Remember when we used to fear Moammar Gaddafi? For a while there in the ’80s, he was the Arab boogey man. Or, as his own press releases called him, the “Bhu’ghi Mehn of Tripoli.”
True enough, back in the day he caused more than his share of death and destruction. There was the disco bombing in Germany, the Lockerbie bombing, even a small attack on Italy. Make no mistake: Gaddafi was a menace, a killer, and a very, very bad man.
But at some point we just stopped taking him seriously.
Maybe it was President Reagan’s famous quip, after two Libyan MiGs were shot down by American F-14s while he slept: “If our planes were shot down, yes, they’d wake me up right away. If the other fellows were shot down, why wake me up?” That must’ve taken a lot of wind out of Gaddafi’s sails. It certainly made my high-school self sleep a littler better, and with a little smile, too.
Or perhaps we couldn’t stop laughing at the “Line of Death” across the Gulf of Sidra. If you think back, you’ll recall that Moammar decided that some international waters belonged, I think, to him personally, and that anyone crossing it would meet Allah, pronto. So the US Sixth Fleet spent a few months dancing over and around the Line, swatting down the occasional MiG or sinking the odd patrol craft, until finally we all just thought it was all too silly.
Maybe it was because of the Gilbert & Sullivan-esque war against Chad. Frankly, it sounded like Libya had declared war against some guy in Connecticut for leaving his Polo shirt collar up. The issue, believe it or not, was over the Ouzou Strip