Two Libyan States?

The divided state was an artifact of the Cold War in which nations conquered or liberated at the close of WWII were partitioned into zones controlled by the Western Allies on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other. These included East and West Germany and North and South Korea, with Vietnam partitioned into northern and southern halves in 1954. The Germanys merged through the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989. Only Korea remains divided, a circumstance that may be corrected at any time.

We are now facing the possibility of an East and West Libya. Hostilities over the next few weeks are likely to fall into stalemate, with Coalition air power preventing Gaddafi from utilizing his armor and heavy artillery to sweep aside the rebels, and the rebels unable to take Tripoli or the surrounding cities due to their bobtail-and-crew composition and simple military realities (operations become harder for an attacker as he enters the enemy's home territory, partly due to simple geometry -- acting along "interior lines" makes it easier for the defender to maneuver -- and the morale advantage of fighting in defense of "home."

Both factors are widely attested to in military history -- see northern Virginia in 1863-1865 or the German-Soviet front in 1945. There are things that air power alone can't do, and taking ground is one of them. American or European ground forces would annihilate Gaddafi's loyalists, but it seems unlikely that they will enter combat. That being the case, we can look forward to the seesaw battles of the past few days settling down into a stalemate over the next week or two, one that can only be broken by serious military effort or a diplomatic coup. Both, in my opinion, are unlikely.

We will then have the de facto states of East and West Libya, one based on Tripoli, the other on Benghazi, with Sirte acting as the rough demarcation point. Interestingly, this almost duplicates the old imperial Roman division into the provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. This means the U.S. and Europe are in for the long haul, exactly the case as in Iraq and Afghanistan. The no-fly operation will have to be maintained until further notice, probably with added efforts to assure that Gaddafi remains bottled up.

We could argue that neither state is viable in the customary sense, but that doesn't matter. In the end, it turned out that neither East Germany nor South Vietnam was viable in the circumstances facing them. This is probably also the case with North Korea. But all of them managed to hold on for a lengthy period, South Vietnam for thirty years, East Germany for forty-four years, while North Korea exists still. They hung on for the same reason -- outside support.  Both Libyas can do the same. East Libya will be supported by the U.S. and the EU, while Gaddafi's kingdom will have to do with support from pariahs such as Mugabe and the Sudanese military clique. Cash flow will not be a problem. Both sides have access to the country's oil, the preponderance of active fields going to the rebels, who also possess more refining and storage capability. (Did I hear someone say that Gaddafi's share of the oil can be interdicted? Kindly Google "Oil for Food".)

Without exception, the divided states acted as flashpoints throughout the Cold War period. South Vietnam embroiled both France and the U.S. in lengthy, failed wars. East Germany (particularly as regarded West Berlin, located far behind the East-West borderline) served as a picture window that the Soviets could toss a brick through every time they wanted to create an uproar. North Korea fills the role of international pest to this day, uttering threats, firing missiles, and sinking patrol boats whenever the Kims feel they aren't getting enough attention.

We can expect the same from a divided Libya, perhaps from both sides. Gaddafi, needless to say, will want revenge, and he is a man who knows how to get it. He has an effective intelligence service capable of any style of covert action. He can also reach out to Iran, Hamas, Hezb'allah, Al Qaeda, and what have you, any of which will be delighted to work with him. (Even Al Qaeda, with which the colonel has had issues in the past.)  If Gaddafi is not taken down, expect much more in the way of exploding airliners and falling buildings.  Keep in mind that Gaddafi is not only brutal and cunning, he is, by any ordinary measure, not quite sane.

As for East Libya, its status as number two source (behind Saudi Arabia) for Jihadi fighters, and the news that precisely such people are involved in the rebellion, should have concentrated minds more than it has. An East Libya under UN protection could serve as an excellent staging area for any given Jihadi group. No doubt we'll have a lengthy speech from Obama explaining why this is necessary.

We can avoid much of this outcome simply by assuring that Gaddafi is eliminated as soon as possible. This does not necessarily entail an armored division roaring down the Via Maris toward Tripoli a la Montgomery and the 8th Army, welcome though such a sight would be.  My suggestions would include covering Tripoli with leaflets promising a million bucks and legal immunity to whoever knocks off the colonel. But there are other alternatives -- a decapitation strike by way of B-2 Spirit, or a dragnet by Predator. Gaddafi is at bay, and one way or another, he can be taken out. The Western stance that his person is somehow inviolate after decades of crimes against his own people and the world at large is simply a public-relations move, an opportunity for Obama and the Europeans to adapt a moral pose by asserting, "We go by the rules, even with someone like Gaddafi."  This is asinine. Medieval culture had a category for the Gaddafi type: the outlaw, the man whose crimes put him beyond the law's protection and who could be killed by anyone as they pleased. Gaddafi is an outlaw and should be treated as such.

Through their unwillingness to stand up to Josef Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisors (along with Winston Churchill in this case), created an unstable, dysfunctional, and bloodsoaked postwar world. A student of FDR in all things, Obama (and let's not kid ourselves as to who's really calling the shots here) is recreating an identical situation. This is not inevitable, and can be corrected with quick and decisive action. Sun Tzu wrote, "In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare." We've seen enough in the past few years to verify that dictum. We don't need yet another lesson.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker, and author of Death by Liberalism.
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