[This is the headline over an article just published on The Voice of Russia website. It reads in part:]
After a month of NATO’s bombing of Libya, the situation has come to a complete deadlock.
Several things are becoming more and more obvious.
First, despite the demolition of about one third of Muammar Gaddafi’s military might and the complete immobilization of his air force, the rebels not only have not gained any substantial ground, but are trying desperately to keep some of the major cities under their control, like Misurata and Ajdabiya.
Second, despite the supply of arms and ammunition to the rebel forces by some Arab countries, the rebels themselves seem to be reluctant to really fight. Posing for TV cameras and shouting out loud that “Tomorrow we will be in Tripoli” is one thing, steady and consistent warfare is completely another.
Third, it has become clear that neither the rebels nor any possible defectors from Gaddafi’s own inner circle can produce a figure capable of becoming the acknowledged national leader. The rebels seem to be happy that Benghazi is relatively safe for the time being, and may well agree to a separation of the country into two. As for defectors, at the very beginning of the NATO operation there was a wave of high-profile defections, but since the former intelligence chief and foreign minister Moussa Koussa defected in March, no other high ranking official has broken ranks with Muammar Gaddafi. More so, Moussa Koussa does not look like an acceptable figure in the eyes of the West due to his involvement as the former intelligence chief in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
Fourth, the UN Resolution 1973 clearly forbids any ground operation by foreign troops in Libya. And until now, both Barack Obama and (less so) the West European leaders of NATO countries have shown their agreement to these terms of the resolution. (...)
Fifth, and probably most important, is the fact that the majority of Libyans still support their leader. Yes, Gaddafi is a dictator who committed lots of crimes and atrocities against his own population, and was clearly involved in the Lockerbie bombing. But that does not eliminate the fact that he still attracts mass rallies with people ready to die for him and to protect him with their own bodies from NATO bombs.
All this makes it virtually impossible to attain the main goal of the NATO operation – that is toppling Gaddafi, if events continue evolving the way they are evolving now.
Therefore, the West is desperately looking for a way out. As The New York Times reported recently, the US and its allies are looking for a country (preferably, in Africa) that could accommodate Muammar Gaddafi in case of his voluntary resignation. The task is not a simple one. After (or, rather, if) Gaddafi steps down, he will be inevitably charged for his involvement in Lockerbie as well as for atrocities against the Libyan population. [RB: As regards Lockerbie, is this really so? Click here.] Therefore, the country which could give him refuge should not be a signatory to international treaties obliging it to extradite people charged with crimes against humanity by international judicial bodies. (...)
So, the deadlock is likely to remain. Gaddafi is not going to step down, and NATO seems unable to achieve its aims without such a step.
It is interesting to see how one man can almost single-handedly oppose the mightiest military and political machine in today’s world – that is NATO.
[A report just published on the BBC News website contains the following:]
British military officers will be sent to Libya to advise rebels fighting Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces, the UK government has said.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the group would be deployed to the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.
The BBC understands that 10 UK officers will provide logistics and intelligence training, part of a joint British and French operation.
Mr Hague stressed that the officers would not be involved in any fighting.
When the UN Security Council passed its resolution on Libya in March, foreign military action on the ground was specifically ruled out.
[A Press Association news agency report contains the following:]
Europe is ready to send an armed force to Libya to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid.
The proposal by the European Union to deploy the armed force to escort humanitarian aid drew an immediate warning from Muammar Gaddafi's regime that this would be tantamount to a military operation. France's foreign minister also said he was hostile to such a deployment.
The new tactics seem to have been spurred by the continued deadlock after two months of fighting between Gaddafi's army and rebel forces. There has also been growing international concern over the fate of the besieged rebel city of Misrata, where Nato has been unable to halt heavy shelling by Gaddafi's forces with airstrikes alone. (...)
The EU could deploy an armed force to Libya within days to ensure the delivery of humanitarian supplies, said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The EU has no standing army, and the personnel and equipment would have be donated by member countries.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he was "totally hostile to the deployment of troops on the ground."
[The involvement of the USA in the Vietnam war started with "military advisers". Harold Wilson was astute enough to keep the UK out of that debacle. Would that David Cameron had half his nous!
Sir Menzies Campbell QC MP is quoted in a report in The Telegraph making the same point, without acknowledgment, of course:]
The British announcement drew warnings from MPs that Britain’s mission in Libya has now changed significantly from the campaign of humanitarian airstrikes approved by the House of Commons last month.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, warned that Britain risks becoming embroiled in a military quagmire in Libya.
He said: “It must not be seen as a first instalment of further military deployment. Vietnam began with an American president sending military advisers. We must proceed with caution.”
[An editorial in Wednesday's edition of The Scotsman contains the following:]
Sir Menzies Campbell, in expressing his misgivings over the latest development, has cited the example of US involvement in Vietnam. That analogy may be rather more disturbing on examination than he intended. At least the Americans had some idea of the regime they were seeking to defend. In the Libyan conflict we do not know as much as we should about the nature of the opposition to Col Gaddafi, the forces that comprise it, what its political programme might be and what assurance it has given, if any, to the establishment of an open democratic state were it to gain power.
Given the continuing threat to civilians in Libya, there should be no doubt over Britain's commitment to provide the maximum humanitarian assistance, medical aid and to supply, as the French are doing, offshore logistical support. However, UN resolution 1973 authorised countries to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form. The deployment of military advisers, albeit with assurances that their role will be strictly humanitarian, stretches this to the limit. It should not pave the way to an involvement over and above that allowable under the UN resolution and the sanction that parliament has given.