28 February 2011

Could Gaddafi Still Win...?

Perhaps the better question is: 
"can rag-tag rebels take Tripoli anytime soon?"

He's lost 3/4 of Libyan territory... army desertions rampant... international community now attempting to employ the stage-hook... so how's the 'mad dog of the Middle East'
still hanging on? 

First, there's a real reason the Libyan Army can't solve this all as cleanly as was done in Egypt: distrusting military officers like himself who possess the desire -and ability- to stage coups,
Col Gaddafi long ago emasculated his own army, rendering them largely unable to topple him.  They possess the oldest weapons, have limited intelligence capabilities, and number a mere 50,000 men. This brings the dawning realization of what Gaddafi meant last week by "this is not Egypt, this is not Tunisia."

And while many have been encouraged by pictures of soldiers joining up with the protesters, defections to this point have been along tribal lines- not something entirely unexpected. The fact is that there's simply no unitary, disciplined military force in Libya today with the ablity to quickly push Gaddafi aside...

The Air Force is a bit more impressive and loyal than the ground troops, and outside of a couple well-publicized defections, most of them have shown no compunction whatsoever in buzzing, bombing, strafing civilian protesters on the orders of the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution (brothers can be cruel... but this is something else).

And Col Gaddafi has clearly been planning for this eventuality for decades... all the pieces are in place: support now comes from fiercely loyal militias and armed "revolutionary committees" who are -as the last line of defense- sworn to Gaddafi and/or his sons personally, as well as co-opted tribes and black African mercenaries. All these parties have a large personal stake in the outcome and are willing to kill almost anyone to protect it. This motivation also applies to the foreign fighters...there's surely little good waiting for them back in Chad. 

At the vanguard of pro-Gaddafi forces is 5th son Khamis Gaddafi and his crack special forces unit, one that's already played a large part in putting down unrest in the capitol- and in the most ruthless fashion imaginable. Khamis Gaddafi is cut from a different cloth than his international playboy brothers: trained at a top Russian military academy, he's the one who hired black African mercenaries who really don't mind shooting Libyans... unlike many of the army regulars. 

Alas, Moammar Gaddafi himself has got little to lose at this point: after unleashing air power and even naval shelling upon protesters, he surely faces war crimes charges at The Hague... provided that he even makes it out of the country alive. It's now down to kill or be killed... a no-brainer for a bloodthirsty megalomaniac like this one. 

Both the old man and his son/spokesman Saif al-Islam have stated publicly that they'll fight to the death, with "rivers of blood", etc.- and I believe them. How much of the country they drag into the abyss -or if Gaddafi manages to turn the tide- is most of what remains in doubt. 

Actually, some experts see Gaddafi already winning. And if not, he'll arm allied tribes if he has to... likely leading to a bloody civil war. Seems logical to expect some sort of Gaddafi military offensive in the coming week, before any aid reaches the rebellious east.

And hey, it's not like he doesn't have any friends left...

On the rebel side, things have gone quite well to this point, and they've even been pledged US support over the weekend. What a shame it is that the kiss-of-death has arrived in the form of an Obama endorsement. I sure hope they're not aware of the implications in that- guy sure knows how to pick a loser.