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March 31, 2011

Oh No: Libyan Rebels Number Less Than 1,000, According to One Reporter
Plus, Grim Tidings: Is Qadaffy Preparing a War-Winning Abdication In Favor of His Daughter?

Via Jim Geraghty, the reporter also says as far as actual "soldiers" the number's still lower.

Even with NATO (Sasha Fierce!) acting as their air force the rebels are still unable to take and hold territory.

Libyan rebels fled in headlong retreat from the superior arms and tactics of Muammar Gaddafi's troops on Wednesday, exposing the insurgents' weakness without Western air strikes to tip the scales in their favor.

...

The Libyan army first ambushed the chaotic caravan of volunteers, supporters and bystanders outside Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, then outflanked them through the desert, a maneuver requiring the sort of discipline the rag-tag rebels lack.

The rebels had advanced, their pathway cleared by missiles, but Qadaffy's mercenary ground forces then just ejected them again.

A video report by Jake Tapper shows the retreating (running, really) rebels, and notes the CIA is "on the ground" in Libya and ready to help.

On that last point -- that sure seems like a politically helpful leak which is strategically harmful. Obama hands want to show the public they're "serious" so they put that out there. But if they were really serious, and not just trying to make a show of it, wouldn't that be withheld?

The world continues to ponder arming the rebels (um, what is there to ponder? You've chosen sides and chosen war and now you're going to refuse them weapons?), but if there are so few rebels, lacking any kind of battlefield discipline, what sort of weapon can help them?

Via Hot Air, Qadaffy's shelling the last western rebel-held town of Misrata...

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shelled the rebel-held city of Misrata on Thursday and dozens of civilians have been killed in the past few days when their homes were hit, a rebel spokesman said.

Misrata, the last big rebel strong-hold in western Libya, has been encircled by pro-Gaddafi forces for weeks and repeated Western air strikes aimed at protecting civilians there have not so far succeeded in halting the attacks.

... and Qadaffy is now arming pick-up trucks with light weapons, hoping they won't draw the attention of NATO jets but will get the job done.

And the Vatican is confirming 40 civilian casualties in NATO airstrikes on Tripoli.

Now, if Obama has in fact arrived far too late and backed a losing cause, he's going to have to face a serious dilemma.

1. "Americanize" the war and win what the indigenous forces cannot.

2. Allow the rebels to lose in a war in which American prestige has been put into play.

I know how most presidents have answered this dilemma -- they've gone with 1. Since "Who Lost China?" was a potent political question in 1949-1950, American presidents have tended to become personally, egotistically, self-interestedly determined not to have a "loss" on their record (in addition to the better reasons for fighting a war), and have committed the US to slow-walking escalation and increasing direct involvement when faced with such a loss.

At first I didn't think this was a major worry because Obama is by nature a pacifist and the left would truly abandon him (I think) if he actually gave the order to inject American ground-fighters into a war of sketchy importance.

On the other hand, he is also a very vain man with what seems to be a messiah complex. And he's a political animal to his core.

I am now worried that if the rebels can't take the country (and it seems as if they can't) Obama will find himself justifying the deployment of ground troops into another country, not because it's vital to the national security, but just because he wants to seem "tough" in November 2012.

And on that note -- since Obama will not be able to run on his domestic accomplishments (it seems), the New York Times is suggesting he run as a "foreign policy president" in 2012.

A foreign policy president needs W's, doesn't he?

I supported an intervention on the premise that our involvement would be limited, and that we would, in fact, be willing to walk away if a limited intervention wasn't enough to win the war. That is, that we took a more grown-up attitude about it, calculated our exact level of desired involvement and refused to go any higher than this, and had the discipline, like a professional gambler, to fold the hand if it wasn't a winner. And not just keep pouring more money into the pot, hoping to get lucky.

I don't think Obama is wise or disciplined or mature, but I was counting on his basic pacifism to serve as a proxy for those virtues and keep our involvement in the skies.

I'm less confident of that now.

If the rebels are as few and undisciplined as it seems the only way to win the war is by lobbing a missile right on Qadaffy's head. And even that won't end the war, necessarily, because it's not Qadaffy's charisma and brains that keeps him in power, but the billions in gold from oil he's sitting on, and if he dies, presumably his son and daughter just start signing the mercenaries' checks.

And on top of that, it's not easy to hit a person with a missile. I remember during the War in Iraq that for a period of weeks we kept getting reports that we may have hit Hussein, but the missile was always just a little late, or the intelligence a little stale.

Here's a nightmare scenario I'm now worried about:

Qadaffy is now deploying his "sexy" blonde daughter Aisha as a sort of Arabic Joan of Arc to rally troops.

Aisha, dubbed the Claudia Schiffer of North Africa, is known for her designer sunglasses and supermodel looks...

The mum-of-three has been stripped of her role as a UN Goodwill Ambassador because of her support for her brutal dad.

The rumoured death of one of her closest brothers, Khamis, 27, last week is said to be behind her rallying call.

Aisha has hated the West ever since she was nine, when her adopted sister Hanna was killed by a US air raid on Tripoli as they slept. Since then Aisha, who married her cousin Ahmed al-Gaddafi al-Qahsi in 2006, has spoken out in support of the IRA and worked as a lawyer for former Iraq tyrant Saddam Hussein.

Here's a fetching picture of her, with the troops:

Other pictures make me wonder who should be more insulted by the phrase "the Claudia Schiffert of North Africa," Claudia Schiffert or North Africa? All I can think is that I'm at a country club mixer and Rodney Dangerfield just said "last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it."

But here's how Qadaffy can win the war:

Abdicate and place his daughter in the presidency, or whatever they call Tyrant for Life there.

What would the West do? Would we attempt to kill a mother of three that's supposedly pretty?

Wouldn't that move be a coalition-defeating ploy? Couldn't they claim that constitutes a "compromise," in as much as Qadaffy himself is out of power and, supposedly, "reforms" can now proceed, and wouldn't the Arab League desert us at that point? (For all that counts for, which isn't much.)

I'm wondering if Qadaffy isn't raising his daughter's profile and getting her headlines calling her "Woman of War" in order to execute just this ploy.

And what do we do then?

And check out Aisha's psychological profile -- she hates the West because Reagan's airstrike on her father killed her sister, and she supports the terrorist IRA and worked as a lawyer for all-around champion democrat Saddam Hussein.

Worst of all possible worlds?

Contingency Plan: Waterhouse points out that, as it looks currently, Qadaffy can probably win this thing militarily, so he probably doesn't need to resort to my tricksy tyrant-swap-out.

That's a good point. But in that case I suggest it as his Plan B. I mean, I don't suggest it in the sense I'm trying to give the guy useful advice. I mean, I speculate that this might be a contingency plan.


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posted by Ace at 12:40 PM

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