So, last night the United Nations Security Council approved much more than a no-fly zone over Libya — the council’s resolution called for using “all necessary measures” to keep Col. Moammar Gadhafi from killing the Libyans rebelling against his regime. Then, suddenly, this morning Gadhafi announced a cease-fire.
Victory without firing a shot, right?
It seems pretty obvious that Gadhafi knows his air force and army would not survive an “all necessary measures” effort by NATO; his comments to the contrary are nothing but mother-of-all-battles bluster. And that calculation on his part would have held true at any time during the last few weeks that Gadhafi’s loyalists have been counter-attacking the rebels across the country.
What has changed, however, is the balance of forces within the country. Check out this map (I’ll post it to the blog later if I can overcome some technical difficulties).
That was the situation as of March 7, less than two weeks ago. Since then, Gadhafi’s forces have beaten back the rebels from Zawiya (just outside the capital Tripoli), Ras Lanuf, Brega and Ajdabiya. The situation in Misrata, the country’s third-largest city, also near Tripoli and which the rebels had held, was unclear. But the city has been under heavy attack from Gadhafi’s forces.
In other words, Gadhafi has already accomplished most of what he set out to do when he began attacking the rebels. Had the U.N. action come two weeks ago, the balance of forces might have produced an outcome in which Gadhafi had to step down and the Libyan people had a chance to form a new, more representative government.
There’s always a chance that things eventually turn out for the better. But as of today, it looks like the two to three weeks it took the “international community” to gather up its resolve were a critical loss of time.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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