Libya: The Short and the Long Game

There are two games at work in the Libyan crisis. The first is the short game which has to do with what is happening on the ground. At this moment, it is both confusing and ugly.  The rebels seem in disarray. The allies seem to be holding back and also ineffective in stopping the Gaddafi forces in most places from advancing and killing people at will. Yet I doubt that the coalition will permit in the end Gaddafi from wining and carrying out a policy of brutality against those who opposed.  There are rumors of all kinds, like Gadafi’s sons taking over, diplomatic mission to Greece and Turkey, etc.  And there is confusion of direction in the U.S. with Defense and State/White House speaking in different tones and directions. Something has to change the current direction of both the battle and the methods and strategy or we are in for a long-term series of bad events and bad outcomes. One problem is that American withdrawal of its forces has left a “hole” in the effectiveness, especially in close support of embattled cities and opposition forces.  

The long-game remains to find a way to create a peaceful democratic Libya without Gaddafi (or his sons), but the coalition seems confused even over long-term goals let alone tactics on the ground.  One problem is the confusion over who among the rebel leaders is really in charge of anyone. Another is we still have not put in place the organization and modalities of dealing with the end game of redevelopment, building a solid civic society and finding some way to ensure that the game will truly end with security for the people and freedom of its citizens and a recovered economy. We made that mistake in Iraq and even in Afghanistan and should not make it in Libya.

Meanwhile the large outcome of the changes in the Middle East remains in doubt and a clear policy is hindered by the general disarray and confusion especially in Yemen, Syria and Jordan and the emerging new situation in Egypt and Tunisia. Each is different in their nature but they are linked also in some key ways. We need to keep our eyes always on both the macro and micro picture and that is always very hard in a fast moving situation.

Again, America should take the lead in forming a broad strategy and pushing for both unity of strategy and purpose.  

Your comments are welcomed!

One thought on “Libya: The Short and the Long Game

  1. Alan Choate April 5, 2011 / 11:23 AM

    I rather think there are more people from the West on the ground than we know, training and directing air strikes. It’s a bit unusual to have major media in both Tripoli and Benghazi so this develops in its own unique way. I’m not sure that the Libyan rebels are any less organized than the Tunisians or the Egyptians were. Decades of repression of any opposition inevitably leaves the rebels unorganized and the West needs to watch (and nudge, but not too obviously) these nascent democracies, especially recognizing the cultural differences which mean that their “Democracy” will not be like ours. The US flip on Yemen is interesting, but not so for Bahrain, at least as yet.

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