Look at our democracy, such a powerful enemy”
Paraphrasing Shakespeare, let’s be clear that I have come to bury Qaddafi, not to praise him. But please, a moment of silence is in order for our heathen nemesis, our swarthy enemy and ourselves.
When Qaddafi came to power in 1969 during the last three years of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction, little did we know how long, treacherous and dangerously close our relationship would turn out to be. After forty years we came to know Qaddafi’s quirks very well, and he knew ours. The U.S. relationship with Libya was a stormy affair, a form of ‘satellite animosity’ that characterized American foreign policy during the Cold War with the then-Soviet Union. It began with years of intense and violent tits for tat in the 1980s between Libya and the U.S., starting with the Gulf of Sidra incident where the U.S. Navy responded aggressively to a surface to air missile attack by Libya. This lead to a retaliatory Libyan attack against American servicemen at a Berlin disco, followed by the climactic bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Everything changed with the fall of the Berlin Wall at the end of the 1980s. Libya re-aligned itself and began improving its image in the West, atoning for the Lockerbie bombings, working diligently to diplomatically remove the U.N. sanctions against Libya for their involvement in the killing of innocent civilians. During the 1990s, as oil flowed freely from underneath Libyan soil, there was never any doubt that Qaddafi would survive, or at least we never took him down directly. Crazy as Qaddafi was, and yes he was crazy, as Juan Cole notes, Qaddafi — like Mubarak in Egypt, Musharraf in Pakistan, and Ben Ali in Tunisia — became a useful tyrant to our allies in the west.
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