The Rebels Yell: More, More More
Chris Matthews had Richard Engle in Tobruk on Hardball today talking about the Libyan rebels and their perspective on the war:
Matthews: What is going on in the war? Are we going after Qaddafi? What are we doing in this war, do we know?
Richard Engle: The rebels here think we have given them unconditional military support. Their only strategy seems to be allow the US and other military powers to scorch the earth and destroy Qaddafi's military so that they can make a very slow advance toward Tripoli.
They do see a humanitarian element to this because if Qaddafi's forces had been allowed to enter Benghazi or Tobruk there very likely would have been massacres, but now they think this rebel movement which has been leaderless and disorganized believes it has has been recognized and given the full support of the United States military.
Matthews: Are we giving arms of any kind? Small arms, artillery,armor, what are we giving to the rebels. Anything?
Engle: I have seen no evidence that we are giving the rebels anything. They seem to be holding the weapons that they seized from the units of Qaddafi that were destroyed by the Americans. Sometimes they're armed with just pocket knives...
The rebels are in two groups. There are the volunteers, they seem to be a little bit braver, they're the ones heading out to the front lines. They're not having a lot of success. That's one group. The other are the divisions of the army, formerly Qaddafi's army, that defected. And they are not really doing much of anything.
In Tobruk today, we went to the main army command to talk to one of the top generals here who had supposedly joined the rebellion. He was at home today and had taken the day off.
He went on to describe the rebels as being completely disorganized and leaderless, without any kind of strategy or useful tactics at their disposal.
Matthews then asked if the rebels believe we are "going for the kill, Qaddafi:"
Engle: they hope so and that's what they want. They seem to think there could be a few ways to end this conflict. The US could continue to trailblaze for them and scorch the earth so they can move forward. They think they can reach Tripoli in a short amount of time, perhaps weeks or a few months. Or if there's enough pressure, there could be some sort of coup in Tripoli and someone could come out and assassinate Qaddafi. Or the third option would be that one of these missiles comes and actually kills Qaddafi. If none of those things happen there could be a long stalemate. Once the US starts this, once the US and other powers begin to provide the rebels with a safe haven and air cover it's very hard to take that away. Because if you're offering your protection and they try to advance, they will advance, and you take that air cover away, the rebels are very likely to start losing again and we're back to the situation where we were and the main cities being threatened with being overrun.
Again, hope for somethi9ng decisive to happen fast or we are well and truly stuck.
The New Republic endorses the action but publishes a compelling dissent by Michael Walzer.
This article by Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy is also interesting and somewhat uncomfortable, I'd imagine, for liberal interventionists. It's not as shocking as one might think. After all, the original neocons all started out as liberal interventionists back in the day.
Finally this piece by Michael Cohen indicting the White House for its seeming incoherence takes Hillary Clinton specifically to task, which seems fair. She is the secretary of State. However, while Clinton threw her weight behind the decision in the end and may have been the tipping point, it sounds to me as if the real force behind the decision was Samantha Power, the woman who was fired from the campaign for publicly calling Clinton a monster. That's not surprising considering Power's background and interests.
But in the end blaming people in the administration is evading the reality that Obama isn't Bush the dizzy Dauphain being led around by the nose by his Machiavellian advisors. He's an active, engaged president and he made the decision, reportedly from a wide range of advice. The buck stops with him.
Update: Jonathan Schwarz looks at the lessons that other tyrants may take from this and they are not what you might think they are.