Libya’s dictator was a terrorist scourge in the 1980s, to the extent that President Reagan authorized military strikes to damage his regime and/or take him out. By the 1990s age and fear had mellowed him a bit, and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq positively tamed him. He ended up shuttering his secret nuclear weapons program, itself a product of the illicit Pakistani A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, and handing it over to the Bush administration. Today the hardware and information that comprised that program are in Tennessee, a testament to one of the Bush presidency’s greatest and least discussed foreign policy triumphs.
Well, thanks to the kinetic don’t-call-it-a-war in Libya the terrorist part of Qaddafi’s rule may be back.
A defiant Muammar al-Qaddafi threatened Friday to carry out attacks in Europe against “homes, offices, families,” unless NATO halts its campaign of airstrikes against his regime in Libya.
The Libyan leader, sought by the International Criminal Court for a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters, delivered the warning in a telephone message played to thousands of supporters gathered in the main square of the capital Tripoli.
President Obama has repeatedly called for Qaddafi to “go,” and of course his departure into exile or via body bag would benefit Libya and the world. But as in many other aspects of his self-belief, President Obama seems determined to overestimate the power of his own words and personality. Their failure to listen to our entreaties is among the things that make our enemies our enemies, and Qaddafi is an enemy of longstanding. If Qaddafi wouldn’t voluntarily go away when Ronald Reagan was staring him down, he’s unlikely to go on his own now. We may get another Lockerbie, though, unless our forces can kill him first. That’s almost definitely what it will take to tame Qaddafi now.