Friday, August 19, 2011

Gadhafi folding in Libya?

So says NBC News:
Moammar Gadhafi is making preparations for a departure from Libya with his family for possible exile in Tunisia, U.S. officials have told NBC News, citing intelligence reports.

One official suggested it was possible that Gadhafi would leave within days, NBC News reported.
The information obtained by NBC News follows a series of optimistic statements this week from U.S. officials that Gadhafi would soon give up the five-month-old fight and and leave Libya.
In an on-camera forum at the National Defense University this week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "I think the sense is that Gadhafi's days are numbered.
The officials could provide no further details as to conditions or precise timing for Gadhafi's departure, NBC said, and the news report emphasized that there was no guarantee that Gadhafi would follow through on any plans to flee.
Rebel fighters are closing in from the west and the south while NATO controls the seas to the north. The opposition is in control of most of the eastern half of the country and has declared Benghazi, 620 miles east of Tripoli, as its de facto capital.
Rebel forces have managed to surround Tripoli and appear to be attempting to cut off supplies and fuel to trigger a collapse, NBC News reported. Families were seen driving away from the city.
Note that Benghazi used to be an alternate capital for Libya.

How reliable is this report? AllahPundit:

They’re not blowing smoke here. As unlikely as it may have seemed after the highly suspicious killing of the rebels’ top general a few weeks ago, rebel forces in the field have finally broken through in Zawiya and Brega and are threatening Tripoli’s supply lines. At least one of Qaddafi’s top security aides flew the coop this week, and the rebel leadership predicted a few days ago that the man himself would finally be gone by the end of the month.
Adam Garfinkle:
We are at a tender spot in this war. Over this past weekend it appears from press reports that rebel forces have seized reasonably firm control of Zawiya. Zawiya is the first town to the east of the Tunisian border, and it is a supply and transportation hub serving Tripoli. Rebel control of this strategic spot puts the regime in a kind of vise, an observation so obvious that it has been repeatedly made even by journalists in recent days—if you take my point. Anyone can see that the regime is in a vise by the fact that some of its principals are defecting, including reportedly one of its intelligence chiefs.
Now, in a set-piece military situation of the sort described by textbooks concerning Europe, one might expect that at a certain point the regime will simply surrender to its adversaries after enough military pressure and a consequent sufficiency of humble introspection on the part of the besieged have been applied. That is very unlikely to happen in Libya.
As for what it would mean, Garfinkle says it all with the title of his piece, "And Now for a Real Slaughter:"
There are rules in places like Libya, but they are different from the rules applied in Europe in recent centuries. The main rule when one tribe or one tribal confederacy conquers another is that the defeated party is politically, socially, economically and, often to some extent, literally decapitated. The defeat must be total, unmistakable and irreparable. That is the best way, indeed, in many cases the only way, to make sure that the rank-and-file of the defeated group will not find some way to rise up again in revenge.
Now what does this mean in the Libyan case? It means that if the rebels centered in Benghazi are going to overthrow by force of arms the Gaddafi regime, they are going to have to fight for Tripoli, possibly down to the last square block of the regime’s stronghold. Gaddafi and his tribal loyalists and allies will not surrender peaceably. There is therefore going to be, quite possibly, a crimsoned slaughter of the civilian population of Tripoli.
I do not know this for certain, but neither did the Obama Administration know for certain five months ago that there was going to be a slaughter in Benghazi. There are reasons for thinking that the likelihood of the slaughter in Benghazi was far lower than the likelihood of a slaughter coming soon in Tripoli. Gaddafi may have thought back then that just the threat of mass violence could dissipate the rebellion, or weaken it fatally. Arabic is very good for threat making, and Arabs over the years have become masters at using language as votive acts. [...]
At any rate, as I say, the likelihood of a very bloody fight for Tripoli is high. Note that the Benghazi-centered rebels are not threatening anything like what Gaddafi threatened them with some months ago. That is not a good sign in this context; it is a very bad sign.
NATO is not in a position on the ground to do anything about it. NATO, fighting without the United States, has not been in a position to do very much about anything, which raises a point I will follow up just below. Clearly, the rebels who might be soon advancing on Tripoli do not recognize a clear distinction between civilians and combatants. Tribal rules say that all adult males are fair game. Given the widely available military technology of our time, however, and the Libyans’ lack of training in using that technology surgically, it is very unlikely that women and children will remain safe regardless of traditional prohibitions against harming them.
Can we do anything about it?
If the Obama Administration intervened in the first place to prevent mass murder against Libyan civilians in Benghazi—and on this point I take the Administration at its word—what will it do to prevent mass murder against Libyan civilians in Tripoli? Will NATO forces now suddenly switch sides, and begin suppressing the military activities of the Benghazi rebels it has been supporting and trying to build up for the past five months? That would be logically consistent in terms of the way the Administration does its moral reasoning; it is also completely unthinkable under present circumstances.
So perhaps the Administration and its NATO allies will try instead to simply persuade the rebels not to be brutal when the triumphal end of their campaign comes into sight (assuming it does). If they succeed in that task, highly unlikely though it is, the result will be to further prolong the war and muddle the possibility of a definitive endpoint. That would be inane, if not insane.
I don’t really know what they will do. I can’t wait to find out. All I know is that when a government engages in military activity on the basis of a nonsensical premise, there is a price to be paid always down the road. We are now pretty much down the road.
Well, should we do anything about it? asks Ace:
The Bush model of war -- go in heavy, attempt to win the war on the backs of American (and allied) soldiers, attempt to establish a monopoly on the use of violence, and then continue that monopoly on the use of violence by acting as the nation's law enforcement/army for five, six, ten years -- doesn't work, or at least does not work at costs the American public is willing to pay.
I see no point agitating for a Full War Model against Iran, for example -- to urge such a thing is futile. I do not believe the American public has the appetite for such an endeavor. (At least-- not unless Iran uses its soon-to-be-built nukes.)
We didn't use to take care of these countries in this fashion. We used to arm and train rebels within those countries (they've all got them), fund them, provide intelligence, spread some bribe money around, and, when necessary, bring in the sort of Word of God that our air and naval forces issue from the air or sea.
Such wars were messy and bloody and often very very dirty, with guerrilla tactics that often looked like "terrorism" being employed by both sides. This is only a problem when the forces on our side employ such tactics, because that's the only time such tactics get condemned in the press.
They are, however, effective, much of the time at least, and with a light American involvement as far as troops on the ground.
Colin Powell's ludicrous statement -- "You break it, you buy it" -- is a formula for nonstop, decades-long nation-building of exactly the same type that George W. Bush campaigned against in 2000, albeit on a much longer and much bloodier scale than we saw in, say, Haiti.
Why do we "buy" it if we break it?
Broken societies reassemble themselves. In fact, they seem to do so more quickly than people expect, even when faced with great devastation.
There is no need for American troops to hand-hold them through this process.
If a country thwarts or threatens the US enough to invite a decapitating military strike, one that takes out the ruling regime and renders the state without any force to impose order -- they broke it themselves.
And they can reassemble it themselves.
And the thing is -- they will.
It will not be a clean thing. There will be assassinations. There will be ethnic cleansing. Sometimes there will be mass killings, and sometimes there will be terrorism.
But what there won't be in the model of warfare I am endorsing is a large body of American troops in the crossfire.
Yes, our troops are the best in the world, and not just the best at destroying the enemy -- they are the best at destroying the enemy while sparing noncombatants' lives. They are the most disciplined and most precise forces the world have ever seen, in addition to being the most lethal.
So yes, the presence of our troops can in fact spare any number of noncombatants in such a bloody civil war.
But... I have to say: Who gives a shit? How many foreign citizens in an country we've gone to war with do I need to save in fair exchange for one American soldier's life?
I think that number must be more than 100. Actually, I think it must be more than 1000 before I really start to think that maybe that's a good exchange.
These basket-case, broken, violent rogue countries have their own growing up to do. They have to go through their own spasms. They have to shed their own blood, and inflict their own massacres.
Yes, we can spare them some of this; but why should we? Someone is going to die in a war. I nominate foreign nationals.
American troops' heavy engagement is better for all parties in a war, except for the American troops themselves, and while they might be selfless enough to nobly volunteer for such missions, I'm a little too selfish to want to use them for such purposes any longer.
In some cases, we may need to fight a WWII style total war. Fine. In all other cases, we should go back to the 70s/80s model of backing indigenous fighters with the 90s/2000s addition of devastating airstrikes.
This style of warfare isn't perfect. Libya will (as Allah suggests) probably descend into revenge bloodletting. Ask me how much I really care.
As callous as Ace's opinion may sound, it's absolutely right.  The responsibility of the military, intelligence and diplomatic services of the United States is to protect the interests of the United States.   The idea behind "nation building" is to rebuild a damaged or destroyed country in such a way as to promote a peaceful relationship, at least, with the United States, so trouble can be  avoided in the future.  But if we cannot afford that monetarily or politically, then there is no requirement -- moral, ethical, political or legal -- that we do practice it. 

In any event, the new model for regime change in limited conflicts, as Ace states:
In some cases, we may need to fight a WWII style total war. Fine. In all other cases, we should go back to the 70s/80s model of backing indigenous fighters with the 90s/2000s addition of devastating airstrikes.
This style of warfare isn't perfect. Libya will (as Allah suggests) probably descend into revenge bloodletting. Ask me how much I really care.
But the advantage of this style of warfare is that it is politically possible, which I no longer [think] the Bush style is.

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