Libyan Opposition Cannot Make Its Win or Loss About NATO

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Muammar_Gaddafi.jpgA headline today in the Los Angeles Times reads “Rebel Leader in Libya Demands More of NATO.”
My concerns about Western engagement in Libya had included the West getting so much profile that the success or loss of the Libyan rebels would shift from them and their own will and steadfastness to how much or how little the US and its allies did. This may be where we are going — and it’s very worrisome. I had wanted the rebels to be armed from a non-US source with ammunition, guns, and RPGs, to have basic intelligence provided to them through a third source, and Gaddafi’s communications jammed. This should have given the rebels an opportunity and fighting chance to win — but no guarantee.
All of these measures would have had a net positive effect on rebel chances early in the revolution but would have minimized American and allied exposure to downside risks — and to the creation of a dependent and ill-prepared opposition inside Libya that was unable to do what the Egyptians and Tunisians did.
This fight in Libya cannot be about what NATO does for Libya — but rather has to be earned or lost essentially by the Libyan people. Not all revolutions turn out well, and it’s important that in throwing off a totalitarian regime that the Opposition be prepared to take incredible risks and to really achieve what otherwise would seem impossible and gravity-defying. Outside forces cannot make this happen.
When the US and NATO decided to intervene in a heavier and more direct way, the slippery slope switch got turned on, and it will now be difficult to extract themselves. It’s important to begin thinking of other scenarios – including a divided country, or safe zones with UN peacekeepers protecting key segments of the population. But this is not a good scenario and is fraught with dangers.
President Obama said early on in deciding on action against Gaddafi that this “would be a matter of days not weeks.” Now we are into weeks, and one hopes that this is just a matter of weeks and not months — or months and not years.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

14 comments on “Libyan Opposition Cannot Make Its Win or Loss About NATO

  1. Nutraslim says:

    I’m kind of wondering if the war in Libya was left alone it would have been over faster. This just gets a few other countries involved hoping that there will be money made out of another nation’s problems.

    Reply

  2. Don Bacon says:

    from Elizabeth Flora:
    Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali of the Libyan Transitional Council gave a talk at the Center for American Progress recently. He said that Qaddafi is fighting for “nothing but for one family to control Libya.”
    Aujali maintained that we “cannot believe that al Qaeda or extremists” have any role in the opposition. He was insistent on reassuring Americans of this point in order to make the case that the United States and the rest of NATO should help the rebels in their goal of ousting Qaddafi, stating, “If we want the opposition to achieve victory on the ground, they need help.” In addition to continued air strikes, he is also requesting military training, weaponry, U.S. recognition of the Transitional Council as the legitimate ruling body of Libya, as well as access to Gaddafi’s frozen assets. (end Flora)
    This is a guy who has worked diligently, faithfully and successfully, to his own extreme benefit, for Gaddafi for over forty years. Now he’s biting the hand that fed him for forty-two years. Obviously he has a new paymaster.

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  3. DakotabornKansan says:
  4. Tank Man says:

    Warren,

    Reply

  5. Paul Norheim says:

    Who are the Libyan rebels?
    Here is a very useful, nuanced and informative article by Jason Pack at Foreign Policy. Some excerpts:
    “The rebels consist of two distinct groups: the fighters and the political leadership.
    First, the fighters. In the prologue to the Libyan uprising, prior to mid-February, most of the peaceful demonstrators
    were young people inspired by what they saw in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. As the situation has evolved, elements
    willing to risk their lives to remove Muammar al-Qaddafi from power have come to embody the spirit and the legitimacy
    of the rebel movement. These fighters are a ragtag bunch of men of all ages and degrees of military training riding
    pickup trucks around the eastern coastal desert.
    (…)
    The units with the highest degree of organization are former Libyan army battalions that were stationed in eastern Libya,
    also known as Cyrenaica. These units, including those led by former Interior Minister Abdul Fattah Younis al-Abidi,
    defected en masse in mid-February, retaining their organizational structure. Bizarrely, these units are largely absent
    from the current fighting. It is unclear why.
    (…)
    The next most organized units are those composed of bearded men with Islamist leanings. These fighters are likely to be
    from certain cities — most famously Darnah — and of certain backgrounds, such as unemployed men with university
    degrees. Some have attended Salafi seminaries; a smaller proportion have trained together secretly in Libya. A minuscule
    inner core fought in Afghanistan alongside Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and created the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
    (LIFG) upon their return to Libya in the early 1990s. That group’s raison d’

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  6. bks says:

    Libya is a sideshow. The real news is in Fukushima where the economic future of the world is laid naked on a nuclear procrustean bed. Pay attention.
    –bks

    Reply

  7. DakotabornKansan says:

    Gadflies, Academic Theories, and Viable Alternatives
    Warren Metzler suggests that

    Reply

  8. Cee says:

    How about Sudan?
    US Officials Confirm Israeli Attack in Sudan
    Intelligence Reports Alleged Iranian Operative in
    Sudan Coordinated Efforts
    by Jason Ditz, March 26, 2009
    US officials have confirmed today that the attack
    against a convoy of trucks in Sudan was in fact
    carried out by Israeli warplanes. The attack
    destroyed the entire convoy, killing 39 people.
    Israeli officials had declined to confirm the
    attack, though Prime Minister Olmert used the
    report to underscore Israel

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  9. questions says:

    The current thugocracy system is unstable.
    The status quo ante cannot be retained.
    The changes in governance will happen, and they will be ugly.
    People will die. People were already dying.
    Between real terror issues, real military spending issues, and real insecurities all over the map, it’s not like the pre-Arab Spring world was particularly loverly.
    This transition period will be messy. There will be miscalculations of all sorts.
    But it’s not like we can avoid the shifting terrain. It would smack us in the face no matter what.
    The best case is as Steve lays out above. The locals do the work with minimal western support, and something presto magico evolves or wins out. Local legitimacy and authenticity matter in things political, if for no other reason than that a sheen of legitimacy prevents policy entrepreneurs and position-takers and instigators from having an opening rhetorical move.
    Sadly, the world may very well simply not cooperate with the grand strategy of non-involvement involvement. Non-footprint stomping. Being there while not being there (which was my long-ago take on what was needed in Afghanistan, and seems not dissimilar to Pape’s call for getting off the soil, but having our side still there in some other form).
    We’re in this for the long haul, as the world simply is doing this Spring thing.
    To be absent from the struggles is to allow a range of conclusions we might not like.
    Of course, it’s not like our presence is a guarantee of a good outcome.

    Reply

  10. Warren Metzler says:

    I would like to suggest an alternative to Steve’s analysis; which is that there is no slippery slope in reality, only in academic theories created in retrospect.
    The people of Libya, inspired by their fellow Arabs of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain, decide they too want all the human rights assigned to all humans. And they began to demonstrate. But are met with such ferocious violence, they feel they must turn to armed struggle. Which I don’t think any reasonable person can deny is a reasonable choice is that situation.
    But on the battlefield the large weapons of Al-Qadhafi’s forces overwhelm them; so they ask for and receive air support. If after a reasonable period of time, which I suggest would be maybe six months, they have not progressed to taking Tripoli, it would be reasonable to withdraw the nfz, and let nature take its course, as the international community does in so many of the world’s hot spots.
    After that withdraw, I propose that nothing structurally would prohibit the international community from being involved in some similar problem in the future. So much for slippery slope.
    Further, I suggest that the root of this conflict is different from any previous root. But that root cannot be discovered by any person who denies that humans have a spiritual component that animates all their actions. The root of the Arab Spring is the spirits of many Arabs finally deciding it is time they have all the human rights we in the West take for granted and exercise; time and time again exercised by the posters on this blog for example. And that is an idea, desire for a certain destination, that throughout the history of the human race has never been stopped in the long run.
    Al-Qadhafi’s forces are not going to able to replenish their heavy weapons in sufficient numbers over time; and, giving the rate in which they are attached by the nfz forces, in time there is going to be a fair equality between the opposition and the state’s forces. And each time so far that the opposition and the state’s forces have fought in a fairly level field circumstances, the states forces have lost.
    Which is understandable, because almost all the state’s fighters are mercenaries, without any internal philosophical orientation to the state’s reason for existence. And almost all the opposition’s forces are individually fighting for the right to be free.
    So it is far too early to know what will occur. And those who do minute to minute analysis are being irresponsible.
    Finally, justice, freedom, and human dignity is on the side of the opposition. How is it that people are so willing to abandon support of such people? I can understand an abhorrence of violence, resulting in opposition to the nfz. But all who object based on this position, need to present an historically proven successful approach as an alternative. To just object and not provide a viable alternative is to be a gadfly, and nothing of significance in history ever came from gadflies.

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  11. rc says:

    “Obama is a loser, for sure. He must not be re-elected. Spread the word.” — and the credible alternative is…?

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  12. DakotabornKansan says:

    Obama’s Libyan Folly

    Reply

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “President Obama said early on in deciding on action against Gaddafi that this “would be a matter of days not weeks.””
    And anyone that hasn’t been comatose these last two years knew it was bullshit, because really, thats all that comes out of his mouth.
    I just can’t imagine what kind of campaign this guy can launch that will make us forget that he is full of shit. He better get a helping hand from Diebold, because there no way he’s going to get honestly voted back in.

    Reply

  14. Don Bacon says:

    The Libya insurgents — oops, “rebels” — want NATO to go beyond the UNSC Res 1973 and fight their battles for them to overthrow the Libya government. Why not? Send in the Marines! Not.
    The resolution

    Reply

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