For whom the bell tolls – the stubborness of dictators

I’ve been following the ongoing situation / civil war in Libya for some time now and it seems that indeed, the old saying “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” still holds water. Muammar Gaddafi, the man who has ruled the country of Libya with what could be called an “iron fist” for 42 years now is not giving up. Here’s a quick summary of the events so far:

February 15th, 2011: Likely encouraged by the “revolution”* of Egypt, a group of Libyans decided they’ve had enough of Gaddafi’s stagnated rulership and demand him to step down and arrange democratic elections. Gaddafi responded as any dictator would by basically giving them the finger (he called them “rats” and cockroaches” among other things) thus escalating what began as protests into a full-scale armed conflict, a de facto civil war.

February 26th, 2011: The UN passes Resolution 1970, condemning the use of violence by the forces of Gaddafi and imposing several economic sanctions upon Gaddafi and his family.

March 17th, 2011: As the fighting continues despite international pressure UN urges Gaddafi to stop using the military and especially the air force to attack th

e rebels and called for a cease-fire. Gaddafi – being the egomaniac son of a bitch he is – didn’t listen to any of it. Thus, the UN passed Resolution 1973, creating a no fly zone over Libya, and authorizing the use of “all means necessary short of foreign invasion” to  protect civilians caught in the middle of the conflict. Essentially this means that Gaddafi’s forces have to be crippled, since he won’t listen to reason or even agree to negotiate.

March 19th, 2011: The French Air Force takes the initiative by sending 20 fighters to protect the rebel controlled city of Benghazi. The planes destroyed four Libyan tanks. By the evening of the 19th, 25 warships were standing by, including 3 submarines.  Altogether 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired with the intention of disabling the Libyan air-defence grid in case aerial bombardment and combat will be necessary to stop Gaddafi’s forces. So far, sources say at least 10 000 people have been estimated to have died in the entire conflict, starting from february 15th.

One of the 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles being fired by the american destroyer USS Barry.

Libyan foreign minister said on the 19th that they’ve decided to comply with the resolution 1973, agree to follow a cease-fire and stop military operations. However, at the same time Gaddafi briefly spoke in the radio, telling the people to arm themselves and calling the attacks to airfields  by US and British navies “crusader bombings”. According to BBC, tv channels in Libya also showed news footage of the US invasion of Iraq in an apparent attempt to throw dirt at the coalition campaign and their intentions.

What annoys me the most about this is that Gaddafi still seems to refuse to give up. He still thinks he can win this, although it’s obvious that it’s not going to happen. Libya is a small country, with less than 6 million inhabitants. The military is small, poorly equipped, and poorly trained (as proven by the fact that the Libyan trained rebel anti-aircraft crews didn’t know how to separate friend from foes and indeed shot down one of their own planes). Most of the equipment of the airforce consist of soviet era planes (mostly Mig-23s from the 70-80s). They’re facing the combined power of first world military mights under mandate from the UN.  They have a snowball’s change in hell of surviving 30 minutes in a direct confrontation with the coalition forces. And whilst a land occupation is not likely to happen, once the air-force of Gaddafi has been dealt with the strategic bombers can pretty much rain death from above and take care of whatever ground forces they have left.

So, dear mr. Muammar: you’ve had your run of 42 years. Time to let go. Swallow your pride and pull your head out your ass before your ego causes any more needless deaths and suffering to the people you claim to be leading. You have burned your bridges and exhausted your options, it’s high time to accept that and step down.

Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.

Winston Churchill, 1937

*= the scenario that took place in Egypt does not (yet) constitute as a true revolution, because the military regime is still in power despite the fact that Mubarak has stepped down.


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