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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Libya's Lessons, and Sundry Info on Gadhafi and the War

LESSONS

According to George Friedman in STRATFOR, it's too early to declare victory in Libya, but not too early to draw lessons from what has already happened. The following excerpt from Friedman's article,  Libya: A Premature Victory Celebration, is republished with permission of STRATFOR

First, it is important to remember that Libya in itself may not be important to the world, but it matters to Libyans a great deal. Second, do not assume that tyrants lack support. Gadhafi didn’t govern Libya for 42 years without support. Third, do not assume that the amount of force you are prepared to provide is the amount of force needed. Fourth, eliminating the option of a negotiated end to the war by the means of international courts may be morally satisfying, but it causes wars to go on and casualties to mount. It is important to decide what is more important — to alleviate the suffering of people or to punish the guilty. Sometimes it is one or the other. Fifth, and most important, do not kid the world about wars being over. After George W. Bush flew onto an aircraft carrier that was emblazoned with a “mission accomplished” banner, the Iraq war became even more violent, and the damage to him was massive. Information operations may be useful in persuading opposing troops to surrender, but political credibility bleeds away when the war is declared over and the fighting goes on.

Gadhafi will likely fall in the end. NATO is more powerful than he is, and enough force will be brought to bear to bring him down. The question, of course, is whether there was another way to accomplish that with less cost and more yield. Leaving aside the war-for-oil theory, if the goal was to protect Benghazi and bring down Gadhafi, greater force or a negotiated exit with guarantees against trials in The Hague would likely have worked faster with less loss of life than the application of soft military power.

As the world contemplates the situation in Syria, this should be borne in mind.

SUNDRY INFO

For a handy guide to Gadhafi's immediate family--who are they, and where are they now--check out Reuters.  And for a map tracking recent developments, check out the Washington Post.