Exciting times in Libya


(ht What's Happening In Libya? Ctd.)

Exciting times indeed. And just for once, it looks like We could actually do something useful: establish a no-fly zone over Tripoli. But, we'll prevaricate and do nothing until too late, so a few more Libyans will die. It will still be worth it for them, though.


* Egypt's Mubarak resigns as leader!

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Shorter Longer PZ Myers: Why are we bombing Libya?: I don't see any difference between Barack Obama responded to a request by the Arab League, endorsed by the United Nations, to establish a no-fly zone with a clear end-game and limited engagement which will prevent Gadhafi from murdering his people…
Some good news for a change. Well done chaps! Now, how about that dictatorship we're propping up in Saudi Arabia? I didn't actually do anything useful in all this (other than copy-editing the wikipedia article, I'm sure that boosted their revolutionary fervour) but I was rooting for them. Brian…
I have no good excuse for not having followed events in Libya, Bahrain, and Wisconsin as closely as I ought. Both events, popular uprisings against a repressive executive bent on crushing the rights of citizens, highlight the ability of regular people to stand together in solidarity. I've…
The son of Libyan leader Gadhafi/kadafi claims that the "government" (which is not really true but its complicated) will fight to the last bullet against people engaged there in an uprising. Even as Seif al-Islam Gadhafi spoke Sunday night, clashes were raging in and around Tripoli's central…

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Aren't UK and USA missing from the dictators picture ?
Not that I necessarily agree with either being there, but all democracies could be better.

[You could argue for the Chinese to be included first. Or the Burmese. But it seems to the the A-rabs time at the moment, and good luck to them -W]

It seems to muddy the waters a bit to put King Abdullah II of Jordan in here with others who are quite clearly dictators.
While Jordan's political system isn't entirely democratic, I don't know if I'd call him a 'dictator' as he doesn't have tight control over all institutions and does share power with the parliament.

[I don't know much about Jordan. Being headed by a King is effectively the same thing as being a Dictatorship (we have a Queen but she doesn't have any executive authority). Wiki sez Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution promulgated on 8 January 1952. Executive authority is vested in the king and his council of ministers. The king signs and executes all laws. His veto power may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the National Assembly. He appoints and may dismiss all judges by decree, approves amendments to the constitution, declares war, and commands the armed forces and that sounds plausible.]

By Ashley Moore (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

Thanks for the link. Ben Wederman's tweets from inside Libya are an interesting read.

I see Mugabe's made it a crime to watch videos of the uprisings.

[Ah yes adding Mugabe to the list would make sense -W]

Re Jordan see also Morocco. Both countries are monarchies in which the king has significant power. At present, neither king is particularly oppressive or autocratic, certainly compared to most of these villains, but that could change. Either country could move to a figurehead monarchy much like ours and I expect the people might support such a move. For myself, I'm a republican and think even figurehead monarchies are too much.

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

BREAKING: Many rape victims in Tripoli last night.

A source from Tripoli has confirmed to us that Al Zawiya Street hospital seen many rape victim admittances last night. Such deplorable and sickening actions were committed after Gaddafiâs speech in which he called for door-to-door cleansing of the city from those who are against his regime.

As much as it sounds like a good idea to 'do something', in this case establish a no-fly zone, it just doesn't wash.

First, the claims of aircraft attacking protesters have been established as false. They may be flying by but, according to sources investigating the initial claims, there are no attacks that can be substantiated. It is assumed that the reports of attacks by aircraft have to do with the proximity of low flying aircraft to people struck down by small arms fire.

[That sounds vaguely plausible. Being actually straffed by aircraft would be very noticeable -W]

Second, if you announce a no-fly zone you have to be willing and able to enforce it. We do not have the sorts of resources, in this case an aircraft carrier or three (Typically you want one on station, one in transit and one in the US being refitted while the crew rests) would be handy, in the area. Carriers don't come cheap.

[Don't really believe that one though. This wouldn't be needed for long. And Italy and Malta are close by -W]

We could move in land-based aircraft but this would require basing rights in a foreign nation and some agreement as to how any aircraft would be used. Negotiations for such a move take time and buying such permissions tends to be expensive.

Either way seems like a pretty big expenditure to attempt to keep some guy from doing what he isn't doing. Unfortunately the US is quite limited in how it can use its military to productively influence the situation in Libya.

Something from the more subtle side of the military menu could work but the risks are quite high, SOF teams might be seen as interfering, or escalating violence, and could end up trapped, killed or held hostage. The payoff in US standing would likely to be quite low because any change pretty much has to wear a Libyan face if it is to be seen as legitimate.

I don't see any direct role for the US. The one thing that does spring to mind, and something the military could help with, would be for the US to sponsor several Doctors Without Borders teams and use the military to fly them into surrounding countries where they can enter, with no military assistance or presence, into Libya. Binding wounds is usually a fairly effective way to win hearts and minds even if the people doing the binding are mostly from a third nation. We have military contacts in the surrounding nations and buying overflight, landing and transit agreements should be much cheaper than the same permissions used for offensive military operations.

Maybe in practice it works differently, or wikipedia is inaccurate, but the royal heads of many European countries sign laws and approve amendments to the constitution. And the president of most democracies can declare war and is head of the armed forces.

The main differences seem to be his veto power (which can be overidden) and his direct appointment of judges.

I'd also like Jordan to expand the democratic nature of its politics. And Nick is correct that part of it depends on the benevolent nature of the king who happens to be in power. But still, I think we need to avoid the simplistic thinking that paints all Arab (and Iran) countries as basically the same, when they are not.
Especially when start calling people 'dictators' and calling for their removal from power.

By Ashley Moore (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

Twitter, Facebook, Google -- and net neutrality.

Note that the tea party whackos in the house want to end net neutrality.

Establish a no fly zone? That worked well in Iraq, didn't it?
Why not establish a few 'enduring' bases while you are at it, to ensure 'stability' in the region?

The Libyans are capable of sorting this out for themselves.

[Well actually I agree with that last bit. But we could in this case actually help. Think Sierra Leone. Don't get trapped in Vietnam -W]

What about Syria? Assad would not be missed, surely?

> the tea party whackos in the house want to end net neutrality
Yeah; what would you call them in Britan?
Tories? Royalist-libertarians?
Those in favor of building tools that a monarch can exploit far better than a democracy can.

[Tea-party types are definitely not Tories; nor are the Royalist-anything. We don't have anyone clearly like them (good). Perhaps UKIP -W]

I'm not getting the connection between Quaddfi and net neutrality. One difference is Gaddafi exists and net neutrality, being only an FCC proposal, does not. Of course, that situation could easily soon reverse.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

And what then? To throw away dictator is the easiest part... This will not bring back the exported oil (Egypt), or lower down food prices, unless you kill enough people...

February 2010

"... in Egypt. In an unprecedented turn of events, at 12:34 A.M. local time in Cairo five of the country's major Internet service providers (ISPs) shut down their connections to the Internet.... in sequence an average of about three minutes apart .... This sequencing indicates that each of the ISPs may have received a phone call telling them to drop Internet access to their subscribers, as opposed to an automated system that kicked in to take down all of the providers at once ...."

Dec. 6, 1993

"There have been sporadic attempts by local network managers to crack down ... but as Internet pioneer John Gilmore puts it, 'The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.'"

January 24, 2011 4:00 AM PST
"Internet 'kill switch' bill will return
A controversial bill handing [whoever happens to be] President [at the time] power over privately owned computer systems during a "national cyberemergency," and prohibiting any review by the court system, will return this year.
Internet companies should not be alarmed by the legislation ...."

Video: Dr. Strangelove Explains the Internet Kill Switch

http://lauren.vortex.com/ generally

More videos and photos are trickling out of Libya.


The role of the internet, twitter and facebook in the Egyptian uprising was widely reported, as was Mubarak's internet shut down. At this point the American president doesn't have kill switch power. The bill to give him the power is sponsored by Senators Collins and Lieberman who are definitely not tea party types.

In the current wave, Tunisia and Egypt were more like special elections. Libya is revolutionary, with the crumbling regime confined to an ever smaller territory as the rest of the country falls into rebel hands.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

Wm -- "[Tea-party types are definitely not Tories; nor are the Royalist-anything. We don't have anyone clearly like them (good). Perhaps UKIP -W]"

Not so sure about that when it comes to economic policy (neoliberal). Lawson's known as the grandfather of British neoliberal economics, and Osborne's on record as saying Lawson's the only ex-Chancellor whose advice he really takes on board. The more the Tories turned on their promises the more I suspected neoliberals have great influence in the cabinet, as everything they're trying to do (many of which they've had to U-turn on) would seem to fit a neolib agenda.

[Economically, perhaps. But politically not even close. The Tories would not do the mad de-fund IPCC/EPA that the teabaggers are playing with -W]

Yes, Paul; my simple point is that one thing the US entities (private and government) could provide more of is usable contacts--links and feeds and dialup numbers for people to get text and audio and video from their handhelds to the outside world.

That works when the provider can be trusted to be an honest conduit instead of a filter and distorter. It's a tool for repression when the provider is able to filter, pick and choose what to allow, and create fake 'people' to participate in the process to push an agenda. You know the problem. We're at the edge of it.

The private companies appear to have succeeded in providing those services, this time. Most of them appear to be US companies, though other ISPs have offered dialup I recall.

Long may they wave.

Choice quote ...

"Muammar Gaddafi ... said the protesters were fuelled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs ...

"Their ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe," said Gaddafi."


Twitter has been down or unavailable off and on recently.
"24 February 2011, Thursday / REUTERS, TRIPOLI
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who has lost control of large parts of the country following violent clashes, offered his condolences over those who died and called them "Libya's children".
Gaddafi, speaking on Libyan television on Thursday, said people were fighting among each other and were taking hallucinogenic drugs.

Has anyone yet explained that section in Gaddafi's speech (shortly after he accused his opponents of being drugged mice) when he appeared to to claim that he personally had detonated a bomb at a US base?

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 24 Feb 2011 #permalink

So doesn't one of our many military services have some drone or lighter than air craft that can lazily circle high above Libya's anti-aircraft range and provide a WiFi server and cell phone dial tone? Something too small and too cold and too passive for heat-seeking missiles to target?

[Not sure that wifi can cope with several-km range -W]

Because: "... Libyan border guards have started to frisk people leaving the country for recording equipment, "systematically destroying cell phone SIM and memory cards" that might contain videos and photos of violent clashes in the country, according to CNN's (TWX) Nick Robertson, reporting the crisis from Libya's border with Tunisia...."

[They would have a hard time finding micro-SD cards if people are trying to hide them -W]

You seem to have a strange interpretation of "We".

By Richard C (not verified) on 24 Feb 2011 #permalink

Saudi Arabia is probably the most important for outsiders. I wonder what advice its Western allies are providing the government there? According to an interview carried by BBC2's Newsnight, the Saudis have influence all over US universities.

They are being relied upon to hold the oil price steady and are reputed to apply pressure during the preparation of the "Summary for Policy makers" of the IPCC reports.

[Re Saudi: I recommend Early Warning if you're interested in that kind of stuff. e.g. http://earlywarn.blogspot.com/2011/02/nine-million-barrelsday.html -W]

By deconvoluter (not verified) on 25 Feb 2011 #permalink

Mitiga air base has fallen to the uprising. It looks like this is where the planes that straffed civilians came from (too many journalists still say the planes straffed civilians for that aspect to be dismissed imho), in which case Gadaffi just lost his air support.

I see that Art understands WMC's use of the word "We" to mean "the USA". Marvellous.

The idea that autocracies are good for the oil supply is dead in the water, and can only really have been invented and believed by people who didn't much care for democracy in the first place.

[Not convinced by that, actually. During the Good Old Days of the cold war, the idea of "bad people but not commie scum" was popular, and not entirely implausible. And possibly after the Iranian revolution, too. But the Jihad folks have now discredited themselves as thoroughly as the Commies folks did, so no-one wants them in power. So the world is ready for democracy -W]

By Nick Barnes (not verified) on 25 Feb 2011 #permalink

> cards
Good point, some people must be succeeding.

> wifi range

Yeh, cellphones likely are better.

I don't know what "we" have deployed, or whether anything in the arsenal could be repurposed to serve an uprising rather than an organized military force. What would Tom Paine do?

It ought to be possible to scatter small repeaters that find each other and make a mesh. I've read about using those for environmental monitoring, scattering them ahead of a wildfire for example, so as to have a detailed picture of wind and temperature and fire as it moves across the ground.

[Ah. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singularity_Sky -W]

There's an analogy there somewhere.

If you had that sort of mesh, could it be smart enough to serve as a single large antenna pointed, say, straight up, or steerable -- so any device on the ground could talk to that, and that could talk to an idling aerostat or drone high overhead?

> Singularity Sky

Oh, not quite that far off. Lots of contemporary examples.*

I'm sure the gear is out there, just sayin' I'd like to see our governments using whatever's capable of being repurposed to support public telecom networks of all sorts in crises -- using it to route around damage or censorship.

Which reminds me to look up what the ham radio operators are doing in and around the Middle East.

* "... design and deployment of a wireless mesh network as a cost-effective means of extending the existing wireless infrastructure and providing high-density sampling. Low-cost, commodity wireless networks such as 802.11 and XTend as well as commodity embedded Linux controllers will be used to interface with the stream gages. Since little or no infrastructure is available at these locations, the network will need to subsist on battery (or solar) power and will need to employ aggressive energy optimization techniques to ensure long lifetimes. The wireless network will also need to employ mesh networking, possibly with long-range 802.11 links for the backhaul, in order to connect to the Harvard Forest campus and the Internet. ...
... the Analytic Web, a ten-year collaborative project between ecologists at Harvard Forest and computer scientists at UMass Amherst and Mt. Holyoke College. Recent advances in sensor, wireless, and computer technologies now make it possible to collect and analyze large datasets quickly and easily ...." http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/asp/hf/reu/view_projects.html?proj…

Scrap my #31. Looks like Mitiga air base is still/back in government hands.

Lots of footage at http://www.libyafeb17.com/

Be aware that much of it is very graphic. One seems to prove that Gadaffi's men are using far heavier weapons than small arms, another is supposed to be of mercenaries dragging off a badly injured protester.

'Gaddafi's son joins Libyan protesters'

The youngest son of the embattled ruler Muammar Gaddafi has joined the pro-democracy protesters in Libya amid an unabated outpouring of rage against Gaddafi, reports say.


"World Have Your Say" on the World Service on Fri or Sat (I forget which) had a segment on sub-Saharan Africans stuck in hiding as they are in danger of being lynched by the protesters, due to the use of African mercenaries. It may be available on Listen Again, for those who are interested.


"... an easy step the United States and its allies could take to help: deploying cellphone base stations on aircraft or tethered balloons. The calls could then be routed to Navy ships equipped with satellite communications terminals.

Base stations are small and cheap. Indeed, this kind of portable system, though not used, was already available in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and in the years since the hurricane, the equipment has shrunk even further....
... By ensuring that Libyans maintain access to these basic services, the United States and the rest of the world would not only assist in the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, but they would also send a strong message of support to those elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa fighting for their voices to be heard.

Dan Gonzales is a senior scientist and Sarah Harting is a project associate at the RAND Corporation."

Another fragment toward the "what could we be doing besides blowing things up" theme -- a good NYT piece on combining satellite and cellphone technology as early warning and realtime documentation tools:

"We believe stronger, faster satellite images â when combined with field reports, video dispatches, and crowd-sourced information using mobile technology â lead to stronger, better responses to emerging crises. Sometimes, through reconnaissance of known and likely hotspots, and by keeping a close eye on the buildup and movement of troops â aided by the keen, clear eyes of DigitalGlobeâs constellation of satellites â we can provide early warning."

Small mesh-producing solar-powered radios that can configure themselves must be coming along that could contribute to this sort of work.

The investment money would be in more likely directed at making paywalled incompatible systems to deliver people to buyers--rather than to connect people to each other. But the hardware could be repurposed, maybe. Sounds like something GoogleGovernment could fund though.

Here's hoping it's happening somewhere.

Apropos telecom:
The only foreign advisor we need is Google Earth."
-- a Libyan rebel officer, as heard in an interview on NPR's Morning Edition, 3/25/2011

Hat tip to: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/

[However, he is completely wrong. The Rebels are very badly in need of competent military advice and training -W]