Thursday, March 31, 2011


The reality of the Libyan intervention is chaos: we’re not sure who’s who, or even which people are supposed to be good and which ones are competent. It appears that the rebels are not especially competent:
The revolution lacks an organised military structure in spite of several attempts to stamp its authority on the volunteer army. Discipline is bad. Few of the fighters have proper military experience and they would need training in the use of weapons such as artillery. But the revolutionaries have made a strong point of saying they do not want foreign troops on Libyan soil.

The revolution's de facto finance minister, Ali Tarhouni, claims that there are 1,000 trained fighters among the rebels but there is little evidence of it on the battlefield where the anti-Gaddafi forces appear capable of advancing only when the way is cleared by foreign air strikes.

The problem is not solely the rebels' lack of more powerful weapons. In the past two days their disorganisation has shown as they have been badly outmanoeuvred by better-trained forces that have outflanked them with sweeps through the desert. The revolutionaries lack any cohesive defensive plan. Instead they fire wildly at the enemy and argue among themselves about what to do next and who should be giving orders before turning and fleeing.

The New Yorker corroborates this account. I’m not sure—if Libyans are against foreign troops on the ground—how the rebels win. I’m not even sure how they avoid losing. There’s the “risk” part of the problem. The “upside” part is muddled too: if Egypt is going about banning strikes and generally clamping down, how much can we expect from a Libyan government? Do we even know who these people are?

Not every bad thing can be prevented, or is even worth trying to prevent.

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