Food for thought: Libya is a tribal and clan-based society which has been held togther by centralised coaxing and coercion for four decades.
I’d prefer “tyrannical oppression, terror, summary kidnapping, imprisoning and/or execution”. I don’t recall a lot of “coaxing”. It isn’t really in the genes of brutal dictators.
It is reported today that two of the tribes in Benghazi have come out in support of Gaddafi. That may be genuine or they may be trying to save their own skins but either way what’s clear is that the situation is (and always has been) much more complex than just a tyrant with his security apparatus oppressing a cohesive country of freeedom-loving democrats.
Tribes? The biggest is believed to have declared early on for the rebels and then gone back to Gaddafi when he kidnapped numerous of their children “to encourage them”. We CANNOT know what people really want until they are free of terror. The signs seem to show that even in the west most people hate him. In Zuwiyah and Miseratu many have died against hopless odds to show this.
The imposition of a no-fly zone/military action seems to raise more questions than it answers.
1. What happens (as seems possible) if Gadaffi has the numbers and firepower to defeat the rebels despite limited Western military support for those rebels?
He hasn’t. Even with his vastly superior weaponry (and the ever-present “Geneva Convention? Wot? Us?” approach) he has struggled to take and hold cities all over Libya. He maintains power by TERROR. Once people are no longer terrified of him, this will all change. However, this terror will ONLY end when he is GONE. People have been living under his oppression for forty-two years.
2. Will the outcome of 1 lead to greater Western military involvement in another interminable, expensive and unwinnable conflict?
No – Gaddafi’s forces can be destroyed with comparative ease, except that he will of course place tanks and heavy weapons in the centre of cities and use the population as human shields. However, if the “intl community” takes this seriously, Gaddafi is finished. He cannot prevail against vastly-superior air-power PLUS supplying the rebels with sufficient modern weapons.
When we started World War II, (and WE started it against Hitler) we didn’t know the outcome in advance. Sometimes there is a right thing to do; you cannot predict all eventualities, but this is right.
3. What if Gadaffi doesn’t fully prosecute the attack, and say just recaptures the oil terminals and waits out the West while pulling strings and seeing if the rebels can really hold things together?
Yes. He won’t make it easy. However, it will depend on how serious the “intl community” is. It would be very easy to block all oil exports and thus all revenue. I can’t see his hangers-on tolerating that for long.
4. Is Benghazi/rebel territory in any way self-sustaining or capable of self-governance and feeding/supporting the population? If not what happens?
5. Is it sustainable or desirable to have Gadaffi running half of Libya with the rebels running the other half?
Yes, and No, but life is rarely perfect. If Benghazi has access to oil, fuel and water then it can hold out for ever. There are many viable countries far smaller than Eastern Libya. Most of these countries are arbitrary anyway.Gaddafi and “his tribes” HATE the east anyway. They’d be better off alone if needs be, but they have to have some oil wells; there is nothing else.
6.What is to stop it becoming a fight between competing tribes/clans/interests over the spoils/territory while there are still some spoils to fight over?
Well, who knows, but if there is a decent, strong central government then the oil receipts can be doled out fairly, which they never were in the past. Yes, “IF”, but if you never took any action without being CERTAIN of the outcome then you never WOULD take any action and there would be another forty years of utter misery for the Libyan people.
But if the Intl Community fully supports the Benghazi people and recognizes their “government” – and why not – then these tribes will have to fall in line for economic reasons.
7. Given the likely exodus of tens of thousands of frightened Libyans who is volunteering to take the refugees…are we?
Well, it seems that after the last government we do anyway. As for this crisis, there have already been tens of thousands of refugees. Leaving a horrendous dictator in place is hardly likely to minimise the flow. Most of the refugees trying to get into Europe are anyway fleeing from utterly despicable regimes where the people see no hope. Were Libya to make a transition to some sort of fairer society then the people wouldn’t leave.
8. Does anybody seriously believe a simple scanario like: “Defeat Gadaffi and then watch democracy grow in the Libyan desert, has any chance of success?”
YES. It won’t be easy, but it has SOME chance of success. Under Gaddafi, it has NO chance of success, only continuing terror and horror.
9. Even if 8 should come to pass do we think a new Libyan regime would more likely face towards the West or Mecca…
Who can be sure, but it’ll be their choice. And not all “Islamic” regimes are as insane as the Iranian one. Almost nothing could be worse than Gaddafi. We should not bother whether any resulting regime is “friendly” to us – their FREEDOM is more important. Mubarak and the Shah Of Iran were supported by the west because they were “friendly”. That was a terrible mistake, both morally and practically.
Anyway, as we are trying to save the future government of Libya, why shouldn’t they be as friendly towards us as we could reasonably wish them to be?
10. …and what would we do if a government more antipathetic to Western values came to power with wide support from the Libyan people?
So what? We should do the right thing (which is to help save an entire nation from brutal fascism). What they then make of it is up to them. Personally, I don’t believe for a moment that Libya will do an Iran. Nor will Egypt. However, nothing is certain.
I don’t have the answer to those questions but it strikes me nobody should be getting involved miltarily unless they do. Its easy to shout “something must be done right now ” but much harder to be clear waht the outcome will be and who it will ultimately benefit.
See answer to number 2
My only experience of a clan-based society where a central government was ousted is Somalia and I doubt that’s an example anyone would wish to see spread further, it certainly hasn’t done most of the Somali people or anybody else much good
People always tell me not to see things in black and white. Not all Arab countries are the same. The alternative to doing nothing was to see Benghazi destroyed and thousands of people killed, since they are determined to resist and if necessary die. Whatever the uncertainties, this could not be allowed to happen especially because A) we CAN stop it and B) there is regional and now international backing for action.
As far as that is concerned, I was on the receiving end of an enormous amount of stick because the “intl community” did not support the Iraq war. Now thery ARE supporting it with a vengeance and we should wish the people involved in policing this the best of luck in what is clearly a dangerous campaign.
However, as we speak, Gaddafi has ordered a “ceasefire”. This isn’t much use, and I am not sure what room for action it leaves us. The rebels will certainly NOT accept Gaddafi staying in power …… Will the “intl community” then attack any rebels trying to fight Gaddafi’s forces?
Yes, “uncertainties”. However, the only certainty would have been:
- the continuation in power of a brutal tyrant
- the utter destruction of Benghazi and brutalisation of its people – no doubt much “cleansing of rats” and many unmarked mass graves hidden in the desert
- an appalling witchhunt in other cities which have rebelled. I am not sure if fighting is still going on in Miseratu for a start; and anyway, you can’t believe ANYTHING the Libyan state media says and journalists can’t get into the areas where savage fighting is still going on
- an appalling moral message sent to the region and the world that might is right and that a dictator with NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER TO rule only has to be brutal enough to survive (as the Chinese, Burmese, Belarus and North Korean govts etc know full well)
- the end of any idea that the free world is prepared to stand up for the oppressed WHEN IT CAN (it can’t ALWAYS)
SHOULD we stand up for the oppressed when we can? As I’ve said, we can’t do EVERYTHING but we can often do SOMETHING to make a big difference and save people. We did it in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kosovo and some other places, but in others we failed.
Life involves both failure and success, but taking the easy, comfortable way out as Germany has is despicable. They should try to empathize a bit more with suffering fellow-humans.