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Monday
Aug222011

Fall of Tripoli Roundup

How much of Tripoli the rebels control is still very much open to question, but what is certain as of writing this is that the régime of Muammar Qaddafi has crumbled and lost control as a defined unit.  There are a few good pieces that I'll point people to regarding this, that repeat points I have made myself, and also set out my idea on what this means for interventionism in the future.

Two of my favourite commentaries are by Issandr El Amrani ("The Arabist") and Juan Cole.  A common theme of both is that the arguments coming from both extreme right and left are bit ridiculous.  The situation does not look like Syria, there's no guarantee the new government will be any better for oil interests, and no one wants to occupy the place if they can avoid it.  The "quick succesion" of events in the last week has finally vindicated the observations of those who have watched this conflict unfold closely like myself and noticed that there was a lot of movement day to day.  It was only a matter of when that movement became media-friendly and photogenic that the vast majority of commentators noticed.  Likewise, the arguments of how 'boots on the ground' were necessary were rendered irrelevant by the use of security contractors and consultants.

Ultimately, the NATO strategy found its strongest vindication in giving firm material and psychological support to the revolution while standing far enough back to give the rebels a sense of ownership over the outcome.  From my experience on the ground, I feel exactly this; the feeling that people care for Libyans but can also treat them like adults.  The message that I feel I'm getting is that the West showed firm support for liberalism in the Arab world, but also delivered the message that it was no cakewalk.  The tensions amongst NATO members were palpable, especially during the thankfully rare mistakes of the campaign, and this was in a situation where terrain and geographical control rendered intervention feasible.  The NATO mission in Libya in its success actually demonstrates why such a mission would not work in Syria and reminds aspirant populations that there's only so much outside intervention can do.  And hopefully the case is clearer with Western governments that they can't always fix it no matter how much they want to.

I realise I'm being a bit optimistic here, but my shtick is ultimately trying to make things better, and I wouldn't be doing what I do unless I believe that at some level.

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