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Most important, there is the issue of who exactly is going to take Gaddafi’s place as the rulers of Libya. The heartland of the rebellion, eastern Libya and the towns of Benghazi and Darnah, is the home of the al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Jihadist personnel files captured in Iraq revealed that on a per capita basis, Libyans comprised the largest percentage of foreign insurgents, 85% of whom were suicide bombers. The veterans of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan no doubt have learned there techniques for fashioning IEDs. With the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime, these fighters have now gained access to weapons looted from arms depots, and can use the plundered mortars and artillery shells to make roadside bombs. Moreover, the LGIF played a major role in the take-over of Tripoli and the capture of Gaddafi’s compound. Their commander, Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj, is now a major force in the NTC and the commander of the Tripoli garrison. He is also an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan who has gone on record rejecting any coexistence with “Crusaders” except in the form of jihad. His fighters will undoubtedly be an important factor in the maelstrom of ethnic, sectarian, and tribal conflicts that will follow Gaddafi’s death, and that now will soon be financed by the 1.6 million barrels of oil Libya can produce a day.
Given these realities, it is fanciful to think a stable liberal democracy favorable to Western interests is going to replace the Gaddafi regime. As Abdul-Jalil’s celebratory speech reveals, it is very likely that the better-organized Islamist elements will come to the fore, as they have in next-door Egypt. Why else would other jihadist organizations have supported the rebels? Nor should these Islamist portents surprise us, given what we were told months ago by the NTC’s draft constitutional charter, which says, “Islam is the religion of the state, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Shari’a).” This statement, confirmed by Jalil’s remarks, should make us worry about what sort of regime, if any, will emerge from the coming violent clashes among the various heavily armed factions now roaming Libya. After all, Islam is the only unifying force in a country torn by tribal loyalties and geographical divisions. Thus even if the new government institutionalizes “human rights” and “freedom,” it will likely be the “freedom” to live like a good Muslim according to “human rights” as defined by Shari’a law, including polygamy, which Jalil has already legalized by decree. At that point, we will have colluded in the removal of a creepy dictator who nonetheless represented no threat to our national interests, and replaced him with an Islamist regime sympathetic to the jihadist outfits we are battling across the globe.
Rather than a foreign policy “success” or proof of the superiority of “collective action,” Obama’s Libyan adventure is one more geopolitical disaster to go along with his failure to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the increasingly active hostility of Pakistan, the compromising of Israel’s security with demands for concessions, and the plans to make a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq by year’s end. Just as in Egypt, we have helped bring down a regime that represented no direct national security threat and served our interests, without any clear knowledge of who will replace them. We have colluded in a transparent fraud, claiming that we were intervening in Libya to stop a massacre, when in fact our obvious aim was the removal of Gaddafi. Worse yet, we have indulged, for the whole world to see, the hypocrisy of plucking the low-hanging fruit like Gaddafi on humanitarian pretexts, all the while we do nothing about the on-going massacres perpetrated by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. And we have cleared the space for the emergence of another Islamist regime in the Middle East. The only lesson we have taught the world is that being America’s enemy is better for a dictator’s long-term survival than being our friend.
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