*REPOST from October 24th, 2011* Marching Backwards in Libya

Posted at USNI a year ago.    And, if I may say, worth another look:

Amid the elation inside Libya, and much self-congratulations in the United States and NATO, news of the overthrow and execution of Muammar Qaddafi by Libyan rebels has overshadowed events that are far less promising and welcome.

The Telegraph is reporting that, on the heels of Libya’s “liberation” at the death last Thursday of Qaddafi, an event that finished for good his four decades of despotic oppression, the leader of the Transitional Council has announced a much more stringent adherence to Sharia  Law.  The implications of this are far-reaching, and the move appears to be much more than a symbolic nod to Islam as the country’s dominant religion.   It is an indication that the “revolution” in Libya has had heavy Islamist involvement, including Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and The Muslim Brotherhood, something many have suspected since the beginning of the unrest.  It is also an indication that Libya will be marching backward, away from the international community:

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. “Interest creates disease and hatred among people,” he said.

The Telegraph article concludes:

Mr Abdul-Jalil’s decision – made in advance of the introduction of any democratic process – will please the Islamists who have played a strong role in opposition to Col Gaddafi’s rule and in the uprising but worry the many young liberal Libyans who, while usually observant Muslims, take their political cues from the West.

It isn’t hard to imagine just what the “democratic process” will look like under Islamists’ enforcing Sharia law.   The Libyans’ 42-year nightmare may be over.  Perhaps only to be replaced by another that may last much longer.

There are myriad lessons to be taken from Libya’s situation and her apparent regressive path.

In the “Libya model”, allying oneself with unknown entities of unknown allegiance against a dictator’s regime, and then fighting by proxy through those entities, even superpowers relinquish control of events.  Without significant friendly presence on the ground, the goals and objectives of those unknown entities trump your goals, whether you intended them or not, which can lead to potentially severe unintended consequences that make the cure worse than the disease.   There are practical matters as well, the location and possession of some 20,000 SA-24 MANPADS, and stockpiles of HD (sulphur mustard) munitions being among them.  Revenge against regime supporters, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, perpetrated by the people we aided in bringing to power, undoubtedly will be the order of the day.

As events follow their unwelcome course in Libya, and we find ourselves with virtually no means to influence them other than with proclamations, it is time to face the somewhat unwelcome truth that this revolution looks far closer to Teheran in 1979 than we care to admit.  And worse, this time we helped drive those events without any means of control.   When the final bill comes due for Libya, the cost may astound us.


Al Qaeda flag flies over courthouse in Libya
Several Al Qaeda flags among Benghazi protesters

Nope, nothing to see here, folks.


Seems events in post-Qaddafi Libya have run quite close to prediction.  Violence and revenge in the wake of civil war on the part of the “good guys” against any known or suspected regime members.  Or black migrant laborers, rival villages, tribes, militias, property holders, take your pick.  This from The Independent:

The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the fighting or imprisoned by the old regime who they want to avenge. Sometimes they come from tribes and towns traditionally hostile to neighbouring tribes and towns. Gaddafi supporters are being hunted down. According to one person in Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, they are facing a “continuing reign of terror”.

“There is a deep and spreading frenzy, particularly among some of the youth militia and the Islamists, to hunt down anyone associated with the former regime,” the source said.

And just to show that the violence isn’t all religious or ideological, this:

The purge of Gaddafi supporters is made more dangerous by the infighting between the militias, and between them and the politicians. Association with the old regime can be used to discredit an opponent. There may also be self-interest since death squads are reported to be taking their property.

Not quite what we had in mind when we decided to go to the window to back a horse in this race.   Unintended consequences.  Predictable, sadly, but unintended.


*The tragic events of September 11th, 2012 make a number of the comments to the original post at USNI even more willingly blind and patently absurd than they were then….   but my guess is that people like that can find yet another explanation other than reality.

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