In Gaddafi's Wake
Ferguson, Niall, Newsweek
Byline: Niall Ferguson
The dictator's fall is proof that America can still topple a rogue
regime. What comes next may underscore our impotence.
It still works. Western military intervention--no matter how halfhearted and apparently ineffectual--is still sufficient to tip the balance against a rogue regime. The fall of Muammar Gaddafi had the same distinctive qualities as his entire career: a strange mixture of the bloody and the farcical, like a cross between Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup. But fall he did, even if, as I write, he has still eluded capture. This much is certain: his overthrow would not have happened without the support, mostly but not exclusively in the air, that NATO provided to the rebels against his rule.
It still works. Last week, exultant rebels in Tripoli clambered on Gaddafi's vainglorious statue of an American warplane in the grip of a mighty Libyan fist. Turns out that in the age-old game of missile-revolt-dictator, the political equivalent of rock-paper-scissors, missile still beats dictator. Slobodan Milosevic could have told him. So could Saddam Hussein.
It still works. The outcome in Libya was decided by the United States and its European allies. China may have the world's fastest-growing economy, but its leaders have been more or less irrelevant. Last week, they belatedly recognized the legitimacy of the rebels' National Transitional Council. Doing so only after the rebels were inside Gaddafi's compound redefines "behind the curve."
It still works. But it's not enough. Even as the world's media relayed the drama of the Last Days of Gaddafi, my thoughts were elsewhere. I was asking myself about Iraq, where 70 people were killed in a single day earlier this month. I was thinking about Afghanistan, where the war against the Taliban is far from won. I was wondering about Yemen, which still teeters on the brink of anarchy. Above all, I was worrying about Somalia, where Josette Sheeran of the World Food Program warns that 2 million people could die because the Islamist militants known as Al-Shabab are preventing the distribution of emergency food supplies to the famine-stricken south of the country. …