Libya Analysis: Part IV, Commentary- Civil War?


by Sundar J.M. Brown

Colonel Moammar el-Gadhafi has ruled Libya with an iron hand for over forty years.  As the opposition realizes its first major victory, a paradigm shift is moving through the higher echelons of society.  Libyan State Television, which is government-sponsored and government-controlled, has switched over from exclusively pro-Gadhafi programming to showing images of  Benghazi’s burning buildings and celebrating crowds- a sign that the “middle management” of Gadhafi loyalists are willing to publicly recognize that such a power shift has taken place.  This is likely a move amongst the localized pro-Gadhafi entities to align themselves with the demonstrators, in an attempt to remain on the ‘right side of the conflict’ as the protest movement progresses.

One thing is certain: at this stage of the anti-Gadhafi revolution, the people of Libya have gone well past the point of no return.  A failed revolution would guarantee a genocidal annihilation at the hands of a maddened tyrant who has already publicly decried his entire country, and its population, to the point of threatening complete annihilation.  The need of the revolution’s members to survive and push the movement forward demands that the current state of affairs remain irreversible.

Another expected certainty: Gadhafi’s fall from power will be imminent, though, not without tribulation.  As may be determined from his own publicly repeated position, Gadhafi very much intends to go down fighting.  Libya’s civilian population will, undoubtedly, suffer continued loss of life in the wake of his obstinate and violent hubris.

Finally, mainstream U.S. media sources are suggesting that the revolutionary activities will ultimately culminate in a Libyan civil war.  While this remains a possibility, it is not the most likely course of events.  The protest movement is, most directly, a mass social agitation opposing Gadhafi’s autocracy.  The Libyan citizens are extremely passionate and many of them have already demonstrated a willingness to die for their freedom.  In the end, however, the resources needed to accomplish Gadhafi’s overthrow by martial means, the resources needed for the protesters to, “win the civil war”, simply aren’t available to them. 

Gadhafi and his loyalists possess and control the majority of the military equipment and weapons.  As was not the case with the United States’ secret proliferation of weapons to the mujahedeen’s anti-Soviet resistance within 1980’s Afghanistan, no separate polity has arranged for the anti-Gadhafi revolution to receive additional funding, supplies, weapons, or food.  This is evidenced by the fact that, while localized militias continue to form, they are largely disorganized, weaponless (save and except rudimentary weapons such as sticks, pipes, Molotov cocktails, knives, etc.) and have remained ineffective at producing anything other than social pressure through prolonged demonstration. 

To date, the only successful takeover, and subsequent holding of area control, by the protestors has been Benghazi- and that was a direct circumstantial result of military equipment, personnel, and weapons being made readily available.  Furthermore, those military resources were collectively utilized by trained military men who had joined the civilian movement.  Unless the activities in Libya continue to produce a definitive coupling of these elements, it is much more likely that Gadhafi’s fall from power will come as a result of extreme social and political pressure of both local and international persuasions.

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