LIBYA & THE COLLAPSE OF THE QADDAFI REGIME: ANOTHER 'L'ETRANGE DEFAITE'?
"In talks in London late Monday, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, met his French counterpart, Alain Juppé, who said last week that “one of the scenarios” to resolve the conflict in Libya “is that he stays in Libya on one condition, which I repeat: that he very clearly steps aside from Libyan political life.”
Previously, Britain had insisted that Colonel Qaddafi leave the country as part of a settlement. That could expose him to arrest under a warrant on war crimes charges issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
But, adopting a newer formula used by the State Department in Washington, Mr. Hague said on Tuesday that “what happens to Qaddafi is ultimately a question for the Libyans.”
“What is absolutely clear is that whatever happens, Qaddafi must leave power. He must never again be able to threaten the lives of Libyan civilians nor to destabilize Libya once he has left power.”
“Obviously him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear of Qaddafi,” Mr. Hague said. “But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine.”
After Mr. Juppé raised the idea last week, an Obama administration spokesman, Jay Carney, said Colonel Qaddafi “needs to remove himself from power — and then it’s up to the Libyan people to decide.”
The shift came as NATO maintained its four-month air campaign to support Libyan rebels by hampering pro-Qaddafi forces. The latest NATO attack was reported on Tuesday with a strike the previous day against targets near the town of Zliten east of Tripoli, the capital".
Alan Cowell, "Britain says Qaddafi Could remain in Libya." The New York Times. 26 July 2011, in www.nytimes.com.
"Reports of explosions and heavy gunfire in Tripoli on Aug. 20 indicate that rebel fighters may be beginning an attempt to lay siege on the Libyan capital with the aim of removing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Based on the limited information available so far and the immense complications entailed in trying to seize a metropolis like Tripoli, however, it does not appear that the rebels are in a position to wage a final assault against Gadhafi....
Though Gadhafi appears to be on the defensive, the challenges of laying siege to and then taking a city defended by forces that have had a significant amount of time to dig in and prepare for an attack cannot be understated. If Gadhafi can retain the loyalty of his remaining troops, the rebels will have a difficult time seizing the city".
Stratfor, "Libyan Rebels Closing in on Tripoli." Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 20 August 2011, in www.stratfor.com.
"TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Remnants of forces still loyal to Muammar Gaddafi staged a desperate stand in Tripoli on Tuesday as rebels fought their way into the capital, but the whereabouts of the veteran leader was a mystery....Rebels say they are now in control of most of Tripoli, a sprawling coastal city of two million people on the Mediterranean Sea, but it was not clear whether Gaddafi was still in the Libyan capital. Rebels swept into Tripoli two days ago in tandem with an uprising within the city. Reuters reporters saw firefights and clashes with heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, as rebels tried to flush out snipers and pockets of resistance. Hundreds seem to have been killed or wounded since Saturday. But Gaddafi tanks and sharpshooters appeared to hold only small areas, mainly around Gaddafi's heavily fortified Bab al-Aziziyah compound in central Tripoli".
Ulf Laessing & Missy Ryan, "Gadaffi on the run as rebels fight in Tripoli." Reuters. 22 August 2011, in www.reuters.com.
The sudden collapse of the Qaddafi regime in the past few days must rank as one of the more sudden and complete examples in history of how the balance of forces on the battlefield can change tout`a coup.As recently as three weeks ago (viz the New York Times report of pour-parlers from Paris & London about allowing Qaddafi to remain in power above), it was widely feared (by myself among others) that NATO's campaign had become bogged down and that there was every likelihood of the war continuing into the fall 1. The fact that even the American intelligence outfit, Stratfor was still issuing caveats on Saturday evening (EST), about the likelihood of the rebels being able to gain control of what then seemed Qaddafi's strong-hold of Tripoli would appear to show how quickly circumstances were changing on the ground. From a purely military standpoint it would appear that what occurred was that while the regimes forces were still able to hold-off the rebels in the East of the country, the advances made by the rebels in the mountains and hills to the south and west of Tripoli, both commenced and were a sign of the gradual collapse of the regime's forces. No doubt, the fact that supplies were gradually becoming more and more difficult to obtain as well as the fact that with the ever-present NATO air campaign, the regime's more efficient elements were becoming more and more degraded. Another variable, not easily predictable, but, I would surmise perhaps equally important was that the morale of the regimes forces were beginning to collapse. As the conflict's continuation led even the most loyal elements of the regime to begin to engage in sauve qui peut. Hence the veritable disappearance, beginning on Friday-Saturday of what was widely viewed as the strongest battlefield force in the entire country, regime or rebel: the Khamis brigade personally commanded by Qaddafi's own son Khamis. As Stratfor cogently notes to-day, the key issue of what occurred in Tripoli in the past few days is that the brigagde "put up almost no resistance as the rebels pushed eastward from Zawiya" 2. And while the regime is still holding-out in perhaps ten to fifteen percent of the city of Tripoli, the fact is that no one would have predicted the degree and scale of the rebel success at this time last week. Once again as the collapse of say Imperial Germany in October-November of 1918 or for that matter the 'strange defeat' of France in May-June 1940, questions of troop morale and loyalty rather than more empirical variables, will I believe be found to have been the key determinate of the resolution of the campaign 3.
1. For this see in addition to the above referenced report: Peter Grier, "Has Obama's approach to Libya been vindicated?" The Christian Science Monitor. 22 August 2011, in www.csmonitor.com.
2. Stratfor, "Libyan Rebels Immediate Security Concerns." Op cit.
3. The 'Strange Defeat' (Etrange Defaite) is of course the title of the great Annales historian Marc Bloch's contemporary (written in the summer of 1940, first published in 1946) study of the French collapse in May-June 1940. For a recent look at the causes of the German collapse in October-November 1918, see: David Stevenson, With our backs to the wall: Victory & Defeat in 1918. (Harvard University Press, 2011).