I've been sticking to my "no Internet before writing something" quota fairly well the last several days, with a couple of exceptions: 1) writing or no writing, I read a bunch of RSS feeds on my phone when I'm putting SteelyKid to bed at night, and 2) I keep following events in the Middle East via Al Jazeera online, mostly their live blogging from Libya. It's fascinating to watch.
Of course, this blog also has an official Senior Middle East Correspondent, namely my friend Paul, who is a journalist based in Cairo. When the Egyptian revolution started, he was out of the country on a family vacation (which he cut short, getting back to Egypt in time for Mubarak's resignation), but this time he's right in the middle of things, filing reports from Benghazi and reports on the rebel advance through eastern Libya:
The rebel forces, for all their apparent disorganization and spontaneity that would seem to be disastrous for purposes of military strategy, do seem to have momentum on their side.
The swift advance and comparatively light casualties suggest that, at least for now, government troops are not offering a great deal of resistance.
"He has planes and bombs but I have a strong heart and I am defending my land," said Capt. Abdel-Hamid Ali, while his fleet of six pickup trucks pulled over at a rest stop in the grim, featureless desert.
Ali, who had no obvious rank insignia and wore wraparound sunglasses, camouflage pants, a down vest and a green army sweater, estimated that there were just 500 rebel forces involved in the push westward, but could not say when the next move would come.
"I am awaiting orders," he said, waving his ancient Nokia mobile phone in a desert country with often patchy reception.
The whole scene sounds completely crazy, and it's hard to believe we're watching this unfold. Let alone that I know somebody on the ground there.
Anyway, I hope the rebel advance continues to go as smoothly as possible, and they manage to topple Gaddafi (who is a world-class nutjob) without anything horrific happening. And I hope to someday hear Paul tell war stories in person, because I bet the best stuff doesn't make it onto the wires.
This stuff is actually HUGE, Chad, thanks for your friend's "I'm there" feedback. I hope he survives, he is truly in the eye of the tiger.
I mean, the closest analogy I can make with this stuff in western Asia and Northern Africa is what happened in the USA and France in the 1760's through the 1790's, and in retrospect, it may even be bigger.
Really amazing times we live in, huh?
And who was that guy in 1997 who said "History is Dead"? What an idiot.