Not the first defection among Libya’s diplomatic corps today, and surely not the last. Whether this is motivated by genuine concern for the protesters or simply finger-in-the-wind political positioning in anticipation of regime change, I don’t know, but things must be awfully dodgy in Tripoli if guys like this are now willing to go on camera to denounce the monster-in-chief. I wish I could dispense with the usual blog schedule and follow this story all day, but Wisconsin beckons; if you’re jonesing for minute-by-minute updates, stick with the liveblogs from Al Jazeera, the Guardian, and the BBC. Twitter’s hashtag page on Libya is also worth monitoring; it updates automatically and very quickly, so it’s less minute by minute than second by second.
The post of the day thus far on this topic comes from Victor Davis Hanson, who eloquently captures the profound, sinister Pyongyang-ish weirdness of Libya under Qaddafi. The country has been so comprehensively devastated that it’s hard to imagine what will replace him; there seem to be no functioning civic institutions, including sanitation, capable of picking up the slack. Could be that there won’t be a central government at all in the near term, with Libyans resorting to a more provincial tribal existence until international agencies can lend a hand. VDH:
It was like no other country I have ever visited: wet garbage and sewage in the streets; an oil-exporter with massive pot-holes and no asphalt to fix them; almost every room, office, or hallway in Tripoli with peeling paint, exposed wiring, and something broken; the airport a disaster; almost every human action a possible violation of some government statute.
And, of course, Gaddafi’s picture was everywhere — sometimes as the protector of Islam, sometimes a sort of new-age Stalin, sometimes as the spiritual leader of black Africa, always presented with a nauseating green backdrop. In fact, books, shirts, even simple packaging was green. Citizens were terrified and talked in whispers, often relating some of the strangest rumors imaginable: past calls to burn all violins, past calls for every citizen to raise chickens, past calls for bonuses for marrying black African nationals.
Another trenchant point from Hanson: Oil-rich Libya sits right next door to oil-poor Egypt, whose military surely wouldn’t mind endowing itself with another fabulously lucrative industrial racket. Getting rid of Qaddafi may be just the first taste of war in Libya’s future.
As I write this, the only significant action by the U.S. regarding wholesale slaughter of demonstrators has been yet another statement of grave concern along with the surreal assurance that they’re analyzing yesterday’s speech from Qaddafi’s son — the one where he all but threatened civil war — for signs of “meaningful reform.” Note to State: The Qaddafi family’s idea of “meaningful reform” evidently involves military jets dropping bombs on civilians. In fact, precisely because it’s come to that, I’m seeing calls on Twitter and at the Corner for the U.S. and NATO to declare a no-fly zone over the country to keep Qaddafi’s bombers grounded. If that’s going to happen, though, it had better happen soon. The latest rumor is that a full-blown air assault on Benghazi is in the works. Exit question: Does that mean targeting groups of protesters? Or … leveling the city?
Update: There’s no way to tell what’s true and what’s rumor at this point, but Al-Arabiya says Africa’s version of Kim Jong-il will be stepping to the mic shortly.