I'll comment on the Budget soon but I'm so excited about a 1p cut in fuel duty I can barely think straight. Anyway, in Libya, events have moved pretty much as I thought they would a week or so ago. After a few days of airstrikes, a British-led assault on Gaddafi's forces near Adjabiya led to a general pursuit of retreating pro-Gaddafi forces round the Gulf of Sirte coastline.
For a moment over the weekend, it seemed possible the rebel advance might go all the way to Sirte and yesterday morning, the rebels claimed improbably Sirte's capture. Sirte is Gaddafi's birthplace and a powerbase of his support and while there had been a withdrawal of sorts on Sunday evening, the Gaddafi forces were able to halt the rebel advance well to the east of Sirte and even throw it back to Bin Jawaad earlier today.
None of this suggests a Gaddafi army on the point of collapse or a rebel force capable of achieving operational success on the ground without significant air interdiction from NATO forces.
And that's the problem...
Resolution 1973 allows for air strikes to protect civilians from Gaddafi's forces and that's fair enough and can be used to justify for example airstrikes on Gaddafi's armour around Misratah and the implementation of the no-fly zone has clearly helped the rebels withstand the Gaddafi regime's attacks. However, the Resolution doesn't allow for airstrikes to actively assist the rebel advance where there are no civilians involved so that would seem to preclude an attack on the Gaddafi positions facing the rebels west of Bin Jawaad in the open desert.
With the rebels seemingly unable to threaten Sirte though secure to the east and the Gaddafi regime holding firm in Tripoli but unable to recapture the ground lost to the rebels, there is every chance of a prolonged stalemate and de facto division of the country. It is that prospect which must be troubling David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and other NATO leaders while a US intelligence report tonight suggesting there were "flickers" of Al Qaeda and Hizbollah presence among the rebels has got conservatives in the US spooked.
The disingenuous nature of the Republican and conservative position on Libya is quite breathtaking. Hostile as they have been to Gaddafi over the years, it now seems American conservatives are simply trying to oppose anything and everything President Obama does. There are notable exceptions such as John McCain but Libya has shown the total inadequacy of the Republicans in particular and US conservatives in general.
That's not to say NATO and the other partners don't have some tough questions to confront in the days ahead. No one wants to see Libya degenerate into another Somalia and with turmoil growing in the hugely-important state of Syria, the impetus behind regime change and the opportunity such change offers for the entire region cannot be overlooked. It may be that Resolution 1973 will have to be bent a little in the hours and days ahead but the overall possibility of evicting Gaddafi and possibility dismantling the Syrian Ba'athists would pay such huge dividends for the region and the world that it may be a risk worth taking.