Where I grew up, before the age of texting, high school teenagers would jump in their cars on Friday/Saturday nights and caravan to cornfields, abandoned parking lots and country highways establishing informal gatherings quickly scuttled at the first sign of a police car or prying parents. Teenagers would disperse in a chaotic fashion driving away haphazardly to the next link up point for another 30 minutes of socializing before another cop or parent ran off the swarm. Each iteration saw a decline in the ranks as some failed to identify the next link up point and others were sent home by authorities.
Reading about the Libyan opposition today reminded me of this period in my life. Except the teenagers were the Libyan rebels driving in disorganized caravans until Qaddafi’s army lobs a few shells their way. This perpetual “Charlie Foxtrot” supported by a NATO NFZ poses a serious problem.
The NY Times article “Rebel Leadership in Libya Shows Strain” illustrates the complex problems ahead for the West regardless of Qaddafi’s fate. For all those touting ‘leaderless’ revolutions, take note, this is the result. I infer from the article that there is no real leadership. Leaders have followers and it does not appear that any of these designated “leaders” command sufficient popular support to unify the Libyan opposition much less defeat Qaddafi’s army. Many of the so-called opposition leaders spend more time arguing with other opposition members than battling Qaddafi.
The most serious deficit appears to be in military leadership. The rebel military hopes hinge entirely on the effectiveness of the NFZ at dismantling Qaddafi’s logistics (which it might very well do). However, a little bit of military leadership will likely go a long way for the rebels. And who might fill this gap?
- Western Special Operations Forces- The U.S. has repeatedly said no. I’ve seen a couple of reports that British SAS are in the fight. Is there any other way to have the West give them some ground-based leadership?
- Libyan defectors- Defectors would put some additional emotional sting against the Qaddafi military, but it appears most remain on the sidelines.
- AQ and Foreign Fighter veterans- Unfortunately, AQ veterans in Libya, while small in number, will rise in prominence as the conflict drags on. Experienced fighters are in short supply and former foreign fighters will be a valued commodity. Ending the Qaddafi regime quickly will limit their influence in the opposition.