Muammar Qaddafi may not hold on much longer, but the US and NATO-led war has taken a lot of steam out of the Arab spring. When the war in Libya started more than three months ago—has it really been that long?—it was touted as a quick action designed to protect Libyan civilians, but it’s morphed into an all-out effort to topple Muammar Qaddafi by force and propel the questionable Libyan opposition into power. For months, it’s been a stalemate, with the pro-Qaddafi forces entrenched in the capital and in various strongholds and the armed opposition unable to expand their area of control, except in a string of mountain towns south and west of Tripoli.
It’s possible, finally, that the war might draw to a conclusion in a negotiated deal between Qaddafi and the opposition Transitional National Council, brokered by Russia’s Dmitri Medvedev and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma. The head of NATO is in Moscow, talking to Medvedev, exploring a deal, and the TNC has suggested that Qaddafi might remain in Libya, presumably indefinitely and free of prosecution, if he steps down and agrees to a transfer of power. Newspapers in Russia say that Qaddafi is looking for a way out.
Sadly, Obama has turned to the “two Johns,” Senators John Kerry and John McCain, who’ve formed an alliance to back the war in Libya, together facing down both the growing Republican opposition to the war and the left-liberal Democratic critics.
Over the July 4 weekend, Mustafa Abdel Jalil of the TNC said:
“As a peaceful solution, we offered that he [Qaddafi] can resign…and then he can decide either to stay in Libya or abroad. If he desires to stay in Libya, we will determine the place, and it will be under international supervision.”
That’s a significant concession by the TNC, since its stand all along has been that Qaddafi has to depart Libya, and they’ve backed international criminal proceedings against him. A counterproductive warrant for Qaddafi’s arrest, issued by the International Criminal Court, has been denounced and ignored by the African Union, and rightly so: the ICC action, trumpeted by the Obama administration, has made it harder to get an accord that results in Qaddafi’s stepping down. Even so, the talks between Medvedev, NATO, and Zuma have made some progress. “The meeting was rather productive,” said Medvedev.
Last week, the New York Times noted in an editorial that Italy has called for a ceasefire and that the Arab League is “second-guessing” its support for the war, and no wonder. Rather than a limited military action, the US and NATO effort has become a grinding war in support of regime change. The ragtag Libya opposition, a far cry from the stirring democratic protests that ousted leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, has settled into something closer to trench warfare. Other NATO members, too, are questioning the war, reports the Los Angeles Times, in a piece that notes that the anti-Qaddafi coalition in NATO could fall apart:
Several signs of discontent have become public. In the Netherlands, Defense Minister Hans Hillen complained last week of “mission creep” and suggested that the campaign’s advocates were deluded in believing they could crush Qaddafi. “People who thought that merely by throwing some bombs it would not only help the people, but also convince Qaddafi that he could step down or alter his policy were a little bit naive,” Hillen told reporters in Brussels.