Everyone knew this to some extent, but to hear the actual numbers is still shocking. Video at Hot Air. The reporter making the claim is Jon Lee Anderson, who is on the ground in Libya and has evidently been out among the rebels. I’m not terribly familiar with Anderson, but a scan around shows that he has done some serious reporting from the war zones over the past few years. He’s not a rookie.
Anderson estimates that the number of actual, effective soldiers in the rebellion is in the “low hundreds,” and they’re augmented by a force of “foolhardy young men with guns” numbering about 1500. This is the force that the West has put its prestige on the line to back? We’re expecting to defeat Gaddafi’s antiquated but Soviet-trained professional army, estimated to number about 76,000 with a reserve of 40,000, with this ragged force of Mad Max extras? Really?
If Anderson is right and the rebellion really is so feeble, the way I see it from several thousand miles away admittedly, is that we have about three options. One, forcefully target and get Gaddafi soon. He’s very unlikely to take a deal to head to Uganda imho, though I’d love to be surprised. The longer the ping-pong drags on (and the rebels are apparently serving today, at least in Brega) the more degraded that rebellion will get, the higher the price of oil will get, and the weaker the coalition will get. Few Western hearts are in this, and Gaddafi knows it. Two, put an actual US expeditionary force on the ground and pound Gaddafi’s army to dust, take Tripoli, install a friendly government and get out. Or three, get out and let the war take its own natural course, warning Gaddafi that we have amphibious carriers bristling with Marines and lethal aircraft right off the coast, and if he acts up, he eats high explosives. And in the mean time, we have CIA operatives on the ground working to weaken and eventually remove him. Having crossed the Rubicon, there is no going back to the status quo ante.