Late Monday afternoon, as Libyan rebels prepared another desperate attack on the eastern oil town of Brega, a young rebel raised his rocket-propelled grenade as if to fire. The town’s university, shimmering in the distance, was far beyond his weapon’s maximum range. An older rebel urged him to hold fire, telling him the weapon’s back-blast could do little more than reveal their position and draw a mortar attack.
The younger rebel almost spat with disgust. “I have been fighting for 37 days!” he shouted. “Nobody can tell me what to do!”
The outburst midfight ”” and the ensuing argument between a determined young man who seemed to have almost no understanding of modern war and an older man who wisely counseled caution ”” underscored a fact that is self-evident almost everywhere on Libya’s eastern front. The rebel military, as it sometimes called, is not really a military at all.