“Maybe I die, but as Shakespeare says the question is to be or not to be”

The above quote is from a Rebel fighter being interviewed by a foreign journalist.

Military Situation

No cities have changed hands since the map from yesterday.

Rebels still hold Ras Lanuf and everything along the coast to the east, while Misrata and Zawiya townspeople are still under siege by Government forces. Fewer than a half-dozen air missions where flown by Gaddafi’s mercenary pilots today, inflicting non-significant damage on Rebel military assets but killing a handful of civilians. The assumption of the mercenary pilots seems to be that if it is driving to or from a Rebel held town than the vehicle must be affiliated with the Rebellion.

My prediction about Government troops in Zawiya being Mercenaries has been confirmed, and Mercenaries captured by the Rebels have revealed that their task was to capture Zawiya by Wednesday. The Mercenaries, backed by some loyalist troops, have cordoned the city and have chosen not to allow foreign journalists to witness what they are doing inside the city. As one journalist put it:

“Reporting on conditions in the city [Zawiya] has been largely prevented by a concerted government effort to keep out journalists, who have been detained and threatened despite being told they have free access to visit anywhere in Libya.”

Out of besieged Misrata, we have this statement of defiance from a resident informing the BBC that the “youths” are in control of the town itself:

“We buried 21 young men today – the casualties of yesterday’s battle. We hear that Gaddafi’s forces are gathering to the west of the city so it’s quiet here but tense, very tense. Misrata is free of Gaddafi’s forces – totally free. I’m confident that we’ll do all we can to fight the murderous dictator’s forces. […] The youths of the city are cleaning up the mess left by yesterday’s battle. But there are rumours – and at this stage they remain rumours – that maybe the dictator’s forces are back for some more. However, that has not materialized so far. Our military guys are organizing their ranks again. We cannot take anything for granted and we cannot let our guard down. We are patching our wounds and are ready to defend our city. We wait for our friends from the east [the main force of rebels under the authority of Benghazi] so that we can push forward to Tripoli. Hopefully soon.”

Diplomatic Situation

Meanwhile, the spokeswoman of the Rebellion has re-affirmed that capturing Tripoli is the goal and that

“We want international recognition of the PTNC and the organs of the new state as the sole representatives of the Libyan people, and immediate action to halt the flow of arms and mercenaries to the Gaddafi regime. […] We want an immediate freeze on all funds of the Libyan state and the Gaddafi family.”

I noted the other day that the Benghazi Declaration made no mention of women’s rights in their vision for the new Libya. The appointment of this woman could indicate that the Rebels have a progressive view of women, or it could mean that they appointed her to pander for Western support. In that same post, I discussed why the Rebels took eight SAS operatives captive. In their own words, the Rebels state that

“If they wanted to do something confidential or keep it classified, they could have just sent a message and we would have welcomed them through the seaport, or Benina airport. We would have kept it quiet and listened to them, and discussed with them whatever they wanted. But the way they came, it was quite suspicious, and the council took the position that we really don’t want to discuss anything with this particular team.”

Still on the diplomatic front, but moving slightly to the economic front, the Rebels have stated that while Brega is not open for oil shipping to the outside world due to being in range of Gaddafi’s attack aircraft – the eastern city Tobruk is open for business. This could mean much-needed income for the Rebellion, and for people in eastern cities that need funds to purchase food from Egypt.

On the US and EU Front…

The United Kingdom and France are working on proposals for the “no-fly zone” option, and President Obama has said that a military response is on the table, possibly to include ground troops. Secretary of Defense Gates, who has been skeptical of the no-fly zone from the beginning, has said that the “no-fly zone” option “should be the result of international sanction.”

Would you like to know what is funny about this “no-fly zone” discussion? Government aircraft are killing fewer than a dozen people a day, Rebel and civilian alike. Government ground troops are killing about scores people a day. Why are we focused on the “no-fly zone” stuff? Because it worked so well at forcing regime change in Iraq? Oh, wait, it didn’t. Because the “no-fly zone” concept has worked so well at pressuring dictators to behave nicely in the past? Oh, wait, it hasn’t.

CNN’s reporting on the First Gulf War seems to have created this impression among American Citizens and American Congressman that the whiz-bang technological and alleged moral superiority of the United States can solve all problems. Eight years into Iraq, 33 years into Afghanistan (yes, we’ve been in Afghanistan for 33 years), and we still haven’t learned that this is a ridiculous notion.

Grounding the Libyan Air Force will save a half dozen lives per day of conflict. Medicine to treat those wounded by the ground conflict has the potential to save scores of lives per day of conflict. I know that we, the United States, have this “tradition” of “no-fly zones” that dates back to Vietnam, but there reaches a point when it is time to abandon tradition.

John Kerry (D) has joined McCain (R) in advocating direct military intervention and has countered my argument against the “no-fly zone” option thusly:

“One could crater the airports and the runways and leave them incapable of using them for a period of time.”

Yes, Mr. Kerry, you are absolutely correct. Our Naval and Air Force assets in the region are certainly capable of that, after the destruction of Government anti-aircraft assets along with the draftees manning them. The draftees, mind you, that are comprised of many young men just waiting for an opportune moment to defect and joint he rebellion.

Alternatively, our strategic bombing assets, US Air Force stealth bombers flying from Missouri can certainly “crater” every airport and airfield in western Libya. Yes, we have that capability too. The odds of the United States hanging around to rebuild those airports, however, are minimal.

Furthermore, B-2 Stealth Bombers cost millions of dollars per hour to operate. “Cratering” every airport and airfield in Gaddafi-held Libya will cost tens of millions of dollars, perhaps hundreds. If we feel like spending $30-150 million to support the rebellion, that’s great and I agree with the budget proposal. However, I propose a third option for the disposition of that money.

Purchase $30-150 million in food, medicine, and vehicles on the Egyptian economy and unload all of the “humanitarian rations” floating offshore with the hovering US Fleet as well. Have the vehicles driven from the Egyptian border, where the Rebels can bring their own drivers and military escorts at their leisure. It will kill fewer people, and save more lives. The Rebels have all the guns they need, and damage done to the Rebels by the ancient and decrepit Libyan Air Force is trivial. Give them the band-aids they need for their battle wounds, and the food they need for their bellies.

“Maybe I die, but as Shakespeare says the question is to be or not to be”