Why arming rebels would be suicidal for the Allies

Benghazi, "I Do not say yes, nor no. " Barak Obama's reaction to the idea of arming rebels is one of those that dropes your arms. As we write the rebel lines are collapsing. Ras Lanuf fell yesterday morning. Brega few hours later. In less than 48 hours the army of "Free Cyrenaica" gave ground over 200 km. And only a new series of bombings will prevent the loyalists's reappearance to the outskirts of Benghazi. All this may suggest that the idea of arming the rebels makes sense. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem of the rebels of Cyrenaica is not the lack of weapons, but the absolute inability to use the ones already in their possession, besides the total lack of tactical ability and an unprecedented disruption. The rebels, in addition to the classic Kalashnikov, have anti-aircraft guns of 14, 5 mm, anti-tank rocket launchers, the Katyusha batteries, the T 55 and T72 tanks and antitank guns. These weapons, looted in the arsenals of the regimedate back to the the seventies but are the same used by ten thousand loyalists ready to defend Gaddafi. These are the same with which the Afghan rebels have initially faced the Red Army in Afghanistan. The same with which the insurgents in Iraq have embarrassed the U.S. army.

The way to use them makes the difference. The rebels of Cyrenaica have the presumption to be able to conquer the capital advancing in single file along the only road that links Sirte to Benghazi and Tripoli. All without a command line, without communications, without logistical and defensive structures that can put them away from counter attacks. The followers of Gaddafi should only bet the Katyusha batteries on the strip of asphalt along the coast and opened fire to roll back them.

Thinking to reverse this situation by multiplying the capacity of the rebels fire is like taking a group of boy scouts in an armory and being under the illusion that they will become a group of marines . If all goes well they will be slaughtered giving weapons to the enemy. If it goes wrong will be defeated and weapons supplied by the West will pass into the hands of the most fanatical and uncompromising factions. Afghanistan docet.

After the withdrawal of the Red Army in 1989, the Stinger antiaircraft missiles left in the hands of fundamentalist formations and, to recover them, American special forces were forced to perform many operations. This did not stop Iran to get hold of some models of an anti-aircraft weapon that, at the time, was considered revolutionary and reproduce in their plants. But the most significant precedent is that of the Contras in Nicaragua. In 1987, in spite of large quantities of weapons given them by the CIA, anti-Communist guerrillas were routed in a few weeks by the better trained and better motivated Sandinista forces.

That said there are at least two good reasons to stigmatize as reckless the proposal of arming rebels. The first is the distance factor. Between Sirte and Benghazi, there are 500 km. As well as between Sirte and Tripoli. The illusion that some gun or missile would allow rebels to support the logistical effort of such advanced amounts to bet on the victory of a sprinter in the marathon. Even because after Sirte rebels should face the hostility of the tribes and people loyal to the regime. But the most concrete among the reasons that prevent a supply of arms to the rebels is the political and diplomatic one. The resolution 1970 passed by the UN in February prohibits the supply of arms to Libya. Therefore to arm the rebels they need a new resolution. And in the waiting there is the hope that someone at the Pentagon indicates the best path to a White House increasingly lost in the tangle Libya.

Translated from an article of Gian Micalessin