March 15, 2011
Libyan rebellion on its back feet
It would appear that if they cannot hold (Libya Live Blog - March 15 | Al Jazeera Blogs) Ajdabiya, the Rebellion is in deep trouble, if not on its death bed, make No fly and other talk rather academic:
Libya and Middle East unrest - live updates | World news | guardian.co.uk
Al Jazeera has learned that Gadaffi forces have reached the western gate of Ajdabiya
• Gaddafi forces have retaken the town of Brega and are shelling Ajdarbia, 90 miles from Benghazi. Rebel forces plan to make a stand there, the last major obstacle to Gaddafi before Benghazi.This is a pity as if there is one person in MENA that there is consensus on getting rid of, including local consensus, it's the Guide, as the FT ( "Gulf provides wrong kind of support for Bahrain") in talking about Bahrain, slyly notes:
• Libyan government troops have captured Zwara, the last rebel-held city west of Tripoli to fall back under government control.
• G8 foreign ministers are expected to omit any mention of a no-fly zone in their draft communique in Paris. The West German foreign minister said the west should not get sucked into a war in north Africa,
It is an irony, of course, that some of the leaders who are facing the wrath of their own people should be clamouring for the demise of a fellow ruler – except that he happens to be Col Gaddafi, loathed by virtually all his peers and brutally crushing a rebellion. In fact, getting rid of the colonel is probably one of the very few things most Arab states agree on.Quite, indeed one of the few things most Arabs period agree on.
On intervention, my change of spirit is in many ways summed up in this New Yorker article, “Where is America?” hits on:
The rebels have lost ground because they have not learned how to hold it. At the front lines at Ras Lanuf and Brega, they didn’t dig trenches, and so when jets came to bomb them they panicked and ran. Last Friday, I was with them as they abandoned what had been their new fallback front line, in front of the refinery east of Ras Lanuf (having lost the town itself the day before) under withering barrages of rocket fire. That night, I slept in Brega; when I ventured back, the next day, to see if there was anything left of the front line, I found just fifteen or twenty battlewagons at a checkpoint in the desert fifty miles east, near El Aquela. A few more technical vehicles with guns showed up from Brega to reinforce the line; a few were beyond, “probing “ the desert, according to an officer I talked to—one of the very few soldiers I had spotted anywhere near the front lines in recent days.
Suddenly, the sky filled with the approaching roar of a diving jet fighter, which swooped in and, as we scrambled next to a car, dropped a bomb about a hundred feet from where we were. Once again, as we had seen so many times in the previous days, everyone fled—because there was no cover, and nowhere to hide. At Brega, there was a kind of reassembly of men, but they were few, and there were, again, no fortifications, no trenches, and precious few guns. The next morning, Brega, too, was abandoned amid similar scenes, as Qaddafi’s forces, coming onwards, heralded their intention to advance with long-range rocket fire and more aerial bombardment.
In truth, even if a no-fly zone is imposed now, it might not be enough to stop Qaddafi’s advance. Its real value, as far as I have been able to ascertain, would be the symbolic importance, the morale boost it would give the fighters, to allow them to feel that they are not entirely alone in the world. It might even buy them enough time to rally more volunteers to stand and fight, rather than retreat, in the face of Qaddafi’s advancing ground forces—or at least to dig some trenches. If Libya’s revolutionaries are truly abandoned, however, anything is possible. An ideological incoherence seethes in these young people—trying to be brave, terrified and nonetheless going forward, and being blown to pieces—which could be exploited if their revolutionary euphoria turns to bitter resentment.
I had thought No FLy rather pointless as the Qadhdhafi planes have been technically almost entirely useless per most reporting. However, I had also thought there was more of a spine of trained Army among the Rebels. The pure psychological impact of the airplanes is clearly more useful to Qadhdhafi than their actual effectiveness. That the Rebels are just a kind of "flash mob" rather than an actual force renders them fundamentally ineffective. In reading the reminder that the Rebel commander is the former Interior Minister, one has to wonder if he is not deliberately letting the mob get bloodied to create the basis for takeover - if not too late.
As to the last item, revolutionary euphoria, more than failure, failure without any real gesture of support from the West - ex-France - seems to me to carry the profound danger of ceding the terrain of opposition to Al Qaeda fil Maghreb. Without some signs of real support, the only credible actors may end up the Takfiri Jihad movement. That is in no one's interest. Better support and failure than no support and failure. The Germans are being incredibly myopic. (But then German policy under Merkel seems to be largely characterised by myopia).
TrackBack URL for this entry:
A clear legal basis. It is assumed this would be a UN security resolution, though legal authority could be provided by the Geneva conventions if Gaddafi is found guilty of war crimes.Alright, so there's a fig leaf if they push forward a resolution that Russia and China would abstain on at the UNSC... Some hope. But oh so late.
Posted by: Guybrush Threepwood at March 15, 2011 01:42 PM