Who are the Libyan Rebels? Part II

By Piper Bayard

The rebels in Libya are not a single unified group that shares the same complex agenda. In fact, the only clear, common agenda that they have thus far demonstrated is a desire to boot Papa Gadhafi and all his little Gadhafis from power. On Thursday, in Part I of the answer to the overriding question, “So who are these people, anyway?” we looked at the Libyan National Council, which is the closest thing to leadership that the rebels have presented to the West. Today, we’ll give a glance at the other “teams in the league.”

Contenders in Libya

Al-Qaeda continues to attempt to take control of the rebellion in Libya, but they have thus far had little success. My view is that their current strategy is to try to enhance their ties to the Libyan Islamic Front, but serious differences between the two groups and past betrayals by Al-Qaeda complicate that relationship. That doesn’t mean that they won’t work together to seize power from the more urbane, educated, cosmopolitan Libyans that are seeking to form a government.

Iran has high hopes and expectations concerning its own ability to influence events in Libya, but to its surprise, Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) and Tripolitania (western Libya) are not carbon copies of Sadr city in Iraq or the Gaza Strip. If you ever feel frustrated at the tendency of Westerners to view all Islamic nations and their inhabitants as being the same, it should comfort you to know that Islamic populations make the same mistake even more frequently when they view each other and the world outside of Islam.

Iran will not gain influence in Libya unless it does so after a home-grown Islamic radical group comes into power. The Iranian junta can broadcast whatever propaganda it wishes concerning Libya, but it has even less credibility with North Africans than it does with its own citizens. The regime in Tehran is not quite as secure and self-assured as it was a few months ago, and its most urgent need for action is much closer to home than Libya.

Some may be wondering where Western oil companies stand with the various factions in Libya. Who would they like to back? That’s the easiest question to answer today. Unlike mere mortals, Western oil companies will not be forced to limit their futures by choosing sides. They will, instead, take the simple approach of hiring a vast, well-dressed array of professional ass-kissers to attempt to smooch every potentially important buttocks in and near Libya. And with each kiss, they will sign a guarantee that that particular behind is their favorite of all. When you have as many billions as BP or Exxon does there’s no point in choosing sides. You can simply attempt to purchase every key member of every side. The only political question that matters to oil companies is, “How much oil can we pump today?” With gasoline prices in the USA hovering at $4.00/gallon, money is no obstacle for them.

Now, let’s consider a few more of the people directly involved in the rebellion in Libya. The six and a half million people who live in Libya are a diverse group. Unlike many rebellions, the people in Libya are a significant, active force in the Libyan “revolution.” The fact that unemployment in Libya is over 30% may very well be a driving force in the unrest, but the Libyans are not singular in their politics, in their religious zeal, or in their view of the West.

One very interesting tidbit that occurred this week in Libya bares examination. When NATO failed to deliver timely air attacks against Gadhafi’s forces in the Misrata area, a variety of rebels from different areas were anxious to blame Turkey for constraining its NATO allies. This is significant. A variety of Libyans are choosing to blame not NATO as a whole, but Turkey in particular, a country currently lead by a theocratic Islamic party.

This is not a response that Al-Qaeda or its allies would have engineered. Although the desperate and frustrated Libyan rebels are still blaming outsiders for the events within Libya, it’s a pretty strong clue that Al-Qaeda and its clones have not gained control of the average Libyan.

What the Libyan people will tolerate as an outcome to their rebellion is not yet altogether clear. I find myself more hopeful about the future of Libya than many Western “experts.” While I recognize the fervor and well-practiced ruthlessness that Al-Qaeda and other Islamic radical peddlers bring to the fight in Libya, I remain less convinced of their ability to subvert the people of Libya. It is my hope that too many Libyans are a tad too educated and worldly to be easily sold the Islamic Fundamentalist stone-age model of government.

The future of Libya remains uncertain. While that might sound frightening to some, to the US administration and Western governments in general, it should sound like a marvelous opportunity to encourage progress in Libya. Not “progress” as defined solely by oil companies or strictly Western values, but progress that will leave Libyans, their neighbors, and Westerners with a better shared future.

One hopes that Western leaders are hearing better briefings than I can supply, and that they will all act wisely. The West has the greatest financial, military, and diplomatic resources available for influencing events in Libya. How well those resources are used will in large part determine the West’s future relationship with that country.

Who are the Libyan Rebels? Part I

By Jay Holmes

Since the middle of February, when the fledgling protest movement coalesced into an active rebellion in Libya, many Western observers have been asking, “Who are the Libyan rebels?” Many Libyans, North Africans, and Middle Easterners are wondering the same thing.

A variety of prognosticators have offered up plenty of answers, but most of the answers they are peddling appear to be products of wishful thinking, or they are tainted by agendas. One way to recognize the degree of wishful thinking or propaganda in any given answer is to recognize the observer’s degree of certainty and confidence in his definition of the Libyan rebels. The most confident presenters with the simplest answers must be the least realistic analysts because there is, as yet, very little certainty available to any realist observing the events.

If and when a new government takes over in Libya, we will be able to observe its actions and compare them with the preceding rhetoric. In the meantime, all we can logically do is take a dispassionate view of the facts that are available and make an educated guess.

First, we should acknowledge that “the rebels” are not a single unified group that shares the same complex agenda. The only clear, common agenda that the rebels have thus far demonstrated is a desire to remove Uncle Momo and his various monkey spawn from power. So far, the closest thing to a leadership group that the rebels have presented to the West is the “National Council.” However, there are several other “teams in the league.” In Part I of this two-part installment, we will look at the Libyan National Council, and in Part II to be published this Sunday, we will give a glance at the other contenders.

Libyan National Council

The Libyan National Council is completely aware of the West’s questions concerning its agenda, and that likely influenced its choice of Mustafa Abdel Jalil as its leader. Jalil is a judge from eastern Libya and was Gadhafi’s Justice Minister. He had frequently publicly disagreed with Gadhafi during his tenure, but tribal affiliations made it convenient to keep him in office.

When Gadhafi announced that protesters would be “crushed,” Jalil resigned from the Libyan government. It seems clear that Jalil had contact with other members of the fledgling council prior to the February protests. His selection as head of the committee is likely based on the committee’s belief that he represents the best chance at gaining acceptance by the most Libyans from all of the various tribes and urbanized areas of the country. He was a member of the government that the rebels seek to destroy, but he has credentials as a dissenter.

The other two most visible members of the Libyan National Council are Ali al Eisawi and Mahmoud Jabril. Both of them are well-traveled and well-educated, and they were both involved in the opposition to Gadhafi prior to the February uprising. They both present a believable voice of reason to Libyans and to concerned Westerners. None of these three individuals are tainted by any known affiliation with Al-Qaeda, the home-grown Libyan Islamic Front, or radical factions within the Islamic brotherhood.

At present, there appear to be 31 members of the ruling committee of the National Council. They seem to be attempting to gain the broadest possible support from the widest variety of tribes and factions within Libya. On that note, the Council does include at least one Islamic Jihadist with direct ties to Al-Qaeda.

There is also Gadhafi’s recently “ex” Minister of Interior, Colonel Abdel-Fatah Younis. Younis’ defection may be motivated by his perception that the Uncle Momo Show was being canceled, and by his personal ties to eastern Libya. He offers the explanation that he quit the regime because he disapproved of the regime’s attacks on the protesters. However, he has been the chief organizer of crackdowns on opposition groups in Libya in the past. If Colonel Younis has something like a conscience, it would appear to be newly acquired. Where and why he got it is any ones guess. What he currently offers the National Council is vast experience at surviving opposition.

 

Publicly, the National Council states that it does not want any one individual to take control in Libya, that it wants democratic reforms, and that it is adamantly opposed to theocratic government. Though we have no way of administering lie detector tests to the National Council leadership, when we compare what we knew about its key members’ actions and reputations prior to February of this year with their current behavior and rhetoric, they do seem to be consistent in their position.

The Libyan National Council claims to want a constitution that guarantees secular democracy and human rights. It claims to envision peaceful relations with the West and with their neighbors in North Africa. It has been silent on any position toward Israel, but it has much to lose and nothing to gain by announcing any intention toward that country.  The Council would not want to further incite Al-Qaeda type radicals within Libya by announcing neutrality toward Israel, nor would they want to alienate the West by openly opposing Israel when they have yet to insure their own survival. While the Council and Israel will both remain silent about Israel (for now), Israel is likely doing its best to quietly establish a dialogue with these potential leaders of Libya. It is also likely that the National Council is quietly presenting more detailed positions to Western governments and to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates, but, for the short-term, they will need to keep those details quiet to enhance their own chances for survival.

The degree that the Libyan National Council is in charge and the percentage of the rebels who would claim to be represented by them are unknown, but there are signs this week that the Council is becoming more organized with each passing day. Nevertheless, as I mentioned, there are other teams in the league, and we will take a look at them in Part II this Sunday.

Who is Watching in Libya, What are They Learning, and What Does That Mean To Us?

By Jay Holmes

China, Syria, and Iran are watching the military operations being conducted by NATO forces in Libya with great attention.

China sent the 4,000 ton frigate, Xuzhou, into Libyan waters, supposedly to assist in evacuations of Chinese citizens from Libya. However, its real mission was likely an ad-hock attempt at quietly conducting SIGINT (SIGnals INTelligence) and ELINT (ELectronic INTelligence) operations against the Western powers involved in air operations in Libya. China will invest massive human resources into the analysis of any information it gathers, but it will use that information for long term planning and development rather than in any political decision making.

China expects no conflict with Western nations in the near future, and there is no reason to panic about China’s SIGINT efforts. Great Britain, Japan, and the United States conduct SIGINT and ELINT operations against China from international waters and air space every day of the week. In the last half century, China has come to understand that these operations do not foretell a pending invasion by Western powers. At the same time, we realize that any attempt by China to take possession of Hawaii will be conducted with real estate agents and stock brokers rather than frigates.

In the case of Syria, what they will learn is simple. They are (re)learning what their defeat would look like if NATO ever decided to invade Syria. The air power and missile barrage brought to bear in Libya are very minimal as compared to what a NATO launched attack could be. In Damascus, even the most politically connected, untalented general will have realized that moving or supplying Syrian forces anywhere in Syria will be nearly impossible with NATO air forces present.

The Syrian Air Force is far larger, better equipped, and better trained than the Libyan Air Force. But Syria is aware that the air power NATO is using in Libya is a token force by the standards of alliance, and that in any major conflict with NATO, the missile attack on Syria would be approximately four times larger and would destroy much of Syria’s air force within the first hour of war.

What Syria observes from the Libyan conflict will cause no major change in its strategy. It will simply continue with its sensible course of not provoking the West to invade, which, given the West’s generally defensive strategic stance, will not be difficult. The lessons learned from Libya will simply confirm the validity of that current strategic stance.

What Syria has newly learned from watching Libya is that it should avoid public threats to conduct genocide against its own citizens as protests are arising in Syria. That is a lesson that Gadhafi and his overconfident gangsters learned too late.

In the case of Iran, the Iranians will analyze information gained by observing the Libyan conflict with great interest. Unlike Syria and China, Iran does not assume there will be no conflict between itself and Western nations.

The two things about the tactical aspects of NATO operations that most interest Iran are the command and control methods of NATO air forces, and the effectiveness of the upgraded Tomahawk missiles employed against Libya. The strategic question of even greater interest to Iran concerns the fact that Western powers mobilized military force against Libya without waiting for the Western political tortoise race to conclude.

While the effectiveness of the air power of NATO nations and of the Tomahawk missiles will cause no great shock in Tehran, the fact that an attack took place in spite of the lack of complete agreement by Western powers is bad news for the ayatollahs and their generals. Iran may find itself recalculating the exact position of the “line in the sand” in their neighborhood.

In the twisted minds of the junta in Tehran, a military conflict with the West may seem like a glorious opportunity to be relished, rather than a threat to be feared. They see that as an improving opportunity over time as Iran improves its military capacity and accomplishes its goal of obtaining a nuclear weapon.

It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in the weekly ayatollah update meetings in northern Iran this week. I would absolutely love to hear the well-educated Iranian generals trying to explain the implications of the conflict in Libya to the mostly-functionally-illiterate Supreme Council. Nothing in their years of memorizing the Koran and debating its obscure aspects have prepared the mullahs for leading a near nuclear power like Iran.

The Revolutionary Guard leaders are, no doubt, well-practiced in the art of smoothing over the most awkward of conversations between the megalomaniac ayatollahs and the frightened generals. After all, disagreeing with an ayatollah can cause spontaneous separation of the head from the neck.

I wonder how they draw lots to pick the poor fools that have to deliver the report to the all powerful and none-too-wise mullahs? Perhaps the medals that we see on the chests of Iranian admirals and generals were awarded for surviving some number of meetings with their political leadership. As long as Iran is unequipped by nuclear weapons I can enjoy laughing at their internal leadership situation. A nuclear weapon in the hands of the ignorant ayatollahs would not be quite so laughable.

Special Edition Libya: Missiles and Missives

By Jay Holmes

As the White House’s “days not weeks” line has evolved to “don’t worry, just a few months,” the missile and aircraft attacks have degraded Gadhafi’s goon squad enough to allow the Benghazi-based rebels to push west to Bin Jawad on the coastal road to Sirte. Gadhafi has traditionally taken good care of the tribal alliances of the Sirte area so the rebels might find the going a bit rougher in Sirte and on to Tripoli.

A tactical analysis of the available forces, their assets, the geography, and the leadership in the theater of operations would be a fun exercise, but likely doesn’t matter much as long as the NATO forces continue their “if it moves and belongs to Gadhafi kill it” policy. At this point, the most critical tactics will not be employed on the coastal road to Tripoli or in the air above Libya and the Gulf of Sidra.

The most critical battles that need to be decided now are of a diplomatic nature, and they will not be won or lost with another shipload of bargain basement, Chinese made AK-47’s. Rumors are floating through the political sewers of Washington, London, Paris, and Rome that an escape is being proposed to Gadhafi. Western leaders have opted for the “sources high up in the administration” unofficial leak method of announcing efforts to arrange for Momo’s departure (live departure) from Libya.

The toughest thing about playing travel agent for uncle Momo is the fact that he has so many enemies in so many places. The second toughest aspect of planning his vacation is the fact that the few “friends” that would take him are themselves in no position to guarantee their own future let alone Gadhafi’s.

If Momo leaves, he has to go to a country that is willing and accustomed to ignoring the International Court of Justice. Joseph Mugabe and a few other lower budget despots would likely be willing to take Gadhafi if he brings some of his loot with him, or if the West is willing to pay them off in some other creative fashion. The creativity will not require any effort on our part because all despots have favors that they need or would like this week. They will all be quick to turn over their Christmas Wish List to us, in fact, and the poor diplomat that visits prospectively will have his ear filled with demands .

While the Italians are so far rumored to be the negotiators, my guess is that they will handle no more than the communications with Momo. It will take the US, France, and the UK to make a plausible deal with a “host country.”

Getting Momo gone is the obvious best alternative to grinding out a battle to take Tripoli while magically avoiding massive civilian casualties. The less obvious and far trickier part of the equation is encouraging a transition of power that will not threaten Western nations.

Regardless of public promises made and political careers incinerated, it would be hard to imagine Egypt and the Western nations tolerating a “Tehran West” situation in Tripoli. Some of the supposed leaders of the rebellion have presented a believable facade to the West, but there are clearly some Al Qaeda affiliates involved in the dance.

The best way to avoid a long military commitment in Libya is to invest heavily in helping to create an alternative to Momo that Egypt and the West can live with. It may require some work and a little leadership, but it’s doable. The supporters of the “Islamic Radical Domino Theory” tell us that radical Islamic terrorist states must, by force of nature, replace any government that falls in the mid-east and North Africa. This theory fails to take into account the diversity of cultural and political forces at play in Libya. The Tehran West scenario is avoidable.

Special Edition Libya: A Coalition of the Hesitant

By Jay Holmes

As the Coalition of the Hesitant continues to exercise a “we fly, you no fly” zone over Libya today, several ironies and opportunities seem apparent to me.

Before the ink was dry on the German surrender document that ended the European phase of WWII in 1945, Western European nations started realizing that they wanted less American leadership in European affairs. The US-financed Marshall Plan that brought economic salvation to Western Europe was welcomed, but being in the position of  the recipient clarified for many Europeans the need for strong leadership in Western Europe.

France and De Gaulle tried to fill that need by distancing themselves from the NATO command structure, and by developing nuclear weapons independently of the US. England, having enjoyed a closer relationship with the US, pursued a stronger and more inclusive NATO, and most NATO member states followed that example. For one thing, the cost benefits of unified defense were undeniable, and as the Soviets grew a massive military presence in Eastern Europe, no single Western European nation was in a position to defend itself from a Soviet invasion.

In the decades since, the European desire to exercise its own foreign policy has grown increasingly strong. The lack of a massive Soviet military presence in Eastern Germany since the collapse of the Soviet Union has left Europeans understandably more willing to voice their desire for equality (or, in their view, “inherent superiority”) in world statesmanship. European governments are vigorously resisting a major opportunity for European states to exercise their leadership this week. Apparently, no Western European state is yet willing to take over political or military leadership for the coalition of forces currently arrayed against Uncle Momo Gadhafi.

Many American taxpayers are rooting for some “European Superior Statesmanship” this week. Count me in that group. From my viewpoint, it would be a triumph for world peace if Europe steps up and takes charge of the coalition that exercises the “we fly, you no fly” zone. My desire to see this happen is without my usual sarcasm and free of any negative feelings for European governments. My personal estimate is that between Sarkozy and Cameron, Europe has what it needs to lead events successfully. Though an ideal outcome may not occur in Libya, Europe has much to gain by taking control of the situation. If Europe fails to exercise leadership in the current crisis on its southern doorstep, Mideastern and African nations will be unable to ignore the message and to interpret that “message” to their own liking. Leaving someone else to blame also leaves someone else in charge.

Another opportunity that seems obvious is the opportunity for direct diplomacy with Gadhafi today. One crucial difference between Mubarak and Gadhafi is that Uncle Momo lacks an easy way out. I suggest we offer him one. Gadhafi’s absence from power in Libya would be a possible benefit to Libyans, but his carcass, itself, has no inherent value to anyone. He likely would not easily accept an extended vacation to Venezuela, or perhaps a villa in South Africa, but at some point, he might accept it as a better alternative to incineration. We have nothing to lose by making an offer. If Western European leaders wish, they could simultaneously begin to shape some simple rules for the rebels in exchange for their continued survival at the grace of Western powers. A two-page guide to the future formation of a Libyan constitution could greatly decrease Al Qaeda’s opportunity to take control in Libya.

The current “non war” in Libya need not end in chaos for Libya. A modest investment of political courage by European governments will not likely lead us all to the Garden of Eden, but it could easily avoid a decline into hell for Libya and its neighbors.

Ignore the pundits of doom. Failure is NOT preordained. As that crazy English army officer T.E. Lawrence said to his Bedouin friends, “Nothing is written.”  The price has, by and large, already been paid. Let the benefits be harvested for the betterment of Libyans and Westerners. Success is available and can be purchased with bold statesmanship.

T.E. Lawrence — “Nothing is written.”

Special Edition Libya: They Said Whaaaat?

By Jay Holmes

In the past few days, we have seen Western powers overcome their own reluctance to commit to military action against Gadhafi. The vast news coverage of the ongoing diplomacy amongst Western nations has left us with some interesting quotes and sound bites worth considering.

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, while speaking to the press on Tuesday, March 15 presumed to speak for Arabs, saying their sentiment is, “If you don’t show your support for the Libyan people and for democracy at this time, you are saying you will intervene only when it’s about your security, but you won’t help when it’s about our democracy.”

If any Arab leaders should actually match Mister Cameron’s stated sentiment, I would simply ask them how soon they will be done taking care of the problem. After all, there is no force in Libya that could stop a determined Egyptian intervention.

I respect Mister Cameron, and I am not questioning his sincerity, but I must ask him what he knows that the rest of us haven’t heard about yet. Apparently, Mister Cameron is certain that a defeat of Gadhafi will lead to a democracy in Libya. What precisely would “our democracy” mean in Libya or in any Arab nation? The world has yet to see an Arab democracy.

As a long time Gadhafi detractor, I will not miss him when he moves to his summer home in Hell, but it is not clear to me what will occur in Libya once Gadhafi enters that post-metabolic phase of his personal adventure. I would like for the people of Libya to have a democracy run by Libyans and at peace with the region and the rest of the world, but I cannot ignore that in Iraq, the greatest number of foreign Islamic terrorists entering post-Saddam Iraq were from Libya. Many of them, in fact, come from the three main tribes of the Benghazi area. The homegrown, Al Qaida-mimicking Islamic group in Libya originates in large part from Benghazi. Right about now, too, I wish a little more urgency would have been shown concerning the destruction of Gadhafi’s 44,000 pounds of mustard gas. That gas makes for a nasty wild card in this sad poker game.

As a natural born idealist and an incurable optimist, I am hoping that Libya’s recent advances in education will be enough for Libyans to overcome the national kidnapping that Islamic Terrorists are attempting in Libya now. I see no hard evidence to support my best wishes for Libya, but time will surely tell. The air strikes by France and the UK, the missile strikes by the US, and the buildup of other Western military forces at Italian bases indicate that Western Europe (excepting Germany) has decided that the devil we know is worse than the devil we do not know. I hope that the influx of British, French, Danish, Canadian, American, Spanish, and Norwegian forces do not disrupt poor Berlusconi’s busy social schedule.

For another choice quote, on Wednesday, March 16, the often brilliant Princeton/Harvard/Oxford graduate Anne-Marie Slaughter accused the Obama administration of ignoring the human rights of the people in Libya. She tweeted the following: “U.S. is defining ‘vital strategic interest’ in terms of oil and geography, not universal values. Wrong call that will come back to haunt us.”

For starters “universal values” is a fascinating term. Whose universe is she referring to? Apparently, in her universe the United States military would be quite busy delivering human rights around a largely right-less planet to folks that might not all agree about sharing human rights with their own family members, let alone their neighbors. Would we start with China? Would we first introduce human rights in Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan? What about Malaysia or Indonesia? How about a few human rights in Russia or Rhodesia? Where do we start, and who will be paying for it? Will the Chinese finance our campaign for human rights in China? That would be cute.

Great idea, except for that little war with China thing.

Anne-Marie, did you not loudly criticize Bush for resorting to military intervention in Iraq? But now you want quick and vigorous military action by Obama? What a fascinating idea…. But let’s engage the fullest powers of our imagination for a moment. Let’s pretend that Anne-Marie is not just scoring points on the Obama Camp in hopes of regaining overpaid employment with some future Obama opponent in the next election cycle. Ok, Anne-Marie, you win, let’s do it your way. Come by my house, and I’ll donate one AK-47 assault rifle and a case of ammo (1440 rounds full metal jacket). As you are installing human rights in Libya, keep detailed notes. Call us on your cell phone when you get Africa fixed up, and we’ll proceed from there. We all “universally” wish you every possible success. Pax Americana, the sequel.

And from Uncle Momo, himself, in a letter to European leaders on Saturday, “It is not your country. We could never and would never fire one bullet against our people.”

Well ok, Momo, I suppose technically “one bullet” would be unlikely. A hundred bullets every day of the week, thousands of bullets frequently, massive rocket and artillery barrages accompanied by bombardment by aircraft and followed by an assault by an armored column? Sure, several times this week. But “a single bullet”? Nah, a single bullet wouldn’t be any fun.

Special Edition Libya: Will the Libyan Rebels Hold On?

By Jay Holmes

Western governments have, thus far, declined to use any portion of their massive military superiority to intervene on behalf of the anti-Gadhafi rebels in Libya. It appears that, after their initial, timid response to the rebels, Gadhafi’s loyalists have used their limited military ability effectively against the rebels. As for the rebels, they have chosen a static defense against weapons that they cannot match. Their instincts were understandable, but, given their lack of firepower and training, that tactical decision has allowed Gadhafi to concentrate his attacking forces at the point and time of his choosing. The rebels’ failure to utilize mobility and flexibility has cost them dearly.

It appears (from my distant desk) that the West will not act with anything more than “condemnations” and embargoes. What did the President of the United States mean when he said that the noose was tightening? I can understand our apparent reluctance to act due to our inability to predict what might replace Gadhafi, but, if the US was not going to act, such statements would have been better off left unspoken.

Also, if France was not prepared to crush the Libyan Air Force, then why did Sarkozy choose to recognize as legitimate the leaders of a Libya rebel group that he was not ready to trust? I suspect the answer to this question is in Egypt and Tunisia rather than Libya. It is too easy for politicians and voters to assume that “Case A = Case B = Case C.” This natural and strong human instinct to generalize cases can lead to erroneous conclusions in formulating policy.

It appears that Obama overestimated the impact of his words on Gadhafi. I believe it is best to refrain from announcing hangings until we are sure that the intended victim will, indeed, be brought to the gallows. If the West continues to refrain from military support, and Gadhafi triumphs after being declared “on his way out,” it will constitute an “Arab victory” in the eyes of the Islamic propaganda machinery and those that listen to that machine’s output.

One of the more laughable responses to this dark comedy has come from NATO Command. NATO announced that it not only needs “support from the region” (they got that when the Arab League endorsed a no-fly zone) and an indication that a no-fly zone would help, but it also needs permission from the UN.

The time has come for me to unchain a monstrous question that I have kept locked up for years in my often incautious mouth. Since NATO cannot act without the UN, why is there a NATO, and how soon can we cut that massive expense from the US budget? I can accept NATO’s decision to act or not act. I cannot accept NATO’s declaration that it now takes orders from the UN.

When the Arab League decided to support the no-fly zone concept, their “support” apparently did not include actually lifting a finger for the people of Libya. The prevention of the slaughter of innocent Islamic women and children is apparently the responsibility of the non-Islamic West. So much for that much vaunted illusion of “Arab unity.” The Arab states appear to be united only in their intent on letting someone else take care of the problems faced by the people of Libya.

Given the level of brutality that Gadhafi has inflicted on Libyans in the past, the tribes that have taken part in the rebellion might see horrible reprisals. Gadhafi has much to lose by throwing off his “reformist” costume again and putting on his jackal costume. The West’s reluctance to act against him during the last seven years has been, in part, because he was willing to present to the world an almost believable facade of reform. If the rebels collapse, and Gadhafi opts for the “joy of vengeance,” the people of Benghazi might pay dearly for their military failure. This time, there may well be more than twenty dead at the soccer stadium. And, if a genocidal operation is conducted in Benghazi, Gadhafi will surely claim that the imaginary “outsiders” were the ones responsible.

The rebellion in Libya is not dead yet, but they are fast running out of options. Unless they quickly organize and change tactics, or the west decides to intervene, they will likely be doomed.

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Our Salute

On another topic, Piper and I salute the courageous power company workers and emergency responders in Japan. I lack the information and the expertise to quantify the actual risk, but the workers that are marching into the reactor to try to cool down the fuel reactor cores must be taking tremendous risks. Obviously, they are doing it in hopes of saving other people’s lives. I hope that I am mistaken, but I am very fearful about their prospects for survival.

If a massive evacuation of Tokyo becomes a reality, I wonder if it would be possible for some Japanese to relocate to the United States? If we look at the history of immigrants by nationality, it appears that, as a group, Japanese immigrants in the United States have a great record of becoming good neighbors and responsible citizens.

The reporting from Japan and the editorializing outside of Japan are both being pursued vigorously, so given my lack of expertise in civil defense matters in general and nuclear disasters in particular, I will restrain myself from further comment, other than to say that we offer our sympathy and our best hopes for the people of Japan.