FrontPage, August 22, 2011
The reign of Muammar Qaddafi has come to an end. That he was a cruel despot deserving of an unforgiving end is a given, but now a new chapter in Libya, rife with uncharted, ominous struggles has begun. Foremost among theses struggles will be preventing the ensuing anarchy and civil strife brought on by Qaddafi’s defeat from being utilized by Islamists to gain power and to establish a Sharia state. With the likes of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood openly supporting the Libyan rebels, the danger is that the downfall of the proverbial devil we knew, Qaddafi, may yet unleash something far worse.
The International Criminal Court confirms that Saif al-Islam, Muammar Qaddafi’s likely heir, has been captured by the rebels. It is also confirmed that Mohammed Qaddafi, another one of the dictator’s sons, has been taken into custody [Improper report in both cases—ed.]. There is ongoing fighting around Qaddafi’s compound, and foreign journalists are being held at the Rixos hotel. There are reports that South Africa is negotiating Qaddafi’s passage to another African country, such as Angola or Zimbabwe, but it is difficult to see why the rebels would settle when they are on the precipice of complete triumph.…
The overthrow of Qaddafi came even quicker than the rebels expected. They originally pledged to defeat him by the end of August, and then a defector predicted victory within 10 days. Qaddafi’s loyalists failed to put up much of a fight in the western parts of Tripoli. Apparently, they recognized that defeat was inevitable, as the city faced offensives on three sides, and the strategic oil city of Zawiyah fell. The unit in charge of protecting Qaddafi surrendered, and the dictator offered to directly negotiate with the rebel leadership. The Green Square was soon swarmed by rebel supporters, bringing Qaddafi’s rule effectively to an end.
One of the reasons for Tripoli’s rapid fall was the effective uprising strategy employed by the rebels within the city. Arms were smuggled to operatives in the eastern part of the city, and when these cells rose up at a predetermined time, the security forces were surprised and overwhelmed, as they expected an assault from the west. Widespread protests immediately erupted, collapsing the regime’s defenses. Of course, over the long term, Western intervention was the most decisive factor in the rebels’ victory, saving them from a massacre in Benghazi in March. NATO flew over 20,000 sorties, including 7,500 strikes, and spent billions of dollars to weaken the Qaddafi regime.
Several challenges now lie ahead. First is in the necessary marginalization of internal Islamist or jihadist elements in the anti-Qaddafi coalition. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood supported the rebels for a reason, and Hamas in fact congratulated the rebels on their victory. The crucial question is on the actual composition of the rebel forces, which has never been completely clear. U.S. intelligence has claimed that there is no organized Al-Qaeda or Islamist element among the opposition, although media evidence has suggested that there is some Islamist influence. Encouragingly, the rebel leaders have pledged to create a secular democracy, with the vice chairman of the National Transitional Council bluntly stating, “There is no place for an Islamic state.” However, the 14-page “constitutional declaration” written by the opposition does open the door to the Islamists in very significant ways.
The constitutional declaration states that “Libya is a democratic and independent state…the people are the source of authority, Tripoli is the capital, Islam is the religion and Islamic sharia is the principal source of legislation.” Furthermore, one of the rebel commanders who received widespread attention for his support for Al-Qaeda, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, said that “no Islamist revolution has ever succeeded. Only when the whole population was included, did we succeed and that means a more inclusive ideology.” In other words: a popularly-supported Islamist state.
The second major challenge is ensuring security. It will be difficult to unify the different rebel militias, tribes, and former Qaddafi loyalists under a single authority. The murder of the top rebel commander, Abdel Fateh Younes, by either Islamist militants or Qaddafi supporters, shows how deadly these divisions can be. One rebel commander said, “The first thing my brigade will do is set up checkpoints to disarm everyone, including other rebel groups, because otherwise it will be a bloodbath.… All the rebel groups will want to control Tripoli. Order will be needed.”
The rebels must now work on the huge task of creating a new national army and new security forces, which requires disarming the different militias and preventing arms from falling into unsavory hands. It also requires contending with the rivalries between the eastern and western tribes, and ensuring the loyalty of the approximately 140 different tribes and clans. Ideological differences, such as those between the Islamists and non-Islamists, will also threaten the stability of the new Libyan government. The patience of the population will also be a problem, as they may demand improvements faster than can be delivered. For example, it will take up to 36 months to bring oil production back to 1.6 million barrels per day. A lack of economic or political progress will unravel support for whoever the next leaders of Libya are.
Qaddafi has been overthrown by the rebels with the aid of NATO and other international allies, and the scenes of celebration are reverberating through Tripoli. But we must not get caught up in naive euphoria, assuming that Libya has been irrevocably changed for the better. The fact remains that Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists took part in the fight against Qaddafi with the aim of establishing an Islamist state—so the real battle for Libya’s future has just begun.
A THRILLING SPECTACLE IN TRIPOLI
Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2011
Who, today, does not thrill to the spectacle of freedom in Tripoli? A brave people, civilians in the main, exiles who returned to their devastated country, students with no military skills—all headed to the front in their pickup trucks to reclaim their homeland from a tyrant who had turned it into a laboratory for his mix of megalomania and derangement. These are the people who have made this rebellion.
It was not perfect, that campaign that upended the kleptocracy in Tripoli. NATO did not always perform brilliantly. The Obama administration didn’t have its heart in that fight. We second-guessed the rebels in Benghazi and their intentions at every turn. We would not release to them sequestered Libyan funds that could have leveled the killing field and brought the fighting to a close a good deal sooner. A new doctrine was spun to justify American passivity: “Leading from behind,” it was called.
But all this can be taken up at another time. Suffice it to see the brigades of freedom make their entry into Tripoli. How can those of us in lands of freedom resist a giddy sense of satisfaction that the tyrant’s favorite son, Seif al-Islam, is now in captivity? It makes for poor governance in our world to label your own people “rats” and “traitors.” After years of fear and submission, the people had gone out in an assertion of their dignity.
When it truly mattered, the foreign mercenaries, guns and killers for hire could not sustain the despot’s power. To no great surprise they were not willing to die for the man in his fortified bunker. Nor would the Libyans come to his rescue. He had once described himself as a leader without a country. He had declared an open war on Libya’s very own identity and past. He ruled six million people with a hallucinatory work, his “Green Book,” a document, he said, which contained all the answers to the problems of human governance.
Libya was a wealthy country, blessed with abundant oil, but the despot turned it into one of Africa’s poorest populations. He robbed them of freedom and of economic initiative. The country was turned into a cruel tyranny, and what wealth existed was the prerogative of the man at the helm and his children. Retail trade was decimated. Meaningful work was denied the Libyans.
Four decades of a nation’s life were squandered by this regime, the narcissism of the ruler all the more galling against the background of a sullen and humiliated population. Fear governed and paralyzed the land, the “revolutionary committees” of the despot had the run of the place. Always with Gadhafi, the buffoonery and the personal depravity—the outrageous costumes, the tent he carried with him to distant capitals, the rantings in international forums, the phalanx of female bodyguards in a conservative Muslim society, and the four “voluptuous” Ukrainian nurses who travelled with him everywhere—went hand in hand with official terror against dissidents who dared question his despotism.
Europe was nearby, and the madman knew how to exploit its fears: He was standing sentry, he said, on behalf of Europe, and were he to falter or to be offended, he would turn Europe black, he said, overwhelm it with illegal African immigrants.
There was cunning in Gadhafi. How else can one account for the “reparations” he had exacted from Italy for the interwar Italian occupation of Libya? The greed of others saw him through: He could kill en masse passengers aboard American and French airliners and still find room to play on the international stage. He never ran out of foreign interlocutors keen to bring him into the fold of “normal” nations. A regime of this barbarism and incoherence needed foreign indulgence, and the man in Libya had it aplenty.
“The best day after a bad emperor is the first,” the great Roman historian Tacitus observed. Doubtless, Libya after this hurricane will have to contend with enormous challenges. There are no viable institutions to sustain it, so determined was Gadhafi to leave the country barren of any meaningful public life.
There will remain the schism between the provinces of Tripolitania in the west and Cyrenaica in the east. Libyans will insist that these differences have been healed by a common history of torment at the hands of the despot. This could be a sincere sentiment, and may pull the Libyans through. But from the time this country was put together by the Western powers some six decades ago, that schism had a force all its own.
The rebels in Benghazi will be called upon to show clemency and restraint in the aftermath of their victory. A hunt for demons and collaborators will betray the new Libya, for four decades of totalitarian dictatorship are sure to sully practically all with any experience in public life.
Because we “led from behind” and never fully embraced this rebellion, American diplomacy ought to approach the emerging new order with a measure of reticence and modesty. In our attempt to divine the ways of this rebellion, there were fears that radical Islamists, even elements of al Qaeda, could be found in the ranks of the rebels. This was, in part, an alibi for the hesitancy that marked the American approach in this crisis. It had been Gadhafi himself, it shall be recalled, who dragged a reluctant Barack Obama into this conflict when he threatened Benghazi with the prospect of draconian punishment.
But there was sincerity as well in the worry about the rebels, and it came in the form of evidence gathered by U.S. intelligence in Iraq in 2006-07. Libyan jihadists had made their way to Iraq—they were second in numbers to the Saudis, and they predominantly hailed from the eastern part of the country.
There is no way that a blanket assertion can be made that this massive Libyan upheaval is free of Islamists. What we have is the more compelling evidence of the rebellion itself—its composition, the earnestness of the professionals and civil libertarians active in it, their promise that the terrible autocrat will not be replaced by a zealous, unforgiving theocracy.
Revolutions can be stolen and hijacked, this we know, the moderates overwhelmed by determined extremists. But if a bet is to be made on the spectacle now before us, it should be easy to see a better Libya than Gadhafi’s monstrous regime rising out of this contest.
(Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.)
LIBYAN SPRING? NOT SO FAST
Globe & Mail, August 23, 2011
Nobody will miss Moammar Gadhafi, the loon of Libya. From the Lockerbie bombing to the siege of Benghazi, he has been a plague upon humanity for 40 years. Now he’s all but toast. Perhaps they’ll hang him in the public square.
Of course, if Western humanitarians have their way, Col. Gadhafi will be packed off to the International Criminal Court, where he might be found guilty in a decade or so. If they have their way, the National Transitional Council, now recognized by half the world as the legitimate government of Libya, will declare a general amnesty. With the help of the United States and Europe, it will pave the way, in the words of U.S. senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, for “a transparent and inclusive political process, a free and independent media, an impartial system of justice and the rule of law, a free economy, and unified, professionalized security forces that answer to civilian authority.” And, of course, a functioning democracy where ancient tribal loyalties give way to one man, one vote.
Then again, maybe not. Another possibility is that the rebel fighters, who have been described…as a ragtag bunch of undisciplined, untrained young men, will take their blood revenge on the streets of Tripoli. You’d have to be deluded to believe their leaders are ready for prime time.… Just last month, NTC members murdered one of their own military leaders, although who did it, or why, nobody knows. What happens if the rebel factions turn on each other? Will NATO switch sides to protect the people it has armed the rebels to attack? Will the UN send in peacekeepers? Will Canada be asked to replace its aircraft pilots with boots on the ground?
If you get the feeling the Western allies haven’t thought this through, you’re right. They appear to be making it up as they go along. As for Canada’s involvement, the only rationale is that NATO called, so we answered.…
Have we learned nothing? Evidently not. Just as with Afghanistan, the starry-eyed idealists who are all gung-ho over rescuing Libya have developed a serious case of mission creep. What started as a limited objective (defend the civilians of Benghazi) grew quickly to embrace regime change, and could yet metastasize into nation-building. You’d think we’d know by now that it’s awfully easy to get in—and much harder to get out.
LIBYA’S FUTURE: HOLD THE CHAMPAGNE
NY Post, August 22, 2011
The fall of monstrous dictator Moammar Khadafy—a leading facilitator of Middle East terrorism—should be a cause for celebration. These days, however, the feeling is more one of apprehension. As with Iran four decades ago and Egypt today, it looks as if something even worse is coming for Libya and the rest of us—especially after the way the conflict has been handled.
President Obama’s European friends opened a Pandora’s box of trouble in Libya—and the chaos and bloodshed of the last five months may be just the opening act.
Even though the Libya campaign supposedly was a NATO operation—Obama allowed American planes to take a major part in 7,000 air sorties—the war obviously was an Anglo-French affair from start to finish. Britain and France organized the air strikes, armed and trained rebel forces and facilitated rebel operations with intelligence and logistics—all to make sure Libyan oil kept flowing to Europe. Now, the French even want any post-Khadafy government to start work in Paris, where they can keep an eye on their new clients.
In short, our president largely sat on the sidelines as Britain and France used our jets to get what they wanted—and now, European opinion, starting with the Financial Times, is urging Obama to put American boots on the ground as part of any NATO peace-keeping force.
How ironic: An American president who prides himself on his anti-colonialism—even returning a bust of Winston Churchill to Britain because of how Churchill treated Kenya 60 years ago—has facilitated the biggest neo-colonialist power grab in decades.…
What are the council’s goals? No one has a clue. The fact that many of its key figures are former Khadafy cronies suggests that it may herald less in the way of democratic reform and more of the same old corruption and money-greased accommodation with Britain and France. Personality conflicts and rivalries among its members also are likely to make any concerted action by the new government difficult, if not impossible. The real future on the ground, however, depends on what the 140 tribal leaders who are the real rulers of Libya decide to do.…
Now, they’ll have their opportunity for revenge—and, thanks to Britain and France, the weapons to do it.… In short, we will have an untried divided central government, set up to do the bidding of foreigners, trying to rule a backward country seething with tribal hatreds—with Libya’s multibillion-dollar oil industry as the prize for anyone ruthless enough, as Khadafy was, to emerge on top. It’s a formula for disaster.
If the United States had taken the lead by recognizing the Transitional Council earlier to help to guide its agenda, or had focused on taking out Khadafy sooner and made it clear from the start that NATO wasn’t going to be subverted into an instrument of European oil interests, some, if not all, of this might have been prevented.
Obama can try to ignore, but he cannot escape, a simple truth: US assertiveness—and not the opposite—is still the key to stability, prosperity and freedom around the world. All through his administration, Obama has showed us how to get that formula wrong—not only in Egypt, Iran and Syria, but now in Libya.