"Hope and Change" or "Bait and Switch"

The LA Times says that the Libyan rabbles are now open to negotiating with Khadaffi.

After refusing for weeks to negotiate with Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, the top representative of the rebel movement here offered a cease-fire if Kadafi withdraws his forces from besieged Libyan cities and permits peaceful protests.

The offer came from Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, leader of the opposition national council, after meeting with a United Nations envoy to Liyba, Abdelilah Al-Khatib.


ABC News says that military analysis now fear that the withdrawal of US firepower and its replacement by other assets may mean that Khadaffi’s opponents are doomed.

They fear that without U.S. willingness to go after Gadhafi’s troops and equipment from the air, and without U.S. ground controllers pinpointing targets, that the effort to shield the rebels will fail.

“The idea that the AC-130s and the A-10s and American air power is grounded unless the place goes to hell is just so unnerving that I can’t express it adequately,” said Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. “The only thing I would ask is, please reconsider that.”

Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates wondered out loud whether the NATO airstrikes can succeed without the U.S. in the lead.

In my post, Can NATO Topple the Khadaffi Regime? I wrote:

Yes, if it can impose a blockade lasting several months, is willing to risk to risk the destruction of Libyan oil, and can eventually deploy UAVs over Libya. But the the worst thing they can do is let the fighting drag on, because it will almost inevitably lead to a humanitarian crisis in Libya.

The major problem facing NATO is that the rebels have been driven too far east to secure the facilities and the pipelines which take the product to the coast (see map below). To avoid permanently splitting the country along some kind of No-Man’s Land, it is not enough for the rebels to stop Khadaffi at the gates of Benghazi; they must drive west far enough to take the infrastructure from the Duck of Death. Only then can Libya be reconstituted as a single political entity.


But the administration wasn’t willing to do that. It was unwilling to up the ante to the point where a decisive result could be obtained. It vacillated between “regime change” and “civilian protection”. It would aim for the former, but only go as far as the latter. In its last hours both were simultaneously enunciated as part of a “dual track strategy”. But the political oscillations were nothing as compared to the fragmented military strategy. The US, which provided the bulk of the firepower of NATO would lead the way but it would not finish the job. It was like listening to someone express a desire to buy something, but not to pay for it.

Khadaffi, old and addled as he was, clearly interpreted Obama’s strategy for what it was. A gigantic bluff. The Great Messiah would huff and puff until the Duck’s house was down. But the Great Messiah had asthma, an asthma that gave himself. Obama had all the advantages of strength and power over Khadaffi. But Obama was overmatched in one crucial thing. Khadaffi was smarter than he was. Not by just a little, but by a margin so great that it is embarrassing.

How did he get in over his head?

Victor Davis Hanson’s theory is essentially that the Obama administration psyched itself into this error, first by imagining itself as the leader from behind the teleprompter of the Arab Wave, and second by thinking that by applying a little nudge here and nudge there they could remake the region. Egypt was the first gentle step, but the second step was a doozy.


Second, Europe “pushed” him by upselling what was essentially their idea. Like a salesman who sees a customer returning again and again to a certain display case, Sarkozy pretended to buy the product beside it and by panicking the buyer who now imagined someone else would get his coveted item, sold him the paste in the jewelry display case.

What visions momentarily danced in Barack’s head? Immortal fame was there for the taking. I remember wondering, “why did he think the UN NFZ resolution was ‘historical’?” And now I think I know. Perhaps there the sirens three, Hillary, Samantha and Susan beckoning him onward in the backgound. “Fame, fame!”

But for whatever reason, he stretched out his hand and … it all fell apart. The lights dimmed and certain gentleman of taste flashed up before him with a document already signed and notarized by one of the 10,000 lawyers in hell. “You,” the gentleman said, “have chosen poorly.” The administration hastened to return the paste, but the money had already changed hands.

Now we have buyer’s remorse. Like the man who went into a clip joint and walked out with nothing to show for his money but a black eye and bad case of the clap. Now the finger-pointing begins. Here’s how it begins, “it’s Bush’s fault”.

But that is not the worse of it. The guys who are really going to get pounded here is whoever trusted in America. The Libyan rabbles are still human beings who hoped for freedom, but didn’t know what it would cost.


Which brings us to lesson number one for revolutionaries all over the world. Never, ever, on any account or for whatever reason trust the politicians in Washington DC when they say they will stand with you to the end. Not even when they are Republicans, but most especially when they are Democrats.

Win on your own steam and Washington will come in. Lose and you’re finished. Nobody will know you. Most especially those who only recently claimed to be your fast friends. That is the sad way of the world. Aim straight and the world aims with you. Miss and, boy, you’re on your own.

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Kevin Drum described his trust of Obama’s judgement at Mother Jones.

If it had been my call, I wouldn’t have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust him, and I still do.

So how’s that working out for me?

How is it working out for you? Looks like Louis Farrakhan is going to get to keep the $8 million he borrowed from his friend Khadaffi. The Minister had one big thing going for him in his selection of whose judgement to trust. A degree from the school of hard knocks. Khadaffi has responded to the offer to negotiate with a succinct answer: no negotiations; we are the government and we’re coming for you. Be glad, be ever so glad, Kevin, that you’re not a Libyan rabble.


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