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“Improper Administrative Procedures”

[ 43 ] August 9, 2011 |

As the Libyan rebels seem finally to be making some tortuously slow military progress, the political front threatens to fall apart:

Rebel leaders dissolved their own cabinet on Monday, in an effort to placate the family of an assassinated rebel military leader and quiet discord in a movement already struggling to remove the country’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, from power.

A rebel spokesman said that the prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, the only member of the cabinet who kept his job, would have to present a new slate of cabinet members to the rebel legislative body, the Transitional National Council, for approval in the coming days. The cabinet was dissolved, the spokesman said, “for improper administrative procedures” that led to the arrest and subsequent killing of the military leader, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, a former top Libyan commander who defected to the rebel side.

The move left the rebels without several of its leaders — including the ministers of defense, finance, interior and justice — as they try to fight a three-front war, run dozens of cities under their control and rein in armed militias that have multiplied since the February uprising.

In short, the fall of Qaddafi (if it happens) isn’t going to be the end of the mess. The best hope is that there’s a sufficient rump state left to be seized when/if the rebels arrive in Tripoli. I’m not particularly optimistic about that, though; Qaddafi seems to have eschewed strengthening formal administrative structures in preference for rulership through personalist ties. When/if he’s gone, the disparate, squabbling rebels may have to assemble state institutions from scratch.

In other news, I’m a touch skeptical that Assad is on his way out, but it would be rather rich if Qaddafi outlasted Assad, despite the NATO intervention.

Comments (43)

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  1. mike in dc says:

    I think the big question with respect to Assad is whether Turkey, Syria’s largest trading partner, is ever going to get off the dime and impose sanctions. If they do, I think that would hasten the demise of the regime. Money talks, and whatnot.

  2. joe from Lowell says:

    The tortuously slow-progressing Libya rebels opened another front, pushing out of the western mountains into Tripolitania two days ago.

    It would probably be a good idea to wait and see whether the political crisis gets solved or blows up before declaring that the leadership is falling apart.

    • wengler says:

      It’s all cakewalks and victory parades from here on out! Maybe if you were less a cheerleader for this war from Day 1, someone could take you seriously.

      Homs certainly wasn’t worthy of the protection afforded Benghazi.

      • It’s all cakewalks and victory parades from here on out!

        Nice straw man.

        Maybe if you were less a cheerleader for this war from Day 1, someone could take you seriously.

        i like the way you don’t need to click the link or familiarize yourself with facts, because the person who made you aware of them is ideologically suspect. Nice own-goal. I could not possibly make you look like more of an asshole if I’d sock-puppeted you.

        Oh, btw, what I’ve said from the beginning – not that I’d expect you to be able to follow it – is that territorial gains don’t tell us how the conflict is actually progressing, and that the outcome will be determined by which side sees its material attritted until it can’t keep up with the pressure on it and collapse: which is why the opening of another front is significant.

        Homs certainly wasn’t worthy of the protection afforded Benghazi.

        Tens of thousands of people who aren’t dead, because your sorry ass didn’t get to decide that we’d ignore their slaughter, are worthy of that protection.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Joe, I have a question. In the V-J day thread, you have a really nuanced view of the war, a war that most Americans view as an event where we are unambiguous Good Guys. Your quote about “Our cause doesn’t make our actions any better, and our actions don’t make our cause any worse” is genuinely fucking eloquent.

          But in threads about modern wars, you lose this nuance, or at least you seem to. None of us here want to see dead civilians. We have honest disagreements about the results of our actions.

          I’m genuinely curious as to how you can see nuance and ambiguity, correctly, when so very few Americans can, yet you attribute malice to those of us who want to see nuance now. I doubt anybody sees our involvement in Libya as wholly evil (okay, soullite probably does), but many of us wonder if we will not cause more damage than we prevent.

          I’m not trying to have a flame war, but I genuinely don’t see how you hold these two positions.

          • I think that “seem to” is the operative word.

            :When I’m responding to “It’s all cakewalks and victory parades from here on out” as a response to what I wrote, what sort of nuance would you like me to demonstrate?

            yet you attribute malice to those of us who want to see nuance now

            You have completely made that up, and you have done this over and over again, reading something that isn’t there into my comments, even after I’ve corrected you on this point over and over again.

            Pointing out the consequences of a policy is not the same thing as accusing someone of desiring those consequences. I’m sick of tired of having to repeat this.

            • Malaclypse says:

              When I’m responding to “It’s all cakewalks and victory parades from here on out” as a response to what I wrote, what sort of nuance would you like me to demonstrate?

              Yes, that was needlessly snarky. But when you write: Tens of thousands of people who aren’t dead, because your sorry ass didn’t get to decide that we’d ignore their slaughter, are worthy of that protection. well, I do think you are attributing malice to those who disagree with you. You are certainly attributing something bad to wengler there. Maybe you are not attributing malice, but you are attributing something.

              Not intervening would have meant mass slaughter, yes. But intervening will also lead to mass civilian casualties.

              Nobody on these boards wants anything other than minimizing death and destruction. If someone accused you of being a warmonger who wanted dead civilians, I will be the first to call that person an unhelpful ass. But not believing that we can helpfully intervene is not the same as “ignoring slaughter,” it is believing that sometimes even bad situations can only be made worse by our actions. It is believing that sometimes there is no right answer, only a less bad one.

              • well, I do think you are attributing malice to those who disagree with you. You are certainly attributing something bad to wengler there. Maybe you are not attributing malice, but you are attributing something.

                Bad policy, lack of knowledge, and a wrong-headed set of priorities.

                Yep. I sure as hell am attributing those things to him. I’m going to do it again the next time he spouts off on the topic, too – because I think he’s wrong.

                But intervening will also lead to mass civilian casualties.

                That assumption has now been proven to be completely false. Our intervention has been the salvation of tens of thousands of lives. The day after – the very day after – the first Predator drone fired the first missile at the multiple rocket launcher that was murdering civilians in Misurata, Khadaffy’s troops were forced to pull back.

                There were more civilians killed in the weeks before the UN mission began than in the months since. There is simply no evidence at all to support your assertion, just a certainty that it must be true, because of a non-nuanced “war is bad, mm-kay?” view of military action that ignores the relevant facts.

                Nobody on these boards wants anything other than minimizing death and destruction.

                Many people on this board have an extremely wrong-headed idea about how to do that.

                But not believing that we can helpfully intervene is not the same as “ignoring slaughter,”

                For what should be, but won’t be, the last time, I’m not talking about people’s beliefs. I’m not talking about their feelings. I’m talking about the policies they recommend, and what they are likely to lead to.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I’m talking about the policies they recommend, and what they are likely to lead to.

                  We disagree about likely outcomes.

                  And also, I have been needlessly snarky with you at times, and for that I apologize.

                • We disagree about likely outcomes.

                  Then disagree with me about likely outcomes.

                  Don’t make up a straw man about me impugning people’s feelings.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Then disagree with me about likely outcomes.

                  Well, I think the likely outcome is that we will win the war, and lose the peace. I think hatred of Americans will increase. I think that this further glorifies our already over-glorified military, and makes us more likely to use force in other situations. I think that “every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies- in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed”, and that far more lives could be saved by addressing poverty in the Third World than we will ever save with our military.

                • Well, I think the likely outcome is that we will win the war, and lose the peace. I think hatred of Americans will increase.

                  If we’d put an armored division into Libya, rolled across the country, shot our way through Brega, Ras Lanouf, Sirte, and into Tripoli, and overthrown the government, I’d be right there with you.

                  But we didn’t. Heck, we’ve been so restrained that do you know what the residents of Misurata were saying to the press? “Where’s NATO? They said they were going to help us, where are they?”

                  The Free Libya Forces are doing the fighting. They’re going into the cities, they’re going to topple Khadaffy, and they’ll be responsible for the post-war.

                  “We” aren’t going to win, or lose, either the war or the peace, and that’s a big, important point.

                  I think that this further glorifies our already over-glorified military, and makes us more likely to use force in other situations.

                  I don’t. An off-shore mission that isn’t even led by Americans isn’t exactly making the flag-wavers shout “Woot woot woot!” Also, this is a rarity, a perfect storm. The factors that needed to come together to make this intervention happen are a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Arab League urging the west to take military action against an Arab country? Russia and China letting an authorization get through the UNSC? We’re not going to be seeing that again.

                  But you know what? If this mission leads to us using our military to save tens of thousands of lives like this a couple more times before I die: GOOD!

                  I think that “every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies- in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed”,and that far more lives could be saved by addressing poverty in the Third World than we will ever save with our military.

                  This war will add up to 0.133% of this year’s military budget. It’s being paid for out of the Pentagon’s petty cash. That’s a fine sentiment you brought up, but it’s not taking a penny out of anything that might have been done to alleviate poverty in the developing world.

            • The only time I have ever attributed actual malice to opponents of the UN mission is when they have accused the Free Libyans of being skeery al Qaeda Mooslems.

              Yes, I reserve the right to accuse people who play on ethnic and religious stereotypes of being malicious towards those they disparage.

              But that really has nothing to do with denouncing someone recommended policy as leading to horrific outcomes. What, are we only allowed to discuss the bad things that would happen if someone’s advice was followed when those things are only sort of bad?

              • Malaclypse says:

                What, are we only allowed to discuss the bad things that would happen if someone’s advice was followed when those things are only sort of bad?

                Of course not. But Bad Things are going to happen in Libya no matter what we do. Both intervention and non-intervention will have horrid outcomes. There is no happy ending here.

                • But Bad Things are going to happen in Libya no matter what we do. Both intervention and non-intervention will have horrid outcomes. There is no happy ending here.

                  Taking this stance without accounting for the degree of badness makes a mockery of moral reasoning.

                  There are no perfect outcomes, so we can’t draw a moral distinction between anything?

          • In the V-J day thread, you have a really nuanced view of the war…But in threads about modern wars, you lose this nuance, or at least you seem to.

            And yet I am the same person, bringing exactly the same point of view to both questions.

            Maybe the problem isn’t me.

            • Jason says:

              No, it’s you.

            • Malaclypse says:

              And yet I am the same person, bringing exactly the same point of view to both questions.

              But the outcome is so very different, or at least it seems so to me. I see ambiguity, and tragedy, in the actions we have taken in both wars. And while you may feel that ambiguity and tragedy in regards to our actions in Libya, I have not seen you express it. That may very well be my oversight.

              Maybe the problem isn’t me.

              I’m not calling you a problem. I’m genuinely asking about how you see things.

              • or at least it seems so to me.

                Yes, it seems to you.

                And no matter what language I use, no matter how I express the thought that I think my opponents’ recommended policies – to ignore the problem, to do nothing about it, to allow Khadaffy to crush the rebellion without interference, regardless of the casualties – are bad ones, you change the subject to an imagined comment about people’s feelings.

                Tell you what: I’m going to start putting an asterisk after everything I write: *this is not about your feelings. This is about what your policies would result in.

                Better? It shouldn’t really be necessary, but if it’s what I have to do to keep every thread in which I argue against the “do nothing” position from being hijacked like this, then that’s what I’ll do.

                I see ambiguity, and tragedy, in the actions we have taken in both wars. And while you may feel that ambiguity and tragedy in regards to our actions in Libya, I have not seen you express it.

                Have you considered the possibility that the actual facts of the situations make our actions in LIbya less morally ambiguous than, say, area-bombing cities in order to defeat Hitler? We paid a cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian lives in the pursuit of that goal. We have saved tens of thousands of civilian lives in this war. Not in a “it will be better for the civilians in the long-term” sense, either: we have directly stopped ongoing or imminent attacks my Khadaffy forces that would have killed tens of thousands of civilians. This is not a matter of opinion, on which people of good will can disagree because they have different points of view. This is well-established fact.

        • wengler says:

          Keep waving them pom-poms.

          Feel free to quotebox both of these sentences.

      • I especially like that you can’t even say I’ve been wrong about anything in my statements about this war, as a reason not to take me seriously.

        I’m just on the wrong side of your Protest People line. so it doesn’t matter what the facts are.

  3. Warren Terra says:

    Samuel Johnson famously said that the prospect of being hanged in a fortnight concentrates the mind wonderfully. Here we are seeing the corollary, that the prospect of foreseeable success gives license to more diffuse and counterproductive activity. It was entirely foreseeable that a group of people with diverse and sometimes contradictory aims would work together much better when it was keeping Qaddafi’s hands from closing around their throats than they would once his grip appeared to have loosened, and perhaps to be on the verge of disappearing entirely.

  4. Hogan says:

    Malice is not a feeling. Just sayin.

    • mal·ice/ˈmaləs/Noun
      1. The intention or desire to do evil; ill will.
      2. Wrongful intention, esp. as increasing the guilt of certain offenses.

      It is indeed a feeling. It is wanting. It is desiring. It is intending.

  5. Getting back to something that’s actually interesting:

    When/if he’s gone, the disparate, squabbling rebels may have to assemble state institutions from scratch.

    Khadaffy never ran Libya as a centralized operation from Tripoli. Governance is very localized, from what I’ve read. He won/demanded/secured the loyalty, or at least the acquiescence, of local powers. It wasn’t like Iraq or the Soviet Union, where the central party put their guys in charge throughout the country. There hasn’t been chaos in the liberated areas, and it isn’t because the Free Libya Forces are such administrative geniuses.

    So, what Farley says is more likely to be true of the national government, but it isn’t necessarily true that the collapse of the central government would unleash the sort of civil breakdown that our toppling of the Iraq state and dismissal of the army brought about in Iraq (most of Iraq, anyway. The Kurds had a well-established local government).

    Not that there wouldn’t be problems, but they’d be a different sort of problem. More like secession, less like anarchy, if they arise.

    • witless chum says:

      Lots of local centers of power sounds scary in its own way. If they’re liberated from the threat of Khaddafi’s security forces showing up to knock heads together, are they going to start fighting a half-dozen civil wars over local issues? People do acquiesce to dictatorships for understandable reasons. If law and order breaks down, it really is worse.

      The decision not to stand by Hosni Mubarak is one of the best foreign policy decisions the U.S. has made recently. Unreservedly hooray for Barack Obama on that one. (Who would John McCain have bombed in response to the Arab Spring, I wonder? I suppose Iran.) Even if Egypt doesn’t turn out well, at least people there won’t hate us for it, because we aren’t propping up their oppressors. Too bad we didn’t apply that lesson in Bahrain, but maybe we’ll have the chance to apply it to Saudi royal family before too long.

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