So, we win in Libya right?
No, not really. What we have here is a bizarre situation, the eventual outcome of which is mired in uncertainty.
Gaddafi is a shrewd enough operator. He knows that with this UN resolution he stands to lose a fair a amount of ordinance if he persisted with his attacks towards Benghazi, though he still might have won out. So, he calls a ceasefire.
He knows now that the west will not attack him, or if they do that he can legitimately paint them as the aggressors. It isn’t clear what the limits of this no-fly and no-drive zone are, so it’s possible he will still be able to move troops up to a point outside the rebel held areas. The bottom line is that he’s still there, and still strong on the ground.
The rebels hold their ground, but they are still underequipped, outnumbered and in a terrible strategic position. They can’t take the offensive anymore without outside help.
The west has this resolution to uphold, but with not much of a reason to enforce it anymore.
So, how long will this last? How long is the west willing to devote to stopping Gaddafi from finishing this?
Because that is the key question. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Gaddafi is doing. He’s playing for time and it looks like he will succeed. He waits until the worlds media attention, a very key reason for this ill-advised intervention, picks somewhere new to focus on and get outraged about.
Then, as the western military threat dissipates, he snuffs the rebels, already hanging precariously to survival, out for good. What happens if Gaddafi takes Benghazi? Will the west maintain the NFZ then?
Or, will we see UN peacekeepers committed on the ground? Not far beyond the realms of the possible anymore. And thus, we will have moved from a rebellion the west had no interest getting involved in and didn’t especially care about (politically anyway) to having boots on the ground.
Just what is the endgame here? I see three possibilities/ Gaddafi bides his time and ends the threat at a future date when the west doesn’t care anymore. The wets goes all out, arms the rebels and starts bombing Tripoli in order to take out Gaddafi, hoping it all goes OK. Or Libya splits into east and west, with the UN in the middle.
Of course, this might all be so much bluster from Gaddafi. Maybe he’s just talking nonsense and will continue the offensive regardless, this latest PR stunt just designed to further his propaganda.
Just remember, the key points have not changed:
-The west still has no strategic interest in the area.
-The rebels are still unknown in their long term goals and political agenda (Libya’s primary export in recent years has been suicide bombers and insurgents).
-There are still plenty of similar situations around the world that the UN is conveniently ignoring. Like Bahrain for example.
Anyway, I’m happy that western troops will not be risking their lives in this foolhardy operation (for the moment anyway). I’m still worried about future decisions, about the possible commitment of troops. And you know that if that happens, Irish soldiers will be there, risking their lives in a fight that the free world should never have gotten involved in, in the first place.
If the aim of this resolution was to protect the rebels it has partially succeded but not in a long-term way. If the aim is to force Gaddafi out, it is a failure, so far, and it will continue to be a failure unless the west chooses to commit troops.