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March 27, 2011
The Show Goes OnBy Greyhawk
- whether it must or not.
Let's do a bit of Sunday morning channel surfing.
NBC's Meet the Press opened with an update from the frontlines of Libya's civil war from Richard Engel, appearing with a backdrop of a half dozen locals posed on the ruined hulk of a tank. The rebels are making progress, those frontlines are moving forward, we're told. Their next stop (stopped because they're expected to "find the next group of Qaddafi's troops truly dug in, and again in need of Western help to push this advance"): Qaddafi's home town, Sirt.
I used the term "civil war" above. But call it a "revolution" or "insurgency" (and ignore whether or not we should be focused on Afghanistan) if the term causes you dismay. This is about what we're doing in Libya, and not about marketing campaigns, or the words others are using to describe the armed conflict for control of that country or to expose the hypocrisy of their political foes.
As for what we're doing, it's "The clearest sign yet that air strikes are paving the way for rebels to advance against Qaddafi and his forces," David Gregory explains by way of introduction. Engel reports our air strikes have "destroyed at least 20 tanks and other armored vehicles in this area alone," (he's near Ajdabiya) and "if the airstrikes stop, [the rebels] will no longer be able to advance and this could become a long, drawn-out stalemate."
Advance to where? "The rebels hope this advance will take them to Tripoli."
Change channels: On CNN Alex Marquardt is also advancing with the rebels. "A quick advance was expected following the stalemate that was broken by the coalition air strikes," he says. But now "opposition leaders hope the rebels' advance will slow down a bit and allow senior defected military officials to take over." Not too far forward along the road to Tripoli is Sirt, he explains, which is Qaddafi's hometown and "they're not sure what sort of weapons he has there."
Clicking back to Meet the Press: "Is Qaddafi capable of routing the rebels?" David Gregory asks Hillary Clinton. "At this point," she replies, "it appears his efforts have been stopped." Good, sez I.
None of that will stop people from pretending we aren't supporting the rebels. But we just took in a lot of information in a very few words, and maybe you haven't been watching this particular show; let's pause the DVR and sort it out a bit.
First, the cast of characters and plot: American ("NATO under UN authorization with support from the Arab League and African Union," if you prefer) airpower is supporting rebels, who hail primarily from eastern Libya, in their attack on Qadaffi loyalists. ("It is now at a stage where the air strikes are no longer just about defending the people of Benghazi," says Engel. "We're considerably far away from Benghazi; the air strikes have destroyed all the forces that were threatening the city. Now the air strikes are really helping an advance by the rebels...").
"Qaddafi loyalists" are the dictator's armed forces - some of which he sent east to kill those rebels (or mere protesters - and probably innocent civilians who'd be caught in the crossfire, too).
"The rebels" are an... um... er... interesting group. (One that U.S. officials don't like to talk much about, and that U.S. reporters don't like to ask about. Picture Obi Wan, Luke, and Princess Leia on that desert planet from Star Wars if it makes you happy. You'll be almost right about the background scenery, at least.)
That "interesting group" can claim home turf - that Qaddafi loyalists "invaded" - in eastern Libya; with our air support they've turned them back. But they've reached the edge of that turf. The next step westward is "Qaddafi country" - and it's where things get considerably tougher. Part of the reason for that is because of one thing the rebels are not - there's no significant number of trained military members (or leaders) in their ranks. The nearest thing they've got to that are a handful of folks who "joined the jihad" in Iraq or Afghanistan, maybe took a few shots at American or British forces there, planted a few IEDs, or helped behead some of the locals who didn't share their idea of "liberation." (But only a few dozen of those types; hundreds at the most. If there are significant numbers of rebels at all, the bulk are people with no combat experience whatsoever.)
You go to war with the allies you have, a wise man might say - but that's not the mix of allies we want. That's one reason why Marquardt's explanation that "opposition leaders hope the rebels' advance will slow down a bit and allow senior defected military officials to take over" is important. Much of what's happened in Libya so far has been improv - but that quote offers a quick look at the script the Obama administration would like to follow from here on out. All that's needed is the right actor for the part; the obvious next line of this script (act one, final scene, just before the curtain...) requires one of Qaddafi's senior military leaders to defect. (And bring his army with him.)
We tune back in to Meet the Press just in time to hear Secretary Clinton issue the casting call. "We're sending a message to people around [Qaddafi]: do you really want to be a pariah? Do you want to end up in the international criminal court? Now is your time to get out of this and to help change the direction."
"Don't underestimate what Hillary just said," Secretary Gates added. "The people around him, looking at what's happening and the international view of this place and when is the time to turn and go to the other side." (Secretary Gates also pointed out that the second UN resolution on Libya authorizes us to arm the rebels, but that no decision on whether to do so has been made by the U.S. government at this time...)
It's a time-limited moment, indeed. The president himself will speak tomorrow. He's already achieved what might prove to be his easiest goal: most people accepted that this was a NATO mission before he finished his South American tour. We're still in improv mode for now (acceptable to a degree in act one). But the act two script is written in pencil - not ink, and it can be changed on the fly.
The curtain will fall on act one regardless, and we still aren't sure if this production is a comedy, tragedy, drama, or farce.
Posted by Greyhawk / March 27, 2011 6:35 PM | Permalink
Two candidates...One is General Abdel Fateh Younis, who was Qaddafi's interior minister and the commander of the Libyan special forces until he "defected" to the rebel side. Younis has been publicly absent, and he is distrusted by the shabab and by man... Read More
(...and points east.) Oh my! There might be CIA agents and MI6 and SAS and lions and tigers and bears (but no US military forces) on the ground in Libya and we might arm the rebels and some might be al Qaedies and maybe we aren't just protecting civil... Read More
...through the dynamics of that dynamic region. My post on Tom Donilon's dynamic multidimensional lenses was unfair to the man who used the term to describe planning for the Libya op. (In response to DNI Clapper's assessment that the civil war in Libya... Read More
Unbelievable! You might cry. Of course it is. (If it wasn't, it wouldn't be deniable.) But that doesn't matter. You're along for the ride... When it comes to Libya planning, I keep coming back to this cartoon.... I suppose I should explain it in full. ... Read More
Ever wonder what the fourth week of a planned one week war looks like? Wonder no more - it looks like this:Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other E... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com