Sunday, April 3, 2011

Some Additional Thoughts on Libya

First, sorry for the irregular posting, my personal life has been getting in the way of following current events closely.  Regular posting will hopefully resume this week, no promises however.

The situation in Libya is something that I've been trying to follow, though my impression so far is that there haven't been too many new developments from my last post on the subject.  The situation seems to be currently in a stalemate, my best guess is that it is likely to remain so for some time, likely weeks.  The dynamic I expect is a continued slow erosion of Qaddafi's government with a slow trickle of officials out of it.  This will lead to either a negotiated settlement where Qaddafi accepts exile or a sudden collapse as some of his officials mount a coup.  I don't expect this to be settled on the battlefield.

At this point, the rebels have time on their side.  All they have to do is hold on and let the slow rot of Qaddafi's government do their work for them.  They seem to have sufficient numbers to be able to do this though they lack the organization to push Qaddafi out in a major offensive.  Given evidence of Egyptian and American support, if Qaddafi hangs on long enough they may gain the capacity to score some major battlefield victories once they get the organization to charge through the shelling of mortars and artillery that seem to play such a large role in throwing them back in recent battles.  This is likely to take weeks at least, and I'm unsure if the conflict will remain in play this long.  If this scenario does happen, it tips the balance in favor of coup against Qaddafi rather than a negotiated settlement with him.  Though a settlement will have to be negotiated with whoever the coup leaders are.

Probably the biggest question I have right now is how bad Qaddafi's intelligence is.  A constant theme with authoritarian governments is that their access to information, and particularly bad news, is very unreliable.  People don't want to contradict the dictator.  Given the number of defections that have occurred, I would expect this tendency to be even stronger than it is in most authoritarian governments; anyone with bad news about the military and political situation will fear that sharing it will be looked upon as doubts about the regime and disloyalty, with the predictable consequences.  This would mean that Qaddafi will continue to hang on well past his situation becoming hopeless, anyone with information that the situation is in fact hopeless will have reason to fear sharing this with him and an incentive to defect abroad to protect their own hide.

There is a wild card.  Qaddafi has shown himself to be fairly reckless in the past.  Recent accounts have shown that he is reducing his use of heavy equipment and favoring weaponry similar to that used by the rebels.  With his troops superior training and advantages in superior light equipment such as mortars this should prove sufficient for him to score incremental gains against the rebels for some time.  Most likely, this will be used as a bargaining chip to gain a better settlement for himself and those loyal to him.  Alternately, he may seek to grind down the rebels and to provide few targets for airstrikes for a time, relying on friendly fire casualties like that reported on recently (NY Times) to reduce the rebel's reliance on those, and save his armor and mobile artillery for a final attempt at a blitz.  Given this already failed once in Benghazi I feel this is fairly unlikely, but given someone as reckless as Qaddafi I wouldn't regard it as impossible.  Especially if he feels there is no avoiding the ICC or capture by the rebels.

No comments:

Post a Comment