Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The End is Nigh

The Libyan War will end.

The loyalists are slowly being ground down over time under a near-blockade, air attacks, and growing rebel resistance:

Based on current trends, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is losing his war against his own people. That's good. Gadhafi's defeat will be another significant victory in the struggle against tyranny.

However, inept coalition leadership, especially from the Obama administration, means the war is far from won.

We want to win. But we can't admit we want to win. And we aren't committing the resources to win as rapidly as possible. Yet if we are committed to an endless war, we will eventually break the loyalists--or get lucky and kill Khaddafi in an air strike (or from someone close to him cracking under the pressure and administering high velocity lead poisoning).

The problem is, we aren't committed to endless war (which in the real world apart from bumper stickers just means fighting until victory rather than on a timetable). Indeed, NATO is reevaluating on a quarterly basis. Which helps Khaddafi and other loyalists believe they can outlast NATO. I can't say they are wrong to think this:

Italy on Wednesday called for an immediate halt to hostilities in Libya to allow humanitarian aid to reach the population in the strife-torn country, while NATO defended the credibility of its air war after a bomb misfired killing civilians.

China has staked out a position calling for an end to the war:

Yang repeated China's stance that both sides in the conflict should stop fighting and negotiate a political settlement on their own.

While Beijing says it won't take sides in the 4-month-old conflict, its increased engagement with the rebels is an attempt to hedge its bets over the outcome in the country, in which it has major investments.

And since Khaddafi has accepted that he can't crush the rebels and can only endure NATO attacks, he's ready to cut a deal to keep something:

Kaddafi apparently seeks to partition Libya, keeping control of Tripoli and the west Libyan oil fields.

He doesn't have that yet and can only get it through diplomacy. Will the Russians or Chinese help Khaddafi by getting an agreement that allocates that territory to a rump Libya and reduces the NATO war to a true no-fly operation over rebel territory?

The outlines of our smart foreign policy are becoming clearer. Just as our NATO partners are edging toward the exits, our Congress is about to authorize American participation in the war. We'll be the only one on our side fighting. And unless we authorize more than more of what NATO is doing now, the loyalists and rebels will both survive. Since we attacked the loyalists, they'll obviously be mad at us. But since we have failed to fully side with the rebels, they'll at least resent us, too.

Meanwhile, China will get credit from the loyalists for saving the regime even in truncated form; and will get credit from the rebels for reaching out to them at the expense of the loyalists.

At this point, I'm just choking on the nuance.