I seem to have been a bit sanguine about Gaddafi’s resources in my last post. The IMF reports that Gaddafi is sitting on a 143.8-tonne $6.4-billion pot of gold. If correct, that’s a lot of ready cash.
If the war goes on much longer, and I suspect that it will, there are at least six bad contingencies:
- Gaddafi leaves. Absolute chaos ensues;
- Gaddafi massacres people in his territory in some bold and ugly way that the Western media can’t ignore;
- Rebel tactical incompetence leads to operational disaster;
- The rebels start to fall apart in their territory. Chaos ensues;
- Rebels massacre civilians;
- The Syrian government shells a rebellious town into rubble, killing tens of thousands and doing exactly what we intervened to prevent Gaddafi from doing.
In a perfect world, the U.S. and U.K. and France would have contingency plans for all of these events. I’m pretty sure, in fact, that all three governments do have a strategy: stay out and stonewall political pressures to respond. Contingency #6? Nothing to be done, impossible to intervene. Contingency #1? Pottery barn, not. Contingency #2? Already trying. Contingency #5? See no evil. Contingency #4? Time to declare failure; just like we did in Somalia.
The strategy is stay out; the tactic will be to stonewall.
The question, however, is whether “stonewall” is a strong enough political tactic to implement the desired strategy? Can we disengage if things begin to go wrong?