Analysis of Libyan Peace Overtures: Surrender or Poisoned Fruit
In annotating chess games, a strong move is accompanied by an exclamation point, while a weak move receives a question mark. A very strong move rates !! and an egregious blunder ??. However, there is a 3rd category -a speculative move that can prove alternatively successful or problematic depending on the opponent's response and such a move appropriately gets both a question mark and an exclamation point.
The call by the Qaddafi government in Tripoli declaring a willingness to talk without preconditions about the future of Libya and to negotiate with the rebels on reaching a political solution belongs to the 3rd category.
What is problematic for the Libyan government is that the call for unconditional talks can be interpreted as a beginning of the end. After all one can hardly expect the rebels to acquiesce to the Qaddafi clan remaining in power in any form whatsoever.
This concession could induce the fence-sitters to abandon a losing proposition and go over to the rebel side. Likewise, it can confirm the Western coalition that its air campaign and economic strangulation of Qaddafi is bearing fruit, silencing the critics of that policy - both those who would escalate as well as those who would call off the intervention.
Obviously, this is not what Qaddafi intends. First of all, there is the question of under whose auspices the talks will be held. The Qaddafi government in Tripoli has made it plain that it is not going to be talking to NATO or the West but to what it regards as honest brokers.
The mediators of choice are the member states of the African Union who generally, out of self-interest, side with the current ruler. The member states have already issued a call for NATO to call off its raids in Libya. African Union Commission chief Jean Ping said: "Some international players seem to be denying Africa any significant role in the seach for a solution to the Libyan conflict."
"Africa is not going to be reduced to the status of an observer of its own calamities," but judging by what the African Union did in the Ivory Coast, a ceasefire followed by mediation and the election process can take years. First one must register the voters, put international supervisors in place and deal with a host of subjects that can be subjected to arguments and nitpicking that will buy time.
It is hard to expect that the coalition whose members are are already downsizing their militaries will sit around and wait. They may be preoccupied by other crises.
The idea of negotiating with the rebels brings up another interesting point: Who precisely are the rebels and more importantly, who is their leadership? Hatred for Qaddafi and ambition have created a modicum of cohesion in the rebel camp. A negotiations process can create fissures amongst the rebels over who is going to negotiate, what the mandate for the negotiations is and how the makeup of the delegation influences future power relationships between the rebel factions.
Instead of fighting Qaddafi the rebels may end up fighting amongst themselves.
The peace overtures can also arouse the abstention camp in the UN Security Council notably Russia, China and India to claim that the UN Security Council resolution authorizing action to protect civilians is obviated by a peace process.
A chess game is between 2 opponents but in international politics a speculative move can be influenced by a multiple of players.