Magazine article The Spectator

Gaddafi's Revenge

Magazine article The Spectator

Gaddafi's Revenge

Article excerpt

Not even a month ago, it looked as though Colonel Gaddafi was going the way of Mubarak and Ben Ali - a bloodier process, certainly, but a seemingly irreversible one. His generals mutinied, and pilots sent to bomb Libyan rebels flew to Malta. His ambassadors resigned. There was talk of imposing a no-fly zone, to help the Libyan rebels in the same way the Kurds were assisted in 1991. But then Gaddafi realised that the only opposition he faced from the outside world was verbal. Now, steadily, he is taking back Libya.

The unthinkable seems to be happening.

It now looks possible that Gaddafi's four decades of tyranny are not over. However tenuously, he may yet cling on to power - and start a slow, murderous revenge on the tribes that defied him. This fits a theme, which should surprise no one outside of the London School of Economics. Arming the IRA, murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher and bombing of Pan Am flight 103 may be the acts which this country most vividly remembers.

But across the world - not least in Africa - countless thousands recall his unpredictable bloodlust.

For these and many other reasons, the day of Gaddafi's demise should not merely have been hoped for - it should have been helped along. But weeks into the crisis, the response of the United Nations and other transnational institutions remains hopeless.

Bare-minimum policy though it is, the UN can still not even agree on establishing the no-fly zone which David Cameron rightly discussed. Turkish protests made Nato agreement impossible. By the time any multilateral deal is reached, Gaddafi will probably have finished bombing his opposition into submission - as he did in the city of Zawiya earlier this week. One should not be surprised at the UN Security Council, which has been dead for a decade or more.

But among the free nations that might until recently have been expected to take a lead in such a situation, there are signs of a deeper inertia - or worse. President Obama has still made no useful interventions to halt Gaddafi's war against the Libyan people. It sometimes seems as though American foreign policy has been outsourced to the UN.

But if American policy has been absent, at least it has not just been embarrassing.

The Libyan crisis has exposed Britain's inability to respond to a crisis. First, we were unable to extract our own citizens. There was something tragically eloquent about the fact that the HMS Cumberland, which was sent to evacuate them, is to be decommissioned as part of the defence cuts. …

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