Learning lessons (hopefully) in Libya

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Ellis Henican Newsday columnist Ellis Henican

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. He also is a political analyst at the Fox News Channel and

Two weeks in, here are three lessons we've already learned in Libya:

The ragtag rebels do very well with NATO air support -- and very poorly without it. Gadhafi may be crazy, but crazy people can fight. And it's a whole lot easier getting into these fights than getting out of them.

Suddenly, our friends are itching for a cease-fire.

"We are seeking immediate withdrawal of Gadhafi forces around and inside cities," says Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the rebels' Transitional National Council in Benghazi. "Our main aim is to remove the siege from the cities."

No, that doesn't sound too much like "Gadhafi must go!"

The rebels' other main cease-fire condition? The despotic colonel must permit street protests. Turns out these guys are much better at street theater than at overthrowing governments on their own.

Things are moving so fast in Libya -- and in nearby Bahrain, Syria, Egypt and Yemen -- that whatever happens now in one country has serious echoes in all. And the uproar spreading across the region calls for overriding principles on our end.

But we're just lining up the questions now. When do we intervene? When do we not? When do we act alone? When do we wait for our allies? When is reform possible? When must the bad guys be replaced? Is the real question, "What is possible?" Do broader principles apply at all?

Clearly, it will take more than two weeks to answer most of them, however fast the news is moving now.




1. Good countries run by bad people.

2. Bad countries run by worse people.

3. Rebels we don't quite know.

4. Rebels who can't quite win.

5. None of the above, ever again.

ASKED AND UNANSWERED: That Northrop Grumman radar system -- the one that will no longer be built in Melville -- was it sensitive enough to detect the coming layoffs and plant shutdown? . . . Billy Joel completed -- but now won't publish! -- his long-awaited memoir? How soon 'til bootleg copies of "The Book of Joel" start circulating among the fans? . . . Is there $200 million in fat to cut out of Long Island schools? Even if so, will the fat be what's cut? . . . Shouldn't T.J.Maxx shoplifters get the maxx? It's not like they weren't warned . . . A robbery at tooth-point? Cops in Lawrence say a robber BIT his 14-year-old victim on the arm, breaking skin, before rushing off with the boy's iPhone. No word on how the teen called Nassau police . . . Why didn't anyone use this headline for the seven IT people who are splitting that $319 Mega Millions jackpot? LOGGED OUT!





You'd think Dan Klores would have his hands full. But no. The award-winning filmmaker ("Black Magic," "Crazy Love" and the forthcoming "Breslin: The Last Great One"), playwright and former public-relations czar has taken on a surprising new role: youth basketball coach. Given how his two teams are doing, he may finally have found his real niche. After grueling six-month tournaments, his 4th-grade and 7th-grade teams have both won championships in Hempstead's Island Garden Super League, going 15-1. His Fastbreak quintet, composed of youngsters from across the metropolitan area, defeated many of the Island's most established programs. Now, Dan and the boys are rolling out a 55-game AAU schedule that's taking them to Akron, Hartford, Philly and to the Nationals in Memphis. "I try to stress that it is all about making your teammates better," the sports-loving Klores says. "The math is five equals one as soon as they hit the court.

Is Carmelo Anthony listening?

Email ellis@henican.com

Follow on Twitter @henican

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