Monday, 22 August 2011

Making Sense of Libya (and making fun of wannabe despots)

I spent yesterday glued to sweetie's computer, watching developments in Libya on Twitter and livestreams.

In particular, it was amusing to watch pendants pull screeching 180s on their positions. From 'It's a US-European colonial war' to "Thank gord for NATO'. From 'It's a civil, tribal war' to 'It's a popular uprising by an oppressed people'. From 'It'll be a long bloody struggle' to 'The revolutionaries are meeting no resistance'.

Anyway, there was and still is a ton of bullshit being spoken, written, and tweeted about it, most of it splendidly kicked to the curb by Juan Cole in Top Ten Myths about the Libya War, a blogpost from today.
The Libyan Revolution has largely succeeded, and this is a moment of celebration, not only for Libyans but for a youth generation in the Arab world that has pursued a political opening across the region. The secret of the uprising’s final days of success lay in a popular revolt in the working-class districts of the capital, which did most of the hard work of throwing off the rule of secret police and military cliques. It succeeded so well that when revolutionary brigades entered the city from the west, many encountered little or no resistance, and they walked right into the center of the capital. Muammar Qaddafi was in hiding as I went to press, and three of his sons were in custody. Saif al-Islam Qaddafi had apparently been the de facto ruler of the country in recent years, so his capture signaled a checkmate. (Checkmate is a corruption of the Persian “shah maat,” the “king is confounded,” since chess came west from India via Iran). Checkmate.

Then there's this one from him yesterday.
As dawn broke Sunday in Libya, revolutionaries were telling Aljazeera Arabic that much of the capital was being taken over by supporters of the February 17 Youth revolt. Some areas, such as the suburb of Tajoura to the east and districts in the eastrn part of the city such as Suq al-Juma, Arada, the Mitiga airport, Ben Ashour, Fashloum, and Dahra, were in whole or in part under the control of the revolutionaries.

Those who were expecting a long, hard slog of fighters from the Western Mountain region and from Misrata toward the capital over-estimated dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s popularity in his own capital, and did not reckon with the severe shortages of ammunition and fuel afflicting his demoralized security forces, whether the regular army or mercenaries. Nor did they take into account the steady NATO attrition of his armor and other heavy weapons.

This development, with the capital creating its own nationalist mythos of revolutionary participation, is the very best thing that could have happened.

If you read only one (or two things) about yesterday's extraordinary events, read one of these.

After all, Cole has been speaking sense on the 'Middle East' for so long that George W. Bush tried to get the CIA to discredit him. (And of course you can follow him on Twitter.)

I'm still decompressing, but I admit I'm absurdly elated at the thought of all the world's despots and wannabe despots crapping their pants.

Oh jeez, look. There's an opening for a cheap shot at our own wannabe despot.

Hey, whaddaya expect? DJ! lives for the cheap shots.


Purple library guy said...

The piece makes some good points. Also some not-so-good points, including a claim that the US is in it because they have an interest in seeing freedom of assembly protected. Awww, those sweet pro-democracy USians.
I'll be interested to see how democratic a government the Libyans will manage to set up in the face of NATO expectations of how a satrap is supposed to behave.

double nickel said...

Mr. Cole has forgotten more about Middle Eastern politics than most people will ever know.

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