Tripoli Is Not The End

Due in no small part to NATO support, support that remains up in the air to an extent, the Libyan rebels continue to advance, getting closer and closer to Tripoli.

Allow me to continue my patented “rain on the parade” when it comes to Libya.

Why, oh why, is Tripoli being treated as some kind of finish line? So, the rebels reach the capital of Libya, fight a very messy, Berlin-esque urban battle, and finally topple Ghaddafi’s regime (or, maybe they lack the infantry to actually do that, but the advance has been constant for a while now).

Then what? Is that the end of the fighting? Will pro-Ghaddafi elements lay down arms? How will rebel forces treat Tripoli civilians, those who have openly supported the dictator for the last few months? How will administration be handled in the changeover? What’s the plan?

I’ve seen this movie. It was called: “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.

There, it was all Baghdad. Get to Baghdad, take Baghdad, topple the regime, win. That insane, mindle3ss focus on the conventional conflict.

Then, several weeks of utter chaos in the capital, followed by several years of chaos at large.

I’m not seeing enough post-Ghaddafi planning for this operation. What I am seeing is a continuing lack of scrutiny for the “Transitional Council” and its armed forces. Do we take it on faith that they’re the “good guys”? Still?

NATO needs to be more clear about what it plans to do if and when Ghaddafi is no longer in the picture. Is it nothing, minimum interference, or full blown intervention? Will the west send more military advisors, more humanitarian aid? Will the west pressure for elections early? Will the west aid any continuing asymmetrical fight that wracks the country?

All of this of course, is dependent on continued American support, which resulted in this memorable “wag of the finger” from Robert Gates, and the use of Italian bases, a nation that is wobbling big time.

The mission has been blessedly free of western casualties so far, not counting several unfortunate journalists, but if that was to ever change…touch wood and hope we don’t see any crazy last throws of the dice from Ghaddafi (I’m wondering about chemical weapons), or western boots on the ground. But this intervention has always tried to steer clear from that. The west can’t commit too much, or this surrender to media opinion might become unpopular.

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