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Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
John McCain has never met a country he wouldn't like to bomb:
McCain, who insists on visiting Iraq and Afghanistan twice a year, often favors a muscular approach to projecting U.S. military power but is wary of entanglements with no exit strategy. The old aviator, who had both arms repeatedly broken in a Hanoi prison camp, says that experience has “also given me a sense of caution in light of our failure in Vietnam.” While McCain opposed the U.S. military actions in Lebanon and Somalia, he is sympathetic to humanitarian missions—and would even consider sending troops to the war-torn Ivory Coast if someone could “tell me how we stop what’s going on.”
Pressed on when the United States should intervene in other countries, McCain sketches an expansive doctrine that turns on practicality: American forces must be able to “beneficially affect the situation” and avoid “an outcome which would be offensive to our fundamental -principles—whether it’s 1,000 people slaughtered or 8,000…If there’s a massacre or ethnic cleansing and we are able to prevent it, I think the United States should act.”
Tough guy Anthony Cordesman naturally wants to fight. Unsurprisingly, he used to be national security assistant to Senator John McCain.
Cordesman, who has, see previous links, always been deeply wired into the militarist networks of the Washington, D.C. village of talking heads and millionaire journalism, has a (surprise!) widely-quoted piece advocating we (surprise!) go all in.
"The truth is, time isn't on anybody's side yet," said Anthony H. Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "If Kadafi can prevent the east from getting oil, he can consolidate power and outwait the rebels."
Over time, the world might lose its enthusiasm for challenging Kadafi. "Interest flags, support flags and you don't get the military backing," Cordesman said.
Senator Lindsay Graham also wants to attack, of course:
[...] "The idea that the AC-130s and the A-10s and American air power is grounded unless the place goes to hell is just so unnerving that I can't express it adequately," said Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. "The only thing I would ask is, please reconsider that."
“From a Libyan viewpoint, dragging the country into a long political and economic crisis, and an extended low-level conflict that devastates populated areas, the net humanitarian cost will be higher than fully backing the rebels, with air power and covert arms and training,” writes Anthony Cordesman, national security expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a commentary Wednesday on the CSIS website.
A middle path between regime change and the status quo?
Mr. Cordesman says that the international political environment precludes the US, as it does NATO, from openly adopting “regime change” as its Libya policy. But he says that, given the alternative of an “unstable stalemate” in which civilians could suffer “for months or years,” something he calls a “quietly escalating regime kill” is the best option.
Among the essential elements of such a policy would be stepped-up airstrikes on Qaddafi forces and weapons, arming the rebels, sending in teams of Special Forces to guide coalition airstrikes (at Qaddafi assets and away from civilian populations), and fully enforcing United Nations sanctions to deny Qaddafi funds and supplies.
Cordesman acknowledges that Obama may have already approved some steps covertly. Indeed, administration officials quietly confirmed last week that the president OK’d dispatching CIA operatives to Libya to provide intelligence on the rebels and to help guide airstrikes.
The intel on the rebels – who they are and to what degree, if any, they are infiltrated by elements of Al Qaeda – will form the basis for Obama’s next important decision concerning Libya: whether or not to arm the rebels, either directly or through third parties.
[...] Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, said Wednesday that "essentially, the no-fly zone is not going to succeed." [lots more]
"The fact is, day by day, we're going to confront the reality that a no-fly zone is probably a misnomer," said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "If this structure can't stop Gadhafi's ground forces, then it fails."
"If we want to basically get rid of the regime, then we have to go much further and attack Gadhafi's centers of power and land targets," Cordesman said.
The next most organized units are those composed of bearded men with Islamist leanings. These fighters are likely to be from certain cities -- most famously Darnah -- and of certain backgrounds, such as unemployed men with university degrees. Some have attended Salafi seminaries; a smaller proportion have trained together secretly in Libya. A minuscule inner core fought in Afghanistan alongside Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and created the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) upon their return to Libya in the early 1990s. That group's raison d'être was to violently overthrow Qaddafi. After failed putsch attempts at the end of the 1990s, the Libyan state effectively crushed and co-opted the LIFG during the 2000s. Over the last five years, prominent former LIFG leaders have renounced their previous ties to al Qaeda and articulated an innovative anti-extremist Islamic theology. As the Wall Street Journal's Charles Levinson, who has met with prominent former LIFG elites in Darnah, has reported, "Islamist leaders and their contingent of followers represent a relatively small minority within the rebel cause. They have served the rebels' secular leadership with little friction. Their discipline and fighting experience is badly needed by the rebels' ragtag army."
Although hard-core Islamists are likely to remain bit players politically in the rebel movement, it would be unrealistic to expect Islam not to play a significant role in post-Qaddafi Libya. Much of eastern Libya remains traditional and religiously conservative. Adherence to the Senussi Sufi order served as the defining social, religious, and political lodestar of the Cyrenaicans from the mid-19th century until 1969, after which point Qaddafi suppressed them. Indeed, because Qaddafi excluded all conservative Muslim sensibilities from having a say in politics after 1969, Muslim groups must be granted their rightful seat at the table from now on.
Islam has always served to unite disparate tribal, social, and regional groupings in Libya. In Qaddafi's wake, assuming he falls, we can expect moderate Islam to be a key rhetorical factor in both popular discourse and politics. This should not frighten Western observers, as the use of Islam as a uniting, stabilizing factor will be a bane to jihadi recruitment efforts.
Col. Moammar Kadafi has depicted this coastal city of squat concrete homes and graceful blue harbor as the staging ground for an Al Qaeda takeover of Libya.
A radical Islamic caliphate, Kadafi claims, is based in Derna, inside rebel-held eastern Libya, and is directing the uprising against him.
That characterization draws a belly laugh from Mabrouk Salama, an Irish-educated chemistry professor who serves on the rebel leadership council in Derna.
"Al Qaeda? Here? Ha!" Salama said, shaking his head. "It's just Kadafi's way of trying to scare America."
It is impossible for an outsider to discern the motives, intrigues or heartfelt beliefs of Libyans in cities like Derna, which was sealed off from the outside world for four decades under Kadafi. But appearances, at least, do not suggest a deep Al Qaeda presence here.
Zahi Mogherbi, a retired political science professor in Benghazi who wrote a research paper on radical Islamic influences in Libya, said 63 men from Derna and 23 from Benghazi were among 120 Libyans who went to Iraq in 2006 and '07. Calling those numbers "fairly insignificant" in a nation of 6.5 million, Mogherbi said radical Islam had not taken root in Derna or anywhere else in eastern Libya.
"I have not seen any doctrinal movement to espouse any radical brand of Islam," he said, describing Derna as moderate and progressive by Arab standards.
"It would not be tolerated," Mogherbi said. "The people are rebelling against a dictatorship. They will not substitute this dictatorship for a radical Islamic dictatorship."
Leaders of the 15-member opposition council here say that only about half the local men who went to Iraq even survived the war, and that the rest now support the rebellion against Kadafi. Few actually had contact with Al Qaeda or returned bent on radicalizing Libya, they say.
"They're the same as us: revolutionaries who want to get rid of Kadafi and bring democracy and freedom to Libya," said Moftah Mahkrez, a member of the Derna opposition council. "This is Libya, not Afghanistan."
Anis Mahkrez, the friend and follower of Hasadi, said Al Qaeda's philosophy was alien to Libya and had little appeal here. He said Hasadi had joined the fight to depose Kadafi and that he reported to the rebel council.
Rebel leaders here hardly look or sound like Al Qaeda operatives.
Salama, who was jailed under Kadafi and said he holds a doctorate from the University of Dublin, was dressed in a pinstriped business suit. Except for a neatly clipped mustache, he was clean-shaven.
Moftah Mahkrez, 44, a businessman, wore a blue blazer and designer jeans. Brother Anis, 48, who was jailed for five years by the Kadafi regime, wore a stylish black tracksuit.
Anis was once a well-known soccer player. Photos of the brothers in soccer uniforms adorn the home they share in downtown Derna.
Anis nodded vigorously when his brother said he and fellow council members controlled the Hasadi militia that includes Anis.
"My brother is loyal to football, not Al Qaeda," Moftah said.
Moftah described extremists who went to Iraq as poorly educated young men weary of living in Kadafi's police state. "Now they need pencils and paper, not Kalashnikovs" rifles, he said.
Mogherbi, the Benghazi professor who advises the rebel national council, said radical Islam provided a natural outlet for young men living under Kadafi's dictatorship.
"Their radicalization was a reflection of their antagonism toward the Kadafi regime and his neglect of the east," Mogherbi said. "Now that Kadafi no longer controls the east, there is no appeal in this radical form of Islam."
In Senate testimony last week, Navy Adm. James Stavridis, commander of NATO forces, described "flickers in the intelligence of potential Al Qaeda, Hezbollah" influence in Libya. But he said there was no evidence of "significant Al Qaeda presence or any other terrorist presence."
In Benghazi, the rebels' political leadership is dominated by Western-educated lawyers, doctors, businessmen and academics, along with several former Kadafi ministers or diplomats.
Mustafa Gheriani, a rebel spokesman who earned a master's degree from Western Michigan University, says Al Qaeda will try to take advantage of the chaos in Libya. Western-led airstrikes and missile attacks against Kadafi's forces are a bulwark against extremist overtures to young Libyan men, he said recently.
But that could change if U.S. and Western support fades, Gheriani warned. Rebel fighters might be persuaded that radical Islam is the best way to overthrow Kadafi, he said.
"They would align with the devil to get rid of this guy," Gheriani said.
Reasons for concern? Of course. Alarm? Not for now.
In any case, the Islamists, like the army defectors, don't comprise the bulk of rebel fighters. The most prevalent form of unit organization is ad hoc: a few brothers or friends sharing gas money, a few rifles, a rebel flag, and a pickup truck. Occasionally, whole villages or subsections of tribes have joined the rebels as a semicoherent unit. Yet even then, village headmen or tribal sheikhs do not appear to be leading or orchestrating the fighting. In fact, military leadership at the front, inasmuch as it exists, is entirely spontaneous. In late March, for example, the top military brass in Benghazi strongly advised the fighters not to push past Ajdabiya when it was retaken due to coalition airstrikes. The fighters did not obey orders and were quickly routed by Qaddafi's counterattacks.
Indeed, it is nearly impossible to imagine that the revolutionaries can defeat Qaddafi by military force alone. Lacking an effective chain of command or training, they have not yet learned to employ guerrilla tactics, siege tactics, or any formal coordinated military maneuvers. Arming the rebels with more sophisticated munitions will not help them congeal into a coherent fighting force. Training them might help, but it would take too much time.
The best hope for the rebels is that the Qaddafi regime crumbles from within -- a distinct possibility as key defections, daily hardships in Tripoli under international siege, and Qaddafi's diplomatic blunders all progressively demoralize his supporters. So far, coalition air power has been crucial in keeping the rebels alive long enough that Qaddafi's forces may self-destruct. But merely preventing slaughter and a rebel defeat is not enough. Now that the no-fly zone has fulfilled its key humanitarian and strategic mission, it is time for the coalition to shift gears. As Oliver Miles, former British ambassador to Libya, puts it, "Precisely because it is unlikely that the rebels will be able to militarily defeat Qaddafi even with increased coalition air support or more arms, Western and Arab countries can best help the rebels through politics, diplomacy, and propaganda -- all of which, if employed with savoir-faire, may tip the scales away from Qaddafi."
Helping the rebel political leaders effectively requires understanding who they are and how the Libyan uprising began. [...]
Youth activists were quickly joined by lawyers, judges, local administrators, and technocrats who opposed Qaddafi's repressive response to the protests. Many of these individuals were previously government officials or consultants who had become increasingly disillusioned by the failure of Libyan détente with the West to produce genuine political reform at home.
On Feb. 27, the most prominent among them banded together in Benghazi to form the Transitional National Council (TNC). The TNC has gained legitimacy as grassroots committees have sprung up across eastern Libya to select local town notables, who have in turn endorsed the TNC.
(Ironically, this practice is akin to Qaddafi's ideology of "direct democracy" with its imperative for the creation of local Basic People's Congresses.) Thus, what began as a youth revolt has been taken over by reformist regime technocrats and defected diplomats, who are the only groups capable of representing the rebels to the outside world.
The TNC top leadership has extensive experience interfacing with Western governments and the international business community. The rest of its members were deliberately chosen to represent the various major factions of the opposition.
It includes relatives of the former Libyan king, human rights lawyers, former Qaddafi intimates upset with the slow pace of reforms, conservative Muslims who are against al Qaeda, pro-Western businessmen, technocrats with American Ph.D.s, and representatives for women and youth.[...]
One potential shortcoming of the rebels' current political structure is its heavily Cyrenaican, Arab, and elite makeup. If the rebels succeed in overthrowing Qaddafi, they will face enormous pressure to rapidly incorporate new players from western Libya, the Libyan diaspora, and the Berber, Tuareg, and Tabu ethnic groups. Simultaneously, they would have to focus on the social and economic issues that concern the youth and the unemployed, not merely those of reformist technocrats. Most crucially, after a hypothetical rebel victory the predominantly Cyrenaican fighters will no doubt clamor for their place in the sun as the saviors of Libya. It would be highly inappropriate for outside powers to attempt to micromanage or pre-empt the delicate evolution of the representative structure for the new Libya.
Exactly. We don't want to own the Pottery Barn of Libya. We can't try another Paul Bremer. The last one didn't work out too well.
Their message: United States civilians as well as troops must leave by the end of the year.
Hardline Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr mobilized tens of thousands of followers Saturday, using the anniversary of the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime to issue a warning to American civilians as well as soldiers that it was time to go.
Far from Baghdad's Firdous Square, where US Marines helped Iraqis bring down Saddam Hussein’s statue in 2003, the cleric’s supporters marched from Sadr City to Mustansiriya Square, near a major university in northeast Baghdad.
Black smoke rose from the square from the burning American flags, and protesters set up a grisly display of Americans in business suits being burned in cages.
“We are time bombs,” the protesters chanted between a choreographed wave of young men dressed in the satin colors of Iraq's flag.
Asked whether that meant that the Sadrists were opposed to even a US diplomatic mission here if US forces were gone, several officials said the Sadr movement opposed any expansion of the US civilian presence here and considered the embassy the headquarters for the occupation.
US Ambassador James Jeffrey told reporters April 1 that the embassy, already the biggest in the world, planned to double in size next year to 18,000 personnel. That would include security, support staff, and diplomatic offices outside of Baghdad.
Sadr ended his message by calling on all his followers who could to register at the political party’s offices to engage in an open-ended protest until the Americans left.
Most Iraqis are deeply cynical about US intentions here.
“Iraq is a very rich country,” said Sabah al-Amiri, a government employee who came out to the protest. “Logically, I can’t believe the Americans will leave and ignore these interests easily.”
In the complex political climate here, the countdown for US forces to exit Iraq has placed the United States in a bind.
How many more countries can we afford to occupy? How many more Muslim lands do we want to invade?
Amid reports that personality clashes may be enveloping the top TNC leadership, I remain reasonably hopeful that the TNC will be able to successfully incorporate most elements of Libyan society and that political infighting and factionalism can be kept to normal levels. Libya is an artificial colonial creation. But unlike other colonial entities, it lacks the social fissures and historical grievances that have led to sectarian or ethnic violence in places like Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The idea that a civil war might ensue between east and west after Qaddafi's departure is overly pessimistic.
Paradoxically, as Qaddafi repressed so many of Libya's social groups other than the Qadhadhfa and Magarha tribes, it is foreseeable that all the former out-groups will be able to strike a rough consensus about building a post-Qaddafi Libya.
The rebels appear to be hard at work in paving the way for this new Libya.
They insist that they have organized secret cells in the country's west, a plausible claim given Qaddafi's evident unpopularity in towns like Misrata, Zintan, and Zawiyah. And even though tribesmen of the Magarha and Qadhadhfa will probably stick by Qaddafi and fight on until the end, other more urban and technocratic pillars of the regime are likely to wither if the major Arab and Western players give the TNC more effective support.
But that support should primarily be political, not military in nature. The Western and Arab allies are beginning to recognize this, yet more sophisticated and high-level efforts are urgently needed. Prominent defectors like Moussa Koussa should be harnessed for all their propaganda value and asked to speak out against Qaddafi on Arabic satellite TV. Additionally, the coalition could help rebel leaders voice their cause to their potential comrades in Qaddafi-controlled western Libya. Qatar has already set up a satellite channel for the rebels; more countries should give them airtime, funding, and more diplomatic support. French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who has recognized the TNC as the legitimate government of all of Libya and seems the most politically committed of Western leaders -- could extend another invitation to Mahmoud Jibril, the rebels' de facto foreign minister, this time to the Élysée Palace, granting him international prestige and a platform to ask for more specific assistance.
Moral power, not firepower, is what will ultimately defeat Qaddafi. The fighters are the heart and soul of the Libyan revolt, but they will never be able to lead it. Savvy diplomatic support and a little bit of good fortune could very well produce a tipping point over the next weeks or months. Until then, the international community must not take its eye off the ball as other crises emerge in the Arab world or the situation on the ground appears to become stalemated. Libya's future depends on it.
If we "Regime Kill," we're in the same damn place we are in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Libyans are extraordinarily welcoming people, and they don't seem to mind when I poke my nose into the backs of the battle-ready pickups at the front line and snap some pictures of the weapons and munitions the rebels are carrying. Even at the military bases and weapon depots under rebel control, a few words of introduction normally led to a warm welcome and a tour of the facilities. That is, if there is anyone guarding the facilities in the first place. When I went to the main military weapons depot in the contested town of Ajdabiya on March 27, just after Qaddafi's forces had fled the city and rebels were still busy celebrating their victory, I had the entire base and its 35 munitions bunkers, stacked to the rafters with weapons, all to myself for several hours.
What we found was shocking. Qaddafi's weapon stocks far exceeded what we saw in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein; some of the weapons, such as the surface-to-air missiles capable of downing a civilian aircraft,now floating around freely in eastern Libya are giving security officials around the world sleepless nights. After I began circulating some of the pictures I had taken, I began getting anxious calls from arms-control officials, asking for more details about what I had seen. There is good cause for U.S. and European officials to worry -- there are rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles, and artillery shells full of explosives that can easily be refashioned into car bombs.
Among the weapons of greatest concern to Western security officials is the SA-7 "Grail" surface-to-air missile, a Soviet-designed, heat-seeking, shoulder-launched missile designed specifically to shoot down low-flying planes. The SA-7 -- basically a long green tube with the missile inside -- belongs to a family of weapons known as man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS. Although these weapons date back to the 1960s, they remain extremely deadly, especially against civilian planes without defense systems. Two SA-7 missiles were fired by al Qaeda operatives at an Israeli chartered Boeing 757 during a November 2002 attack in Mombasa, Kenya, narrowly missing the plane. During the past month and a half, we have seen literally hundreds of SA-7s floating around freely in eastern Libya. The SA-7s require assembly with a trigger mechanism and a battery cooling pack attached to the launch tube, and many of the launch tubes we saw were unassembled. However, some of the SA-7s had been fully assembled.
While the SA-7s have caused the greatest alarm among Western security experts, the rest of Qaddafi's extensive arsenal is nothing to laugh at. We found many varieties of guided anti-tank missiles, including the advanced laser-guided AT-14 "Spriggan" (known in Russia as the Kornet), which was reportedly used by Gaza-based militants one day ago in an attack on a school bus in southern Israel that critically injured a teenager. The Spriggan also served as one of Hezbollah's most effective weapons against Israeli tanks in the 2006 Lebanon war. And there are tens of thousands of some of the nastiest anti-tank mines in the world in Qaddafi's warehouses -- nasty because they are made mostly out of hard-to-detect plastic and can be armed with an anti-lifting device that causes the mine to explode when attempts are made to remove it from the ground.
We also found thousands of 122-mm "Grad" rockets, which are used in a launcher that fires salvos of 40 rockets at one go and are capable of sowing destruction up to 40 miles away. The Grads were the Afghan mujahideen's weapon of choice during their deadly civil war in the early 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal -- they used these rockets to reduce Kabul to rubble. Eastern Libya is also home to tens of thousands of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, which are powerful enough to blow up a tank or punch a hole in a concrete building. We found tens of thousands of artillery, tank, and howitzer shells of various calibers, all loaded with high explosives easily convertible into car or roadside bombs. We even found HESH (high-explosive squash-head) shells, which are filled with plastic explosives -- a dangerous tool in the hands of terrorist groups.
The dangers we saw were not limited to the unguarded stockpiles of weapons. There are vast amounts of abandoned munitions and unexploded ordnance everywhere on the constantly shifting front lines along the coastal highway in eastern Libya. The recent airstrikes by international coalition forces on Libyan government military targets have added to the battlefield debris, leaving behind destroyed ammunition, vehicles, tanks, Grad launchers, and artillery pieces, often still loaded with munitions. Families, often with their children, have been visiting some of these strike sites, taking away potentially deadly mementos. Qaddafi's forces have added to the dangers by laying new minefields -- we discovered two such fields, containing dozens of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, in Ajdabiya after pro-regime forces withdrew. Who knows how many more such minefields have been laid, only to be discovered when someone steps or drives over these concealed hazards?
Libya is a minefield.
If America haplessly wanders into it, we'll have more dead friends, brothers, sisters, parents, children.
None of us, Libyans, Americans, Europeans, Africans, anyone, should have to face that.
•Do not intervene on humanitarian grounds in ways that benefit rebels unless the state's retaliation is grossly disproportionate. This policy discourages both rebel provocation and state reprisals against civilians. In Libya, we should intervene no further unless Gadhafi's forces massacre civilians.
•Deliver purely humanitarian aid — food, water, sanitation, shelter, medical care — in ways that minimize the benefit to rebels. The United States admirably is delivering supplies to Libyan refugees across the border in Tunisia and Egypt. But we should ensure that relief sites do not become rear bases for Libya's rebels. If local governments are unwilling to patrol the refugee encampments, we should organize multilateral policing.
•Expend substantial resources to persuade states to address the legitimate grievances of non-violent domestic groups. Ironically, Obama has applied little pressure on Yemen and Bahrain, which slaughtered peaceful protesters, but he bombed Libya for responding to armed rebels. This sends precisely the wrong message to the Arab street: If you want U.S. support, resort to violence.
•Do not coerce regime change or surrender of sovereignty unless also taking precautions against violent backlash — such as golden parachutes, power-sharing, or preventive military intervention. If the White House insists on Gadhafi's departure, it should guarantee asylum for him and a continuing share of power for his senior officials and allied tribes. Simply demanding regime change could drive him to genocidal violence as a last resort, while the international community lacks the will for a preventive deployment of ground troops.
•Do not falsely claim "humanitarian" grounds for intervention driven by other objectives. If Obama is intervening because of Gadhafi's past misdeeds, rather than recent humanitarian offenses, he should say so publicly. Otherwise, the White House encourages further rebellions that aim to lure U.S. intervention by provoking retaliation.
Zuma, who led a five-strong African Union (AU) delegation to the Libyan capital, said he was optimistic that a settlement would be reached. The delegation, minus Zuma, who was leaving Libya on Sunday night, will travel to Benghazi today to present the plan to the rebel opposition leadership.
Referring to officials of the regime, Zuma told reporters inside Gaddafi's compound at Bab al-Azizia that "the brother leader delegation has accepted the roadmap as presented by us". He also called on Nato to stop airstrikes on Libyan military targets "to give a ceasefire a chance".
Asked about the prospects of a deal, Zuma said: "I am optimistic."
The AU proposal is thought to centre on a negotiated political settlement between the Libyan regime and the rebel opposition, but no details have been disclosed.
However, opposition forces insist they will not consider any political deal that involves Gaddafi or members of his family retaining power.
Proposals put forward by the regime so far have included Gaddafi or one of his sons overseeing political change in Libya. It is far from clear how this gap could be bridged.
"The delegation ... will be proceeding to meet the other party, to talk to everybody and present a political solution to the problem in Libya," Zuma said.
"We also ... are making a call on Nato to cease the bombings to allow and to give a ceasefire a chance."
The AU delegation, consisting of the presidents of South Africa, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali, and Mauritania, plus Uganda's foreign minister, landed at Tripoli's Mitiga airport after Nato gave permission for their aircraft to enter Libyan airspace. The planes were the first to land in Tripoli since the international coalition imposed a no-fly zone over the country more than two weeks ago.
Should the U.S. refuse all military options? No. Should we remove all air assets and send them home? No. We need leverage. There's no place for romanticization in peace and war. We need to be hard-headed, and sometimes people need to be killed so that others may live. Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
There may be a role for military aid, overt or covert. There are, as President Obama has stated, many who can do that. There may be a role for future military involvement by American air power in Libya.
There are many possibilities. I am not a seer. I don't know what will happen. I don't know for sure what's best. The way to fewer deaths and less suffering is often unclear.
But, first: do no harm. Should the argument by OMAC Cordesman for striking hard to kill the head of the snake be listened to? Yes. Arguments should always be weighed and considered.
[War] is instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We're human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands! But we can stop it. We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill - today!
We can always bomb the crap out of Libyans next week. They'll still be there. Tomorrow we may be "needing" to bomb rebels.
[...] that Muammar Qaddafi is no longer fit to lead and should leave power. And we are obviously pursuing a number of different means, non-lethal means, non-military means, to help bring that about, to pressure Qaddafi, to isolate him, and to create an environment where the Libyan people hopefully will be able to create their own future with the leaders that they deserve and that they pick. And that's the endgame that we envision.
Let's try not killing today, and giving peace a chance.
UPDATE, April 11th, 2011, 1:08 p.m. PST: Just lost another $50 subscriber moments ago, and keep losing subscribers as I'm on fewer and fewer blogrolls, get fewer and fewer links, and I'm rather hoping not to have to do another fund-raising post again, but... links appreciated, blogrolling appreciated, subscriptions unbelievably appreciated -- see left sidebar for how to subscribe or donate. Thanks!
Also, C. J. Chivers gives a terrific example of how Libya being awash in weapons results in absurd adaptions with danger to all -- in this case, the mutating by rebels of air-to-ground rocket pods onto pickup trucks.
Imagine this war lasting a couple of years, or even six months, and more and more of Qaddafi's weapons stores being grabbed up, a la Iraq, and used by both sides (which may yet splinter into further factions, keep in mind! And then who are we fighting for, exactly?)! Libyan Road Warrior, Redux. And More Photographs From Eastern Libya.