If former Pentagon supremo Donald “known unknown” Rumsfeld were still in business, he’d be grumbling that Libya presents no bombable targets – as in Afghanistan in 2001. As far as United States quagmires go, Libya is bigger than Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined. But any possible “targets” concentrate in a few cities along the Mediterranean coast.
The Barack Obama-launched Tomahawking of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces (and a few installations) is over; now it’s up to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to impose the “kinetic military action” (White House newspeak) and thus force “regime change”. And in perfect Tag Heuer time, disaster has set. NATO would love to bomb everything in sight shock and awe-style – but they can’t. They can’t even pinpoint Gaddafi’s forces on their screens.
You don’t remain in power over four decades in a developing country without learning a military trick or two from illustrious predecessors such as China’s Mao Zedong and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh – not to mention bunglers such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq. After learning the lesson of having his tanks like sitting ducks in the desert bombed at will by the “coalition of the willing” (a few NATO members plus Qatar), Gaddafi is now fighting light-armor guerrilla style against the “rebels”.
NATO’s response has been more predictable than those everyday multilingual stalemates in Brussels; hurling accusations that Gaddafi is using human shields – as in his tanks in Misrata being “dispersed” across town and inside the perimeter. Translation: NATO’s Tornado/Rafale air war is useless, unless you can bomb a tank column resplendent in the desert sun.
If NATO is angry, that motley crew known as the “rebels” is even angrier – accusing NATO of being incapable of carpet-bombing their own cities. This proves that the “rebels” themselves – who are practically begging for the West to do the dirty work – also don’t give a damn about “collateral damage” among their own. One thing is certain; if NATO did what the “rebels” wanted it to do, collateral damage would be horrific. And European public opinion would pull the plug on this “kinetic” regime change action.
The circus is one more instance of how this war that is not a war is in fact a farce. The French and the British especially have bought their own hype that Gaddafi’s regime is crumbling. They have also bought their own hype that this mixed bag of former Gaddafi loyalists, dodgy exiles, al-Qaeda-linked jihadis, business opportunists and true youthful revolutionaries have a political and militarily coherence, and are truly representative of the whole of Libya.
Religare Capital Markets in London gamed a few weeks ago that a stalemate in Libya had a 75% probability (with Brent crude reaching US\$130 a barrel). Seems like Arab liberator French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his cohort British Prime Minister David Cameron are not on their reading list.
Thus the new, non-NATO-centric bright idea – former British special forces training the rebels to become a lean, mean, fighting machine, as if this could be accomplished in days or weeks, before there’s a ceasefire.
The war that in fact no one wants except Sarko and Cameron is fizzling out like a ghastly remake of The Three Stooges (bidding is open for nominating the third stooge). That’s what you get when you take sides in an African civil war where even the “good guys” are murkier than the waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama administration/Pentagon condominium has removed all its state-of-the-art hardware from the field. Mission creep is the name of the game.
At least in Serbia, NATO knew what it was doing. It supported a “liberation army” (UCK) infested with murderers and drug dealers; it even bombed state companies (not private), cluster bombs and depleted uranium included, so multinational corporations could step in; and had the Pentagon set up a huge military base (Camp Bondsteel) to police its protectorate.
United Nations resolution 1973 theoretically does not allow NATO to go that far. The Western members of this “coalition of the willing”, the Brits and the French foremost, not to mention the Pentagon, pray there will be, at the end of the tunnel, plenty of oil and a strategic Africom/NATO base in northern Africa. But there’s no guarantee.
The last hope for sanity in all this mess is Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed his version of a roadmap for peace – calling for humanitarian aid corridors and steps toward democracy. Turkey is talking equally to both sides – and is not openly preaching regime change. The road map will be discussed by a few Europeans, the US, a few US client states in the Middle East and a few international bodies next Wednesday in Qatar – which, as we reported, is deeply involved in guiding the “transition” in Libya.
Let’s wait. As it stands, any road map will beat bombed-out NATO.