Editorial - Pot boils over - Monday, March 21, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=37237&Cat=8

Cruise missiles launched from surface ships and submarines hit radar and fire control systems. Fighter-bombers knocked out tanks and the Libyan War, 2011, got under way in what has become traditional manner late on Saturday. There is a pattern to modern warfare – first the air attacks to degrade enemy defences, then a pause to see if the enemy feels like offering terms and if he does then diplomacy steps in. If not, more aerial bombardment and eventually ground forces follow. The relatively recent tool of an air exclusion zone such as that now in place over large parts of Libya, has proved to be of mixed utility. It was last used by NATO in Serbia in an attempt to dislodge Slobodan Milosevic – and it took 78 days of almost continual bombardment before he caved in. Colonel Qaddafi is a man no less convinced of the rightness of all he says and does than was Milosevic, and some might consider him as, if not more, deluded than the Serbian leader. The difference this time is that the Americans, and everybody else involved in this difficult enterprise, have said a firm ‘no’ to boots on the ground. Whatever comes next is going to have to be Libyan in its origin and direction. There will be support from the coalition but none of the partners want to find themselves with another Iraq or Afghanistan hanging around their annual defence budgets.

No commentator or analyst is yet projecting how long this initial phase may last. If Qaddafi loyalists decide that they are not on the winning side they may switch, desert their leader and lay down their arms if they are a fighting force. Conversely, they may decide that a last-ditch stand is the way to go and fight to the bitter end. Perhaps the option that lies between these two is the one that is least desirable – a divided Libya with Qaddafi still ruling most of the west and the opposition nurturing some sort of infant democracy supported by the coalition of the willing nations, in the east. Whatever the outcome there is in the forces ranged against Libya a quite remarkable uniformity and agreement. Organisations not normally noted for either unity or swift decision-making have stepped up to the plate. By late on Sunday afternoon the Organisation of Islamic conferences (OIC) had moved off the fence and said that it supported the Arab League and the UN Resolution 1973. Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar amongst others were present at the mission planning conference in Paris last Saturday. The Arabs may not be providing much beyond moral support and logistics, but that they are on board for this operation, and so strongly supportive of it, is significant. The Arab states are themselves in ferment, and there is little that is certain any more. Libya had few if any friends who were key Arab players, which may make it easier for Arab states to openly support the air strikes, but for many of those supporting the coalition forces today instability is gnawing away at their own vitals. There is growing unrest in Syria, Bahrain has boiled over and a massacre in Yemen after Friday prayers leaves that country teetering on the brink. This is a time of unprecedented change, with history set to ‘fast forwards’. Qaddafi could yet survive, but even if he does the Libya of last week is not the Libya of tomorrow.

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