You can see a kind of good cop-bad cop scenario emerging in Libya. The rebels have offered amnesty to any member of the Gadhafi regime who defects and joins the opposition. Given what we know about reports of brutality in Benghazi toward people connected with the regime, I’m not sure this offer is believable. But it’s out there. At the same time, British attack helicopters made a rare daytime raid, destroying guard towers at the Gadhafi compound. And they let leak the preparation of 2,000-pound bunker buster bombs for future attacks. So there’s this olive branch of reconciliation, amid the persistent destruction of airstrikes.
That’s why it’s good to see South African President Jacob Zuma coming to Tripoli to negotiate a cease-fire.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa arrived at a compound belonging to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Monday afternoon for meetings that could prove crucial to the fate of Colonel Qaddafi and his embattled government.
Traveling in his capacity as a representative of the African Union, a somber Mr. Zuma debarked at Mitiga Airport outside Tripoli, the capital, at 1 p.m. local time. His expected meeting with Colonel Qaddafi would be a break in the Libyan leader’s elusive behavior since the NATO bombing strikes began two months ago, as well as a renewed effort by the union to negotiate a peace deal, perhaps even offering a possible lifeline for Colonel Qaddafi in the face of a mounting international chorus demanding his ouster.
This is combined with a shift in Russia’s diplomatic position, with President Dmitry Medvedev now calling for Gadhafi to relinquish power. Russia has far more diplomatic ties with Libya than any Western nation, and previously they held no position on Gadhafi’s role or the Western bombing campaign, except to say that it was an escalation from the UN mandate. Zuma said that his talks would include an “exit strategy” for Gadhafi.
Talking is always preferable to bombing, and the emergence of the African Union as a foreign policy force is good news for Africa generally. They previously drew up a cease-fire deal that the Libyan rebels rejected, but perhaps at this point, with little beyond a stalemate on the military horizon, an agreement can be struck. The AU has also criticized the NATO attack as going beyond the UN mandate. Gadhafi has delivered lots of money in aid to AU nations.
This may be among the final possibilities of a diplomatic resolution for the crisis.
CNN had a very good rundown of the state of affairs in Libya.
UPDATE: Just like that, 5 Libyan generals have shown up in Italy after defecting. They claim that Gadhafi’s forces are only 20% as efficient as they were before the civil war began.