18 September 2011

Libya: Cowards' Bloody Hands

The civil war in Libya is not over. Former regime loyalists remain in control of a few towns, which the rebels are trying to take over. NATO strikes continue. There have even been clashes among rival rebel factions. The extent of the fighting is not too great, but the extent of hardship it continues to impose on civilians is. The regime of Moammer Gaddafi has been deposed, however, ending one phase of the war.

Intervening powers took the overthrow of Gaddafi as a vindication of their actions, but they really should not. It has not been forgotten that in the months when the rebels did not seem to be going anywhere their anxiety and self-doubt were plain to see. Literally within days of their bombing campaign the aggressors' bravado fizzled out. It quickly became apparent none of the intervening powers was willing to take center stage and take on the expectation it would take on whatever burden it took to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Even the three major powers involved told their domestic audiences they were merely one cog in a wide coalition and that they really were not doing all that much.

Furthermore Gaddafi's regime did not crumble under the weight of NATO bombs, it was brought down when Berber rebel fighters organized by an Al-Qaeda linked jihadist captured Tripoli from Gaddafi forces. Indeed they had NATO air support, but then nobody ever doubted effectiveness of aircraft when used as flying artillery in support of ground forces. It is using aircraft as strategic assets that has never failed to produce only dubious results. What can justify all those bombing raids against Tripoli when it was still far behind the front line, raids which certainly killed many civilians, when in the end the city was taken by a few hundred Berber fighters, some Al-Qaeda organizing skill and a little NATO close air support? Even if we were to accept an idiotic a premise that Libya under the NTC will be a land of milk and candy, and an utterly amoral premise that this is worth a certain number of civilian deaths, those civilians killed in pointless raids against cities hundreds of miles from where the fighting was still died for nothing.

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