On the heels of the Obama administration's declaration of its readiness to go to war Kinetic Military Action on both sides of the Libyan civil war comes a report that the rebels have requested a cease-fire from the Qaddafi government. According to Bloomberg:
Libyan rebels called for a cease- fire as forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi drove them back for a third day after sandstorms and clouds hindered NATO air strikes and the U.S. said it would withdraw all warplanes.
Qaddafi’s fighters must retreat from cities and nearby areas for any cease-fire deal, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel Interim National Council, said in a news conference televised today from the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi. He said rebel demands for freedoms must also be met. There was no immediate response to the offer from Qaddafi officials.
Reuters is reporting that "the Libyan government has rejected the opposition's conditions for a ceasefire, saying that government troops will not be leaving Libyan cities." Of course they have. Why would Qaddafi stop shooting and start withdrawing now, amid reports that the opposition's numbers and resources are dwindling?
Further, the dithering over whether or not to arm these anti-Qaddafi fighters (who former deputy UN ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi credulously claims will willingly give those weapons right back once they've won the civil war), combined with the U.S.'s claim that it is going to end its involvement in air strikes unless further activity is "requested by NATO" - an organization which the U.S., of course, leads militarily - add to the likelihood that, unless something radically changes on the ground in Libya, the rebellion will be short-lived in its current form, and will likely disintegrate into small, scattered pockets of lengthy resistance. Qaddafi probably thinks he's weathered the worst of the opposition's and the coalition's onslaughts and come out in pretty good shape - and, at this point, it appears he may be right.
Al Jazeera's Lawrence Lee, on the other hand, suggests that the cease-fire offer was not a serious one. He points out that the call for a cease-fire was made " in the presence of the United Nations special envoy to Libya, and the UN is calling repeatedly for a ceasefire, and so he had to acknowledge that to some degree."
I think he was speaking partly to internal opinion in places like this, and the east of Libya, but he was also speaking to the international community, and I think the international community would agree entirely that if there is to be a ceasefire, it has to be accompanied as Jalil said by Gaddafi withdrawing his forces and ending the sieges, and the rocketing of towns like Misurata, which is under heavy attack again today.
"But the other thing you have to remember that he said, was that if there is no ceasefire then the rebels will press on to try to liberate all the Western town. So he is trying to play both sides at once, and this sense of sort of bravado still maintains here, but all the same, behind the scenes, you do get the sense that they're getting a little worried ... about the protracted stalemate.
"They've been in and around Brega and Ajdabiya now for days and days and days, neither side can push on, decisively. Here, there are worries that they might be running out of ammunition. And they are, I think, now trying to at least countenance the idea of different options. Because as time goes by, the military solution to this looks far less likely, and I think the political solution, if not inevitable, looks far more likely.
The operative question regarding that "political solution" is just how long it will take to arrange and agree upon - and, therefore, just how long this civil war will continue in the interim (and, to make a third question out of it, how many rebels will be left alive to sign on and live up to it).
A stalemate, like an opposition loss, will be a very poor outcome for the Paper Tiger States of America. Our president went all-in with his mouth on the necessity of Qaddafi being deposed, and took our nation to war (from 15,000 feet AGL and above, of course), even though it meant backing a group we have since found out contains terrorists, criminals, and other beyond-undesirables. At this point, it appears the only thing worse than the Libyan opposition taking over that country is them failing to do so, after the U.S. has underlined the supposed importance of their victory by going to war to support them.
Every time it looks like Libya can't get any worse for America, it appears to do just that - and the administration's unthinking overreactions to each development simply serve to further amplify the potential damage.