Friday, March 18, 2011

France Goes to War

Sometimes boldness, foolhardiness, or whatever it is pays off. Sarkozy is a hero in Benghazi as French warplanes prepare for combat. I'm not at all sure that this will end well, but it is hard not to feel elated that in the short run a massacre may be averted. What happens in Libya after that is impossible to fathom. We have yet to see who exactly will get into the act of toppling Kadhafi. I can envision all sorts of scenarios and am not sufficiently expert to speculate. But if Kadhafi is overthrown, Sarkozy will deserve credit, and even BHL, much as it pains me to admit it. The Lord works in mysterious ways (and sometimes chooses unlikely agents).

WAIT, Hold the presses! Libya just declared a unilateral ceasefire. So now what? Does France attack anyway? Clever move on Kadhafi's part: he's got the oilfields back, Benghazi is isolated and can be strangled by Tripoli, and if outside powers attack, they're "colonialists" ganging up on a Libya whose leader can turn out large crowds chanting their support. Your move, Coalition of the Willing.


TexExile said...

I see your point about the regime's political calculation concerning the cease-fire but it is less clear to me that this is altogether good news for Gaddafi.

The general rule, in my view, is that when a government facing a rebellion or insurgency is not winning, it is losing. If the ceasefire actually holds (a huge 'if', I must admit), the rebels have that much more time to consolidate their position, establish some level of international credibility, etc. The government loses (not least in terms of legitimacy at home and abroad) just because the rebels are hanging in there.

The opposition has just had a huge political and emotional boost from abroad and he is now having to relax the military pressure, at least for a time. Gaddafi has wrong-footed his international opponents, to be sure (for the moment, at least), but it seems to me that he has done so at a price.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

True enough, Tex. But you know that the antagonism between Tripoli and Benghazi dates back centuries, and we now have all sorts of possibilities. For example, Egypt is just over the border from Benghazi. The Arab League has declared its support for Kadhafi's overthrow. Suppose some young Napoleon arises from the ranks of Egypt's army and decides to consolidate the Egyptian "revolution" by marching to the aid of the Benghazians and then on to Tripoli. A new pan-Arab, neo-Nasserite regime is not out of the question. And then on to Tunis? Nationalism is a powerful force. How pleased would we be with that outcome? Egypt with oil, a powerful military, and newfound cross-border ambitions? But of course I am WAY out of my comfort zone here.

TexExile said...

I am well out of mine, too, so I won't speculate further -- it's too easy to come up with nightmare scenarios that will probably never happen. However, I would make the observation that African and Arab borders have proved mightily resilient in the post-colonial era, which is somewhat surprising given the arbitrariness of many of the borders and the fragility of many of the regimes.

There have been some changes (but more often fragmentation than conquest or unification), but not many. Part of the reason for that is that every regime in the neighbourhood has reason to be afraid of opening up the Pandora's box of post-colobial borders (everyone has claims on everyone else, so one has to feel VERY strong to want to open the box).

Thus, I think your Egyptian Bonaparte would meet a lot of hostility within the region and without.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Point well taken.

Scaramanga said...

Well, clearly, everyone is out of his comfort zone here.
If what I've read is true, that Lybia is actually three countries in one (two if you discount the Fezzan, which is a patch of desert in the South East), one can imagine that Gaddafi will keep the Tripoli region, whereas the rebels in Benghazi, protected by the threat of air strikes by the international community, establish an autonomous entity that would correspond to what was formerly known (in French) as the Cyrénaïque. The situation would remain frozen until Gaddafi's death. I really can't see what interest Egypt could have in invading Libya, especially with a new government that needs international support.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

The interest would be oil. You're right about Libya being 3 countries. Interesting discussion here:

meshplate said...

No one is going to fall for such a transparent bait and switch. As TexExile has said, Gaddafi has made only a half-clever move. Instead of finishing the rebels off, he has given them an opportunity to regroup, rearm and enter into discussions with the rest of the Arab and Western worlds. Refusing to present moving targets to the west (tanks, rocket batteries, troops) doesn't mean the coalition ranged against him isn't going to attack him anyway for what he has done already. He not going to get a pass now, I don't believe. Destroying his air defenses as well as his command and communications systems while we arm the opposition is not going to be to his long-term advantage.

E.L. said...

Je vous trouve aller ici un peu trop vite en besogne. Votre statut vous préservant d'être appelé journaliste : de grâce, retenez vos applaudissements pour la fin du spectacle. Si la guerre n'en mérita jamais.

Non pas qu'une victoire diplomatique n'en soit pas une et qu'il ne faille pas la célébrer. Disons plutôt que la diplomatique est un art qui requiert toujours plus que de l'audace : de la pérennité.
Or devoir attaquer le pays que nous avions contribué à remettre en selle internationalement il y a peu me semble loin de mériter l'agitation des encomiastes.

De plus, les représentants du CNL que notre Président a reconnu comme gouvernant la Libye ne sont en fait que des représentants de la Cyrénaïque -comme nous le rappela l'homme au pistolet d'or : Scaramanga- région traditionnellement proche de l'Egypte, aux seules ressources pétrolières.
Cette reconnaissance vaut en fait retour au plan Bevin-Sforza du 10 mai 1949. Qui -oups!- avait été alors refusé et abandonné.

Anonymous said...

For the time being, Kadhafi has stopped bombing Benghazi. That alone is a victory, especially it was done without battle.
The mishmash coalition is meeting tomorrow, led by the Arab League's countries (ironically in some cases) and everyone expects Kadhafi to strike soon.
More than Sarkozy (who wanted to play a shot'em up game all on his own) I think we ought to thank Juppé. After all, he's the one who manoeuvered for the resolution to pass, not Sarkozy (whose track record in terms of international negociation seems thin.)
And I can't imagine this UN vote if the Minister in charge had been MAM or, gasp, Kouchner.
And to think Juppé was about to quit (as per a previous post!) Who knows? Sarkozy may have given him free rein in that matter so that he wouldn't quit??

Anonymous said...

If France goes to war on Khadafy, he's capable of setting off bombs in planes or metro stations years later, if he remains in power.


Cincinna said...

@meshplate et al:
   At least Sarko is present. On the spot showing leadership & taking action, while Obama goes on yet another vacation this time to Rio with his big donor fundraiser Corporate buddies like  JEFFREY IMMELT CEO GENERAL ELECTRIC, 
JOHN V. FARACI  CEO, INTERNATIONAL PAPER, among others. Wasting the people's time and money picking College Basketball brackets & playing golf & throwing lavish parties. The world is aflame & the POTUS is again voting "present" instead of showing leadership. His only concern seems to be 2012. 
   He is a slacker, letting others do his work, and fiddling while Rome burns, as he observes, detached, from afar. 
   Not to mention the political insanity of turning over command of American forces to "International " agencies.
  It's Amateur Hour in the Oval Office, and Sarko is stepping up to the plate to fill the void in leadership.