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I'm a bit late to the party and didn't realize that the caravan had moved on to this post. So I will repost (for convenience) the stuff I added to Libya - by ATinNM:

Robert Fisk in his inimitable way describes the ironies and dilemmas waiting for the coalition:

And let's not be fooled by what the UN resolution really means. Yet again, it's going to be regime-change. And just as in Iraq - to use one of Tom Friedman's only memorable phrases of the time - when the latest dictator goes, who knows what kind of bats will come flying out of the box?

... So here are a few things that could go wrong, a sidelong glance at those bats still nestling in the glistening, dank interior of their box. Suppose Gaddafi clings on in Tripoli and the British and French and Americans shoot down all his aircraft, blow up all his airfields, assault his armour and missile batteries and he simply doesn't fade away. I noticed on Thursday how, just before the UN vote, the Pentagon started briefing journalists on the dangers of the whole affair; that it could take "days" just to set up a no-fly zone.

... We talk now about the need to protect "the Libyan people", no longer registering the Senoussi, the most powerful group of tribal families in Benghazi, whose men have been doing much of the fighting. King Idris, overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969, was a Senoussi. The red, black and green "rebel" flag - the old flag of pre-revolutionary Libya - is in fact the Idris flag, a Senoussi flag. Now let's suppose they get to Tripoli (the point of the whole exercise, is it not?), are they going to be welcomed there? Yes, there were protests in the capital. But many of those brave demonstrators themselves originally came from Benghazi. What will Gaddafi's supporters do? "Melt away"? Suddenly find that they hated Gaddafi after all and join the revolution? Or continue the civil war?

And what if the "rebels" enter Tripoli and decide Gaddafi and his crazed son Saif al-Islam should meet their just rewards, along with their henchmen? Are we going to close our eyes to revenge killings, public hangings, the kind of treatment Gaddafi's criminals have meted out for many a long year? I wonder. Libya is not Egypt.

... It is all wearingly familiar. And now we are back at it again, banging our desks in spiritual unity. We don't have many options, do we, unless we want to see another Srebrenica? But hold on. Didn't that happen long after we had imposed our "no-fly" zone over Bosnia?

geo-magazine reporter Gabriele Riedle visited the country recently and comes away with a completely different assessment of the situation. Basically, she saw a power struggle between factions and tribes.

What do the demonstrators want? The surprising answer of the journalist: "I haven't met a single person who talks of democracy." The reflex of the West to think of the protest as good and bringing democracy is nothing more than "wishful thinking la CNN" says Riedle and believes instead that the protests are more about a redistribution of power.

... What does the power struggle mean for the future of the country and social progress? And does the ouster of Gadaffi solve the problems? Gabriele Riedle's answer is less than optimistic. "What's supposed to get better? The privileges will be gone as well as the benefits and women will be afraid that the country will turn more fundamentalist." The protests have gained their own dynamic that have nothing to do with political intentions. "Someone shoots, then there is grief and then there is more shooting."

... An assessment that is shared by the Northern-Africa expert Thomas Hasel of the Otto-Suhr Institute. Especially the strong rivalries between tribes would make it difficult to "pull something new out of the hat." Additionally, there are no alternative parties (in contrast to Egypt) and no structures of civil society such as associations since they are forbidden.

I fear the Libya crisis has resurrected (at least for a short time) the unholy alliance of liberal do-gooders and trigger-happy right-wingers that achieved so much mischief in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we're already seeing how they are pouring more fodder into the conflict. France is apparently delivering heavy weapons to the rebels - isn't there some arms embargo in place? This could turn into a long-running civil war between East and West with its attendant refugee crisis. I don't want to imagine what kind of new monsters will be born out this.

One lesson to take away from the Iraq and Afghanistan disaster was to learn how to let go. The Middle East is on its own path and a beneficial outcome and history cannot be engineered. Instead, the old cliches of 'impending genocide' and 'bad dictators who will be overthrown by democratically minded people' are dusted off for their final performance.

I hope this goes well. But there is the primary difficulty. What does "well" mean? It's very hard to win a war when you don't define 'victory'. Monsieur Le President Hyperactif probably has no mind for that.

The age of interventions is over.

Zenga, zenga!

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Ulrich Ladurner's post on "Die Zeit"'s site poses five questions worth pondering:


  1. What if the no fly zone doesn't work and Gadaffi takes Bengazhi anyway?
    Flying air support for rebels in Bengazhi (indefinitely?) is not covered by the resolution. Or will they have to send in ground troops?

  2. What if the rebels win and commit massacres in Tripolis?
    The rebels are against Gadaffi. That's about the only thing we know. The West has a long history of supporting unsavory rebel groups such as the UCK in Kosovo and the Mujahedin in Afghanistan.

  3. What happens if there is a military stalemate?
    That could split the country. An inherently unstable situation. Wouldn't Gadaffi have to be chased out anyway with additional military power because of the uncertainty? Who wants to monitor Western and Eastern Libya for an indefinite time?

  4. What if Libya drifts into anarchy?
    Afghanistan in the 90's is the template. A failed state. Soon enough the Europeans would have to wonder: who is going to rebuild that place? Recent experiences show we're not very good at that.

  5. Who is actually for this war?
    NATO members are arguing among themselves. The US don't want to take the lead. Germany is staying out. Katar is sending four planes (where are they?). The Arab League (with all the remaining despots as members) gave the green light but immediately criticized the attacks. Only Cameron and Sarkozy are really hot for this war.


Allied attacks have so far held off loyalist troops from advancing on Benghazi. So the first question is more or less settled for now. But the long-term implications are all but nebulous. In all probability this will not end well.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Mon Mar 21st, 2011 at 02:45:24 PM EST

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