A Tunisian friend of mine, and former Ashbrook Scholar, has been involved in the revolution in his home country. I had tried getting a hold of him last month when Tunisia started to change, but revolutions can be rather distracting; our mutual friend in Egypt told me that they had spoken and he was alright. He did finally get in touch with me today, but only to bring my attention to the chaos in neighboring Libya. He referred to the situation as genocide, and sent me a link to a video showing said genocide (I will not share the link as it was graphic enough to make even my stomach churn and will likely be removed soon from public viewing for that reason). Most of the governments have been relatively restrained in their responses. Muammar al-Gaddafi, the "Brother Leader" of Libya, is showing no such restraint, and has vowed to fight to the last bullet to maintain his grip on the nation that he has ruled for four decades.
Gaddafi came to power in a military coup back in 1969, overthrowing the King of Libya. Twenty-seven years old at the time, he envisioned am empire of Islamic-Socialism and looked to Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, and Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser as his heroes. His foreign policy consisted of actively aiding Palestinian attacks on Israel, invading neighboring Chad, financing the Black September Movement (responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre), arming the IRA in Northern Ireland and FARC in Colombia, and being one of the few Arab leaders that forged strong relations with the Soviet Union. However, in the past decade, he has been seen as moderating himself and seeking warmer relations with the West. He began to turn over Libya's WMDs, ceased funding of terrorist groups (and was subsequently removed from the USA's terrorist list), and paid compensation for the Lockerbie, Berlin discotech, and UTA Flight 722 bombings. President Bush even resumed diplomatic relations with Libya in 2008. Yet despite these improving relations, he is still an eccentric egomaniac. He has consistently attempted to build himself up as the leader of a pan-African state, naming himself "King of the Kings of Africa" a few years ago, and threw a temper-tantrum at the 2009 Arab League Summit that led to him storming out after declaring himself the "Leader of Arab Leaders" and central figure of Islam. His best friend on the international stage is Hugo Chavez (Ahmadinejad doesn't really like competition for 'leader of the Muslim world' much). Oh, and in case you were wondering who killed JFK, it was Israel-- according to Gaddafi's expert insight.
And now his regime is crumbling
, as people inspired by Tunisia and Egypt rise up against him. However, Libya is not like these other nations-- it lacks a national identity. It is tribal, and Gaddafi's success has been largely due to his ability to manipulate tribal leaders against each other. Even the military is tribal, meaning that is it unable to play as critical a role as militaries are playing throughout the other Arab revolutions. Combined the fact that Libya is, thus, not really a nation with Gaddafi's refusal to step down and you have a growing international nightmare. Rather than step down, he has ordered the full might of his regime to murder every last dissenter. Fighter jets and helicopters are flying over the streets of Tripoli, firing without discretion upon what were peaceful protests. His thugs now roam the streets
, looting and murdering at will. This in itself will be his undoing. The longest-ruling non-royal national leader alive has become even too ruthless for his supporters to continue supporting him. In response to the aerial bombings of his own people in Tripoli, and the massacres taking place in the countryside, members of his government are resigning left and right-- including most Libyan diplomats, among them senior Libyan officials to the United Nations and the Arab League. Today, part of his air force refused orders to bomb Tripoli-- some engaged pro-Gaddafi planes while others defected to Malta
. Reports are that Gaddafi has fled the country for Venezuela, but both Gaddafi and Chavez have denied the reports.
With Gaddafi's bloody fall sinking Libya further into chaos, the threat of all-out civil war in this tribal and oil-rich area looms on the horizon. The United States has been largely impotent
in this matter, so far only able to get out a statement
that we think murdering civilians is wrong. We are looking at sanctions, but at this point we don't know who to sanction and international oil-interests will ensure nothing too harsh is done to Libyan exports by the UN. I have a feeling that we will need to rely on the European Union to try get a handle of the situation, but given their lackluster response to Italy's pleas for help in dealing with Tunisian refugees
, I'm not hopeful.