Admittedly, I have been a bit harsh on the United States and NATO for the way in which they intervened in Libya seemingly without giving thought to post-intervention requirements as well as on the Transitional National Council (TNC) and the rebel movement in general for being relatively weak, disorganized and divided (although this is much more a comment on the trust given to the TNC by the west – it is hardly the fault of the TNC that untrained teenagers are on the front lines instead of a well-trained army). Likewise, I have pointed to major issues with negotiations with Qaddafi. Perhaps I have off the impression that I thought Qaddafi was better positioned than he actually is and for that I apologize. Let me be clear, the TNC (and its western backers) is screwed. The good news is that Qaddafi is screwed as well. Consider:
- The level of TNC disorganization is leading to major communication problems across the country, in turn leading to untrained rebel fighters taking on Qaddafi’s army with a couple of rifles and clips. However, on the sunny side of the TNC, rebels captured the chief of military operations for Qaddafi, expressed confidence that they could march on Tripoli while the military forces under Qaddafi are not all too happy at the moment;
- Both Qaddafi and the TNC are facing major fuel shortages. Qaddafi has apparently been trying to sell off 22 shipping vessels in an attempt to gain some much needed cash – as sanctions and frozen assets are taking their toll. The TNC is reportedly attempting to close on deals to import fuel as the war has brought Libya’s oil production to a standstill (Al Jazeera reports notwithstanding), particularly due to Qaddafi’s nasty habit of booby-trapping and mining oil fields;
- The intervention-weary (this is totally not a war everyone) west might be a little downtrodden today as Qaddafi has ruled out stepping down in exchange for immunity. Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi made it clear that a negotiated end to the conflict, for the leaders in Tripoli, meant a negotiated end to the conflict that kept Qaddafi in power.
To put it another way, although it seems as though the TNC is held together only by the anti-Qaddafi sentiments and although many in Libya and the west believe that the rebels lack the capacity to take down Tripoli and although the opposition may be unable to prevent its forces from extracting violent revenge on Qaddafi supporters, the rebel situation may not be as bad as once thought (see: not as screwed as once thought, but definitely still screwed). Likewise, despite mass criticism of the TNC, the Qaddafi forces are retreating, potentially causing mass damage to the country’s ability to develop its natural resources and lack the money and fuel to continue (see: perhaps just as screwed as the TNC). Finally, with a negotiated settlement to the messy Libyan conflict now out of the question, the NATO humanitarian-intervention-turned-regime-change-operation will need to once again rely on military might to push Qaddafi out of power – much to the dismay of the leaders (and voters) in each intervening country. Despite Washington’s resilient insistence that it is not responsible for post-conflict active participation, the longer this stalemate continues, the more involved the United States and its NATO allies will become.
In other words, the TNC is screwed. Qaddafi is screwed. And NATO is certainly screwed.
Photo from Teak Door