With less than a month left in the Arab Spring turned Chaos Summer, it looks like Libya is the next North African domino. Gaddafi and his sons are almost certainly on the run, if not overrun already. The latest images from Tripoli show some local guy playing with Muammar’s hat. With that in hand, can the owner’s head be far behind? Meanwhile, this season’s journalists are looking quite jaunty in flak jackets and steel helmets. I’m waiting for one of the girls to undo her chin strap and go trend setter tres cas, a la John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima. The sound bytes coming out of the Rixos have a ninth inning World Series feel about them. They’ve pre-concluded the final score, but are still reporting the game anyway. Unfortunately, nobody on the business end of a microphone can name any of the players except Muammar and his boys. This is going to leave a lot of room for error once it’s time to start handing out the trophies. If I sound a little cynical, it’s merely because I am.
I’ll admit I was wr-wr-wr, not right when I said that the stalemate in Libya would outlast NATO’s patience for battle. (Frankly, I still think Western Political Will has a 90 day warranty, and after that, you’re on your own.) However, in my defence Western airpower has more shock and awe than the UN bargained for. Either that or NATO took my advice from an earlier blog, forgot about Resolution 1973, and started blasting away at hot targets. Personally, I’m leaning towards door #2 because the t-shirt and running shoe rebels I see on television don’t look like they could put much of a lickin’ on seasoned soldiers. The fact remains, however, the rebels, whoever they are, are winning, and they’re doing it without overt NATO boots on the ground.
So, why so cynical when the major components of the people’s victory are already whooping it up in Green, Martyrs’ Square?
First of all, I have this sneaking suspicion that it’s not over yet. Muammar is a tricky old bugger. He didn’t last 40 years plus by folding his tent and fading away every time Western jets came screaming out of the Gulf of Sidra. And just because some teenagers are playing with his golf cart doesn’t mean he’s going to retire from the game. Until somebody puts his head on a spike – oops – detains him to face justice under international law – and quickly – there are going to be a lot more dead bodies bleaching out in the desert.
Next, I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out who’s who in the rebel army. Somehow, I don’t believe the bakers and barbers of Benghazi have the kind of tactical military skill to liberate Libya in less time than it took Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Korps to conquer it. Nor do I think that your average shopkeeper, under the Gaddafi regime, kept an AK over the mantel, much less enough ammunition for a sustained campaign. FYI, North Americans, believe it or not, just because you’re an Arab doesn’t mean you instinctively know how to use automatic weapons. (It’s not in the DNA.) So just who are these guys and where do they come from? As a veteran taxpayer, I’d like to know who my million dollar-a-whack bombs are going to support. What’s their agenda? And are we just trading an old 20th century dictator for the new and improved 21st century model?
My biggest concern, however, is for when “the tumult and the shouting dies;/The Captains and the Kings depart:” — six months from now. Unlike Hugo Chavez, I don’t think this is yet another Western plot to seize Third World oil resources and sell them back to ourselves at exorbitant prices. No. Basically, the Europeans saw an opportunity to smack a $39.95 dictator who’s been making a fool of them for years, and they took it. The oil is an extra added attraction. NATO’s interest in Libya is limited, and I don’t think it includes rebuilding the place, now that we’ve blown it up.
The problem is that, even if the Libyan rebels are the soul of democracy, as we’re being led to believe by the flak jackets at Rixos, they’re going to have a hard time implementing it. Without a lot more help from the folks who brought them unlimited military aid, the Libyans are in for another bad fight for freedom — that could take years. Either that, or the West is going to have to pitch in with some ever-unpopular “nation building,” and I don’t think we have the stick-to itness for that.
There is some hope for the future, though. It’s good to see another one of the nasties, bite the dust and the aspirations of a people overcome the bayonets of a tyrant. There is hope for democracy in the sands of North Africa — even if it is a long and difficult road. Besides, if we’re smart, when this is all over (in a month or two?) NATO can stand down, relax and rearm. Then, we can take a good, long look at Damascus and say, “Okay, Bashar! Shape up and fly right, or you’re next. Remember what happened to the last guy who pissed us off!”