Muammar, Muammar wherefore art thou?


The news is confusing and conflicting; either Gaddafi is on his way to visit his buddy Hugo Chavez and escape a fiery end or he is not; his son says he will never leave.  The son says they will fight until the last man, woman and child is dead – but wait what does the father, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi say?  Today at least he did not say.  Some sources are reporting that the rebels hold Benghazi and are threatening Tripoli others report the government has the support of the military and all of the tribal leaders and will easily put down the demonstrations; the Arab News reported that Gaddafi met over the weekend with tribal leaders and they all voiced a strong support for the Colonel and his government.  Earlier today there were reports that Libyan air force pilots are refusing to bomb civilians and are deserting and but later in the day those same sources reported that the air force is bombing the civilian demonstrators.  In the 42 years Gaddafi has been in power, there have been a number of protests and all were put down with military force.  And in this current crisis there are reports coming from Benghazi and other towns , including Tripoli say the regime again is responding with guns and even aircraft fire.

Gaddafi may not have abandoned Libya for safer places,  but foreign diplomats, oil executives and anyone else that can has been leaving.  The violence is increasing along with the confusion. One thing is for certain, actually more than one; Gaddafi is not Mubarak, Libya is not Egypt and the demonstrations and demonstrators are not like those in Egypt.  After that, all bets are off.  Whatever is happening in Libya it has taken the focus off the other countries in the region, which have either taken a day or two rest from the stress, or are simply being ignored by all of media, including the regional media.  In case any of us have forgotten the importance of oil to the world’s economy,  oil prices have jumped and now exceeded the levels of even 2008 in response to the crisis. Libya may have the most immediate and significant impact on the rest of the world of any of the countries in turmoil so far.

If one combines the impact of the rising cost of fuel to the already rising cost of grains, we may have the makings of economic changes as dramatic as the social changes.  At some point in the future, a historian or economist can carefully detail all of the causes and the sequences of events that produced the changes.  However, what really strikes me about the situation, and even more today than in anytime in the past month, is the single event that acted as a the first catalyst – one angry, discouraged and hungry man set fire to himself.  He just wanted to be able to sell vegetables – or was it fruit – from his street cart to feed his family.  His hopeless gesture has lead millions of other people to see the hopelessness of their own situation – and in mass movements to try and find a vision of hope.

Who could have seen this coming?  Did you buy oil, wheat or corn futures knowing prices would shoot up dramatically?  I have become convinced over this last month, that I have no business owning any stocks, I do not understand market dynamics and I am really beginning to suspect than neither does anyone else.  We can’t even ask the guy who torched himself what outcome he intended – he is dead.  But I suspect that none of what has happened is what he wanted or expected at the time he lit the match.  Unless the street vendors in Tunisia are now prosperous and secure, but even that would probably not be what he really wanted,  he only wanted his family to have enough to eat – I wonder if they are better off now?  And now I would like to take one more shot at the wiki-leakers of the world – when you start trying to righteously  manipulate the world – stop for a moment or two and think about the ramifications; but of course you cannot even image what all of the ramifications will be.

We may all want to see Muammar Gaddafi gone; but at what cost?  How many people being bombed by their own air force is an acceptable number?  I wonder if the street vendor in Tunisia would have wanted to see this degree of violence.  An election, however flawed, is certainly a safer – albeit slower – process for change than violent revolutions.  But what if the government will not allow fair elections?  It would seem there are no easy answers, nor any certain predictable outcomes.


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February 2011
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