Gaddafi’s forces are continuing retake ground from the rebels in eastern Libya, and only one town now stands between Gaddafi and the rebel stronghold Benghazi.
Over the past week, Libya has been the main conversation topic among my expat friends here in Kabul. Our conversations have gone something like this:
“Damn. It looks like Gaddafi is going to win.”
“That madman is going to make good on his promises to slaughter the opposition. There’s going to be a bloodbath. The international community needs to immediately impose a no fly zone.”
“But a no fly zone is unlikely to do much good at this point, because Gaddafi is relying more heavily on tanks and artillery.”
“Well, we should amend the arms embargo, so the rebels can buy better weapons.”
“Even if that were easy — it’s not– the rebels are mostly ordinary young people. They’re having trouble using anything more complicated than a Kalashnikov, and friendly fire injuries are rife in the hospitals in Libya’s east. Bigger, more powerful weapons aren’t going to help. “
“I guess we’re back to a no fly zone!”
“Except that imposing a no fly zone won’t do much, and inherently begs the question ‘what next?'”
“So… we should consider the possibility of sending troops?”
“No, because the Libyan rebels and the rest of the Arab publics are firmly against that. The deployment of Western troops to any Arab country is going to evoke painful memories of Iraq, and popular rage against the United States and its allies.”
“But the rebels are already mad at the West for NOT doing more to help them.”
“If the Libyan revolution is brutally crushed, the pro-democracy movements in the rest of the region will be halted and the narrative will be ‘The brave Libyan youth were massacred as the West stood idly by.'”
“The US and NATO cannot be the perpetual fail-safe. The Arab League and the African Union need to take some responsibility.”
“Oh yeah, like the Arab League or the AU will do anything but talk. Gimme a break. Their member governments are watching Al Jazeera and sweating.”
There are non-military steps the rest of the world can take to support the rebels. Governments can recognize the rebels’ council in Benghazi as the legitimate government of Libya and isolate Gaddafi.
Gaddafi won’t care. It’s not like he’s ever going to be attending swanky trade summits after this, no matter what he does now.
“I need another drink.”