Free Libyan fighters exult in small Victories, as US begins Drone Strikes

In the west on the Tunisian border, Berber rebel troops have taken a checkpoint and chased away 200 Qaddafi loyalists, who took refuge in Tunisia. The checkpoint is on a road that can be used to supply the Western Mountain Region of Berber towns who are in revolt against Qaddafi and who are under siege, including Zintain.

Libyan rebels in Misrata say that they have taken back portions of Tripoli Street, including some key tall buildings from which Qaddafi loyalists had been sniping at anyone walking below.

Evacuees from Misrata who managed to reach Benghazi speak of a humanitarian disaster there, with shortages of food, water and medicine and corpses lying in the streets.

I was asked why the rebel forces in Misrata seem to be such better fighters than those in Ajdabiya to the east. They have after all held out for weeks against a concerted assault by tanks and artillery. I presume that they have more defectors from the Libyan army in their ranks and that they are from local tribes who have a feud with the Qadadfa tribe of Qaddafi. But I’d be interested in learning more.

Euronews reports on the situation in Misrata:

The Free Libya armed forces in the east of the country, holding a position at Ajdabiya, say that they reject the notion of Western troops fighting alongside them. Good for them! Introducing ground infantry from Europe would be a political disaster and would lend ammunition to those who see the United Nations intervention as a form of neo-imperialism.

As for the drones, they should be run by the Department of Defense, and, if so, it is hard to see how their deployment is different from deploying fighter-jets against Qaddafi loyalists attacking non-combatants in cities.

War is a horrible thing, and I lived through long-term urban fighting in Lebanon in the mid-to-late 1970s. But there are other things that are sometimes worse than war. This intervention was called for by the Arab League, and has a United Nations Security Council resolution behind it, so it is legal and legitimate in the tradition of collective security. (I don’t disagree with those who argue that it would have been better for President Obama to get congressional authorization).

Those who complain about the course of the Libya intervention are being impatient or cynical. The intervention has saved Benghazi and other eastern cities from falling to Qaddafi’s tanks and jets. It has allowed Ajdabiya to be restored to rebel hands. It has allowed Misrata, Zintan, Yafran, Naluf and other Western cities to hold out against vicious attacks by Qaddafi loyalist armor.

These are very major achievements compared to the situation on March 11. Qaddafi’s heavy weaponry is being systematically destroyed and his capabilities being degraded.

Critics of the war are all over the place. Some on the right, such as John McCain, think that it is being fought half-heartedly and that the US should commit AC-130s and A-10 tank killers. Others on the right, like Mitt Romney, are complaining that the introduction of American drones is a sign of ‘mission creep’ and unclear strategy. Me, I’ll bet Senator McCain is happy about the drones. So the Republicans don’t agree with one another. So which is it? Is Obama doing too much or not enough? If the Republican field ends up divided on the answer to that question, then Libya will be neutralized as a campaign issue.

I think there is actually some benefit to the war not ending quickly with a swift Eastern conquest of the West with NATO backing. [I am not advocating that it be artificially prolonged, simply observing that it is going slowly and suggesting an analysis of the political meaning of this slowness.] That may be what happens in the end. But in my view it would be preferable for the elites in Tripoli to gradually be pushed back and surrounded and put under such pressure that they turn on Qaddafi and declare for Free Libya. That way you don’t have a permanent group of losers, like the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, who would tend to make trouble in the medium term if not the long term.

The fight may last a few more weeks and even months, but there is not much doubt about the outcome. In the end, the Qaddafis are toast, as long as the UN allies remain committed to protecting the Libyan population from them. It took a long time to defeat the aggressive, expansionist neo-fascist, Slobodan Milosevic, in the Balkans, as well. But who can doubt that allowing his rampage to continue would have resulted in more hundreds of thousands dead and in a destabilized Balkans that were a severe danger to European security? We don’t hear about the Balkans in the US press nowadays. It isn’t paradise and there are lots of problems, but it isn’t a crisis threatening global security. If in a couple of years we don’t hear about Libya, and the Qaddafis are gone, and there is an elected parliament, and no near-genocides or genocides have taken place, then this intervention will have been a qualified success.

Posted in Libya | 71 Responses | Print |

71 Responses

  1. John McCain is right…The disinformation re extrmist should be ignored..As freedom rises up through out the Arab Spring, we need to be there as its leader..It will reap such rewards..

    • Exactly right.

      We should never forget the mistakes we made in the Cold War, when our fear of the anti-oligarch uprisings in Latin America and the anti-colonial uprisings elsewhere being fronts for Communism led us to be on the wrong side of history, and ended up handing those uprisings to the Soviets in a gift basket with a pretty pink bow. We brought about the very thing we feared most.

      We are, in a sense, in a contest with al Qaeda for the loyalty of the Arab Spring uprisings. If we don’t back them, they will turn elsewhere for help, and we know what that means.

    • Even if there were any evidence of serious AQ influence in the rebel movement, that it is probably a good thing, especially now that Jihad has been superceded by a valid form of activism.
      Not to mention the level of training they would bring to the battlefield, if they existed.

  2. This is superb analysis. I’m usually suspicious of military adventures in Moslem countries but standing by and allowing a tyrant who has brutally ruled a country for FOURTY TWO years to put down a popular uprising would have sent a loud message to the world. That message would have been: tyrants, hunker down, keep a loyal militia and crush opposition and nobody will interfere with your fiefdom. Gaddafi must go.

  3. Professor Cole,

    As a American student of ME studies, I depend on your website for analysis of the events in the Middle East.

    In the last few weeks, you have discussed Libya, Syria, Yemen, Japan, and even Mitt Romney. Yet, you have given zero attention to arguably the most critical situation – Bahrain.

    Is there any particular reason?

    • I’m curious why you call Bahrain the most critical situation. It’s certainly not the greatest humanitarian crisis, nor even close. It hasn’t seen the largest protests, nor even close. It’s not the largest country, nor even close. And it doesn’t have the most oppressive government, nor even close.

    • That clearly isnt true, also why would bahrain be more important than the larger conflicts in places like libya and syria.

  4. Dear Mr Gaddafi
    My name is Salma
    I am eight, one of your tinny dead people!
    Just as young as your adopted daughter
    You say was killed by bombs
    In 1986
    It is now 2011!

    Dear Mr Gaddafi
    Cluster bombs ripped my body
    In 18 places
    650 of what they call shrapnel
    Shattered my little head
    It is here in Musratah
    It is now dusty light!

    Dear Mr Gaddafi
    This is Salama Al Mansouri
    Talking to you, standing in a large vacuum
    Of hundreds of mortars
    Full of bomblets waiting for other
    Eight year old Salmas
    I hope you are not too busy!

    Dear Mr Gaddafi
    This is Salama Mohamed Bashier Al Mansouri
    Form your tribe Al-Gadafia
    I am not a large tank sir
    My legs were shattered by your MAT-120

    Dear Mr Gaddafi
    Please tell your soldiers
    To use water balloons
    Not cluster munitions and multiple rocket launchers
    as we are weak
    From starvation and dehydration
    We will soon all die

    Dear Mr Gaddafi
    Please tell your soldiers
    To find my brother
    I still hold his hand but can’t find his body!
    You will understand I am sure
    As you can’t find your little daughter’s hand!
    To clasp in the middle of a nasty nightmare
    Dreaming about me and my brother!

    Ahmed Bagi

  5. Dear Professor Cole

    they reject the notion of Western troops fighting alongside them. Good for them! Introducing ground infantry from Europe would be a political disaster and would lend ammunition to those who see the United Nations intervention as a form of neo-imperialism.

    I do hope that somone isn’t funding the introduction of ‘Contractors’ in place of regular infantry from the Old Colonial Powers.

    This would get around the minor problem with the wording of UNSCR 1973.

    However it is quite embarrassing that the strongest military alliance in the world should be having such a hard time defeating the army of a small north african country, despite their firepower.

    Admiral Mullen’s comment that they are moving to Stalemate makes them look very silly and will cause all the cheerleaders of a month ago to look for methods to escalate.

    Meanwhile back in Syria which is the important theatre (not the misguided sideshow in Libya) demonstrators are being fired upon once again……

    • Well, those dying for their freedom in Libya will at least be reassured to know that their heroism is “a sideshow”.

      Mullen’s comment about “stalemate” WAS silly. And in any case, you seem obsessed by the “instant-success-syndrome” of the modern age. SO WHAT if it’s going slowly? It is the END result that matters. In WWII it took SIX LONG YEARS to defeat fascism, and at times we thought it would never end and we could never win.

    • **However it is quite embarrassing that the strongest military alliance in the world should be having such a hard time defeating the army of a small north african country, despite their firepower.**

      With zero losses, no troops on the ground and avoiding hitting civilians its not embarrassing at all.It’s expected and its a good way to fight this war. The rebels can do the ground work. If this means a political settlment spliting libya but without gadaffiy then that good because it reflects the reality of the situation.

  6. Good article over all, and it seems that you understand the Libyan mindset. But I have MAJOR issues with the 4th paragraph. Why is everything Libya have to have a tribal element? We are not a medieval feuding society. Tribal loyalties do not carry any weight in Libya today, the most you might gain would be a promotion. The only people who practices what you are thinking is Gaddafi’s inner circle, not even his whole tribe. There are many Gaddafis who work as taxi drivers and have never benefitted.

    It would be better to say that all Libyans now have a feud with Gaddafi, even those within his tribe. There is no feud with the Qadadfa and the tribes of Misrata that I am aware of. Gaddafi went to high school in Misrata, and didn’t have any major issues with it historically. Although, judging on Gaddafi inferiority complex, I would say he was probably jealous of the people of Misrata, who have always been known as powerful and influential merchants.

    The situation in Libya has gone beyond tribes and tribal loyalties, I find it very frustrating that foreigners won’t accept that we have a very deep sense of national identity, despite Gaddafi’s best efforts to belittle it through out the years. It is a unified struggle to get rid of one madman and liberate our country.

    • Qddafi’s foreign minister said Qaddafi brigades were pulling out of Misrata but that tribes around the city would take up the struggle. It is an indigenous discourse, and kinship politics are real.

  7. [If in a couple of years we don’t hear about Libya, and the Qaddafis are gone, and there is an elected parliament, and no near-genocides or genocides have taken place, then this intervention will have been a qualified success.]

    One important additional condition: absence of foreign troops. Otherwise, it will be pretty much the same as in Iraq and Afghanistan now.

    Also, it is important for how long intensive guerilla war will go on. If will go on say until the end of 2011, this war is pretty much toast. There will be no grounds to believe that it will get any better by 2013.

    Sure, Obama is eager to get a blank check for his Libyan policy until 2012, but all he has is a few months.

    • I’d say that the absence of foreign troops is a necessary condition to avoid the protracted guerilla war and the genocide. Remember Iraq: the Baathist government had been overthrown and the insurgency was a mere trickle by mid-2003. It was the presence of foreign troops that sparked the Sunni and Shiite uprisings, and attracted al Qaeda terrorism to the country for the first time.

      This is why I can’t get on board with the calls for NATO to send in forces and finish the war quickly, and why I can’t respect the arguments that it is an “embarrassment” for France, Britain, and the US that this episode hasn’t ended.

      We can play a French-fleet-at-Yorktown role, but it has to by Libyans themselves who free their country; otherwise, we’re just setting the stage for another Iraq-type situation.

  8. I am so glad you are blogging, to me you are the only decent source of both facts and commentary about the situation in Lybia available in the U.S. Makes me wish we had Al Jazeera on our cable. But again, Thankyou!


    “The news agency said 13 of the Libyan soldiers, including a colonel and two commanders, had been detained, while a rebel spokesman in the eastern city of Benghazi asserted that more than 100 had sought asylum.”


    “In the west on the Tunisian border, Berber rebel troops have taken a checkpoint and chased away 200 Qaddafi loyalists, who took refuge in Tunisia.”

    13? More than 100? 200?

    It’s only hours after the story was reported. By dinner time, we could have ourselves a serious exodus here.

      • You’re correct that the 13 refers to a different matter, as I see upon rereading. Not really so for the 100 and the 200. The 100 “sought asylum” in Tunisia, while the 200 “took refuge” in Tunisia. Not sure I see the difference you mention.

        • Seeking asylum means they asked someone for permission to stay and be protected. That’s the 100.

          The 200 language is more ambiguous. It could refer to the whole number of Gadaffi loyalists who were chased away, some of whom went into Tunisia, and some of whom asked for asylum from the Tunisians.

  10. Thank you Mr. Cole. You are one of the few voices on the left who I can stand to read about this issue – as a pretty much lifelong democratic socialist this is a depressing admission. One thing I’ve noticed from many of the opponents on the left is that all the ‘experts’ they cite to justify abandoning the freedom fighters and leaving them, their families and everyone else to be slaughtered by Gaddafi’s forces are Western, whilst they denigrate and demonise the Libyan freedom fighters as CIA stooges/Al Qaeda, along with those Libyans who speak up for them, who are also casually disregarded.

    This massive hypocrisy – claiming to support Libyans whilst ignoring their voices – from those claiming to speak from anti-imperialist motives would be bleakly funny if this weren’t a genuinely life and death situation. I live and work in the Middle East along with my Palestinian husband and family, and have seen plenty of justified argument about the intervention (more specifically about the hypocrisy in attitudes to the various uprisings), but the support for the freedom fighters is solid on all sides. Only from Western governments and in much of the Western media have I seen people be selective about whose freedom they will support based on political expedience.

    • I, too, am disgusted and disheartened by the willingness of so many on the left to stoop to the type of demonization of Muslims that they decried when it was used by the conservatives during the Bush administration, or even when it was used by Pat Buchanan to denounce these same North African protesters.

  11. From long-ago experience with allycat vandalism, I suspect (not REALLY knowing what I’m talking about) rebel AND govt fighters improve commensurate with the level of darwinistic winnowing that takes place. When you don’t have to stand, fight, adapt/die, increases in skill come far slower.

    Outside of Benghazi the enthusiasts raced out in chase when the govt was on the run, but ran backwards even faster when the govt started shooting back. Hence, the dumb,stupid, and slow got to live and the quality of low animal aggression, cunning, and ruthless cruelty that makes for efficient/effective killers stayed low. In Mesurata (sp?), the turkeys who pop their heads up to see what’s going on loose them: the herd is getting culled, on both sides. On the net, I suspect a skilled observer, these few weeks later, now sees better tactics being executed on both sides in the West, versus in the East.

    Taking it a step further, and this is supported by the arguments/thinking of alot of academic and military historians, this is another reason why “mission creep” is so pernicious: it allows for the targeted country to adapt, and those on the short end of the stick have a tendency to quickly adapt and grow stronger, not only in a darwinistic sense, but in a moral, us-versus-them sense. Not encumbered by the bureacracy of NATO, the govt military is adapting on the fly, and it appears to be doing a good job of it.

    Think of how the US air attacks on North Vietnam drew that country together in terms of moral righteousness, even as their strategies and tactics where evolving to offset the US onslaught. The TRUE success of any War appears to be an awfully tough thing to call on its onset. Especially if one party does not make a coup de main. (I think that’s the expression for it: overwhelming force to totally succeed immediately….not just to have defeated Iraq as in 2003, but to have totally dominated the situation.) So, when we get these unfold, ratchet-up scenarios you leave the door to unanticipated fate wide, wide open.

  12. Arab League support was given in return for turning a blind eye to occupation of Bahrain by Saudi and Arab League members to put down a majority Shia pro-democracy movement which is feared to be pro-Iranian.

  13. Good analysis, as always.

    As for the difference between Misrata and Ajdabiya, I’d wager that it is because in Misrata retreat is not possible. Half a million people are trapped, and those willing to fight have no choice but to fight in place.

    Ajdabiya, on the other hand, is part of a very fluid war, (much like WWII), where if we run away today we can come back in force tomorrow, rather than be trapped inside a building to be starved out or blown up.

  14. Sorry to disagree in several points:

    1. Foreign troops are on the ground right now against gov’t troops. Special forces from several NATO countries are helping the rebels. In a more open way, several NATO armies are also sending military advisers to help the rebels. And new arms, finances and equipment are suddenly appearing in rebel hands by the day.

    2. Drones are not called in to ‘prevent attacks on civilians’. They are used to mope the way for the rebels to advance against defensive gov’t forces. The vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledges that: link to

    The drones will be used to attack gov’t troops traveling in civilian vehicles and ‘to be able to get better visibility on targets that have started to dig themselves into defensive positions’. In my view, attacking defensive positions is not a way to prevent attacks on civilians. By definition, defending is the opposite of attacking. One more action that puts us far away from the original UN resolution.

    Btw. Libyan gov’t has asked NATO to put a date for a ceasefire (what UN resolution call for). Why can’t we (NATO) say something like ‘by April 25th all military operations of both sides must stop and upon verification of this ceasefire we will inmediately stop bombing’ ??? Otherwise it seems that we are just seeking regime-change by supporting one side in a civil war.

    Mr Tharouna. If tribalism is not important in Libya, how is that Qadaffi enjoys wide support in southern Libya and in many areas of the centre and western Libya? Rebel support is strong in areas around Benghazi and the berber mountains, but it is lacking in areas like Sirte or Sabha where most civilian population supports Qadaffi and is feraful of the rebels.

    • 1. The difference between a couple dozen advisors and an actual foreign army capturing, holding, and occupying territory is rather significant, and shouldn’t be glossed over in order to score a semantic victory.

      2. In point of fact, the drones are being used against the forces besieging Misurata, a city full of civilians that has been subject to indiscriminate use of high explosive and cluster munitions by government forces. Those forces have now been ordered to retreat from the city. Yes, that counts as protecting civilians.

      “By definition, defending is the opposite of attacking.”

      There’s your problem right there; rather than actually consider the question of whether attacking the forces slaughtering civilians in Misurata is a good way to defend those civilians, you’ve decided to define your way out of the question.

      • Thanks Joe from Lowell, and may I add that Ghazaffi has announced a ceasefire on at least one occasion while he continued to slaughter civilians. The only way to protect civilians from Ghazaffi is to neutralize him, and I for one am pretty O.K with that.

    • All governments of nation states have the duty of looking after the safety and security of their citizens and other residents. It is the responsibility of the current Libyan government still led by Gadhafi to maintain the safety and security of all civilians in Libya. As a member country of the UN, Libya’s government led by Gadhafi agrees to comply with the various UN principles that underlie the whole raison d’être of the UN. Therefore, by savagely bringing to bear excessive and brutal force on the Libyan people in Benghazi, Gadhafi and his government forced the UN Security Council first to approve UNSC Resolution 1970 (2011).

      When that failed to stop Gadhafi’s brutal attacks on his own people, the UNSC finally voted on and approved Resolution 1973 (2011) para 4 of which called upon member countries:

      “… to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory …”

      As far as those UN member countries implementing UNSCRs 1970 and 1973 are concerned, it is simple: Gadhafi has to call off his dogs. Gadhafi has to withdraw all his troops to barracks and stop killing his people. When Gadhafi does that, then and only then will NATO stop bombing Gadhafi’s tanks and the like buried into so-called “defensive” positions around Misrata and other towns from where they are launching missiles on unarmed men, women and children.

      There is thus no need for further UNSC resolutions. There is no need for a so-called cease-fire as called for by the Roman Pontiff and others. These are all complete red herrings. Instead, the current Libyan government of Gadhafi needs to observe UNSCRs 1970 and 1973 and stop killing innocent men, women and children.

  15. I don’t have a crystal ball, but Prof. Cole doesn’t either. While it looked earlier on as though GKQ[h/~h]ad[d][h/!h]af[f][i/y]’s* inner circle was going to disintegrate, there ended up being only a few defections and they seem to have stopped. The remaining military is acting loyally, competently, ruthlessly and even courageously, for whatever reason. Q (or whatever) undoubtedly has plenty of liquid billions left, even if his foreign assets are now inaccessible, and the rebel armed forces are, frankly, pathetic. He certainly isn’t going anywhere voluntarily. (What are his sons gonna do, get jobs?) The prospect of this going on for years is most definitely not out of the question, as far as I’m concerned.

    *We need a consistent system for transliterating Arabic to Latin letters — counting Muamar/Moamar I calculate 192 ways to spell his name, all of which have probably appeared in print.

  16. Now that the US has decided to launch drones, we can expect bombings of funeral processions, wedding processions, and tribal meetings, like this one in Afghanistan:
    link to

    For anyone who still thinks this is a humanitarian intervention, I can get you a real deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.

    • The US launched just two drone patrols over Misrata last week, on the face of it in response to the continuing slaughter of civilians by snipers and tanks and other artillery bombarding civilian in Misrata under the orders of the Libyan army led by Gadhafi.

      The short-term tactical and psychological effects on the Libyan army of the drone patrols operating over Misrata appear to have been immediate. The Libyan army has withdrawn from Misrata, the shelling of the civilians in Misrata has dramatically reduced and the snipers have stopped killing unarmed men, women and children in the streets of Misrata. If nothing else, this has given the hard-pressed civilians of Misrata a welcome breathing space.

      Read, study and understand UNSC Resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011). This has nothing whatsoever to do with Afghanistan. Anyone who thinks otherwise would not even know where to find the Brooklyn Bridge.

  17. “The fight may last a few more weeks and even months, but there is not much doubt about the outcome. In the end, the Qaddafis are toast, as long as the UN allies remain committed to protecting the Libyan population from them.”

    The fight may last a few years or even 20 years like those in Iraq and Afganistan, but there is not much doubt about the outcome – more civilians killed than ever. In the end, the Qaddafis are toast, but not without 100 thousands civilians and foreigns troops killed or wounded, as long as the UN allies remain committed to protecting Western interests.

    Sure, this one may last 10-20 years like those in Iraq and Afganistan as well. see all wars to last that long to educate those who choose wars to solve the differences.

    • “but there is not much doubt about the outcome – more civilians killed than ever.”

      Back in the real world, where it takes more than the “correct” ideological outlook to understand a military question, two days after the introduction of Predator drones into Misurata, the military formations that were indiscriminately firing high explosive and cluster munitions into the city full of civilians have been ordered to retreat.

      Given your obvious concern about civilian deaths, I trust you will now applaud this development, and revisit your argument.

  18. The New Military Humanism by Noam Choamsky provides a devastating rebuttal to Juan’s claim that no one can doubt that NATO’s murderous rampage in the Balkans was justified.

  19. Dear Professor Cole,
    a REALLY GOOD article , I am pleased to say. I have been getting a link to your site via the GUARDIAN.CO.UK and have read there and in the german magazine SPIEGEL.DE very many comments from readers basically saying these things:
    – Who are the rebels at all? Do we really know, who they are? They may be thugs!
    – Anyone who wants to take part in this civil war should go to Bengazi and offer his services there, but leave us (in Britain, Germany) alone.
    – Newspapers are writing about Gaddafi’ crimes against civilians, but the rebels have arms, so what?
    – What have we to do with all this? If they want a shootout, that’s no our business.
    – It’s all about oil, nothing else.
    – Cameron (PM UK) and Sarkozy (Pres. of France) are down in the opinion polls, now they want to gain votes by the good-ole-means of starting a war somewhere.

    I for my part have stated (a few times) in the Guardian as MY reader’s response: even IF we would not know who the rebels are, one thing is for sure – the proven thugs are the Gaddafis. The killings of his soldiers and mercenaries and as such of the Gaddafis themselves are well documented by now.
    Should we in the west have allowed yet another massacre to take place like so often before? I think not, and I loathed the wishy-washy diplomacy of the german foreign minister, and I was really happy when I heard that the air attacks on the Gaddafi troups had started. I sat glued looking at internet blogs until it started – and I was relieved, really.
    We should remember this: there is no way back. Nothing is to be gained for anyone if Gaddafi stays in power or even wins. Therefore: once they started, the allied UN-forces and NATO should continue to do whatever is allowed and needed to secure a political solution without the Gaddafis and if needed, a military solution too. The entourage of Gaddafi will decide the outcome in the end – they should get the evidently much-needed help for reasonably thoughts.

    And when it comes to Cameron and Sarkozy: not that I endorse their other policies at home. But in this case, and I don’t mind their real reasons, even IF they did it for domestic purposes more than for humanitarian reasons: they did it right. I totally agree with the assistance they gave to the rebels virtually in the last possible second. Aischa Gaddafi, daughter of the colonel G., has said: street by street and house by house they will erradicate the rebels. So the killers have said it for the protocols: we’d do it again, and more. There is no solution with the Gaddafis, so the Allies better proceed, and fast.

  20. Not a whole lot to argue with here, but (1) that’s a substantial wish-list at the end, and even with the Qaddafis gone (inshallah). An elected parliament is one thing; a parliament that’s actually able to accomplish something is altogether another (see Iraq) – but here’s hoping. And (2) one could conclude from your reasoning that the US ought to be stepping into Asad in Syria, esp. after as many as 75 killed today.

    • The US (and UK, and France, who are actually leading this operation) shouldn’t “step in” anywhere without UN approval, as they received in the case of Libya. Nor should they “step in” in every situation in which a government is oppressing its people; only the most extreme, such as in Libya.

      Furthermore, nobody should be stepping in with a military solution unless faced with a clear military problem. Libya had two armies fighting each other, clear lines, and regular military forces fighting with military equipment. This is quite a different situation, in a practical, operational sense, than police opening fire on people in several cities.

      However, things are indeed getting

  21. those who see the United Nations intervention as a form of neo-imperialism.

    Why pay any attention to imbeciles? There are also those who think that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are aliens attemptiong to take over the world. I don’t pay any attention to those either.

    Is there anyone left in the media speaking from comfortable chairs in safe offices who actually believes in fighting for freedom, even soùmeone ELSE’S freedom?

  22. The USA should at once get out of Bahrein, which along with Saudi Arabia & Syria should be subject to UN sanctions.

    Either you believe in and act upon right and wrong or you don’t. You can’t convincingly pick and choose whom to support just because of geo-political considerations. So WHAT if Iran is looming in the background? TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A RIGHT. The Bahrein govt has shown itself to be illegitimate; hunting down doctors because they ahve evidence of state atrocities is beyond the pale.

    • Agreed.

      We can’t afford to be on the wrong side of history here, like we were when the farm workers in Central America rose up against the oligarchs, and we sided with the oligarchs. We ended up handing those movements to the Soviets, tied up in a pretty pink bow like a birthday present.

      If we stand with the dictators because of realpolitik concerns like basing rights and oil, we’re going to end up doing the same thing.

  23. Dear Sir

    I’m neither an academic nor a scholar, just an aging blue-collar citizen with an insatiable desire to deepen both Conscience & Principles; thus I’ve been reading your essays and books for years.

    But your (strangely) short and cold paragraph on droning Libya was so casually accepting that I wondered if I had read it correctly. Killing-by-drone is obscene imperial cowardice, a twenty-first century Game of Warfare, a nightmare the wickedness of which, I fear, will one day be visited upon us.

    • I can’t see the difference between deploying drones and deploying bombers, except that drones are more accurate and less likely to kill innocent bystanders.

      • I think that the way drones have been used in Pakistan – a sort of COIN from the sky – has given them a bad name, when the problem isn’t actually the tool, but the use to which the craftsman has put it.

  24. 23/04/2011,

    i beg to differ on the positive outcome of this particular conflict by the proper criteria of professor Cole, more so on the way the conflict is either smart (short-term), or un-ethically steered, depending on one being part of the ‘elite’ of the have-s or a mere citizen-grey.

    un-ethically: as wars need to lead to a more durable outcome after all. have a time-frame, offer alternatives of post-war that not only, if ever are democratic (democracy, as applied in reality, is a mere tool, a means to an end), this outcome seems bleak. a more just society, more stable, better integrated in the wider region, contained in the positive sense, additions to quality of life of citizens, fitting in the younger generations, creating opportunity, contained migrations of the lesser fortunate to wind up in ghettos of Western Europe, these criteria might not result.

    prospects look bleak, the ‘revolution’ seems to be driven by a mere taste for consumerism, as in confusing democracy with lifestyle (Britney Spears with Jefferson). the nuances, though forgivable out of grasp of most Libyan subjects, are loathsome though for real Western elites to capitalize upon.

    my point: Libya should have been ignored (during (more importantly) and after Qaddafi), the West being a mere observer, the opposition within Libya maturing and coming forth as time permits, unforced. today’s interference is a consequence of earlier interference (support for Qaddafi), not a white knight ballad out of the blue by the banner of ‘democracy’.

    the prospects to come about with predictability are rather negative to the many, us-citizens and Libyans confounded:

    cost of war in human victims (Libya), tax-payers money (U.S.), the air war creating (an imprecise and polluting shriek of cowardice), a pollution catastrophe then left unattended in the aftermath (Irak as an example should be sufficient), migrations in the region, to Italy (direct and indirect), a class of rulers mostly inexperienced, immature, driven by mere consumerism as mirrored by Western media and indebted to Western interests.

    smart in the short-term (in the end, even corrupted elites should think long term, only they are the ones who can afford the luxury): the quest for further enrichment for the corporate-political-banking-media persons, a blob with no consideration for democratic principles (separation of powers for one) of the Western world is what this interfering is all about.

    financing with tax-payer money the re-shift and drain of resources for huge profits, eased by lesser organized interlocutors on site.


    • That’s right, and when you’re walking in your neighbourhood and you see a bunch of thugs kicking the living daylights out of a complete stranger, what do you do then? Do you like most cowards cross over to the other side – or do you get stuck in? Do you merely wander on your way ruminating to yourself on the evils of the modern consumerism that must underlie such brutality – or do you try to do something? Not later but right away. There. Right then. On the spot.

      Who are our neighbours? Our neighbours are everywhere. The men and women and children of Libya are as much my neighbours as the folk who live in my street. They may be further away but they are still my neighbours. Therefore, I have a duty to try to take care of them.

      We all have a duty to take care of the world we inhabit – of all its species, including Homo and other animals. I and others take that duty seriously. I have never once shirked my duty. I have never once crossed over to the other side. When I have seen someone attacked, I have always got stuck in on their behalf whatever the personal cost.

      Go ahead. Bury your head in the sand. Justify your inaction anyway you like by referring to modern consumerism and other specious justifications for inaction. In the meantime, some of us know our duty and we will fulfil that duty in the world in which we live.

  25. There was an old 1980’s movie called Poltergeist wherein a little girl plagued by ghosts and eerie events notices the TV acting peculiar. She then yells for her mother in another room.”Mommy..They’re back”
    Indeed watching the TV myself yesterday I noted peculiar things happening, as if someone had suddenly changed the channel and the subject content changed..
    I thought something was wrong with my report.Their is a logical explanation for everything if one really looks.
    there was
    John Mcain..the American Pow hero and exbomber shot down in the famous daily Vietnam pacification campaign and we all well know what types of cluster bombs were laid their… Libya no less..
    as I moved a rabbit ears antenna , anothe haunting image blasted a cross the screen..that sent shivers down my spine..Henry Kissinger!!

    Jesus H Christ..I yelled to my cat in the other room..Mittens..Those MF’s are back!!

    I turned the radio on on it was the same thing!!
    I turned to my last chance to find an explanation..perhaps UK guardian fairly adept at catching and busting ghosts along the way but commentaries have been much fewer and absent.. as of late..not a good sign..

    Then here in there in betwixt the kooky and the sane and entertainment..I found these clues to my dilemma


    link to

    McCain took questions from the audience and also commented on Time Magazine’s choice for “Person of the Year.” “I noticed that Time Magazine made President Putin the Time Magazine ‘Man of the Year,'” McCain said. “I understand that probably, but my man of the year is one General David Petraeus, our general who has brought success in Iraq.”

    link to

    Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw it through the prism of the Vietnam War. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.

    In his writing, speeches and private comments, Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of the weakened resolve of the public and Congress.

    In a column in The Washington Post on Aug. 12, 2005, titled “Lessons for an Exit Strategy,” Kissinger wrote, “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.”

    Asked recently about his friendship with Kissinger, McCain said,

    “I’m not at all embarrassed about it; I’m proud of it.”


    Thankfully my pc has several good anti virus programs and leaves me free to search..for answers..I can’t do that with my TV or radio now..I have had to disconnect them..simply these apparations never left ..they were always there..exorcists are very rare and very expensive. I thought about the a local catholic church but I’m Baptist, and haven’t paid tithes i’m kind of stuck…then a friend to help..but he’s Jewish..It takes crosses and stuff like that I hear , and well Star of David..might make them laugh..It’s best just to scrap it all and start over..

    It’s quite evident after three wars and millions of lives lost ..that all these monsters from the past wind up on our radios, TVs, and government think tanks..and not much you can do.
    So its not merely the Good Lord and the Easter Bunny that rose up today..

    All I can advise is stay in the light..go to the Light..
    Take care of your senses..and let the strange sounds take care of themselves..


  26. The rebels in Misrata are almost certainly doing better than those in Cyrenaica because defending a large city in house-to-house fighting is much easier than maneuver warfare. City fighting is also is much more of an equalizer of experienced/well-organized vs inexperienced/disorganized forces, and it tends to neutralize heavy weapons and artillery and air. Buildings provide good cover and concealement, and the rubble that’s left after a bombardment is even easier to defend than intact buildings.

    • The rebels advanced easily through the desert to Sirte when NATO did heavy air support.

      The rebel success of late in Misrata is due to a surge in NATO bombing. Less than a week ago, people were suggesting the rebels in Misrata might be near the end.

      I admire what the Misrata rebels. I can hardly imagine such courage and resourcefulness. Still, it’s NATO that will be decisive for the near term. Of course I am glad it is Libyans fighting on the ground, they will own this victory in the end.

      • Is NATO bombing govt positions in Misrata? Govt positions in central Misrata, heavily populated central Misrata? If not, I think we have to suppose that govt forces withdrew from positions in central Misrata because the defending rebel ground forces were exacting a higher rate of attrition than the govt could, or cared to, withstand. It had nothing to do with air attacks.

        I see no reason to attribute any success or failure of the opposing ground forces in this war so far to the air support available. The air supremacy the govt had before NATO jumped in did not let them walk into Misrata, much less the rebel strongholds in Cyrenaica. While we don’t have the detailed, blow-by-blow, knowledge of what has happened on the battlefields of this war to make any categorical pronouncements, I don’t think it at all likely that either the govt withdrawal from the outskirts of Benghazi, or the rebel withdrawal from the outskirts of Sirte, that both occurred soon after NATO intervention, had anything to do with air power. In both cases, the attackers simply didn’t have the ground capability to take a major enemy city, and withdrew after making a feint, because even starting city combat would have been costly. In both cases, there was a lunge at the enemy city either as a mistake, or because there was some reason to make a mere feint. Perhaps both sides imagined that these cities would rise in revolt at the approach of their forces, and perhaps, in the the case of the govt feint at Benghazi, the real purpose was to destroy arsenals and depots of heavy weappons and ammunition on the southern outskirts of the city. They had given these attention previously via aistrike and sabotage, and perhaps wanted to clear them out with ground forces now that NATO interventinon made them no longer capable of delivering airstrikes.

        What we have is a stalemate, at least militarily. And the longer this continues, the less likely it seems that the rebels will win this off the battlefield by way of some internal political collapse on the govt side. So we seem to have a political stalemate as well. Maybe NATO air power was the element that allowed the rebels to achieve a stalemate, because the govt seemed to have some advantage in the effectiveness of ground forces. But I wouldn’t credit air power with more than that, and I don’t think its clear it deserves even that credit. The govt’s air supremacy that it enjoyed prior ot NATO jumping in didn’t allow it to dominate the ground, and nothing that has happened since makes it seem that the air supremacy that NATO has supplied the rebels has done much for them on the ground either.

        The key take-away lesson here is that we shouldn’t expect NATO air to suddenly become decisive. This thing is a stalemate, and the stalemate isn’t going to be broken by bombers or drones.

        Not to disparage air power, but it’s not a miracle worker, and, most importantly, it’s not a standalone capability. Air support can greatly enhance the abilities of an effective ground force, but can’t make an ineffective ground force effective, and only an effective ground force can take and hold ground.

  27. Here’s food for thought for those who support assisting the rebels to conquer all of Libya:

    Gaddafi complained over a month ago about NATO’s attacks on his forces even when they were retreating from the Benghazi area. NATO’s response was that Gaddafi’s forces were still attacking Misurata, and so it was appropriate to attack other Libyan soldiers out in the desert, miles from any civilian, so that Gaddafi would order their comrades to stop attacking Misurata.

    But what if Gaddafi’s troops do stop attacking Misurata, as his spokesman claimed yesterday he has decided? There is still some fighting in southwest Libya, but what if Gaddafi’s troops stop that too and just hold whatever positions they now have? Fighting has largely stopped in Ajdabiyah and Brega, so there’d be no fighting at all.

    No fighting at all, unless either the rebels start it or hostile tribesmen from cities near Misurata sneak into town and start attacking the rebels guerilla-style, as reports today suggest is likely. If that occurs: (1) Gaddafi undoubtedly will claim his forces are not involved; and (2) the rebels undoubtedly will claim they are – that the so-called “civilians” resisting the rebels’ “liberation” of Misurata are actually Gaddafi’s soldiers out of uniform. Indeed, the rebels have announced in advance that they intend to claim just that.

    It will be up to NATO to decide whether to take the rebels’ word for that claim. So far, of course, NATO has always accepted the rebels’ version of events, and it appears unlikely that that will change any time soon. And so it is likely that NATO will start (or never stop) bombing Misurata with Predator drones and an occasional high-altitude bomber – this time aiming at the suspect “civilians” who are challenging the rebel “liberators.”

    We will end up, at best, with a simmering civil war, and possibly an all-out renewal of the Misurata fighting. Though the beleaguered Misurata civilians may be grateful for the departure of the Libyan army’s heavy artillery, that probably will be replaced – maybe even outdone – by stepped-up attacks from Predator drones and an occasional NATO high-altitude bomber. All of this continuing bloodshed will be justified by NATO on the ground that Gaddafi is somehow responsible for the Libyan people’s failure to throw a sufficient number of flower petals at the feet of the rebels who’ve courageously liberated them from Gaddafi’s yoke.

    And how will it end? One obvious possibility is that the rebels will never subdue the guerillas, in which case the fighting will just go on and on and on. A second possibility is that the rebels eventually will subdue the guerillas and keep them suppressed, which probably will require that they put in place such a harsh police state that even their most ardent supporters will start to have second thoughts about them. Still another possibility is that the persistence of the tribesmen’s challenge to the rebels, the failure of the rebels or NATO to find any real evidence that Gaddafi’s military is assisting the resistance, and the surprisingly low level of flower-petal popular support for the rebel “liberators,” will make the “no questions asked” backers of the rebels start to look rather foolish – and perhaps, if they are honest with themselves, even to feel rather foolish.

    NATO nevertheless may (as in “probably will”) continue to bomb Gaddafi in Tripoli, insisting that he’s still attacking civilians even though none of his troops are openly involved in the Misurata fighting. But that rationale may wear thin with Libyans after a few weeks or months unless some actual evidence of Gaddafi’s involvement in Misurata emerges. It may wear thin not only with the Tripoli residents on whose heads the NATO bombs are falling day after day, but also the Misurata residents, who every day will see open warfare in their city involving (1) rebels; (2) guerilla fighters from nearby hostile tribes who genuinely don’t seem to like the rebels; and (3) Predator drones and high-altitude bombers sent by infidel countries from half a world away to help the rebels. The Libyan people’s patience is especially likely to wear thin if, as nearly always happens, a few NATO bombs land on some apartment building, school or vegetable market.

    Maybe those Libyan eye-witnesses will blame all of their suffering on an entirely unseen element – Gaddafi and his military. But maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll blame it instead on the infidels who drop bombs on their cities every day and night, and on the rebels that those infidels are supporting. They’ll remember that Misurata was peaceful enough before either the rebels or the NATO infidels showed up in town. And that observation may make them believe that Misurata will become peaceful again if they can just get rid of those two new groups. They probably will conclude that they cannot do much about the Predator drones and the NATO bombers, but that they certainly can help the people who are fighting against the rebels.

    And if and when this occurs – “when,” in my view – the Western countries who are spending billions of dollars of their taxpayers’ money to send Predator drones and NATO bombers half a world away, to drop bombs on cities whose residents plainly have shown they would like them to stop doing that, might just decide it’s time to go away. Maybe the people who live in those Western countries will start punishing politicians who resist that urge.

    One can only hope they will, and the sooner the better.

    • It seems to me that we see here a usual pattern of argument:
      Gaddafi is probably not involved or responsible for any fighting in Misurata, the rebels will probably errect a police state, Misurata was peaceful before the rebels came, for sure before NATO stepped it. And the NATO infidels, oh yeah. Oh yeah.
      I surely get the message of this truly “uninformed comment”: even IF Gaddafi did something wrong (which the commentator seems to doubt very much), the rebels are or will be worse, and the better the West / NATO / Infidels leave the “theatre”, the better. BTW: did you get that the Arab Leaque requested and endorsed the no-fly zone and UN-resolution 1973? Dit you get that arab fighter pilots are acting in this combat zone over and in Libya? Infidels? What a stupid token to delegitimize the actions taken by nations of the UN.

      A few things, in my humble opinion, are proved beyond doubt: Gaddafi – not the rebels – has errected a police state. This kind of organisation is what he calls “the libyan democracy”. It has just ONE voice, which is always heard: that of Muammar al-Gaddafi. – The rebels started the fighting and before there was no war, uh huh! This amounts to me to the infamous request to leave this state Libya “in the calm, peace and tranquility of the cemetery”. But please note: “Those who trade freedom for security will loose both” or even “deserve to loose both”. I guess it was George Washington (anyone who knows shall post it here).
      Meaning: if anyone does accept the good order, tranquility and “peace” achieved by means of state violence (Police, Military, Secret Services) he or she will lead a subdued life in fear, have no freedom whatsoever and accepts each and every deed of “the ones from above” who may never be replaced by elections – as there are none. To me this is definitly a question of human rights and as such of democracy. The present political system of Libya is: “Dictatorship”. Anyone who wants to argue about it?

      The most common element of the present arab (and other) dictatorships is the lack of freedom in each and every area of life, and – surprisingly, at least in the case of Libya – the lack of a good life, which all citizens could lead from the revenues of the country, if it was not for the thieves at the helm of the state’s institutions. So there was and is EVERYTHING to gain. Yes, the rebels knew and know: once they started their uprising, it was plain clear, that they must win or will be killed. They did choose the fight for freedom. They choose the – maybe slim – chance, that things may improve for the many (and be worse for a few, the lackeys of Gaddafi, that is).

      OK, quite a few commentators point out, that the west may expect a reward, if the rebel side wins. Reconstruction contracts, oil contracts.
      Yes. That may be the case. But does it render anything of above untrue, worthless to pursue? I think not. NATO is not there to bomb mosques. But Gaddafi’s artillery has done so already. NATO’s action will eventually kill civilians – this has been the case in all the wars, which does not make it any better, but on the other hand is no speciality of THIS war or, even worse, the purpose of it.

      AND BTW, Gentlemen: the still-but-hopefully-not-much-longer-governing regime has killed scores of civilians. Not just in 2011. But already since 1969. Torture and killing of opposition polititians, writers, normal people, and even of citizens of other countries (NOT just only in Lockerbie!) has been a common theme for DECADES.

      So in my eyes the only point of critique against the action now taken against Gaddafi is, that it started only so recently. And IF there was anyone I could give my advice to I’d say: carry on, fight the dictators. Backing down means losing our freedom sometime too. Look at the USA-China-trade: it’s enchaining the USA and removing political options from the USA. If we trade and get to rely on dictatorships, we’re bound to loose our freedom. And if we cannot take action against all, it’s still better to get rid of one after the other than backing down because there are possibly 100 to remove.

      “The man who removed the mountain was the same who picked up the first stone.” (Chinese saying). I do greet all protesters in the “Middle East” – they must and will have their say and their say only, be it in Libya, Yemen, Syria or elsewhere.

      And again: be it for Exxon, Shell, Haliburton or some domestic gains in the polls: I do not mind, what got some western countries AND two arab countries to act as long as the right things start to happen.

  28. Good point Glen, the Allies found that out when certain high profile historic areas in Italy were bombed during WWII, making extraction of the German defenders who now had ideal cover highly difficult. The Same in Russia, The same in Berlin..whenever Urban areas were destroyed.

    You also raise an interesting thought.Who will be responsible for rebuilding these areas?will that also be part of the Coalitions aid package..will it be another God Forbid.. Haliburton like enterprise with Black Claw types, all dedicated and honest humanitarians I am sure..That we see in Pakistan or saw in Iraq..who is picking up the tab? Just curious.Will it come from the Billions confiscated by Nato powers or is it part of the growing sinkhole as some see it..or seemingly never ending supply available funds by the Nato funding sources for its military operations, police actions, aid or whatever label is placed on them.

    I read how tens of thousands of foreign workers were just pouring out just before and during this unfortunate tragedy..Did any of these companies actually employ any native Libyans..if so what percentage? stats anyone?

  29. Nicholas Pelham in the NYRB makes the worthwhile point that victory against Qaddafi might form the basis for beginnings of long-term rappochement between the US and the Muslim world, given the large number of AfPak/Iraq jihadis Libya has provided.

  30. Stalemate? Well, it seems to me that each day that passes the rebels get stronger (from a low base) and Gaddafi weaker – assuming he can’t resupply his heavy weapons taken out by NATO.

    A critical point is each side’s supply of fuel … it isn’t clear to me what is going on in that department adn the reporting is very vague on it. Some time ago Gaddafi attacked MISLA in East Libya, but I don’t know who is now in charge of that oilfield. One tanker of oil was exported from bzenghazi, but was that a one-off, and where is each side getting refined petrol & diesel from?

    Many things are strange in this conflict. For example, the Miseratu rebels have finally cleared out that high insurance building of snipers by cutting off their supply lines, but if that building has been such a problem for so long why couldn’t NATO just drop a 1,000lb bomb on top of it? They can’t have been concerned about “civilians” in that building surely? So is there NO communication between rebels on the ground and NATO at all? Funny way to conduct a war. And are there civilians in those areas where the Gaddafi forces have their long-range stuff? Where are theC130s to take out the howitzers? John McCain is right – a long-drawn out campaign would be a disaster, so where is the USA? There are IN NATO after all, aren’t they?

    • Saddam’s forces, far out in the desert and far from any possibility of collateral civilain casualties, received a much heavier, more sustained pounding from the much larger Coalition air forces gathered against him in the 1st Gulf War, and it did almost nothing to degrade their capabilities.

      When you consider how far the situation of the rebels and their NATO air support is from that ideal, it is even less surprising that none of the decisive things you expect from air power actually happened in Misrata. Coordination between air and ground forces is difficult and tenuuous even within the best militaries, which attach special air liaison teams to ground combat units to minimize the difficulties. Avoiding collateral damage to civilians is impossible unless the battlefield is far from any civilian, because it is impossible to distinguish from the air, from high-speed aircraft, friend from foe, much less combatant from non-combatant, unless there are literally miles separating these various groups of people.

      Air power is grossly overrated. We believe in it for the same reasons that people believed in great and desperate medical cures back when medicine could do very little for most maladies. People need to believe they can control events, even when, especially when, they can’t.

      This war is going to be won or lost on the ground. Unless we’re going to send in ground forces — which most of us recognize would spin this conflict entirely out of control as the McCains and Grahams in our own country pounce on the opportunity to exploit yet anouther war for partisan advantage, damn the costs in Libyan and American lives — it will have to be Libyan ground forces that do the winning or losing.

    • “Stalemate? Well, it seems to me that each day that passes the rebels get stronger (from a low base) and Gaddafi weaker”

      Indeed. People who use words like “stalemate” and “protracted” thirty-something days into a war are either profoundly uninformed, or engaging in a sick sort of wishful thinking.

      It’s frustrating on so many levels to see the degraded state of discussion about Libya from the Left. For one thing, the ignorance about even the most basic military concepts is appalling! Where is the brilliant policy-wonk insight that is so easy to find with liberals and leftists are talking about health care, or tax policy, or stimulus spending, or urban development, or climate change, or civil rights?

      It’s like they consider actually knowledge, even informed-layman level knowledge, of military affairs to be a mark of shame, and all they need to know is what their ideology and feelings tell them.

  31. OK, Qaddafi, his sons, his chums, and his palace guard flee the country, and the gov’t forces return to their barracks. Almost by definition this is the rebels’, NATO and US notion of victory. NATO goes home, war’s over.

    Then the rebels proclaim they are in charge because they earned it by blood, sweat and courage. On top of that they have a formidable arsenal – a gift from their Western allies. So they can squash resistance to their assumption of leadership.

    Is there any reason to expect that the rebels will have blueprint for peacefully subduing political, tribal, and geographical rivalries that will bloom when Qaddafi et all are gone? Is there any reason to expect that the rebels will have the widespread respect needed to lead the country? Is there any reason expect that the rebels, unlike any such movement in the past, will be willing to share power, or relinquish power? Will they welcome with open arms returning ex-patriots claiming to have the wisdom and gravitas to build the new Libya?

    Maybe the answers to all these questions is yes. Personally I think the horse is along shot, but I’d like it to finish in the money.

  32. Air Power has enormous attraction when people don’t have the time, patience and wherewhithal to regard it critically. Part of it is as you noted, part is the promise of a clean involvement: like “safe” sex with a condom. Mostly, it really is prone to be regarded with sheer ignorance.

    Martin Van Crefeld (sp?), noted military historian, just came out with a history of air power, developing the thesis that its had its day. Still, you cannot argue with Field Marshall’s Hillary Clinton, or Madeline Albright, when the later argued for the use of the military in Bosnia in the nineties: to paraphrase, “what’s the good of having this big expensive, powerful military, if you cannot use it?”

    The pros know better, but they don’t make policy. And policy makers are accountable, often at too great a level, to the masses.

  33. I think rebel fighters are much effective force in Mistrata than on the East side only because of they have much better military chief. Sometimes in the trouble of a war this is by coincidence who why and how are and where. Mostly insurgent or an ad hoc army develop on the rumors of wars and needs to be better force while the years of perseverance of war ( see for example the American Civil War with Grant or other etc.) In fact Misrata seems to be more organized than other part of the country, one others component ( as also in the west mountain Berber regions ) while the insurgent in Ajabiya have way to retreat and seemed to me a group of teenager man balancing their complexes with a gun machine, who are in Misrata ( as also in the west mountain Berber regions ) fight also for their families and seems to be more serious.

  34. “The remaining military is acting loyally, competently, ruthlessly and even courageously, for whatever reason.”

    Really? Which conflict are you describing? The Gaddafi forces main tactics are A) to lob shells, missiles and rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas at almost no danger to themselves B) to engage foreign mercenary snipers to murder “rebels” from the tops of high buildings.

    I don’t see where the “courage” bit of this comes in. A large percentage of Gaddafi’s “troops” seem to be either family cronies or recruits terrified of refusing to kill the “rebels” in case they themselves are shot. And of course, ANYONE defecting risks having their family murdered. This is called “terrorism” and should be more familiar to you.

    The atrocities committed by Gaddafi’s forces are clear; this is an appalling, murderous and tyrannical regime with no respect whatsoever for human rights of any kind. See this for just ONE example. link to

  35. > I was asked why the rebel forces in Misrata seem to be such better fighters than those in Ajdabiya to the east. [..] I’d be interested in learning more.

    My guess would be that the rebels in Misrata are mostly local, know the terrain intimately and, as another commenter already suggested, have nowhere to retreat to, so they have no choice but to keep fighting, street by street. The rebels fighting around the much smaller city of Ajdabiya, I would guess, are mostly not local, but part of units coming out from Benghazi and elsewhere. They have been moving into and then on from Ajdabiya, and back to and then out of Ajdabiya again too.

    On a nitpicking note, the use of capitalization in your headline confuses me, what’s the logic of capitalizing, say, “Victories,” but not “fighters”?

  36. sherm 04/25/2011 at 2:15 am
    Is there any reason to expect that the rebels will have blueprint for peacefully subduing political, tribal, and geographical rivalries that will bloom when Qaddafi et all are gone? ”

    People’s seeking freedom do not have to submit blueprints or business plans for your approval You have no reason to expect any such trouble. And even if such a danger did exist, it is none of your business or anyone else’s. It took centuries in Ireland pacify the effects of achieving a form of democracy in Britain. Libya deserves its own history.

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