Libya is free from Kadafi, so what’s Next? Peace? Or more Blood?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 27th, 2011

Living in Peace is one Advantage of an Oppressive Dictatorship 

Tripoli has fallen.  Kadafi‘s days are numbered.  Now it’s time for a glorious rebirth.  And peace.  If they can make peace.  And keep it (see Some fear post-revolution Libya may look like Iraq by Borzou Daragahi posted 8/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Although young men protect their own neighborhoods, major institutions such as banks, ministries and historic sites remain relatively unprotected. A number of banks and commercial towers have been thoroughly looted. Law enforcement is left in the hands of rebel fighters, some of whom had never been to their country’s capital.

Young men continue to pillage military sites abandoned by Kadafi’s men, carting away huge stores of weapons, just as Iraqis hauled off guns and explosives later used to make car bombs and launch attacks on Iraqi and U.S.-led forces.

Stores of weapons in the hands of angry young men?  Rarely does that end well.  And rarely does lawlessness just spontaneously turn into lawfulness.  Put the two together (angry young men with weapons and lawlessness) and what do you get?  Woe to anyone that is identified as a loyalist.

Reports also have begun to surface of reprisal killings of suspected loyalists, although few accounts could be fully verified given the chaos and lack of communications in Tripoli…

More obvious right now is the visceral violence of rebel forces hammering away at residential neighborhoods known to be strongholds of Kadafi supporters.

Rebel fighters use artillery and antiaircraft guns in such districts, which include Abu Salim, Hadba and Salahadin. At one point this week, rebels were firing assault rifles into residential apartment blocks in Abu Salim, where they suspected a sniper was holed up.

Civil wars tend to be the cruelest of wars.  And the bloodiest.  They split up neighborhoods.  And families.  With vengeance often being the battle cry.  For these aren’t soldiers on a distant battlefield who don’t know each other.  This is far more personal.  It’s typically someone you know killing someone you know.  And what makes it especially cruel is that before the war these were people you called friends.  Or family.  This kind of killing unleashes an indescribable hatred.  And searing anger.  Hence the vengeance.

Members of the district council insisted that the men had taken up arms against the revolution and were being held pending trial. But they also said some of those arrested included people pulled out of their cars at checkpoints because they looked “suspicious,” often code for dark-skinned Libyans and others of sub-Saharan African descent…

Said one Tripoli taxi driver, “I have a fear that one day we’ll be like Iraqis, wishing for the days of Moammar Kadafi.”

As bad as Saddam Hussein was, at least he kept the peace.  That’s the advantage of an oppressive dictatorship.  People live in fear of the state.  Not each other.  And if you behave properly, the state might just leave you alone.  As long as you’re not an intellectual.  Can read.  Or wear glasses.  If you’re not a threat to state power, or a perceived threat, life can be good.  All you have to do is to say nothing.  Avoid eye contact.  And never, ever complain.  For if you thought things were bad, just wait until after you complain.

Typically in Civil Wars, the Winning Side often Unleashed a Bloody Purge on the Losing Side 

Many people may not know this but the American Revolutionary War was part civil war.  Those loyal to the Crown fought for the Crown.  Against the Patriots.  And the bloodiest fighting during the Revolution was between Loyalist and Patriot.  Especially in the South.  Where some unspeakable horrors took place.

Now typically in civil wars, the winning side often unleashed a bloody purge on the losing side.  But not in America.  At the end of the war there were no reprisals.  No hangings.  No persecutions.  At least, not by those in power.  Most of the Loyalists just left.  They went to Canada.  Or back to the UK.  General Washington resigned from the army.  And the elected civilian authority made the peace.  Quite shocking.  For few generals ever voluntarily give up near absolute power.  And returned to their farm.  He was the American Cincinnatus

About a decade later, the French Revolution erupted.  A more classical civil war.  Far more bloody.  With plenty of reprisals.  And guillotining.  The streets of Paris ran with blood.  The Reign of Terror purged political enemies.  Than the people who unleashed the Terror fell victims to it themselves.  The fighting unleashed Napoleon Bonaparte onto Europe.  And the Middle East.  Made him a great general.  Even impressed a composer by the name of Ludwig van Beethoven.  A fan of republican government.  Even dedicated his Third Symphony to him.  And then Bonaparte made himself emperor.  So the revolution to overthrow a king ultimately ended up with an emperor.  Infuriating Beethoven so that he slashed the dedication page from his symphony.

Two revolutions that were part civil war.  One atypical.  The American.  And one more typical.  The French.

Winning the War was one Thing.  Winning the Peace was Another. 

At the time these were some pretty nasty wars.  But they pale when compared to the American Civil War.  Some 620,000 died.  That’s a huge number.  About 2% of the population then.  To get an idea about how devastating 2% of the population is consider this.  With today’s population that would equal some 6 million dead.

Winning the war was one thing.  Winning the peace was another.  The war was horrific.  And a lot of Northerners wanted a hard peace.  To make the South pay.  But Abraham Lincoln wanted an easy peace.  Near the end, shortly before Robert E. Lee’s surrender, Lincoln met with General Ulysses S. Grant, General William Tecumseh Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter.  He discussed the easy peace he wanted.  He said he did not want any retribution.  Any trials.  Any hangings.  If the defeated Confederates would sign paroles promising to never pick up arms again against the United States, they could simply go home.  He wanted to bring the South back into the Union.  As quickly and as painlessly as possible.  Forgive and forget.  Echoing his sentiments in his second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all

The South was beaten.  Lee was surrounded.  The question was what would Lee do?  Surrender?  Or disband and head into the hills.  Carry out guerilla war?  This was weighing on everyone’s mind.  It terrified Lincoln.  Grant and Sherman feared it, too.  Even Lee.  When Grant met Lee at Appomattox to discuss surrender, Grant offered very generous terms.  In keeping with Lincoln’s wish for an easy peace.  It had a very favorable affect on Lee.  And his men.  Lee surrendered.  And once his war was over he dedicated his postwar life to making peace.

A similar surrender was negotiated between Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston.  Despite the assassination of Lincoln.  Which happened after Lee’s surrender.  Sherman waged hard war throughout the South.  But he did not hate the South.  War was war.  And once the war was over, he followed Lincoln’s directive for an easy peace without hesitation.  Eager to ‘let the South up easy’.  And bring them back into the Union.

Lincoln’s assassination infuriated the North.  They wanted vengeance.  They wanted retribution.  And they wanted to hang Lee.  But Grant stepped in.  Said he made the deal with Lee.  And the deal would be honored.  Or he’d resign.  President Andrew Johnson relented.  And Grant wrote Lee to assure him there would be no trial.  His terms would be honored.  And Lee reciprocated by dedicating his remaining life doing what he could to bring the South peacefully back into the Union.

Let us Judge not, that we be not Judged

The Civil War ended in 1865.  It easily could have gone on.  But thanks to Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee and Johnston, the war ended.  And the peace began.  The Southern people looked to Lee even in defeat.  For he was like George Washington to them.  Loved.  And respected.  Washington’s and Lee’s words and deeds carried great weight in their postwar years.  And made peace possible.

But Lee surrendered to Lincoln as much as he did to Grant.  And it was Lincoln that made the difference in this civil war.  Made it different from other civil wars.  For he could see beyond the conflict.  To a higher plane.  As he said in his second inaugural address.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

This is what you need for reconciliation.  Do they have that in Libya?  Let’s hope so.  But history has shown this to rarely be the case.  You need great people.  A Washington.  A Lincoln.  A Grant.  A Sherman.  A Lee.  A Johnston.  Is this person in Libya?  Or is Libya to descend into terror?  Time will tell.

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Obama Going all George W. Bush in the Middle East?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 19th, 2011

Fighting Wars on the other Side of the World

In 1775, the shooting in the American Revolutionary War began.  The world’s superpower, the British Empire, had planned on taking some arms away from local rebels.  Some shots were exchanged at Lexington and Concord.  And the small British force retreated to Boston.  The rebels harassed the British column the entire way.  The war did not begin well for the British.  And it would end like it began.  Not well.  The British formally recognized the United States of America 8 years later with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

The British outclassed the Americans in every way but one.  Lines of communications.  The British lines were some 3,000 miles back to Great Britain.  About a 6 hour flight today.  Then, a couple of months by ship.  By contrast the Americans held the advantage of short, interior lines.  We could ‘hit and run’ and melt back into the surrounding country.  Like we did in 1775 during that British retreat.  As we did throughout the war.  Though General Washington wanted to defeat the British in a decisive battle, he would not get the chance to meet the British in such a battle until 6 long years later at Yorktown.  Unable to win a decisive battle, he did the only thing he could.  Not lose a decisive battle.  The American Revolutionary War was a war of attrition.  The British sued for peace when the cost of continuing the war was greater than the British people were willing to pay.  As wars are wont to be with such long lines of communications.

Military planners have learned this lesson.  You are probably familiar with a more recent war that was similar.  Where a world superpower was involved in a war of attrition half way across the world.  In South Vietnam.  The Americans came into the conflict to support South Vietnam from Communist North Vietnam.  There is no South Vietnam today.  Like the British some 200 years earlier, we won the military engagements but just couldn’t win the war.  When the cost in blood and treasure became too great, we met in Paris, too, to end the war.  We signed the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.  And we learned the British lesson of 1783.

Winning the War is Easier than Winning the Peace

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, George H. W. Bush assembled an international coalition and threw the Iraqis out of Kuwait.  Operation Desert Storm was an overwhelming victory.  However, Bush was heavily criticized for ‘not finishing the job’ in the Gulf War.  His critics said we should have gone on to Baghdad to remove Hussein from power.  We didn’t.  For a couple of good reasons.  First of all, the coalition included Arab nations.  They only joined to repel Hussein from Kuwait.  Not to remove him from power.  The other reason was that if we toppled Hussein we would own Iraq.  And we would probably end up there for years trying to ‘win the peace’.

Following the Gulf War there were uprisings throughout Iraq.  The world watched hopeful that he would be overthrown by his own people and democracy would break out.  It didn’t.  He suppressed the rebellions brutally.  So brutally that no-fly zones were established in the north over the Kurds and in the south over the Shiite population.  But we didn’t invade.  And he remained a thorn in our side.  And his people suffered.

After 9/11, the US invaded Afghanistan.  Then Iraq.  The official reason was his weapons of mass destruction that he never documented destroyed.  He had used chemical weapons against the Iranians.  And the Kurds.  Being a ‘supporter’ of terrorism there was worry he might provide these weapons to a terrorist.  So there was that reason.  The other reason was a little more convoluted.  Osama bin Laden was a Wahhabi Sunni.  He had ties in Saudi Arabia.  And there was a large Wahhabi population in Saudi Arabia providing funding to al Qaeda.  The Saudis were reluctant to shut down this funding for fear of a rebellion by the Wahhabis against the House of Saud.  But there was one thing that worried them more than the Wahhabis.  Shiite Iran.  By invading Iraq we forced their hand.  They had a vested interest in seeing us succeed in Iraq.  And in our war against al Qaeda.  We made progress against al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan.  And the Saudi started to shut down their funding.  The Iraq War was a success.  But the one drawback was that we now owned Iraq.  And winning the peace was nowhere as easy as winning the war.  As George W. Bush learned.

Obama Commits Military Force in Libya

The US has some very important friends in the Middle East and North Africa.  Among these are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  To name a few.  These are nations with Sunni populations and/or Sunni governments unfriendly to Iran.  Egypt made peace with Israel and kept the Suez Canal open for international trade for decades.  Saudi Arabia peacefully coexists with its neighbors and is the largest oil exporter in the world.  Except for the oil embargo of 1973, they have maintained the flow of that oil at market prices to Western economies.  The US Navy’s 5th Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain.

These nations aren’t perfect.  Saudi women can’t drive a car, for example.  But they’re stalwart US allies.  One of these nations was pretty progressive as well as being a staunch US friend.  Egypt.  Egyptian women were about the freest in the Middle East, second only to Tunisia.  Egypt and Tunisia, though, were suffering economically.  Had high unemployment.  And a Muslim opposition unhappy with their ‘Western’ ways.  The largest organized opposition group is the Muslim Brotherhood.  And they can be best described as being more simpatico with Iran.  When Egypt had their uprising, the Obama administration called it a democracy uprising and called for Hosni Mubarak to give up power.  Without considering who would step into that power void.  Which did not go over well with Mubarak.  Or the Saudis.

Now Libya is burning.  Qaddafi is attacking his own people.  The US dithered for weeks.  While the Libyans cried for help.  Even other Arab nations cried for our help.  But we did nothing.  Even though Qaddafi is not a US friend.  And was a sponsor of terrorism.  As the carnage mounted, though, someone took action.  The French of all people (see U.S. Missiles Strike Libyan Air-Defense Targets by David Kirkpatrick, Steven Erlanger and Elisabeth Bumiller posted 3/19/2011 The New York Times).

American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in a military intervention on a scale not seen in the Arab world since the Iraq war…

The campaign began with French warplane missions even before the end of an emergency summit meeting in Paris, where leaders, reacting to news that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were attacking the rebel capital city of Benghazi on Saturday morning despite international demands for a cease-fire, said they had no choice but to act to defend Libyan civilians and opposition forces.

France has a Muslim problem.  They had some riots a few years back in some Paris Muslim suburbs.  Where young Muslims were unemployed.  Unhappy.  And not all that willing to assimilate into French culture.  Though they want to live in France.  So there’s been tensions between the French and their Muslim population.  So it says a lot that France was on point in this attack on a Muslim country.  Yes, at this time the international community, including some Arab states, approve of this action.  But you play with fire whenever you attack a Muslim country.  Especially if they have oil.  And Libya has oil.  In fact, it’s some of the finest oil in the Middle East.  A low-sulfur sweet crude.

When the international community was coming together against him, Qaddafi was defiant.  Warned us to stay out of their internal affairs.

“Libya is not yours. Libya is for all Libyans,” he wrote in one letter, read to the news media by a spokesman. “This is injustice, it is clear aggression, and it is uncalculated risk for its consequences on the Mediterranean and Europe.

“You will regret it if you take a step toward intervening in our internal affairs.”

Colonel Qaddafi addressed President Obama as “our son,” in a letter jarring for its familiarity. “I have said to you before that even if Libya and the United States enter into war, God forbid, you will always remain my son and I have all the love for you as a son, and I do not want your image to change with me,” he wrote. “We are confronting Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, nothing more. What would you do if you found them controlling American cities with the power of weapons? Tell me how would you behave so that I could follow your example?”

Could this be why the Obama administration was so reluctant to act?  Because of a father-son relationship between Obama and Qaddafi?  You gotta admit this is a strange thing for Qaddafi to say.  Makes you wonder just what was the extent of Obama’s apology tour in the Middle East.  One thing for sure, it will give fuel to those who think Obama is a Muslim.  I mean, it just doesn’t help when the bad guy calls you a son.

Regret?  We should take that threat seriously.  After some military encounters with Libyan losses in the Gulf of Sidra Qaddafi retaliated with the bombing of a German disco frequented by US troops.  When we discovered his connection to that bombing we bombed Tripoli.  In retaliation for that bombing he had a bomb smuggled aboard a 747.  Pan Am Flight 103.  Brought down on Lockerbie, Scotland.  So he has a history of getting even.  Which we need to be on guard for.

Obama now Owns Libya

So it’s war.  Missiles are flying.  People are dying (see Libya: British forces launch missile attacks on Gaddafi by Colin Freeman, in Benghazi and Sean Rayment posted 3/20/2011 on the UK’s Telegraph).

Explosions were reported at an airport east of Tripoli as a British Trafalgar Class submarine and US Navy ships and submarines stationed off Libya fired 110 Tomahawk missiles at 20 targets in what one source described as a “night of carnage”.

The missiles targeted Libyan command and control centres, radar installations and surface-to-air missile sites. Libyan officials said the attacks were “barbaric” and causing civilian casualties…

British sources and Pentagon officials said Nato would undertake a “battle damage assessment” of Libya’s military during daylight hours and would decide whether to continue with further attacks.

Sources at the Elysée Palace said Britain, France and the United States had assumed the “leadership” of the coalition in early talks between the Prime Minister, Mr Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State. The “extremely purposeful conclusion” of the early talks was endorsed by the full meeting, where speakers included Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary general.

Well, President Obama has his third war.  Pretty impressive for a guy that said he would get us out of Iraq (he didn’t).  That he would fully prosecute the Afghanistan War to victory (he hasn’t).  And he wouldn’t nation-build like his predecessor.  George W. Bush.  He now may.  There’s no way Qaddafi can withstand the military force now aligned against him.  So he will lose.  But what then?  Who will fill that power vacuum?  In an already unstable and changing Middle East?  He can say what he wants about Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s different with Libya.  This happened on his watch.  And he now owns it.  It will be up to him to win the peace.  Or lose it.

Those naval operations against Libya will be based out of Bahrain.  I sure hope he doesn’t encourage any more ‘democracy’ uprisings while we’re using that base for combat operations.  It would be a shame to lose that base during the middle of these operations.  And by a shame I mean a complete and utter disaster.  Because that would greatly extend our lines of communications.  And history has shown what that can do in war.

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