Monday, March 28, 2011

Rebels' Advance in Libya Halted

As reported in the NY Times, Libyan government troops in Qaddafi's bastion at Surt have stopped the rebel advance there - and the US general in that theater is making the case that the rebels cannot succeed - and their advance can still be reversed - unless NATO airstrikes are applied.

General Ham’s warning . . . underscored the essential role of Western airstrikes, now focused mainly on Colonel Qaddafi’s ground troops, in reversing the rebels’ fortunes. It also framed anew the question of how the poorly equipped and disorganized rebel forces might fare against Colonel Qaddafi’s garrison in Surt, where air cover may be less useful.

Left open, as well, was the question of how the allies could justify airstrikes on Colonel Qaddafi’s forces around Surt if, as seems to be the case, they enjoy widespread support in the city and pose no threat to civilians. On Monday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, strongly criticized the allied attacks, saying “we consider that intervention by the coalition in what is essentially an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution,” news agencies reported.

It's difficult to communicate how jarring the irony is here for someone of my generation.  In the early 1960s, the UN was seen as a global political arena where bellicose Soviet Russian representatives threatened us "Free World" peoples with defeat and destruction, while the US led the effort to roll back the Communist tide that had swamped eastern Europe and, by 1950, "Red" China.  Fifty years later, it's the  Russian foreign minister protesting that it's a bellicose  US and its European allies who are overstepping the bounds of UN resolutions.

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