Monday, 22 August 2011

Libya – With A Few Misgivings And A Lot Of Optimism

The rebels fighting Gaddafi’s forces are at the gates of Tripoli. They wouldn’t have got there if it hadn’t been for NATO’s air campaign which has continuously bombed and strafed Gaddafi’s forces since 19 March 2011. The million dollar question is, was that the right thing to have done? Should NATO have blasted open a path to Tripoli for the rebels? What do we know of these rebels? Who are they? What is their ideology?

Gaddafi, despite so many failings, was secular and kept the Al Qaeda wolf at bay. In many ways, he is very similar to the late Saddam Hussein. A dictator who had a love-hate (maybe hate-love-hate) relationship with the West, it had appeared till Jasmine revolutions started to sweep various North African and Middle-Eastern States early this year, that Libya and the West had kissed and made up. Past attempts by the US to remove Gaddafi were forgotten as Gaddafi’s son Saif al Islam Qaddafi returned from the London School of Economics with a plagiarised Ph.D and started to rebuild ties with the West. However, after Jasmine revolutions toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia, restive Libyans threw their hats into the ring and forced the West to take a stand – to either support them or stand back and watch as ruthless Gaddafi’s forces annihilated them.

I feel that NATO’s decision to support the Libyan rebels was essentially a good one. And a correct one. To have done nothing would have invited accusations of not supporting the cause of democracy in North Africa. To not have escalated the bombing campaign would have resulted in the rebels being let down, after having their hopes up. Also, unlike Iraq, Libya does not have a huge Shia majority which could take the nation into an Iranian orbit or a strong Islamic fundamentalist movement which might drop Libya into Al Qaeda’s lap.

The latest reports say that Saif al Islam Qaddafi and another of Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi, have been captured by the rebels as they advance within 2 kilometers of Tripoli’s centre. Let’s hope the rebels who are poised to take Tripoli turn out to be good guys – people we can all live with.

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