11A075 Libya's Lincoln by Jim Davies, 3/17/2011    

Amid all the terrible, heart-wrenching news from Japan this week, it's been all too easy to overlook the massacres of Qaddafi as he clings on to power. The initial successes of those seeking his ouster have been reversed, and he seems on-course to crush opposition. Although he may do it in 4 weeks rather than 4 years, there's a similarity to Abe Lincoln.

Half the population of Libya wants to secede from his rule in Tripoli, and significant parts of the remaining half have mixed loyalty. At first, it seemed he might be unable to command his air or tank force to the degree needed; pilots defected and others apparently mis-aimed; I recall one raid on an ammunition dump missed. How do you miss a whole ammo dump? - only by design. But the rebels are (like the earlier ones in Tunisia and Egypt) better at demonstrating noisily but peacefully than at forming a disciplined military force, so at this writing it looks as if his rag-tag army may prevail over their rag-tag army.

If so, the ruler will have reimposed his will upon a large segment of "his people" who didn't want it. That's exactly what Abe did; he held the Union together, regardless of cost, and the cost was half a million lives. For this, he was rewarded with the biggest monument in D.C. and the posthumous reputation of being the Great Emancipator - even though ending slavery was a very minor afterthought to his list of war aims. It eloquently declares what D.C. is about.

The rebels have asked for outside help, and the answer has been a deal of huffing and puffing including some from Obama. It's quite right that the FedGov should not intervene, nor any in Europe - and Ron Paul offered one good explanation of why not - but while staying out, no huffs or puffs should have been audible. To speak on the rebels' behalf yet not to intervene is to encourage them to run into a buzz saw, so it will be a long time before they forgive Americans. At the same time, by declaring that Qaddafi should quit, Obama has made certain of hostility from the likely winner of the conflict as well as from the likely losers. This is an object lesson in how to lose friends and influence nobody; for example those, maybe on both sides, from whom we may soon need cheap oil.

Taking a cue from Libya, the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have made it clear that their armies, too, will be turned on dissidents as necessary to preserve their supremacy; just like Lincoln did. The contrast with Egypt seems to be that Mubarak had become so vicious that even his army would not support him, whereas Qadaffi has been cunning enough, despite his apparent eccentricity, to fill key posts with family members and set one group against another so as to divide and rule.

As noted here in Not Even Close, the withdrawal of support for government is the sine qua non of a successful revolution, especially a peaceful one. We are well on track here for a total withdrawal of support for all government. Watch this space for news soon of a possible way to achieve that sooner than even I expected.

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