding us, the US had to be dragged into this by France and the UK. As Robert Fisk pointed out weeks ago, Obama wanted to get the Saudis to give arms to the rebels so he wouldn’t have to get involved militarily, but the Saudis have so far refused as they want Libya to be where the Arab Spring dies out before reaching them.

      As for Libya, it only has 2% of the world’s oil. Granted, oil is a lucrative enough commodity that even 2% of world production has allowed Gaddafi over forty years to put together an immense personal fortune — even after freezing nearly $30 billion of his US assets, he’s still left with around $6 billion in gold bars stashed in Tripoli, enough bars to keep paying his mercenaries for a while — but 2% is an amount the Saudis, for instance, can easily make up by increasing production. In addition, with Japan’s industrial production curtailed as a result of their earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, their demands on Libya’s oil will be correspondingly decreased, making Libyan oil less important. (Notice how prices at the pump are already creeping down from their highs of a few weeks ago?)

  7. How many civilian casualties have there been in the x (6?) days since the NFZ and how many were there in the x days before?

    • There have been no credible claims of civilian casualties by the airstrikes, as of yet.

      However, between 50 to 100 civilians are killed by Ghaddafi forces every day. So that is 300 to 600 civilians killed by Ghaddafi in the past 6 days.

  8. Pundits who want this whole thing to be over with in 7 days are being frankly silly. Those who worry about it going on forever are being unrealistic. Those who forget or cannot see the humanitarian achievements already accomplished are being willfully blind.

    Well said sir!

  9. Speaking of pundits, there is George Will, whose commentary in the Washington Post (link to chron.com) “Uncertainties cloud action in Libya,” compares action today in Libya with, brace yourself, the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco.

    Say what? Will must think we are very stupid or forgetful or both to accept any part of that comparison.

    And, as Fred Kaplan at Slate wrote, it has only been a few days, when a similar action in Bosnia took 11 weeks–and worked.

    • Ah, you remember that too? I thought I was the only one. Republicans alternated between screaming “Wag The Dog! Wag The Dog!” and claiming that air power alone couldn’t dislodge Milosevic. (That is, when they weren’t wondering out loud why US Christians were fighting for icky Serb-Croatian Muslims: link to glypx.com)

      • Serb-Croatian Muslims??? Serbs and Croats are most definitely not Muslims. Serbs are Eastern Orthodox Christians and Croatians are predominately Roman Catholic. The Bosnians were the Muslims on whose behalf the United States intervened, an intervention, by the way, for which the U.S. receives very little credit in the Muslim World. Just as it receives little credit for the later war against Serbia on behalf of Kosovar Muslims. It seems that many Muslims focus on U.S. interventions they oppose (Iraq and Afghanistan) but either deliberately or inadvertently remain silent when it comes to interventions executed on their behalf where there is little or no U.S. interest involved. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. and Western intervention in Libya will be portrayed years from now in the Muslim World.

  10. outstanding – i open juancole.com as my first website daily followed by IHT, al jazerra, bbc, haaretz, guardian, washingtonpost, pravda, xinhua,

  11. There’s a lot of that “willfully blind” stuff going around, Professor. Kudos to you for telling the truth. I’m 65 years old, and this is the first time in my life I’ve supported military intervention.

    These people are the future. We need to help.

  12. THanks for being the voice of sanity in all of this. We have done a good thing by helping the rebeel faction out. But attempting to say this on Facebook gets me nowhere but attacked for my positions on it. This shows the logic behind the operation and demonstrates the good it has done…Keep up the great work, Juan!

  13. I’m sorry did I miss something, is there a plan on what to do after or is this just another war with no end? Will the new boss be the same as the old boss except that his Amerika new friend? If this bad guy has do go then why not attack THofS and others. Just another play for minerals and nothing else.

    • The War Powers Act requires Congressional approval for troops to be deployed for more than 60 days, with a 30-day period allowed for withdrawal. And considering that the same Republicans such as McCain that were egging Obama on are now pretending they opposed it from the start, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll give their approval.

      • He has already submited this action per the War Powers Act to Congress. Like all the hemming and hawing about Iraq or Afghan war funding though, eventually they will agree. It is hard to see that they wont.

    • This is actually the critical question. In the past, Americans helped Afghan rebels against USSR but having no after plan, they paved the way for the Taliban. In the case of Libya, I have the impression that western allies have decided that there is no future for the old regimes of the Arab world and they want to be part of the solution rather than the problem. And of course, minerals are uber alles!

    • I’m afraid the “War for Oil” line doesn’t make any sense here. Khadaffy was happily selling all the oil he could, at market price, to western powers. John McCain and Halliburton were there, cutting deals.

      Then, a protest movement broke out, and turned into a rebellion, and that rebellion caused the flow of oil to be interrupted.

      Then, Khadaffy was about to crush the rebellion and go back to the status quo ante – selling his oil to the west – when we intervened to keep the rebellion going, but not in a way that would definitely and quickly lead to Khadaffy’s overthrow, and which didn’t put western troops into the country to assert control.

      How that adds up to War for Oil is beyond me.

    • It’s not accurate to call this a “war without end” – or a war of any kind, really.

      It’s meant to be a temporary to give some breathing room to a democratic movement; just to protect people while they organize.

      That’s what it’s *supposed* to be, and I hope it stays that way; Afghanistan was supposed to have the dual role of reconstructing a broken country, and we’ve seen how that played out…

  14. It would seem that the UN forces would be providing the rebels with secure communications and targeting devices for precision munitions in a close air support role. These weapons can be dropped from high altitude so the whole thing can be plausibly denied. It would be the quickest way to bring this to a conclusion. I’m not all that happy about our being there but if we are, let’s make it quick. There must be those in the military and Obama administration coming to this same conclusion.

  15. Taken from: http://highchairanalyst.blogspot.com

    Exclusive Protection: Still Choosing Responsibility

    What bothers me the most about the intervention in Libya is the uniqueness of the reaction. I understand and appreciate Obama’s resolve to look at each country and situation within the “Arab Spring” in its own light. And while I can also respect a pragmatic approach to events, the relative ease in which the international coalition received UN approval and disabled Libya’s aerial abilities makes me wonder if the No-Fly Zone on steroids that were are witnessing occurred because those in power believed it was their responsibility to act, or rather because of the ease in which it could be done.

    With 100 people reportedly killed in Syria and events in Yemen at a combustible level it is reasonable to think that either country can dissolve into an armed conflict as fierce or fiercer than what we are seeing in Libya. In that context it would be prudent not to forget the specter of the Hama massacre and to remind ourselves of the historical precedents for the type of human tragedy we could see. Yet if Hama were to have happened today, how would the world react?

    Herein lies the problem: Libya was a pariah state in the eyes of the Western world as well as in the eyes of the Arab one, Syria and Yemen, on the other hand, have very different relationships both globally and locally. But the possibility for a catastrophic loss of human life, including civilian, remains just as real in each as it did in Libya. Even more immediate for the United Sates is that both Syria and Yemen affect America’s self-defined security interests in ways Libya did not. Between efforts to curtain Iran’s influence, the threat to oil production and shipping, a potential conflict on Israel’s border and a likely unmolested haven for al-Qaeda, Syria and Yemen pose greater challenges to America than a Libya ever did. But will American warplanes and cruise missiles find themselves over either country? No.

    The “responsibility to protect” doctrine that has been invoked by supporters of Libyan intervention, and to an extent by the Obama administration itself, approves the use of force in situations where the aim is to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The idea behind it was, in part, an attempt to move away from the use of language like “right to intervene” which implied that states had a right to intervene in a humanitarian crisis of another state and sought to replace it with the wording “responsibility to protect” which spoke to the responsibility for states as global neighbors in protecting the citizens of another state if and when that other state failed to protect, or worse attacked, its own people. Essentially this comes down to a choice versus an obligation.

    The stated intention of Security Council Resolution 1973 and Obama’s own words have made it clear that the impetus for this action was protecting civilians and civilian areas under attack or the threat of attack. However, if events in Syria and Yemen continue to play out in a similar way to Libya and the world does not intervene it will serve to highlight just how unfocused the concept of “responsibility to protect” is in practice. What Libya illustrates by the US and global response is just how exclusive this response really is. Why then is the reaction in Libya being considered any different to previous interventions? Isn’t this action still only a choice out of many potential ones?

  16. It is remarkable that one so well versed in history as Prof. Cole does not even acknowledge the possibility that principled noninterference–as laid out fictionally by Ray Bradbury–is the better course in the long term; especially when considering the interventionists in this case (imperialism, led by that well known humanitarian interventionist, Uncle Sham). Cole seems oblivious to the circumstance that a revolution beholden to outside intervention is a revolution that will be subject to the dictates of same. Prediction: After the “allies” get rid of Khaddafi, the succeeding government will be something along the lines now shaping up in Egypt–another “friendly native” arrangement–friendly to the Washington Consensus–with a democratic facade; all of which would consign real societal change (Cole’s “liberation”) to a footnote of lost hopes and continuing illusions. Did you ever notice how good Americans are at minding other peoples’ business?

    • “a revolution beholden to outside intervention is a revolution that will be subject to the dictates of same”

      I guess that explains why the United States remains a vassal of France ;)

      • No, I guess that explains why the United States’ revolution was a bourgeois revolution that successfully exploited the great conflict between the great bourgeois powers of the day (Britain and France). And I guess Sigil (the poster) forgot that today the USA is the sole superpower.

        • Your original comment “a revolution beholden to outside intervention is a revolution that will be subject to the dictates of same” contained no such qualification. Revolutions typically need some overseas aid, because the state and the ruling elites tend to fight hard and dirty, but whether the new regime is beholden to its backers depends upon many other factors. Sometimes a revolution turns decisively against its foreign backers very quickly – eg, Kabila’s takeover in Zaire, which initially had major support from Rwanda.

    • SOLO – what nonsense. This is a liberation movement.

      There is nothing “Washington Consensus” about Egypt. The Islamists are taking over. Get your facts straight.

      SOLO: “a revolution beholden to outside intervention is a revolution that will be subject to the dictates of same”

      So I guess Bosnia Herzegovina is now a vassal state of the UN or is it the US? Pls. edify.

  17. I couldn’t disagree more with these arguments in justification of an intervention which is not only ill intentioned and deceitful but a tremendous mistake, on a par with the sort of miscalculations and blindness which characterised the last President’s foreign policy.
    No matter: we will see for ourselves.
    What concerns me is that, while this is going on, some very nasty things seem to be happening in Bahrain.

  18. Juan,
    Great job. Do you think the emerging “responsibility to protect” norm will get a boost from this? See R2P discussion in Monkey Cage blog: link to themonkeycage.org

    Best regards.

  19. I am very confused with this whole situation. I want to be in favor of the NFZ but dictators are committing atrocities all over the world but the UN just decides to help the Libyan civilians. What is that about? I mean how many civilians have been killed in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, etc.? Where is there international help? At best it is picking favorites and at worst it is simply about oil.

  20. Until an Arab aircraft from one of the Arab nations starts flying over Libya-they are not particpating. Period, end of statement. I’ll believe QATAR is on station when I see it. Staging out of where?

  21. The tanks that pulled into Misurata and began bombing the center …

    In reading about Libya, I find myself thinking about that line in Heart of Darkness where the colonial battleship is seemingly hurling artillery shells into nothingness – into a vast forest with nothing and no one in it. Not that the center of Misurata is nothing and I recognize the problems with Conrad’s patronizing attitude towards Africa … but just the weirdness of it, the seeming lack of tactic or logic.

    I imagine that some of this relates to the fact that there are few English-speaking reporters there, so it’s tough to draw the lines between the random events that get mentioned. I look at maps that proclaim a town is “held by the rebels” and read in the same paper on the same day that the rebels are attacking that town. A day later, I read that rebels have fled such and such town, which is now in the hands of the government, while the same paper is reporting that government forces are now shelling that same town.

    I’m sure some of it is an accurate reflection of a more ruthless approach to “holding” a town; I’m equally sure some of it is because reports leak out slowly, so timelines are jumbled. There is probably more sense to the conflict than the sense I can make of it. And I’m certainly not criticiing the reporters and commentators who attempt to impose some framework on what is happening, even though it often doesn’t fit.

    I just think the confused nature of the news deserves some emphasis and explicit discussion.

    Thanks for all the good work, JC.

  22. At least 109 people have been killed in the rebel-held city of Misurata and more than 1,300 wounded in a week of attacks by forces loyal to Gaddafi, a doctor in the city told AFP news agency.

  23. Thanks for this. As someone who argued–on CNN and in the Supreme Court of Canada–that the war in Iraq violated international law and was in effect a war crime–I fully support this pro-democracy intervention on behalf of a people who had already risen up, but could not quite overcome the dictator’s arms advantage.

    Good for the UN for not shying away.

  24. Libya is much closer geographically to Europe than Rwanda is. Location, location, location.

  25. The skeptical and “blind” response to this intervention is completely understandable. On the broad left, real action on behalf of real people by the real existing forces that are really available leads to a split between the ideologues and everyone else. Members of the latter group tend to be uncertain by nature, and have had years to fall into a complacent oppositionism regarding any use of military force involving the West. We are generally unprepared, especially after the setting-in of opinion against the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures, to accept the idea of an international community that’s capable of backing up its commitments and ideals on behalf of popular sovereignty. It must be a trick! It may take a while for liberal interventionism to find a voice – thus our quiet president – even though it has remained the American consensus position for around 70 years now. On the left, it’s been easier to let radical anti-imperialism, pacifism, isolationism, anti-Americanism, and other stances hold the floor. When tested, they tend to turn out to be as self-marginalizing as they are passionately held.

  26. As eloquently pointed out by Pepe Escobar, “Regime Change” IS NOT a mandate of the UN resolution.

  27. The developing situation in Libya more and more begins to resemble a classic case of civil war along the clan-based and political fault lines, however, professor Cole, you continue to routinely referring to Kadaffi supporters as “thugs” instead of actually talking about their individual stories, positions and motivations – which i find rather disingenuous and a form of propaganda, no matter how well intended it is. I’m also amazed at the fact that people yielding RPGs and large caliber machine guns are still referred to as civilians, as well as apparently overblown allegations of “massacres”, the evidence of which is still to be seen. By no means i’m against the rebels, but on the other hand i have no interest in deciding Libyan internal politics based on my personal sympathy to them.

  28. What do you say to the reports that the rebel army (as in not the civilians who picked up guns) has only 1000 men? How can they possibly do it alone?

  29. Driving into work the car ahead of me had a bumper saying, Give Peace a Chance. I felt like ramming into his rear-end. Doesn’t he relize that starting a war against the Libyan strongman is so righteous that even a lefty can rejoice?

  30. West was buying oil from Qadaffi for years turning its blind eye on his dictatorship and human rights abuse. Now the West is drowning in self- righteousness . You are a bunch of idiots supporting this ” effort”. Most of the money comes from the West and not the Arab/ Muslim world. You will be rewarded with another country where Sharia law reigns supreme.

  31. Is it possible for any people, anywhere, to settle their own disputes without the US/Nato dropping bombs on them? This budding war is illegal. Obama is every bit as bad as Bush. Hey I have a novel idea. Why don’t we stop selling high powered weapons to these flakes.

  32. Count me among the “frankly silly,” “unrealistic,” and “willfully blind” skeptics like Tom Englehardt who says:

    “Think of this, then, as the “human rights” intervention. So far, it seems to be a remarkably seat-of-the-pants affair, suffused with the usual American faith in the efficacy of military power. As far as I can tell, Washington is relying for success on pure, dumb luck (and the vague possibility that, if the U.S. and allies whack his forces hard enough, Libyan monster Muammar Gaddafi’s officer corps could turn against him or their troops might defect to the rebels). Luck could hold, but what would follow remains bleakly unknown. Look for the no-[fill-in-the-blank]-zones to expand if Gaddafi hangs on, the rebels don’t advance fast enough, and desperation and confusion set in. In the meantime, the learning curve in Washington when it comes to interventions seems nonexistent.”

    Professor Cole has given us his euphonious phrase “the liberation movement at the moment” — which tells us nothing about the next fifty-nine minutes of the next hour of the next day of the next week that no one has thought of. “Thinking” reduced to “moments.” Indeed. Precisely that short-sighted. Tom Englehard, on the other hand, gives us the more accurate term: “no-[fill-in-the-blank]-zones.” I think that Professor Cole should henceforth use Tom Englehardt’s phrase in his “top ten bombing success stories” series, since what someone may not fly or drive or carry around in Libya changes too fast for delineation.

    In the meantime, millions of Americans have no jobs or health care and Bank of America has just agreed to help fund the demolition of derelict properties in Detroit Michigan (which looks like an earthquake and tsunami has hit the place) — all while President Obama and the American Government “stand idly by” and do nothing. A rather scathing and damning demonstration of American “priorities,” I say.

  33. As times goes by new doubts arise.

    What if the rebels have not so much popular support as we have been said? What if they have the support of some tribes and not others? Is this a mere tribe or regionalist war?

    What if the LatinAmerica rebel guerrillas in the 70s and 80s had tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, plenty of ammunition, even some planes, and the armed support of European and US air forces wipping out enemy troops? Well, I’ll say you: they had won. They had nothing of that, and the US were supporting their cruel enemies. Even in those unfavorable conditions they nearly won in Guatemala and Salvador, and they even won in Nicaragua. Then, these Libyan rebels have even armor and modern weapons, they have the military support of Western powers and confront a weak army without airforce, and they are not capable to advance?? Really? Maybe Qadaffi is not as isolated and they are not as supported by the Libyan people as media tells us. Maybe.

  34. The good professor complains that some skeptics of American humanitarian bombing in Libya (otherwise known as taking sides in a civil war) have reached a premature conclusion (“it hasn’t ended yet”) on the basis of less than 7 days worth of evidence. Yet the good professor has himself reached at least 10 conclusions about “success” based upon the same meager, less-than-7 days worth of evidence. Not a good show, that.

    As David Halberstam pointed out in his classic, “The Best and the Brightest”: John Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs lasted only 4 days, but Lyndon Johnson’s lasted 4 years (before Richard Nixon took over and extended the debacle for another 4+ years). Blundering American military “interventions” — i.e., acts of undeclared war — have a rather poor historical track record. Skepticism about their announced aims and prospects remains always a perfectly defensible attitude. Premature celebrations of their “success” — especially when wearing a “top-gun” flight suit on an aircraft carrier — not so much.

    • Juan criticises people who think this should all be over within a week, not people who have reached conclusions about events. And what, exactly, is wrong with the conclusions the professor draws? International support remains strong, massacres have been averted, and aid is getting through. The international community has achieved more in this week than it has in a long time.
      The Libyan war could turn into a long grinding stalemate, but, if nothing else, the rebels aren’t being shot and tortured in their thousands right now, and they would be were it not for the intervention. Gaddafi’s own words (and actions in Zawiya and Misrata) prove this point. A humanist would consider saving many lives to be a success; someone who is more deeply committed to anti-imperialism than humanism would think differently, I guess. But I don’t think Juan has ever identified himself as belonging to the latter category.

  35. Given that the colonel’s heavy weapons were bought from us, (okay, mostly from the French and Russians) with funds garnered from selling Libyan oil to us, (okay, the Italians burn most of it but being liquid, the commodity is traded globally), I’d say we ‘western industrialized’ peoples bear a certain responsibility for his predations, or at least his ability to do so with artillery and air bombardment. Leveling the fight is thus, in my view, valid. The Libyan Opposition has had a month of combat to start to figure out how its done and it is they who must carry the fight to whatever conclusion. I’m still disheartened when I see video of brave young men rushing off to the fight, shooting into the air and not a one of them carrying a shovel. War is a hard lesson but accelerates the soldier building process. The Libyan opposition forces at least have a chance now. They are in much better shape politically and my hope is that they can be generous in victory, leading to a reconciliation amongst the people.

  36. Where next Professor Cole? Your latest top 10 trumpets the military might that 600 billion per year buys but doesn’t speak to the limitations.
    How many similar engagements do you think are warranted. Maybe you want to name the top 10 countries in the recent past or present the U.S. should strike militarily. Maybe a top five? What is your threshold?
    I take it you believe this military engagement will have a happy ending…

  37. I’ll hold my applause until after Gaddafi is removed from power and a new, friendlier government is established. The new boss could wind up being just as bad as the old boss.

    By the way, Qatar has contributed 2 fighters and 2 transports. Arab planes attacking another Arab country. I don’t think so.

  38. I once took some university classes in Buddhism from a former Sri Lankan ambassador to France and the United States. Over lunch one day, we got to talking about Vietnam and American military intervention throughout the developing world. He told me of his own government’s decision to refuse America’s offer of military assistance vis-a-vis the Tamil insurgency then taking place in his country. When I asked him why, he said simply:

    “If the Americans come, they will only draw an arbitrary line through a temporary problem and make it permanent.”

    I think that says it all about as well as anyone ever has.

  39. I think Glenn Greenwald frames most of the right questions:
    link to salon.com

    “But my real question for Judis (and those who voice the same accusations against Libya intervention opponents) is this: do you support military intervention to protect protesters in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies from suppression, or to stop the still-horrendous suffering in the Sudan, or to prevent the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Ivory Coast? Did you advocate military intervention to protect protesters in Iran and Egypt, or to stop the Israeli slaughter of hundreds of trapped innocent civilians in Gaza and Lebanon or its brutal and growing occupation of the West Bank?

    If not, doesn’t that necessarily mean — using this same reasoning — that you’re indifferent to the suffering of all of those people, willing to stand idly by while innocents are slaughtered, to leave in place brutal tyrants who terrorize their own population or those in neighboring countries? Or, in those instances where you oppose military intervention despite widespread suffering, do you grant yourself the prerogative of weighing other factors: such as the finitude of resources, doubt about whether U.S. military action will hurt rather than help the situation, cynicism about the true motives of the U.S. government in intervening, how intervention will affect other priorities, the civilian deaths that will inevitably occur at our hands, the precedents that such intervention will set for future crises, and the moral justification of invading foreign countries?”
    You are on a slippery slope…

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