[Marxism] Libyan rebels are not being led by experienced fighters

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 15 15:08:47 MDT 2011

What can be readily seen, time and again on front lines in Libya’s 
east and west, is that notwithstanding exceptions otherwise — the 
occasional former Qaddafi soldier leading a small group, the 
gritty technical and tactical savvy of many of the fighters in 
Misurata — the rebels who take the risks and do the bleeding in 
this war receive little help or training from their leadership on 
the fundamental tools and rules of their fight.

A large fraction of the armed volunteers in this war — and they 
admit this — have had to figure out complicated things themselves, 
and in many ways are still stumped or have matters flatly wrong. 
Col. Juma Ibrahim, a former government MIG-25 pilot who defected 
from the Libyan Air Force and now works in the rebels’ operations 
center in Zintan, put it this way: “We have a kind of 
revolutionary, he is a civilian who does not understand weapons. 
And often to the front he is taking the wrong kinds.”

Why might this matter?

Consider the risks to the young fighters who have joined the 
uprising’s cause and staked their lives on its outcome. Several of 
them were assigned to watch over the most obvious route of attack 
by the Qaddafi forces into Qawalish. This would be about as 
dangerous a task as a man in Libya might draw last week. And when 
it came to the rocket launcher at their disposal for this job, it 
was as if the men on the line carried rifles equipped with corks. 
(And as matters followed their course, on this Wednesday the 
Qaddafi military did roll up that road, and swept aside that 
front-line position in a counterattack that gave them possession 
of Qawalish for several hours. The rebels did not briefly lose 
control of the town solely because of weapon selection. Other 
factors played large roles, including the small numerical size of 
the rebels’ holding force, but the small size of that force made 
their ordnance selection all the more important. On a day when 
many front-line fighters were killed, who would want to be the guy 
firing the inert rounds?)

On a broader level, the blue-tipped rocket — along with many other 
signs, including a shortage of rifles and machine guns in most of 
the fighting groups — was an indicator that expectations of a 
swift rebel advance out of the mountains toward Tripoli are 
unrealistic, barring a collapse from within of the Qaddafi forces 
blocking the way. The rebel military leadership has admitted this 
much, too. A force equipped as they are, they say, cannot expect 
to undertake an arduous open-desert march against a dug-in, 
conventional foe with armor, artillery, rockets, and more.


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