Since the uprising in Libya began in February 2011, the United States and her Western allies have been in a conundrum. The burning question is whether or not to support the so-called “rebels” who have bravely taken up arms against the murderous and monstrous forty-two year regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. Diplomats, military personnel, and political pundits have denigrated this resistance — and it is a resistance — as “ragtag,” “silly,” “Islamist,” “rabble” — even “al-Qaeda.” However, as the old proverb goes: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In the case of Gaddafi’s Libya, it doesn’t appear that the West has an alternative.
Muammar al-Gaddafi swept to power in a bloodless coup on September 1, 1969, by overthrowing King Idris I. Enamored with pan-Arab socialism, the twenty-seven-year-old Gaddafi was a disciple of Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser. From the time that Gaddafi assumed power (self-promoting himself from captain to colonel), he has been in the forefront of international terrorism. Whether it was his support of the PLO, the IRA, the ETA, or intervening militarily in sub-Saharan Africa (most notably in the invasions of Chad in 1980 and 1983-1987), Gaddafi’s hands have been filled with the blood of thousands of innocents. This includes the imprisonment, torture, and summary execution of untold numbers of Libyans and foreigners over the decades. His history of terrorist attacks is too eventful to recount.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan finally had enough of Gaddafi and bombed Tripoli and Benghazi. This attack was carried out in response to the bombing of a West Berlin disco that resulted in the murder of two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman. Intelligence had traced the attacks to Gaddafi. Rumors abound that Gaddafi was tipped off, either by the prime minister of Malta or of Italy. He slipped away and survived.
The hypocritical and craven West welcomed Gaddafi back into the “family of nations” after he supposedly gave up his WMD program in 2003. To this day, many intelligence analysts believe that it was a farce, and that Gaddafi still holds on to chemical agents at the very least. This did not stop Tony Blair of England from visiting Gaddafi in Libya in 2004, even though one of Gaddafi’s diplomats murdered a British policewoman back in 1984, never having to stand trial for this crime. Ironically, the murderer may have been captured by Libyan resistance fighters in the last week.
And what of them — those who are fighting against the forty-two year reign of Gaddafi? It is true that a great number of Libyan Islamists went to Iraq to fight against the Americans. Most notable is Yahya al-Libi, one of al-Qaeda’s “rising stars” and a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The LIFG, according to a 2007 report, had the second largest number — next to Saudi Arabia — of foreign jihadis fighting against the U.S. in Iraq. It is also true that some members of Gaddafi’s own government and army commanders have thrown in their lot with the resistance, feeling that Gaddafi will ultimately fall. However, the West must take the chance that there are indeed Western-educated Libyans who are also fighting against Gaddafi and would like to install a government that is not, at the very least, antithetical to the West.
The Interim Transitional National Council of Libya was founded on February 27, 2011. It is headed by Gaddafi’s former justice minister, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who quit the government in February after seeing the army’s brutality against the civilian population of Benghazi. Abdul Jalil is a conservative Muslim, but he has been praised by many for having openly protested Gaddafi’s treatment of political prisoners while still serving in his government. One of the groups under the umbrella of the Transitional National Council is the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition. This group recently posted a fatwa from Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the spiritual “godfathers” of the Muslim Brotherhood, calling on Libyans to overthrow Gaddafi. There are indeed many Libyans in the opposition who are seeking an Islamic republic. Qaradawi is virulently anti-American, anti-Israeli, and anti-Jewish. And this is to say nothing of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Libyan branch, which of course seeks a strong position in any post-Gaddafi government.
All of the above makes for a disturbing labyrinth that America and the West must maneuver through. But now that the West has committed itself to a no-fly zone, leaving Gaddafi in power as a wounded jackal may only make him more emboldened and dangerous. The West really has no alternative but to see this campaign through and make sure that Gaddafi’s regime is dismantled. This does not mean putting “boots on the ground.” What it means is for Western intelligence agencies to establish contact with the various factions of the resistance, and determine which ones are amicable to establishing, at the very least, a regime that will not be hostile towards the West. This will also have to include arming at least some of the factions who oppose Gaddafi.
Many have asked if the West may inadvertently be arming Islamists who will turn against the United States. (Recall Afghanistan and the Mujahideen.) However, the real question to be asked is whether the Libyan resistance can be any more murderous than Gaddafi. It should be remembered that Gaddafi did not have an extensive network of training camps in Libya — yet he was able to perpetrate the bombing of Pan Am 103 as well as support various terrorist groups over the decades. It must also be kept in mind that the Pan Am 103 atrocity was carried out in 1988, two years after President Reagan’s retaliatory raid on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986. So much for the “colonel” keeping quiet. What will he do if the West now “cuts and runs” and allows his criminal regime to continue? It is likely that Gaddafi’s threats of revenge will culminate in a new campaign of terror against both European and American targets, convinced that the West has no resolve or backbone to remove him from power.
There is no doubt that the Libyan opposition is an unknown quantity at this point. America and the West are stuck with a Hobson’s choice of leaving a murdering terrorist in power or taking the chance on that unknown. Now, overthrowing Gaddafi and courting moderates among the opposition appears to be the West’s best — and only — hope.