The promise: We’re from America and we’re here to help you. The reality: bomb ’em and leave them.

Summary:  Other than the lucrative oil contracts signed, what have we accomplished by intervening in Libya?  Good intentions are not enough, especially when the likely consequences are ugly.  At some point there will be “a banquet of consequences” for our wars.  It might result from our mad policy of overthrowing secular regimes to make way for Islamic fundamentalists, as we’ve done in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya.

“A hundred years of injustice (Zulm) are better than a day of chaos.”
— Al-Ghazali, the great Islamic theologian and jurist (see Wikipedia)

“You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.”
— A reply by a US geopolitical expert to my cautions about military intervention in Libya.

Let’s review the news to see the results so far of our intervention.  These are written in the mild, emotionless tone of Americans seeing the problems of far-off people.  This is just a brief sample of the news from Libya.

(1) In Libya, a Fundamentalist War against Moderate Islam Takes Shape“, TIME, 18 January 2012 — Excerpt:

Throughout this country, Libyans are discovering that their hard fought battle to win freedoms is at risk. Puritanical Muslims known as Salafis are applying a rigid form of Islam in more and more communities. They have clamped down on the sale of alcohol and demolished the tombs of saints where many local people worship. The small town of Zuwara near the Tunisian border, dominated by a heterodox Muslim sect despised by the Salafis, is quickly becoming the battlefield for competing visions of Libya’s future.

(2) Libya Struggles to Curb Militias as Chaos Grows“, New York Times, 8 February 2012 — Excerpt:

As the militiamen saw it, they had the best of intentions. They assaulted another militia at a seaside base here this week to rescue a woman who had been abducted. When the guns fell silent, briefly, the scene that unfolded felt as chaotic as Libya’s revolution these days — a government whose authority extends no further than its offices, militias whose swagger comes from guns far too plentiful and residents whose patience fades with every volley of gunfire that cracks at night. The woman was soon freed. The base was theirs. And the plunder began. “Nothing gets taken out!” shouted one of the militiamen, trying to enforce order.

It did anyway: a box of grenades, rusted heavy machine guns, ammunition belts, grenade launchers, crates of bottled water and an aquarium propped improbably on a moped. Men from a half-dozen militias ferried out the goods, occasionally firing into the air. They fought over looted cars, then shot them up when they did not get their way. “This is destruction!” complained Nouri Ftais, a 51-year-old commander, who offered a rare, unheeded voice of reason. “We’re destroying Libya with our bare hands.”

The country that witnessed the Arab world’s most sweeping revolution is foundering. So is its capital, where a semblance of normality has returned after the chaotic days of the fall of Tripoli last August. But no one would consider a city ordinary where militiamen tortured to death an urbane former diplomat two weeks ago, where hundreds of refugees deemed loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi waited hopelessly in a camp and where a government official acknowledged that “freedom is a problem.” Much about the scene on Wednesday was lamentable, perhaps because the discord was so commonplace.

… The woman was soon freed. The base was theirs. And the plunder began. “Nothing gets taken out!” shouted one of the militiamen, trying to enforce order. It did anyway: a box of grenades, rusted heavy machine guns, ammunition belts, grenade launchers, crates of bottled water and an aquarium propped improbably on a moped. Men from a half-dozen militias ferried out the goods, occasionally firing into the air. They fought over looted cars, then shot them up when they did not get their way. “This is destruction!” complained Nouri Ftais, a 51-year-old commander, who offered a rare, unheeded voice of reason. “We’re destroying Libya with our bare hands.”

The country that witnessed the Arab world’s most sweeping revolution is foundering. So is its capital, where a semblance of normality has returned after the chaotic days of the fall of Tripoli last August. But no one would consider a city ordinary where militiamen tortured to death an urbane former diplomat two weeks ago, where hundreds of refugees deemed loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi waited hopelessly in a camp and where a government official acknowledged that “freedom is a problem.” Much about the scene on Wednesday was lamentable, perhaps because the discord was so commonplace.

… The militias are proving to be the scourge of the revolution’s aftermath. Though they have dismantled most of their checkpoints in the capital, they remain a force, here and elsewhere. A Human Rights Watch researcher estimated there are 250 separate militias in the coastal city of Misurata, the scene of perhaps the fiercest battle of the revolution.

… Bashir Brebesh said the same was true for the militias in Tripoli. On Jan. 19, his 62-year-old father, Omar, a former Libyan diplomat in Paris, was called in for questioning by militiamen from Zintan. The next day, the family found his body at a hospital in Zintan. His nose was broken, as were his ribs. The nails had been pulled from his toes, they said. His skull was fractured, and his body bore signs of burns from cigarettes. The militia told the family that the men responsible had been arrested, an assurance Mr. Brebesh said offered little consolation. “We feel we are alone,” he said.

“They’re putting themselves as the policeman, as the judge and as the executioner,” said Mr. Brebesh, 32, a neurology resident in Canada, who came home after learning of his father’s death. He inhaled deeply. “Did they not have enough dignity to just shoot him in the head?” he asked. “It’s so monstrous. Did they enjoy hearing him scream?”

The government has acknowledged the torture and detentions, but it admits that the police and Justice Ministry are not up to the task of stopping them. On Tuesday, it sent out a text message on cellphones, pleading for the militias to stop. “People are turning up dead in detention at an alarming rate,” said Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who was compiling evidence in Libya last month. “If this was happening under any Arab dictatorship, there would be an outcry.”

(3) Militias Threaten Hopes for New Libya“, Amnesty International, 16 February 2012 — Introduction:

Lawlessness still pervades Libya a year after the outbreak of the uprising which ended 42 year of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s repressive regime. Hundreds of armed militias, widely hailed in Libya as heroes for their role in toppling the former regime, are largely out of control. Their actions, and the refusal of many to disarm or join regular forces, are threatening to destabilize Libya, hinder the much-needed building of accountable state institutions based on the rule of law, and jeopardize the hopes of millions of people who took to the streets a year ago to demand freedom, justice and respect for human rights and dignity.

(4) A year after uprising, militias hold sway in Libya“, AP, 17 February 2012

One revolutionary militia controls the airport. Others carve up neighborhoods of the Libyan capital into fiefdoms. They clash in the streets, terrifying residents. They hold detainees in makeshift prisons where torture is said to be rampant.

As Libya on Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi, hundreds of armed militias are the real power on the ground in the country, and the government that took the longtime strongman’s place is largely impotent, unable to rein in fighters, rebuild decimated institutions or stop widespread corruption.

… As a result, Libya has been flipped upside down, from a country where all power was in the hands of one man, Gadhafi, to one where it has been broken up into hundreds of different hands, each taking its own decisions. The National Transitional Council, which officially rules the country, is struggling to incorporate the militias into the military and police, while trying to get the economy back on its feet and reshape government ministries, courts and other institutions hollowed out under Gadhafi.

In one sign of the lack of control, Finance Minister Hassan Zaklam admitted that millions of dollars from Gadhafi family assets returned to Libya by European countries — a potentially key source of revenue — have flowed right back out of Libya, stolen by corrupt officials and smuggled out in suitcases through the ports. “The money comes for transit only,” Zaklam said in a Feb. 6 interview on Libya state TV. He threatened to resign if the government didn’t impose control over ports or stop unfreezing the assets. “I can’t be a clown,” he said.

…The militias, meanwhile, are accused of acting like vigilantes and armed gangs, fighting over turf and taking the law into their own hands. Many run private prisons, detaining criminals, suspected former regime members or simply people who run afoul of the fighters. In a report Wednesday, London-based Amnesty International said it found prisoners had been tortured or abused in all but one of 11 militia-run facilities it visited. Detainees told the group they had been beaten for hours with whips, cables and plastic hoses and given electrical shocks. At least 12 detainees have died since September after torture, it said.

Other posts about the war in Libya

  1. Libya’s people need uninvited infidel foreigners to save them!, 1 March 2011
  2. “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death”, 8 March 2011
  3. About attacking Libya – let’s give this more thought than we did Afghanistan and Iraq, 6 March 2009
  4. Our geopolitical experts see the world with the innocent eyes of children (that’s a bad thing), 14 March 2011
  5. We’re at war, again. Another shovel of dirt on the corpse of the Constitution., 21 March 2011
  6. A war monger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya, 22 March 2011
  7. What will the world’s tyrants learn from the Libyan War? Get nukes., 25 March 2011
  8. Who are we helping in Libya? Here are some answers., 27 March 2011
  9. In America, both Left and Right love the long war, 30 March 2011
  10. Can the UN give Obama the authority to send US forces in the Libyan War?, 1 April 2011
  11. Tearing the Constitution is a bipartisan sport!, 4 April 2011
  12. Why the Libyan War is important to us – and to our children, 9 April 2011
  13. A status report on our intervention in Libya. Historians will find this farce fascinating., 17 April 2011
  14. A child-like credulity is required to be a US geopolitical expert, 25 April 2011
  15. Important information about Libya hidden behind the veil of the US news media, 1 September 2011

24 thoughts on “The promise: We’re from America and we’re here to help you. The reality: bomb ’em and leave them.

  1. Ok, a hypothetical: If we had said from the beginning only “We want the Gaddafi regime gone,” instead of “We’re going in to protect people,” would this outcome present less of a moral problem for you?

    1. “We want the Gaddafi regime gone”

      We did not get permission from the UN to overthrow the Libyan government, but rather authorization to protect its civilian population. The role of the UN legitimize a small class of wars was the greatest accomplishment of the US in the post-WWII era. That we’re the primary agent destroying that structure will baffle our descendents. They’ll probably say that we — American citizens of today — were foolish and arrogant. They will be correct.

    2. I agree with all of that, and I remember the UN restriction against regime change. It’s not quite what I’m getting at, though. If I understand the point of this post, you’re contrasting our stated goal of protecting the people with the anarchical violence that has ensued post- Gaddafi. And also that the eventual rulers who will fill the power vacuum will most likely not be the sort of people we’ll get along with, correct?

      I consider the stated goal of “protecting the people” as a necessary political fig leaf. We saw an opportunity to take down at minimal cost to ourselves someone we still bore a grudge against. If there was any serious thought paid to the outcome of deposing Gaddafi, I am unaware of it, and wouldn’t that logically be a part of protecting the Libyan people? I guess my point is a small one, but I’m testing the dimension of your complaint. Would you be as bothered if we’d been honest and left it at that?

    3. Your describe an important distinction, between

      1. the illegality of our violation, violating the Constitution and the authorization of the UN,
      2. the irrationality of our actions.

      Posts on the FM website have discussed both these issues in detail, and how they seriously damage the interests of the US.

      Which does more damage to the interests of the US? That’s beyond my ability to determine.

  2. If Iran is struck.Will they strike back militarily or will they lay waste oil/gas prodution wait for the skies to darken? If the second option how long till major capitalist trading programs disintegrate.

    Once this round of supplies on our side for the fire power is used resupply will be costly and for some things impossibble. Once the smoke darkens the sky will multidirectional of small units begin and what would the possible range of foot units be? Would local populations act in ways against the “West” if it seems to them that there is nothing to lose.

    1. “If the second option how long till major capitalist trading programs disintegrate.”

      The threat is not that large.

      1. Iran can only disrupt part of the world’s oil production (now 85 million barrels/day); perhaps only a small part (4 million bpd?).
      2. It is not clear how long Iran could maintain that pressure, as the US military response would be overwhelming.
      3. Global strategic oil reserves exceed 4 billion barrels, plus there is available “surge” capacity to temporarily increase oil production.
  3. I am particularly ashamed of the Lybian aggression, because my country, Italy, succeded in doing contemporarily two things which in politics are usually done separately: a) dishonour herself b) materially and politically damage herself.
    Explanation:
    a) In 2008, Italy solemnly signed in Rome a Friendliness Treaty with Ghaddafi’s Lybia. Three years later (same Premier, same President of the Republic) Italy joined the aggression against Ghaddafi’s Lybia.
    b) Until the said aggression, the state owned Italian oil company, ENI, was the first foreign investor in Lybia. After, ENI is the fourth or fifth.
    Reason:
    I guess, some phone calls from Washington.

    My guess about this “Arab spring” strategy is that USA premeditately create chaos so that:
    a) no alliances between powers can create a critical mass balancing Israel’s power in the region
    b) to enforce neocons’ Middle East strategy in a more cost-effective way (no US boots on the ground, no need to “liberate” conquered countries, etc.)
    c) “pour encourager les autres”, i.e. to give an example to every government wondering about independence.

    1. RB ,Yes , my country has done the same . Although we had already been dishonoured when then Prime Minister Bliar cosied up to Gadaffi , despite Lockerbie and the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher ( one death among so many but one that always rankles ).
      I dont quite get your point ( c ) ?

    2. Roberto,
      I fully understand your pain as I watch my (US) government dishonor and damage itself a bit more every day. But I don’t think you can pin the Arab Spring fiasco on the US government. Every bit of evidence I’ve seen suggests that the Arab Spring caught the US government off guard and it had no plan. And considering the fact that only regimes friendly to the US government have fallen, it does not seem likely that this is a US Zionist plot.

      Italy and the EU jumped into this mess with both feet and dragged the reluctant US in with them to clear away the weak Libyian air defenses. Italy, like the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, was an aggressor nation. You’ll have to figure out how to deal with this yourself as we in the US do not have any good advice on the matter.

      The chickenhawks are now calling for the West to do the same in Syria. Let us hope they resist as the result is likely to be even worse than in Libya.

  4. “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.”

    1. I have seen a lot of people bleed to death.
    2. I’ve cleared through empty villages where the men and women and children were taking into the nearest wadi and shot and killed for the crime of being Shia.
    3. I’ve lived (and temporarily governed) in villages where neighbors were beheading each other in mock trials for the crime of being Shia.
    4. I’ve watched Shia outlaw Sunni and Baathist and replace technocrats and professional engineers with thugs and uneducated criminals in key jobs.
    5. I’ve had to stop my security force counterparts who were torturing Sunnis and stealing their land and property.
    6. I unleashed our bombs to stop the fighting. Our bombs still cause people to bleed to death and do not solve the problems.
    1. Thank you. This is the voice of mental health + personal experience. I have seen myself some people bleeding to death (I was in Lebanon in the Eighties, with the Italian expeditionary force). They always will be too many.

  5. Annanic wrote: “I dont quite get your point ( c ) ?”

    My point c) said that the aggression against Lybia had been done “pour encourager les autres”. I’ll explain better, begging your pardon for having been too short.

    In the First World War, during the third year of massacres in the trenches, especially on the tremendous Western Front, there were many episodes of mutiny among the French troops, who were taking a staggering death rate. Some battalions refused to attack, some threw away their weapons, etc. French command replied with mass executions: sometimes one out of ten soldiers was picked and sentenced to death, sometimes the rebellious troops were intentionally bombed by friendly artillery fire. French command said that it was done “pour encourager les autres”, to give courage to the other troops”. (After this very heavy stick, came the carrot, when Gen. Ph, Pétain was put in charge and improved the living conditions of the soldiers, chainging tactics, turn over, etc.).

    In Lybia, USA and her followers showed the world, and especially showed head of States, that nobody is safe; that international treaties are pieces of very thin paper while the shredder is very close and handy to the boss. The message has been crystal clear: “Don’t think that partially stepping the line, as Ghaddafi had done, is enough. We can utterly destroy your State, you, your family, and your political legacy, and if you dare to show any whim of independence, for example if you do not pack and go away when we ask you to, we are perfectly willing to do it.”

    Have you seen what they did to Ghaddafi, when they captured him? How they ridiculed and tortured him, befor killing him? Well, be sure that every head of State in the world have seen it, and that they wondered, reflected, dreamed about what they saw.

    1. This is an interesting piece of speculation. But it’s nothing more than guessing. The western nations (esp Italy and France) might just have wanted better oil contracts — with no larger goals in mind. “Why” is the most difficult question to answer, as we seldom have complete or reliable information about motives, and logic provides only a weak guide to them.

      “you seen what they did to Ghaddafi, when they captured him? ”

      Your pronouns are confused. The western nations did nothing to Ghaddafi. Their agents did not capture him, and I’ve seen no public evidence that they had responsibility for what happened afterwards. Tyrants often suffer cruel fates when captured after revolutions. Under such circumstances Romans preferred a quiet exit from life to avoid such unpleasantness (eg, Mark Anthony).

  6. Cathryn Mathaga wrote: “Oh man. I have never seen anyone bleed to death. I don’t want to. That sounds pretty intense. Please take care.”

    Witty. Yes, it is pretty intense, especially if you personally know the bleeder; maybe it’s even more intense if you made him bleed, or if it’s you who are bleeding to death: I don’t know, because I never experienced both situation. I’ll add that, while anybody can bleed to death, for example in a car crash oe uncarefully shaving himself with a barber’s razor, I think that beeding to death because somebody willfully made you to, has a different flavor.

  7. to Fabius:

    You’re right, mine is just guessing, and I beg your pardon for not having clearly stated that my opinions were, in effect, just opinions. It’s a very good thing that in this blog nobody is allowed to confuse opinion with facts.

    And of course you’re right, Ghaddafi was tortured and ridiculed before being killed by the Lybian rebels (proxies for the Western nations). If he had been captured by Western troops, probably he would have been hanged by the new Lybian government like Saddam Hussein. In any court, Western powers would be acquitted of the barbarious treatment of Ghaddafi. But I think that in terms of political responsibility,things may be different; and what’s most important, I think (I do not know, I simply think) that the message “We can get you everywhere and whenever we want” has been delivered.

    I don’t know if the message has been intentionally delivered by Western powers; but in Italy we have a proverb: “A pensar male si fa peccato, ma spesso ci si indovina”, “When you think the worst about somebody’s intentions, you commit a sin, but you often guess right.”
    Just about one thing a can claim factual exactness: about Italy’s motives in joining the aggression on Lybia. If after Ghaddafi France and Great Britain are going to sign better oil contracts than before, Italy instead is going to sign worse contracts than before, because Italian oil company, ENI, with Ghaddafi was the first oil company in Lybia.

    Italy had just one rational motive in joining France and Great Britain, i.e., knowing that the agression could not be averted, she might have thought that joining could reduce her economical losses. This can be a part of the truth, but our betraying a formal international treaty signed with a neighbour, in an area which is of the foremost, longlasting geopolitical interest for Italy, will have serious, unpleasing consequences for us. So that I think (just think, I have no proof) that the main reason has been that famous phone call from Washington.

    1. (1) “I beg your pardon for not having clearly stated that my opinions were, in effect, just opinions.”

      IMO one must be clear about the level of confidence of his analysis. I try to do so in these posts. Hence the frequent description of my analysis as “guessing”, or prefaced with “I suspect.” Often all we can only guess about important aspects of the world, but we must understand that we’re guessing.

      (2) Rebels as “proxies for the Western nations”

      Proxy: A person or group acting on behalf of another.

      What’s your evidence for this statement? Events since the revolution (as in the news stories cited above) show few signs of western control over the rebels. That we aided them does NOT make them our proxies.

  8. Fabius wrote: “What’s your evidence for this statement? Events since the revolution (as in the news stories cited above) show few signs of western control over the rebels. That we aided them does NOT make them our proxies.”

    No, it makes them our insurgents in a civil war which we made happen, or at least, which we greatly helped to make happen.
    What would you say, if a civil war – not between States as in XIX century, but between the legal Federal Government and a revolutionutionary party – sparked in the USA, and the insurgents, having no weapons except Armalites, were given by a foreign State heavy weapons, were aided by foreign Air Force, etc.? How would you call the insurgents, “allies” of the said foreign power? If this happened in Italy, I’d call them proxies.

    Of course, the Lybian rebels were really existing Lybians, and they really wanted to overthrow their legal, internationally legitimate government. Simply, without foreign aid they would have never succeded (and probably would have never tried) to overthrow it.
    By the way, openly helping the insurgents has been a blatant act of war against the legal government of Lybia; and according to international right, Lyibia had the full right to fight back against Western powers, for example bombing Rome, Paris, London. Unfortunately for Ghaddafi, he had the legal right, but not the power to do so.

    When you want to overthrow a foreign regime and you don’t want, or can’t do it by openly declaring war against it, of course you use really existing internal political conflict: you help the opposing party, and then you step in, directly or indirectly. In Medieval and Renaissance Italy, for example, this was the common pattern of war between city-states.

    To sum up, of course I have no proof that the Lybian insurgents were our proxies, if you need, as evidence, a legal document, a formal declaration, etc. I have just reason and common sense, and frankly, I think that it is enough: just like you, I do not like blabbering, but here we are discussing historical facts while they happen, not witnessing in a court of justice.

    1. french troops- decimation- condemned by the Roman Emperor Maurice for damaging morale and wasting manpower …
      Where had Assad crossed the line , until he lost control through trying to be reasonable ? ( This Assad , not his father . )
      Looking at Saddam , Gadaffi and Assad’s regimes from a woman’s point of view , if you stayed out of politics and crime , you could get enough to eat , go to university , go out unchaperoned and have your baby in a proper hospital. What’s not to like compared with much of the planet ?

    2. Roberto’s wordburst contains a wide number of statements, mostly in the manner of God rendering judgement — all irrelevant to the question of whether the Libyan rebels are “proxies for the Western nations”.

      (1) “it makes them our insurgents”
      Do the insurgents believe that? I doubt it. Nobody else gets to vote on the question.

      (2) “openly helping the insurgents has been a blatant act of war against the legal government of Lybia”
      Yes. The bombing, too.

      (3) “Lyibia had the full right to fight back against Western powers, for example bombing Rome, Paris, London.”
      America has destroyed that legal system, taking us back to a world in which “might makes right.” They didn’t have the power to do so (without risking extermination), which is all that matters.

      (4) “To sum up, of course I have no proof that the Lybian insurgents were our proxies, if you need, as evidence, a legal document, a formal declaration, etc.”

      You have neither evidence or logic. Not even guesses, just aggressive belief. None of your statements have the slightest bearing on that question. If they don’t obey us, at least in most things, they are not our proxies. It’s clear that the rebels are not listening to us. There is evidence, not yet conclusive, that a significant fraction of them are Islamic fundamentalists.

  9. Ok, Fabius, we disagree on the word “proxies” (which maybe bears a slightly different, even slightly erroneous meaning to me, because English is not my mother tongue, and I’m writing hastily, without double-checking on dictionaries). No aggression intended, and I hope no offence taken; nor any belief to be God on my side, nor, I suppose, on yours.
    Whatever might be the truth about Lybian rebels, which maybe history will establish, I certainly admit that about Lybia I am VERY angry, and then that I do NOT write about it “sine ira ac studio”.
    I’m very angry because:
    1) I know Lybia well enough, because in colonial times, my family owned there a large farm, later expropriated by Ghaddafi’s regime. I visited Lybia many times, I know well enough what was good, less good, bad and very bad in Ghaddafi’s regime, and to sum up, I think that the Lybian people will NOT live better after this regime change; I think that they’ll live worse. Of course this is just a guess, even if an educated one: if you want to know why I guess so, ask me and I’ll willingly reply. To sum up, I think that “annanic” is perfectly right when she says that “Looking at Saddam , Gadaffi and Assad’s regimes from a woman’s point of view , if you stayed out of politics and crime , you could get enough to eat , go to university , go out unchaperoned and have your baby in a proper hospital. What’s not to like compared with much of the planet ?”
    2) I feel, for the thousandth time, humiliated, as if I’d be slapped in my face, seeing my country who dishonours and damages herself obeying US government’s orders.
    3) My son, 14 years old, tells me that he wants to become a career officer. In my family we have a military tradition, so that I should be glad of his choice of the military profession. But, please, consider: if my son will be delivered back home inside a coffin because he dies as an askar in a war decided by a foreign power, and where his country’s national honour and interest are seriously damaged, how do you guess I should I feel? And now, what do you guess I should tell my son? Should I encourage him in his choice, or not?

    Maybe, now you’ll understand better why maybe I lost my balance, posting about Lybia. Please forgive my longish posts, and thank you for your kind attention.

  10. “A year later, Libya is still a mess”, Daniel Larison, The Week, 21 March 2012 — “After the West’s much-ballyhood intervention, Libya is dominated by a complex tangle of violent militias — and the chaos is spilling into neighboring countries.” Opening:

    One year after the U.S., Britain, and France began their war in Libya, the harmful consequences of Western intervention are readily apparent. The internal disorder and regional instability that the West’s assault created were foreseen by many critics. And yet, Western governments made no meaningful efforts to prepare for them. No one planned to stabilize Libya once Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown, and the National Transitional Council (NTC) rejected the idea of an outside stabilization force, which has left Libya at serious risk of fragmentation and renewed conflict. Intervention “on the cheap” may be more politically palatable in the West because of the low cost to Western nations, but it can still be quite destructive for the countries affected by it.

    Libya is now effectively ruled by the militias that ousted Gadhafi, and some militias run parts of the country as their own fiefdoms independent of any national authority. The most powerful militias in the western cities of Zintan and Misrata have refused the government’s calls to disarm. These militias believe that remaining armed allows them to retain political influence in the new order that they fought to create.

    Not a surprise result from intervention by a nation whose geopolitical experts justify their advocacy for war by saying:

    “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death”

    Such a nation will cause a great many innocent people to bleed to death. Fruitlessly, lives wasted in wars leaving rubble behind.

  11. In Libya, the Captors Have Become the Captive“, Robert Worth, New York Times, 9 May 2012 — Excerpt:

    Libya has no army. It has no government. These things exist on paper, but in practice, Libya has yet to recover from the long maelstrom of Qaddafi’s rule. The country’s oil is being pumped again, but there are still no lawmakers, no provincial governors, no unions and almost no police. Streetlights in Tripoli blink red and green and are universally ignored. Residents cart their garbage to Qaddafi’s ruined stronghold, Bab al-Aziziya, and dump it on piles that have grown mountainous, their stench overpowering. Even such basic issues as property ownership are in a state of profound confusion.

    Qaddafi nationalized much of the private property in Libya starting in 1978, and now the old owners, some of them returning after decades abroad, are clamoring for the apartments and villas and factories that belonged to their grandparents. I met Libyans brandishing faded documents in Turkish and Italian, threatening to take up arms if their ancestral tracts of land were not returned.

    What Libya does have is militias, more than 60 of them, manned by rebels who had little or no military or police training when the revolution broke out less than 15 months ago. They prefer to be called katibas, or brigades, and their members are universally known as thuwar, or revolutionaries. Each brigade exercises unfettered authority over its turf, with “revolutionary legitimacy” as its only warrant.

    Inside their barracks — usually repurposed schools, police stations or security centers — a vast experiment in role reversal is being carried out: the guards have become the prisoners and the prisoners have become the guards. There are no rules, and each katiba is left to deal in its own way with the captives, who range from common criminals to Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the deposed leader’s son and onetime heir apparent. Some have simply replicated the worst tortures that were carried out under the old regime. More have exercised restraint. Almost all of them have offered victims a chance to confront their former torturers face to face, to test their instincts, to balance the desire for revenge against the will to make Libya into something more than a madman’s playground.

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