Watching the reports from Misrata on Sky News yesterday was very depressing.Â Of course war is never exactly joyful, but yesterday’s reports just acted as a great big reminder of what a mess it is over there and how nothing is black and white but is unconveniently painted in shades of grey.
Of course Gadaffi is a baddie: an archetypal mad dictator, with little regard for his own countrymen while he lines his pockets, it almost goes without saying.Â Before the UN resolution the impression you got from the news was that he was all bad, everybody in Libya hated him and wanted rid of him, and he would be gone soon enough like Mubarak and Ben-Ali before him.Â Unfortunately he does have a lot of support in Tripoli and although some of it may be for the cameras by people afraid to show a lack of support, and the rest of it may be misguided, he is not universally loathed.
The implication of this is that when Gadaffi goes, however and whenever that is, we will not be faced with an entire nation lining up in gratitude but a new regime with a ready-made armed opposition, and long, drawn-out peacekeeping operation.Â Sound familiar?
It is also tempting to fall into the trap of assuming that because Gadaffi is bad and does bad things, that anything his opponents do must by definition be good, but the footage on the TV didn’t quite show that they are ‘all as bad as each other’ but nevertheless it was aorrying.
I was already wondering about how this rebel army, with no organisation and not even any uniform, would handle prisoners of war.Â Â On TV I saw one of Gadaffi’s foreign mercenaries give himself up and get taken away in people carrier.Â The rebels let the Sky News reporters interview him before taking him away, and I’m not sure how that fits into the proper treatment of prisoners, but is probably better than some of the other prisoners that were shown who are routinely shot in the foot to stop them running away.
I’m sure Gadaffi’s troops are no better with their prisoners, but it doesn’t look like a situation that is going to clear itself up quickly, and it looks like we are getting drawn into it gradually.Â It is all a long way from the original suggestion of enforcing a no-fly zone (with half an air force and no carriers) for the few days it would take for Gadaffi to admit defeat and run away to Venezuela, while a grateful nation sets about rebuilding itself peacefully.
Maybe I’m being unduly pessimistic.Â I would like to be proved wrong on this one.