THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 663 February 21 - 27, 2011
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February 21, 2011
Riots continue in Libya. Gaddafi has not fled to Venezuela, but his son is the one doing the talking in the capital. Benghazi and the army base there have fallen to the rebels, who now have tanks, crew served weapons, armored personnel carriers, and plenty of ammunition.
Sixty Minutes last night showed a fairly tranquil Tunisia, being run by a caretaker government put up by the Army with street acquiescence, but it showed new details. There is some order in Egypt, again under the watchful eye of the Army.
In Wisconsin the public employees are occupying the Capitol building, but they aren't on strike. There are doctors handing out sick leave excuses, which means they'll be paid and their jobs are not at risk. The Democrats of the Wisconsin Senate are in exile in Illinois, unable to return to their homes lest they be dragooned into attending a session of the State Legislature and thus make up a quorum. Of course the quorum requirement applies only to spending bills; absent the Democrats the Wisconsin Senate is free to do as it will with union rules, service contracts, social conduct laws, and almost anything that isn't a spending bill.
All this is debated in blogs and commentaries all over the Internet. The teachers are on the one hand out fighting for the children, and on the other out fighting for their perks. Those who comment on this will get lots of email.
I recall that in China there is the "fifty cent party" of some 200,000 paid bloggers and commentors whose job is to make up a consensus of approval of the government and Party. There is now software in the US that aids activists in creating artificial personalities, sort of like healer bots in World of Warcraft, people who have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and look to be ordinary people, but who are not real. It's not clear how one might discriminate real people from the support bots. Perhaps there's no point in doing so. I presume that all those who write me are real people.
It all makes for an interesting experiment.
It's time for my walk.
Interesting times continue. The Libyan armed forces are firing on the rebels. Some fighter pilots have defected planes and all to Malta, unwilling to fire on the revolutionary forces, either because they sympathize with the revolution or because they do not believe that the regime can win.
In Wisconsin some rage against the machine, vowing that Madison is the next Cairo, and this will be settled not by election -- that was already decided -- but in the streets. Government by street fighting was customary in Weimar Germany and pre-Fascist Italy, and indeed Mussolini's March on Rome put him into power with his Fascist councils and his other mechanisms to make the trains run on time. There are stories of doctors in the streets handing out medical notes certifying that the recipient is sick and thus can claim sick benefits for the protest day; I find it hard to believe that anyone with a teacher's education would actually take advantage of that, since it is prima facie evidence of fraud; but perhaps I don't understand. And of course those may be actors playing doctors rather than actual physicians. Folk singers are comparing the street protestors of Madison to the courageous victorious rebels of Cairo.
Regarding Cairo, more details of the Logan incident in Cairo are trickling out. There are now multiple sources -- supposedly independent, but I have no way of knowing -- that the revelers in Cairo on Victory Day shouted "Jew! Jew!" as she was sexually assaulted. Miss Logan is not Jewish but that is of no matter; but is this a portent of what will happen now that Mubarak is gone? Israel is not the same country that it was in the days of the wars against Egypt. The Israeli Army has far more recent combat experience that do its Egyptian counterparts, whose last actual battles were in the Suez war; on the other hand, the Egyptian Army now has US rather than USSR equipment and training. Whether the Egyptian Army would actually undertake a new campaign against Israel is another matter. The last wars lost Sinai and Gaza. Peace got Sinai back (the Egyptians didn't want Gaza). It is unlikely that Israel would return any territories conquered in a future war. Of course the Israeli Army isn't the Army that took part in the Suez War, either in reputation or in reality. The memory of the Lebanese excursions remains like a shadow over the Middle East.
If all this appears to be little more than a ramble, you are correct: I see no reason to form any conclusions other than that we live in interesting times, and instability has returned to the Middle East. What happens when Iraq begins to take heed of the New Internet Revolution isn't clear at all. Note that China has long thought about these matters. We have given them little thought, and there's little preparation in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Of course there may not need to be.
And Iran is its own case.
But then Madison and Sacramento are their own cases. California is about to have an election about tax rates and state pensions and educations budgets; the Madison precedent says that the election is irrelevant. These matters will be settled in the streets. One wonders what kind of shirts will be involved. Red? Black? Silver? Brown? The Peace Sign gives hope for countless millions. Will the day for Bread and Freedom come at last?
There is now a report of an attack on a female news media reporter in a Sacramento demonstration. It is not said which side of what demonstration the attackers favored.
We do live in interesting times.
Background on Libya:
Thank you. There are Taureg in Southwestern Libya, but they are best known for their role in Beau Geste and other Legion stories about Algeria.
More news from Wisconsin: the matter will be settled in the streets, not by the electoral process. Both sides at the moment seem dedicated to that proposition. Meanwhile the legislature is shut down. They can't cut taxes, nor can they cut salaries. And the state is running out of money. We live in interesting times.
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February 22, 2011
When the USSR fell in the early 1990's (after the successful Gulf War that returned Kuwait from Baathist rule to the Kuwaiti Royal Family), there was speculation that this was the end of history: that the evolution of political systems inevitably led to liberal democracy, and that it was only a matter of time; and since democracies do not declare war on each other, we are entering a new world in which the green vine will not wither, and the smoke and the armies will not spring up.
That didn't happen in the two decades that followed, but has Facebook now made it inevitable? We watch the developments in the Middle East with great interest and a growing sense of wonder. But if we see glimpses of the end of history in Cairo, what are we to make of Madison Wisconsin, where democracy and elections are no longer important; what is important is the numbers you can bring to the streets. Since most people have jobs and can't afford to hang around the streets, only those whose unions protect them can afford to do so. The result is the creation of a ruling class that can't be turned out no matter how bad the economy, and which keeps its pensions granted in good times well after the economy collapses. The end of history is a society whose purpose is to pay its government employees; elections don't matter. It makes for an interesting world for science fiction writers to explore.
A fifty-eight foot sloop, presumably well rigged with gadgets so that a crew of two could easily handle it. It would have a pretty bright radar picture unless it was deliberately stealthed, which is unlikely: there's far more danger of being run down by a large ship steered by George with the lookout asleep than being taken by pirates. Fairly safe for ocean crossing assuming that some attention is paid to weather and season. With GPS it's pretty well impossible to get lost. In my day the classic work on the subject was by Eric and Susan Hiscock in a classic work called Cruising Under Sail. That was in the days before GPS. Eventually the Hiscocks lost their 3o foot cutter on a reef in the South Pacific after sailing around the world three times. They bought another. But in those days the danger from pirates was mostly in the Malay Straits.
The modern pirates are off Somalia. US warships attempted to rescue the Americans on their yacht.
The world is a changed place.
I wonder how long it will be before we have US Marines in yachts sailing off the Somali Coast. Days of the wackiest ship in the army...
The New Democrat Strategy: flee the state if you lose an election. Perhaps Indiana and Wisconsin can trade senators? Or perhaps the various senate chambers could make a rule that 25 unexcused absences from roll call is an ipso facto resignation. But fleeing to a state that has a Republican Governor might not work, as the State Troopers in Wisconsin may be on the lookout for Democrat State Senators from any state? Wisconsin and Indiana don't have a common border, but perhaps a transfer could be made from police boats on Lake Michigan. And a good time is had by all. The end of history: not with a bang, not with a whimper, but a farcical giggle. Why not? The important thing is that pensions rise every year, and that someone pay for them.
Alas, some of us don't have pensions. I continue to sing for my supper. Subscribe now.
February 23, 2011
I am catching up if just barely. The news continue to be -- interesting. Roberta said that real life is beginning to look like Reality Television. It's an interesting observation. There may be full civil war in Libya,
In the United States we are experimenting with the limits of liberal democracy. Elections are unimportant: if the losing side simply refuses to accept the result when they lose, nor limits to their actions when they win, the applicability of the term "democracy" comes into question. Then comes the usual transition from democracy to tyranny: one side refuses to accept the results, chaos emerges, and a friend of the people steps up to restore order. He is given temporary powers. After that the stories divide. Caesar was assassinated. Mustapha Kemal formed his Young Turks into a brotherhood that would protect the secular state he had founded but would not rule it. Cromwell ruled until he died, but could not transfer power, and his New Model Army could not rule without him, so the English brought back the King. Napoleon rose on the ashes of the Revolution, and twice gained power with the will of the people, holding it until thrown out by foreign armies. Mexico got Santa Ana. Zimbabwe got Mugabe. Uganda got Idi Amin Dada. Of course nothing like that could happen in the United States. None of our political leaders is convinced that only the Enlightened know what is good for the people and thus must rule to protect the people's interests, even though the people have voted for someone else. Surely we do not have political leaders who would assert that?
Meanwhile, it is not clear what the Victory Party in Egypt wants, or what the Egyptian Army will do for the future. Stories emerge of new applications of sharia directed at the women of Egypt, but the accuracy of the stories isn't known. The treatment of Miss Logan does not argue for the establishment of liberal democracy in the wake of Mubarak's departure; what the Mamelukes think of all this has yet to be determined, but my suspicion is that if allowing male dominance in the streets is the price of stability, most of the Egyptian Army will think that no real price at all.
At one time the people of America would rejoice when "the people" triumphed in various regimes. Our policy then was "We are the friends of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own." It is not clear what our policy on the matter is now. One pushes where something gives. It would do no good for the President to tell Iran or China what is and is not acceptable about human rights. Whether his words directed to Libya will have an effect isn't clear; we knew little of the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and we know less about Libya. What happens if we find that the "Will of the People" is loathsome, and that we saw it in the treatment of Lara Logan? It would be more reassuring if we understood why it took the Mamelukes more than half an hour to intervene in the assault on Logan; if something like that happened anywhere near an armed platoon of US GI's, the outcome would be quite different.
Street fighting in Tripoli. Gaddafi hides behind a wall of tanks. Benghazi and Tobruk have fallen. The borders are open. Militias roam through the countryside. The commander in Tobruk has announced for the people. And a flood of refugees takes any means to flee, to Egypt, to Malta, to Sicily.
The President is sending the Secretary of State to Geneva. It is not certain what that will do.
Oil is above $100/bbl and rising. Gasoline in California will soon enough be at $4/gallon.
Will the US Marines return to the shores of Tripoli? Will we see the British Army in Suez? We live in interesting times, indeed, indeed.
I keep wondering what will happen when the Facebook Flash Crowds assemble in Baghdad.
I long ago concluded that we are not capable of guarding the liberty of the people of the Near East, and that we ought to develop our own energy resources. I see no reason to change my views, although it will be far more expensive now. It will only get more expensive in future. We need to drill for oil, build nuclear power plants, and develop natural gas. Those ought to be our first priorities. Once we have energy we can use it to build those green facilities that we are told will save the planet, but if we cannot save ourselves, we certainly cannot save the planet.
February 24, 2010
Gaddafi, who is certainly eccentric and arguably insane, appears to be doomed. He had plenty of money, and his key military unit was actually trained by the British SAS units who were fairly effective for England in the Irish insurgencies. The division was commanded by one of Gaddafi's sons. It was stationed in Benghazi, now a modern harbor (students of the North Africa campaigns of WW II will remember is as a weird harbor not well charted that exacerbated the Afrika Korps supply problems).
Libya is a tribal area of the desert, never a real nation. Tripoli, once a pirate kingdom (to the shores of Tripoli) was a neglected "province" of the Turkish Sultanate. To the east was anarchy across to the uncertain Egyptian border. "Libya" was colonized by Italy after World War I, "unified" by Mussolini as a part of his new Roman empire, and "pacified" by an intense military campaign of oppression. There was even a brief economic upsurge, but the territory was never really pacified, and after Mussolini failed to take Egypt and was driven back in Wavell's offensives, it became for a while the focus of the world as the British Imperials -- Tommies, Aussies, New Zealanders, Gurkhas, Indian and Pakistanis, some Egyptians, even some Libyan tribal militia -- fought Rommel's Afrika Korps with Egypt and the Suez Canal at stake.
After World War II a tribal clan leader was "restored" as king of the "united" Libya, and endured more or less until 1969 when an Army captain named Gaddafi sent him into exile and proclaimed a Republic. He promoted himself to Colonel, and has ruled as an eccentric despot ever since. During the Cold War he was able to play the West against the USSR while balancing the various tribal factions. Lately he has turned to francophone north African mercenaries, with his best unit given first class modern military equipment and sent as the garrison of Benghazi. We don't know the full story, but apparently that unit was one of the first to go over to the popular uprising.
Now he's down to less than the old pirate kingdom of Tripoli and that's under siege. The US has chartered a ferry boat to take out US citizens, but at last count that hadn't left the harbor. If a US Navy ship has been sent in we don't know about it. It's not likely that Gaddafi can hold on any longer.
Had it been my decision a US Marine detachment would be in Tripoli shepherding US citizens. That would be in keeping with American history. Perhaps the fleet is on its way. We can hope so, because Tripoli will not hold out all that much longer. Major tribal chiefs whom Gaddafi treated well and counted on for support have gone over to the rebels; it doesn't look as if he has any power base beyond his mercenaries, and effective mercenaries who will fight to the last bullet in a completely lost cause are hard to find in this modern world.
Ortega predicted that rule by Janissaries was no longer possible: he wrote that in 1930, (Revolt of the Masses) and clearly he was premature; but in these days of Facebook and flash crowds it seems more prescient. Now we need to see what happens in Havana and Caracas.
And as rule by street crowds becomes the norm, what are we to make of Madison Wisconsin where the ability to turn out street crowds is now seen by a major US party as a way to negate the effects of an unfavorable result at the polls? Will Indiana and Ohio be next? So far there has been no street fighting as there was in Berlin and Rome and Paris. So far the rubber truncheons and the bottles of castor oil have not appeared. Surely that can't happen here? Surely the patience of the American taxpayer is infinite, and if protestors want to shut down the city to protect their pension benefits, all will peacefully acquiesce?
Or perhaps history has not ended, and perhaps human nature has not so greatly changed.
A Republic is possible only when those defeated in elections acquiesce, and the victors do not demand too much. Conservatives have always known that public order is more fragile than most think. Government by street gangs would never happen here. No one thinks his own ideas are so perfect that he can ignore all else. Be sure you're right, then go ahead...
February 25, 2011
It's like the world is on hold in the middle of the revolution. Gaddafi hasn't fallen yet, but it seems inevitable. Egypt is trying to restore courts and something like the rule of law after years of despotic government in which the police seized property for themselves, and property rights were never secure from bribed officials. The Army would like to see a stable republic, but there are few with any experience in going about that. In Tunisia there is something like order, but it's not clear who is in charge or where the power will end up.
The rule of law requires that everyone is subject to the law; and orderly government requires that everyone of whatever political persuasion submits to the orderly transfer of government. In the United States that premise is being reexamined: election results aren't important. What's important is that money be paid to state employees, and anything that gets in the way needs to be shouted down. Camp out in the Capitol if need be, but never allow the budget to be balanced on the backs of the union workers. An interesting view of entitlements.
It is not the end of history, but where progress will take us now is hardly clear.
By all accounts the Xoom is a serious challenger to the iPad, but of course that's the old iPad. The new one is on the way. Only the psychics know when or what's in it although we can certainly assume a camera. A Flashcard memory slot would be nice, too.
Miss Noonan's column will be in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal.
I note that for the first time in a long time the US does not have a carrier group in the Mediterranean: apparently there is no way plan to send the Navy to help evacuate US citizens form the Libyan turmoil.
George Noory is a friend and I usually find his Coast to Coast show -- successor to Art Bell's -- interesting. I'm a bit skeptical about flying saucers and ghosts, and the Face on Mars, but I'm always willing to look at -- or hear -- evidence. Alas, last night there were guests who revived the "California Missile Launch" story as if it still had legs. Neither had any evidence: they relied on what you can find on the web. Apparently the miracle of Google has piled so many "stories" about the mysterious missile to the head of the list that you have to dig far down to find the real explanation.
For those don't know what this is, Google California Missile and you'll see. It looks like a pile of evidence, including stories on how the Pentagon can't explain it, State Department denies it was Chinese, and a four star general says it certainly was a missile, and so forth. And indeed when it first happened I got breathless mail from some real rocket people who were convinced this was video of a real missile launch. They were certain of it and wanted to speculate on whose it was and why it was launched without the usual air and sea warnings that the military gives when we test a bird (inference: it wasn't ours!). Some heavy duty credible people wrote me on this. (And no, I am not going to answer questions about who; suffice it to say I am convinced that they are not part of a conspiracy to suppress this story.)
And if that's all anyone knew it would be a good story and maybe even evidence of a cover-up and conspiracy. We don't dare let the public know. This was a message from China. And the rest.
But alas, the problem was that no one else in the LA basin reported seeing it. No one on Catalina which was close to the presumed ocean launch site. No one at Malibu. No one in Santa Monica. How could there be a big missile rising out of the sea and leaving an enormous vapor trail not have been seen by anyone but a TV crew in a helicopter at one viewing angle?
Which of course makes it obvious. http://uncinus.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/4/ See the fourth picture down. It all depends on the angle. And, if you dig down far enough in the Google list you will find:
It turns out that someone else did see and photograph it.
February 26, 2011
Google announces a change in their priority rules, but since the rules were secret, and the change is secret, it's a bit hard to assess the consequences. I will note that because of the way Google sorts inquiries about the "California Missile Launch" the story got legs, and ended up being told as a real story to millions on Coast to Coast. See above. This is a story that sure looked good when it first came out. A retired general, and several rocket engineers and scientists, were convinced that this was a video of a missile rising out of the sea and heading west. Heavy duty credible people believed this, and of course inquiries to the Pentagon and NORAD and the FAA drew utter blanks: no one had heard of this because there was nothing to have heard of. So, for a while, there was this undeniable video, and a growing crowd of people who said "WOW!" and repeated the story, adding no new information -- there was no information to be added -- but building a consensus. Something had happened, the government wasn't talking, and there was the evidence right there on video! A missile launched off the California coast. No warning to mariners or aviators. No pre-announcement. Nothing from the government but denials. Wow! Story after story came in.
There was a brief flurry of interest. I got emails from rocket people insisting that this was a rocket, and noted the incident.
Meanwhile a few began to look critically at this. There were several
problems, the most obvious of which was that no one else in the Los Angeles
basin saw this missile. No one on Catalina Island saw it, yet it was much
closer to Avalon and Twin Harbors than to the mainland -- or would have been
much closer if it had been an actual missile launch. Well, there aren't that
many people on Catalina, maybe no one happened to be looking, although
generally people on sail boats do notice something that spectacular. But no
one in Santa Monica or Malibu saw it, and there was a pretty good sunset at
the time. No on on the beach or in a beach house overlooking the ocean. No
one in Long Beach. And on reflection there was this about the missile: it
seemed to go at a constant speed. It didn't accelerate rapidly and then
vanish. It just "rose" at a fairly constant speed. Doubters -- deniers if
you will -- began to appear on the web. Pictures of contrails previously
taken to have been missiles but now demonstrated to have been contrails were
posted. One good summary was here:
After a couple of days I concluded that alas, it was a contrail, and went on to other matters, as did nearly everyone else. The story died away. Fun while it lasted. But there are always those who delight in investigating strange phenomena, and who are primed to believe in them, and some of those will be off on trips or at conferences or on vacation or sick when a story like this flares up and dies away. Someone else will call their attention to the story, and the research begins. In the old days such research would consist of looking for witnesses and digging into the story, but in today's world much "research" consists of typing clues into Google and seeing what develops. Try California Missile Launch Video and you will get a full page of stories, not one of which questions that this was a "missile". There will stories that the Pentagon denies it was a threat. There will be speculations about Chinese motives. It's only half way down the second page that you get even the hint that this wasn't actually a missile but a contrail seen from just the correct point of view to make it look so much like a missile as to fool rocket scientists.
By page three you get a few more serious questions, but the "consensus" is still that it was a missile, along with speculations about whose it was and why it is being kept secret. There is now a story that the Pentagon says it was an airplane. And now comes
from CNN! Followed by
with a collage of videos (all the same footage actually, but with different edits and anchors) and speculation on whose missile it was. This on a site that has major advertisements from University of California hospitals. The story continues.
In other words, you could, particularly if you really wanted to, build a pretty good case for the "unexplained" missile launch, the Pentagon denial, speculations on why the Chinese might be wanting to send the US a message, and all the other "it all fits" theories so dear to those who make a living at researching odd phenomena and telling the world about them. Long may they live; I am not among those who want to suppress dissidents and contrarians. My point is that Google seems to be making it easier for these researchers to be fooled, which really means that perhaps it is making things harder for those who really are looking for the truth rather than just trying to find new conspiracies to talk about.
Regarding the California Missile Launch, as I noted, the big problem was
how few people saw and photographed something so large and obvious; and, as
noted, someone else did see it, photographed it, and pretty well laid the
mystery to rest: but good luck finding that among all the "Mystery remains!
Pentagon can't explain!" stories that a Google search will give you. See
The moral of this story is obvious: you can't let Google do your thinking for you, and consensus does not inevitably lead to truth. I hope that's being taught in the universities.
Here is a short video on the economic situation as of today. It is from
Heritage, so hardly impartial, but worth the short watch.
Coast to Coast has a modern survivalist http://www.backyardfoodproduction.com/ warning that your food bill will double in the next year, if you're lucky. It may be more. The trends are there.
I must say I have been concerned about the coming inflation -- but it's not just inflation. The cost of producing food is going up and up, and the regulatory costs are going higher.
When I was an editor of SURVIVE Magazine (companion to Soldier of Fortune) I pointed out that individuals don't survive. Villages and communities survive. Were Studio City thrown for the most part on its own resources, we could probably organize into teams to make use of the available resources; we all get along pretty well, and most of my neighbors are intelligent.
The first novel I ever wrote (unsold) was a post-atomic war survival story. I wrote it just after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and tried to sell it to John Campbell who told me it was very well done but he had all the realistic post atomic war stories he needed and then some: try some other theme. So I did, and I've lost that story. I recall that at a local community college they plowed up the Quad to grow squash and beans. After I finished it I encountered Budrys's Some Will Not Die which had some similarities to what I had written, but ended in a far different way. I actually did two full novels on the survivalist theme, but abandoned them for the more hopeful stories of space exploration and countering the doom and gloom stories of the merchants of gloom and the Club of Rome.
But It might be worth your while to go to http://www.backyardfoodproduction.com/ and look into the link on Why Your Grocery Bill Will Double This Year.
Note that you can print money, but you can't print food.
Oh. And it snowed today in Studio City. Snow. And it's freezing outside.
February 27, 2011
Yesterday we had snow in the mountains, not unusual; but there was also snow in the Hollywood Hills, Burbank, and Studio City. It wasn't a lot of snow. Our neighbor grew up in the house she still lives in, and she remembers making a small snow man in her front yard in the 1940's. We didn't get that much, hardly enough even for a snowball, but there was definitely snow. Sable went out in it and came back, complaining about cold feet we think; anyway she didn't think it was much fun although she likes cold weather.
But: today's LA Times had an interesting coverage of this unusual weather. Nothing on Page One. City news is never terribly important to the Times. On the front page of the California section there was a picture of snow in the mountains, but no story. The story, which did finally mention snow, sleet, and hail in Los Angeles, was in the interior. There was, however, a front page story about climate on the California section: it told how a high UN official is in town to recruit celebrities to aid in the fight against climate change. it gets continued in the interior, too. That is the most important story about weather and climate.
The high today is in the mid-50's a bit higher than forecast. It is not a warm winter in California. If there's a story to that related to "climate change" the Times isn't mentioning it. I am sure it's all due to global warming, but I am not sure the consensus has agreed on an acceptable theory on how warmer air in cold dry areas has caused snow in the Hollywood Hills.
In Libya there is civil war. The UN has declared sanctions. Spokesmen for the rebels have rejected all offers of western assistance on the grounds that this is purely a Libyan effort. Gaddafi is ferrying in tribal allies to Tripoli; unlike Mubarak, Gaddafi has vaults full of gold, physical gold, to pass out to his soldiers. He doesn't depend on his bank accounts. Cash on the barrelhead. Note that Saddam Hussein had rooms full of cash, US and European banknotes mostly but also gold; about a billion dollars in cash was found by US troops in the various palaces. Gaddafi doesn't depend on the Swiss bank accounts that are now closed to him. He has cash, and he is using to to pay his soldiers.
Stay together, pay the soldiers, and take no heed for the people: the advice of Septimius Severus to his sons. Severus was born in Libya about 100 miles east of Tripoli, and was the first Emperor to be proclaimed in the provinces. He commanded Legions in what is now Austria. (He had been appointed governor there by the distinguished professional soldier Emperor Pertinax, one of the stars of Marcus Aurelius's forces.) Severus marched his Legions to Rome and threw out Didius Julianus who had bought the empire at auction from the Praetorian Guard after they murdered Pertinax. This was in the Year of the Five Emperors, thirteen years after the death of Marcus Aurelius the last of the Good Emperors.
Gaddafi and his gold control only Tripoli, but Libya is more a geographical expression than a nation; it is no impossible that Tripoli will emerge as one of several independent states as Libya breaks apart into the various parts it had been before Mussolini "united" the provinces (the last civil war was in 1937). After World War II an independent pro-western monarchy was set up with one of the tribal chiefs as king; Gaddafi turned him out and has ruled ever since.
Obama has no taste for intervention, nor any invitation from the rebels even if he were so inclined, so it is likely that this will play out to the end, and no one can predict the outcome. It depends on how much gold Gaddafi has, and how much loyalty that much gold can buy. Over the long run the odds are with the rebels, but how long the run can be is also in doubt. Starving rebels don't fight well. Logistics matter, and the supply structure in North Africa is always a bit fragile. It is said that no country is more than six meals away from a revolution, but it ought to be added that revolutions are not immune to famine. The US has few assets in the Mediterranean. Whether Tunis and Egypt will or can help supply the rebels is not clear either. And the Libyan air forces so far have been loyal to Gaddafi.
Most of the Libyan population around Tripoli have no weapons. Dictators are strong believers in gun control. Meanwhile Gaddafi is arming the tribesmen who are loyal to him.
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