As the air war in Libya continues to be remarkably successful from a military point of view, the next week will likely be much more difficult. As I see it, the two things to keep in mind if the rebels keep up their advance are as follows:
1. The defense of civilians in Sirte. That means holding the rebels to a high standard of behavior if they try to attack a city that doesn’t support them. Hopefully the realization that they would probably be dead or imprisoned right now without the intervention will make them somewhat beholden to maintaining a high standard of human rights protection if they occupy Sirte. This needs to be communicated to the rebel command.
2. So far, the revolutions in the Maghreb haven’t ended in retaliatory killings by the forces taking power – Ben Ali and Mubarak both got out safely and with the means to live comfortable lives. In Libya, a lot more blood has been spilled. Nonetheless, if the rebellion approaches Tripoli getting Gaddafi and his family out of Libya safely, by means of negotiations or some other method, would be very helpful, not only to avoid unnecessary killings that would hinder reconciliation in Libya, but also to keep the precedent going and prevent desperation on the part of other dictators in the same position.
I am thinking here particularly of the Assad family and other high-ranking Syrians following the Alawi faith. Many Sunni Muslims consider them to be heretics, and there is a real danger that if the Syrian movement grows more violent, they could be targeted. The leadership of Libya being killed is exactly the sort of event that could make violence from both sides more likely in Syria. A safe exit (facilitated by the AU, perhaps) would make for a better situation for future movements.
I will now attempt to return to our regularly scheduled, Montana-based programming.