Days & Weeks & Months

It looks like the Libyan Civil War & Friends is all over but the reprisals — and let’s hope the rebel forces keep those to a minimum. But after 40 years of Gaddafi, some ugliness is to be expected.


Gaddafi’s rule was an odd one. At home, he set himself up as the Kind Father — using oil money to keep a lid on things and thuggery when money didn’t suffice. He used taunts and terror to give himself a place on the world stage far bigger than tiny Libya deserved, but perfectly suited to his Comedic-Fascist personally. But he backed down when spanked — by Reagan in 1986 and by Saddam Hussein’s example in 2003.

By the end, he was wearing a fright wig and paying American celebrities to appear at his name-brand concerts. Nothing, however, could save Gaddafi from the combined power of the Arab Spring and NATO warplanes.

And what of NATO’s involvement in the Libyan Civil War? It worked — and for that we should be thankful, and just a tiny bit proud. It’s proper to celebrate when a dictator falls. But, good lord, what a mess we helped make of things, right up until the very end.

A few companies of British and French Marines, with plenty of US support, and this thing really would have been over with in “days, not weeks.” A smallish show of force, combined with inducements for Gaddafi to leave, is all it should have taken. Instead, Britain and France relied on tiny amounts of airpower, President Obama provided leadership “from behind,” and the West created every inducement for Gaddafi to wage a Götterdämmerung battle in Tripoli.


How many have died who didn’t need to? Hundreds? Thousands? It’s impossible to say. But in the “bad old days” of Western imperialism, a few warships would have shown up off the shores of Tripoli
to make things quite clear to Gaddafi — and maybe even to help escort him and some of his booty off to a luxurious exile somewhere on the Red Sea Coast or the south of France. But we in the West didn’t want to appear all imperialistic. So we gave the rebels just enough help to win, and win sloooooowly.

All war is cruelty. But an unnecessarily long war is pure sadism. And it’s obvious that Washington and Britain and France made this war unnecessarily long by a matter of months.

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