We were bound to come to it: a lament for the fall of Gaddafi.
we were bound to come to it: a lament for the fall of Gaddafi. Mali had come apart, and there were “strategic analysts” bemoaning the demise of the Libyan dictatorship. Thousands of Malian Tuareg mercenaries enlisted by Gaddafi had returned to Mali with weaponry and little to do. In the Financial Times of Jan. 14, Gaddafi was described as the “West’s ally in the fight against jihadist groups.” Britain, France, and the United States should have spared him: he had kept the lid on disorder in the Sahara. To be sure, he had intended mass slaughter in Benghazi, but two years later, it was time to utter the impermissible: perhaps the West’s strategic interest would have been served by his iron grip on his country.
A few days later, the nostalgia for the Libyan dictatorship was in full bloom. The four-day standoff at a natural-gas plant in the Sahara between the Algerian security forces and a band of terrorists led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, part pirate, part jihadist, was to serve as a vehicle for a full-scale revisionism about the fall of Gaddafi, and about the harvest of the Arab Spring as a whole. In a compelling piece of analysis and reporting, Robert F. Worth in The New York Times gave this revisionism predicted the tall its fullest expression to date. The jihadist surge in North Africa, he wrote, was proof that the “euphoric toppling of dictators in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt has come at a terrible price.” Worth quotes the warning that Gaddafi had made as he attempted to hold off the tide. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea. We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans im¬ posing ransoms on boats.” You have to hand it to Gaddafi: even as he brought down Western airliners and sowed mayhem wherever he could, he had a gift of posing as a useful ally of the West. To the bitter end, he held on to the claim that he was preferable to the chaos that would sweep in were he to fall. Little more than a year after he was pulled out of a drainage pipe and given the brutal end meted out to him, there was retrospection that the penal colony he ran was not such a bad thing for the peace of North Africa after all.