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Libya: Breaking down the crisis, one Twitter-friendly cliche at a time

March 18, 2011 | 11:57 am


Answer: A day late and a dollar short.

Question: What do you think of the U.N.-approved no-fly zone for Libya?

In Friday's Opinion page, David Scheffer argues in favor of the new no-fly zone over Libya.

The no-fly zone and airstrikes against the most imminent threats should slow Kadafi's military campaign, giving the opposition fighters enough time to move their families out of harm's way. If the no-fly zone helps achieve a stalemate on the ground, Kadafi's air force would be prevented from terrorizing the millions who live in rebel territory.

Scheffer should know from atrocities -– he served as U.S. ambassador at large for war-crimes issues from 1997 to 2001. And here's hoping that he's right.

The Times and other media outlets have written thousands of words in the last few weeks about Libya.   Our own Doyle McManus, for example, wrote a column on March 3, "A no-fly zone in Libya is a war cry," and another on March 10, "One step at a time on Libya."

I've read every word. I'm interested (plus that's what they pay me for). 

But in today's new-media world, not everyone takes the time to digest 800 words on a subject. In the age of Twitter, you have to make your points quickly. 

Before Twitter, we had something called cliches, which allowed us to briefly describe a situation.

So let's break the Libya crisis down, one Twitter-friendly cliche at a time:

Answer: Get out while the getting's good.

Question: What advice would you give Libya's opposition fighters?

A:  Shoot first and ask questions later.

Q:  What does Moammar Kadafi mean by "cease-fire"?

A:  No man is an island.

Q:  What does the West think about Kadafi?

A:  I am a rock.

Q:  What does Kadafi think of himself?

A:  You break it, you own it.

Q:  Why didn't the U.S. get involved earlier in helping the Libyan rebels?

A:  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Q:  How would you describe the situation for the rebels three weeks ago, and now?

A: All's well that ends well.

Q:  What is Kadafi's mood today?

On Page 1 of The Times on Friday, the headline was "Turning point at hand in Libyan uprising."  

You can't argue with that. Unfortunately for the rebels, and for those hoping to see an end to Kadafi's reign of terror, the dictator appears to have the upper hand. Although there was some hopeful news Friday, as the Libyan government announced an "immediate cease-fire and stoppage of all military operations" against rebel-held enclaves.

Let's hope it sticks to that. Otherwise, as Scheffer says:

There is little doubt that, in light of his 41-year tyranny and what he has said and done to repress and kill his opponents during the uprising, Kadafi will commit atrocities against a large portion of the Libyan population if he prevails. His recent pledge to grant amnesty to rebels who disarm is laughable. The same is true if his regime merely survives, crippled but in control of much of Libya.

Which means that the opposition would be wise to keep in mind two more cliches:

"Revenge is a dish best served cold," and "Out of sight, out of mind."


No-fly zone: Putting a leash on Kadafi

A no-fly zone in Libya is a war cry

One step at a time on Libya

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Tobruk residents cheer the U.N. decision to authorize strikes against Moammar Kadafi's forces. Credit: Luis Cinco / Los Angeles Times

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