I've written a couple of pieces on the Libyan uprising. In the last one I said that Gaddafi would first have to secure his base in and around Tripoli, and then turn east. And this is pretty much what he's done.
In the meanwhile, the rest of the world has issued statements, made lots of telephone calls to each other, and performed a maypole dance around the idea of imposing a no-fly zone on Libya. Perhaps at the outset, they thought that the rag-tag army of Libyan rebels that had sprung up everywhere really could oust Gaddafi all on its own. It certainly looked that way for a few days. So they hung back from imposing a no-fly zone, because they hoped one wouldn't be needed.
Probably the Gaddafi regime was caught off balance at the outset, and didn't know what was happening, or what to do about it. During this period of paralysis, numerous soldiers deserted, and quite few high-ranking members from Gaddafi's inner circle.
But this didn't last long. Gaddafi never lost his nerve. And pretty soon the military machine he controlled started working properly. The demonstrations on the streets of Tripoli were stopped. And now Az Zawiyah (and maybe Misurata) have been recaptured from the rebels. They were always going to be defeated in pretty short order by a well-equipped, professional army.
And now the race is on for Gaddafi's superior forces to recapture the Libyan eastern seaboard from the disorganised rabble which currently hold it. He has to try to do this as rapidly as possible, by land and by sea and by air, before the lumbering UN and NATO and the terminally indecisive Obama finally get round to calling for a vote on a no-fly zone, and for China or Russia to veto it.
That's why Libyan delegations flew yesterday to Cairo and Lisbon and Brussels, to try and stall the momentum towards a no-fly zone in any way they can, and delay it as long as possible. It's not a diplomatic imperative: it's a military imperative.
After that we'll quite likely be seeing a complete collapse in morale among the rebels in eastern Libya, as Gaddafi seizes control of the coastal road, and bottles up the rebels in the cities. He might even be at the gates of Benghazi early next week, if he's sufficiently decisive and daring (which he probably is). After all, it's only about 100 miles from Ajdabiyah to Benghazi - a 2 hour drive -.
With that, a flood of Libyan refugees will start pouring across the border into Egypt, and sailing across the Mediterranean to Italy and anywhere that will take them. By the time NATO finally imposes a no-fly zone, Gaddafi will have all the eastern towns surrounded and cut off from each other, and will be able to reduce them one by one without any need of air power, because his army will have the tanks and artillery and troops to accomplish this alone, one city at a time. And furthermore, he'll be gaining Libyan volunteers who want to be on the winning side.
Then the NATO planes will circle uselessly overhead, as one town after another is recaptured by Gaddafi's army, and the rebels captured inside them are butchered.
And then of course there will be calls to supply food and weapons to the remaining rebels besieged inside their various towns and cities. By the time this has been agreed by NATO and the UN and the WWF and World Bank and the American Mothers Union, only Benghazi will remain. The food and weapons will arrive too late to do much more than slow the retreat of the embattled defenders towards the port.
So then there'll be calls to land an expeditionary force to re-enforce the defenders, and this will be agreed after a week or two of tea and biscuits and banana trifles, and the expeditionary force will arrive inside Benghazi harbour just as the last rebels are sailing out of it, and Gaddafi's troops have seized control of the port.
And then all concerned will have to deal with a newly invigorated and extremely angry Gaddafi regime, with all internal dissent inside Libya brutally suppressed.
And the various other tottering regimes in the region will take a leaf out of Gaddafi's handbook on How To Suppress A Revolt, and demonstrators everywhere will be bombed and mortared back into terrified submission. And any prospect of democracy in the region will have been set back a decade or more.
All of which could have been avoided if just one Western power had decided to side immediately with the fledgling rebels, and had provided them with air support and food and ammunition as rapidly as possible. It'll be an object lesson on how a decisive military leader can seize the initiative and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by a far more powerful but terminally indecisive opponent.
Gaddafi is going to win because he can think more quickly, and act more decisively, than the whole of the rest of the world put together.
See also LFTC Will Gaddafi Win?