March 29th, 2011

On supporting the rebels and striking at a king

It’s not been a good day for the Libyan rebels, whoever they might be. Despite air support from the coalition, they have lost some ground.

Qaddafi has some words to say on their identity. There’s no reason to believe him, of course, although it would be highly ironic if he turned out in this case to be correct:

In an open letter to the international community, meanwhile, Gadhafi called for a halt to the “monstrous assault” on Libya and maintained that that the rebels were supported by the al-Qaida terrorist network.

“What is happening now is providing a cover for al-Qaida through airstrikes and missiles to enable al-Qaida to control North Africa and turn it into a new Afghanistan,” he said…

I wonder whether the Obama administration has pondered what would be the result if Qaddafi holds out. He has shown himself to be no stranger to the support of terrorism himself, and he might be even more strongly motivated to retaliate by supporting terrorism against Western countries who aided and abetted those who tried to unseat him. Have Obama and his advisers considered the old adage “when you strike at a king you must kill him” in deciding to go against Qaddafi without seeking his death?

[NOTE: I had long thought that quote came from Machiavelli or some other cynical realist who specialized in the study of the workings of power in the world. It surprised me to discover it was actually said by Ralph Waldo Emerson to Oliver Wendell Holmes, in response to an essay by the latter critiquing Plato.]

18 Responses to “On supporting the rebels and striking at a king”

  1. T Says:

    RE: Striking against kings. In the Byzantine Empire an attempt on the emperor’s life was seen in an almost bi-polar manner. If successful, it was considered the will of God and the assassin became the new emperor. If unsuccessful, it was seen as a violation of a sacral person, and the assassin was executed in a most brutal and horrific manner.

    In a more humanitarian manner as Napoleon is reputed to have said, “If you’re going to take Vienna, take Vienna!” Methinks this is a lesson that the naive and incompetent Obamadministration has yet to learn.

  2. Bryan Says:

    “If you shoot at a king, you must kill him” has long been one of my favorite quotes.

  3. LAG Says:

    ‘If you shoot at a king, you must kill him…and you can’t do it from the air.’

    All good students of war know that you control ground by standing on it. Afghanistan and Iraq before it have provided ample proof of this to anyone bright enough to pay attention.

    Afghanistan shows what can be done by a determined enemy in areas where their opponents 1) own the skies, the night, and everything else above the dirt; but 2) where they do not (yet) have grunts on the ground.

    Qaddafi may not have paid much attention before, but if he studies up a little bit he can teach our president an important lesson. All he needs to do is to dig in in depth across the Tripoli road; give up on tanks and similar targets; move lightly armed troops in civilian vehicles at night or bad visibility south around the rebels; infiltrate kill squads into towns behind the rebel lines; and carry on. Oil infrastructure in eastern Libya is probably pretty vulnerable, too.

    As an added bonus, he can infiltrate a few teams across the Tunisian border and on to ferries to Europe. Surely he has the cash and forged documents to make that work. A few public transport attacks later, the French etc may not be so keen on continuing the action. If he really wants to get creative, NATO HQ and military HQ are surrounded by civilian neighborhoods, the latter in a small town setting.

    This reverse, perhaps temporary perhaps not, may mark another turning point. Worth watching.

  4. Sergey Says:

    If Obama is serious about not to outreach UN mandate, the natural outcome will be divided country, as was the case with Kosovo and Georgia, and also Sudan. Then Cyrenaika will be permanently international (or US?) protectorate, while Tripolitania still will be under Qaddafi rule.

  5. Parker Says:

    No matter how this plays out, nothing good can come from Obama playing Pandora. If Qaddafi holds on he will be hell bent on revenge as LAG notes. If Qaddafi falls it is likely al Qaeda or some other jihad organization will eventually take control of the nation which of course includes its sweet oil, natural gas, lots of mustard gas, and who knows what else.

    Sergey says, “If Obama is serious… the natural outcome will be divided country.. ”

    I doubt we will see a divided Libya in the long run, it might happen for a while, but the blood lust is running high and IMO one side or the other will eventually prevail. Obama, Sarkozy, and Cameron don’t have the intestinal fortitude (nor the popular support) to put enough boots on the ground to prop up a separatist state in the east. As I see it, there is no way back for either side other than elimination of their enemy.

  6. br549 Says:

    I think Al Queda is backing the rebels. I believe down the road, radical Islam is going to take over the entire ball of wax.

  7. gs Says:

    So a win for the rebels seems a win for al Qaeda–and state-abetted terrorism. And Ghaddafi has no reason to continue refraining from terrorism if he wins.

    Ditto for WMD development.

    The Administration may have created a Hobson’s choice of outcomes unless it resorts to a full-blown occupation.

  8. Don Says:

    Ghaddafi wrote an opt ed in a western paper I read, about the Israel Palestinian conflict. It was surprisingly even handed and sane. His conclusion was botched–a two state solution–but if I didn’t know who was writing it, I would guess a typical moderate liberal.

    With this in mind, I suggest that his take on events there might actually be accurate.

  9. Don Says:

    As far as what will happen. I see three possibilities:

    1) Daffy wins. The rebels lose, as does their backers.

    2) The rebels win, and the result is a MB or al quaida (or similar) Islamist government.

    3) The rebels win and a reasonably secular and western government is the result.

    I see number 3 as the least likely result. We could improve the liklihood of 3 with troops on the ground. But that carries additional costs and other risks, and doesn’t ensure good results.

    This is all very interesting. My guess is Obama will result to hair dye soon.

  10. Mr. Frank Says:

    Where are the rebels getting their weapons and ammo from?

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    perhaps a shipment of tasers? :)

  12. blert Says:

    The sentiments come from Macbeth.

    If a thing is to be done, best it be done quickly.

    In this case the reference was to regicide.

  13. rickl Says:

    In this case the reference was to regicide.


  14. LAG Says:

    Consider this, a small town, rebel fighters sneak in, the local authorities run, and the rebels take control. Libya? No, Afghanistan on Tuesday.

    Why? “NATO said it had no forces at all in the district and would not comment on the incident, referring all questions to the Afghan Interior Ministry.”

    You have to be there. Libya is no different. Obama is trying to do on the cheap–it won’t work.

  15. armchair pessimist Says:

    Br549. I think so too. I think the US govt thinks so too. Lastly, I think this “war” is an effort to curry favor with the rising sun…or rather crescent. “See” The US is your friennnnd….” And then the Taliban will rush out to hug us, and the Iranians will say, gosh, guess we got you infidels all wrong… And, presto!, by starting just one little bitty war, we can end all of them. Clever people might well find this very seductive. Others less gifted would reply that we tried this in Kosovo and got 9/11 in return.

    The notion that with a little love and understanding they can turn toughest, most unredeemable characters into little lambs never fails to arouse liberals. It’s their porn.

  16. Rick Shaw Says:

    Libyan rebel leader admits links to Al Qaeda:

  17. Sergey Says:

    Victor Volsky nailed it:

  18. Steve D Says:

    As to who they might be I think you’ll find this recent Michael Totten interview interesting:

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