Libya: A Grim Prognosis


An Libyan opposition fighter in Brega CREDIT: NYTIMES

February 15th, the date of the beginning of the Libyan uprising, was pervading every nook and cranny of the news universe. Images, videos, and testimony of Libyans spoke of an unspeakable event: the Libyan government was intentionally murdering civilians who dared to peacefully protest its rule.

From the evidence broadcast from Libya, many members of the armed forces defected to the side of the protesters when ordered to kill their own countrymen. Now, there is a full-scale armed rebellion. Clearly, given Gaddafi’s words of intent to kill protesters, it is reasonable to assume that the uprising is an exercise in self-defense. From the moment Libyan forces decided to inflict lethal violence, the people had two choices: to meekly turn away or to continue what they started: protest Gaddafi’s rule.

The protesters chose the latter and at that point, peaceful protests could no longer be a choice; when a state uses systematic lethal force against its people, the people are compelled to respond similarly. Granted, when violence is used for regime change, the future becomes dimmer. Premature deaths in such great volumes leave wounds that are difficult to heal, potentially handicapping the growth of a nation for years or, worse, forever.

Nonetheless, the persistence of the rebels has been admirable; as early as yesterday, civilian and military rebels alike took  up arms in the key oil-port of Brega to repel Gaddafi’s forces, who were backed by air power. From the NY Times:

The battle began at daybreak, when government fighters stormed the airport and the area around the city’s oil refinery. By the early afternoon, hundreds of men from this city, wielding Kalashnikov rifles and knives — joined by confederates from neighboring cities with heavier artillery — fought Colonel Qaddafi’s men, who were backed by air power and mortars.

But as night fell, the government fighters were on the run and the rebels were celebrating in Brega and all along the road north to Benghazi, the seat of rebel power, where fireworks lighted up the sky.

Despite the victory, the rebels are cautious to speak positively of the future:

Yes, they won,” said Iman Bugaighis, a spokeswoman for the rebel governing authority, which asked Western nations to conduct airstrikes against Colonel Qaddafi’s strongholds on Wednesday. “We don’t know how long it will last. He’s getting stronger.”

The battle for Libya–between the murderous Gaddafi and the rag-tag bunch of seemingly pro-democracy rebels–is far from over. Without outside help, whether through a n0-fly zone or direct military aid to the rebels, Libya’s future is grim: either the rebels eventually defeat Gaddafi and his forces, or the opposite. Each scenario would likely result in many more deaths, of both civilians and combatants.

But Gaddafi prevailing is by far the most ominous scenario; the consequences for the people of Libya who stood up to his rule, through violence or not, are chilling to consider. Given the dragging of the world’s feet in responding to initial reports of state-sponsered massacre in Libya, one should not expect an outpouring of direct international support for the Libyan rebels. Unless, of course, oil is thrown into the bargain.


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