Libya: Only hours to act

I know I’m writing with the benefit of hindsight but I have always been skeptical of media reports from Libya telling us that Gaddafi was finished.

What puzzled me was the actual pictures from Libya which showed disorganized, untrained rebels armed with little more than AK 47s and some heavy machine guns while Gaddafi’s forces had well trained battalions, regiments of tanks and an effective air force.

Media reports always attempted to bridge this gap by telling us that what the rebels lacked in military hardware was more than compensated for by their high level of enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm does not stop bullets or bombs or make up for lack of professional strategy.

Undoubtedly Gaddafi is a ruthless dictator but his military and political strategies are succeeding.

Initially, he retreated to Tripoli and immediately began to consolidate his forces while at the same time launching a twin pronged propaganda campaign.

A local campaign to convince his supporters that they were under attack from outside forces principally al-Qaeda and a global campaign to convince the international community that he was still in charge and would win.

The rebels, on the other hand, made two fatal mistakes.

First, they failed to establish a central political authority backed up by a well organized military force.

Second, and most disastrously, they steadfastly refused to ask for outside assistance. This is akin to a non swimmer telling a would be rescuer not to throw a lifeline insisting that somehow he would safely reach the shore.

The rebels were naïve in the extreme to think that they could defeat a vastly superior military force by idealism alone.

They should have asked the Devil and all for every and any assistance. The total defeat of the enemy by whatever means available should have been their first and overriding aim.

Time enough to sort out lesser details once the country had been secured.

Machiavelli got it right when he warned:

Before all else, be armed.

I’ve just heard the news that the UN Security Council has backed a no-fly zone over Libya and all necesary measures short of invasion to protect civilians.

The ‘all necessary measures’ obviously means the targetting of Gaddafi’s forces in the air and on the ground to prevent them taking Benghazi.

The international community have only hours to act.