Thursday, April 7, 2011

Libyan Rebels Do Not Add Up to an Army

So, uh, now what?


Ryan Karerat said...

Seems like Turkey is taking the lead in negotiating a ceasefire intended on moving Libya towards some form of democratic transition. Still a little vague right now to really know what that looks like. There have been indications that Qaddafi and his circle have been looking for some sort of exit strategy, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens. Turkey seems like the ideal bridge nation to move this thing towards a political conclusion, though. They've got the credibility and clout to come to both the opposition and Qaddafi with legitimate proposals.

I would have preferred a quick removal of Qaddafi, and this stalemate is definitely frustrating. But a stalemate, while not victory, is not defeat either and I think perhaps the solution simply may be for NATO to wait Qaddafi out. The rebels may not be much of an army, but Qaddafi is clearly still wary of NATO's military capabilities and has accepted that he can't do much to thwart them.

Ian Thresher said...

I think Turkey has offered to mediate, though I am not certain NATO has given the go ahead. Regardless, I think you are correct in saying that Turkey would be an "ideal bridge nation." I am not as optimistic as you are when it comes to Qaddafi's impending "exit strategy." While he has seen his assets frozen and some of his military forces destroyed, the reality is that he is sitting pretty. There is a lot of pressure on him from the international community and that may, ultimately, force him to step down. Still, he knows that the rebels cannot push his troops back and so long as he does not murder civilians right in front of news cameras, NATO will be hesitant to strike. Obviously everyone was hoping for a quick removal of Gaddafi (except for me, but only because I did not want to be in there. Once we went, though, I was hoping he would step down quickly). In conclusion: I, like you, hope Turkey makes some sort of headway.

I cannot help but disagree with your second paragraph though. As I see it, a stalemate does not help anyone except Gaddafi. The rebels are not getting any stronger (sure there is talk of covert arms deals and CIA training, but the reality, as experience and the NY Times article shows, is that the rebels are far from being able to stand up to Gaddafi's forces). Additionally, the conflict is only growing more and more unpopular as it drags on. If Gaddafi can just wait, NATO countries will scale back their interest and aid to Libya due to discontent at home. Gaddafi is rightfully weary of NATO power, but NATO has done little in the past week and the status quo is far more favorable for him than it is for the rebels.

Ryan Karerat said...

Yeah, I mean as far as Qaddafi is concerned, the unfortunate reality is that no one really knows where his head is at or what his next move might be. There are some indications that he's ready to jump ship, other signs that he's in it for the long haul. I'm not sure NATO is going to scale back to an extent that allows a larger Qaddafi offensive because doing so would all but admit defeat.

Right now feels like a sort of lull where anything can happen next. Not really sure what to think of it all, but I would like to think that slowly but surely they're building towards some sort of resolution. At the very least, comparatively fewer people (and no Western soldiers, it's worth noting) are dying at the moment. I'll be curious to see what the next step is. If they can negotiate a handover that doesn't involve Qaddafi or any of his sons, that, in my mind should be enough. Perhaps not enough to hang a 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier, mind you, but a transition without bloodshed is all we can really ask for.

Ian Thresher said...

I would agree that a handover of power would be acceptable, but I think such a handover would be incredibly complicated and fairly unlikely. For one thing, Libya lacks strong leaders outside of Gaddafi loyalists (unlike Egypt) and the rebels certainly would not agree to someone with connections to Gaddafi's regime. I also have a hard time imagining a scenario in which Gaddafi would relinquish his 40+ years of rule. Early in the campaign, I could have seen this potentially happening, but, given the recent rebel setbacks and the fact that his troops are no longer being killed by NATO, it seems less and less plausible that Gaddafi will step down. After all, why now? I do not think that Gaddafi necessarily has to launch a counter offensive. Instead he can engage the rebels in a war of attrition and eventually waltz into rebel controlled territory without NATO being able to do anything about it. I think it is great that few people are dying, but many people have died. It would be very sad if they died for no reason, and I think that is what will happen as the glaring deficiencies of the rebels and the limiting scope of the UN Resolution become clearer.