In mid-July, when I visited Benghazi, the stronghold of the Libyan rebels who are fighting to unseat Muammar al-Qaddafi, the brigade headquarters from where Qaddafi's forces once ruled the eastern part of the country had been reduced to a graffiti-encrusted, burned-out wreck. It was a sight I could never have imagined in the 25 years I have studied Libya.
But despite the recent rebel advances at Zawiyah, any expectation that the collapse of the Qaddafi regime is imminent -- a statement made regularly by all of the NATO militaries now contributing resources to the anti-Qaddafi campaign -- remains wishful thinking at this time. The Libyan uprising against the Qaddafi regime is now six months old, and there is no immediate end in sight. Long gone is U.S. President Barack Obama's insistence that multilateral military action against Libya would be a matter "of days, not weeks."
For now, the scenarios most likely to bring the conflict to an end revolve around what many close observers refer to as "catastrophic success" -- the sudden removal of Qaddafi by internal revolt or other means, which would leave a profound political and security vacuum -- or extended negotiations between Tripoli and Benghazi led by a neutral interlocutor.
The first seems unlikely for now, given the security measures that surround Qaddafi and the fierce loyalty of his immediate supporters. As for the second, although many sides have proposed road maps for talks between the rebels and the Qaddafi government, the prospect of direct negotiations remains
- Full website and iPad access
- Magazine issues
- New! Books from the Foreign Affairs Anthology Series