August 22nd, 2011

Will liberty come to the shores of Tripoli?

The rebels claim to control Tripoli (80%? 95%?). Although Gaddafi’s forces fight on in a few areas, the flamboyant dictator himself is nowhere to be seen, and two of his sons have reportedly been captured.

President Obama exhorts:

The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Muammar Gaddafi and his regime need to recognise that their rule has come to an end. Gaddafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all.

That’s the sort of thing a president has to say, I suppose, but I see no reason whatsoever why Gaddafi would voluntarily comply. After all, why would he want to end the bloodshed? Especially when his own blood is on the line. If Gaddafi and sons fail to flee the country and end up losing this battle (which seems highly likely) they are marked men, whether they go slowly or quickly. Whether death comes by enemy hand in a fight, or his own hand in an act of suicide, or a trial and a death sentence, it’s hard to see how Gaddafi gets out of this without forfeiting his life.

That certainly makes for a pretty powerful motivation to fight on—or to escape, which for all we know Gaddafi may have already done. After all, fellow-tyrant Idi Amin died in a hospital bed in Saudi Arabia (first having fled to Libya, by the way) [emphasis mine]:

On 20 July 2003, one of Amin’s wives, Madina, reported that he was in a coma and near death at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from kidney failure. She pleaded with the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, to allow him to return to Uganda for the remainder of his life. Museveni replied that Amin would have to “answer for his sins the moment he was brought back”. Amin died at the hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 16 August 2003 and was buried in Ruwais Cemetery in Jeddah.

The people of Tripoli seem joyful that the grip of the tyrant appears to be finished, or near-finished, as well they might. I only hope for them that Gaddafi isn’t replaced with a new tyranny, which I think is unfortunately the most likely outcome both in Libya and Egypt. NATO will probably have a role in trying to prevent that; I wish them luck:

NATO, which helped provided air cover for the rebel assault on Tripoli over the weekend, said it stands ready to work with the Libyan people and the Transitional National Council. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the transition “must come peacefully.”

“They [the TNC] must make sure that the transition is smooth and inclusive, that the country stays united, and that the future is founded on reconciliation and respect for human rights,” he said in a statement.

But John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Fox News late Sunday that the United States and its allies may not have done enough over the past five months to prepare for the fall of Qaddafi. He noted that Libya does not appear to have a stable military _ something that was instrumental in helping neighboring Egypt manage its civil uprising.

Egypt restored order fairly quickly—but then again, its revolution was relatively bloodless. What’s more, Egyptian society under Mubarak had never been subject to the same level of turmoil as Libya has, and had far less trauma to recover from and fewer institutions to rebuild. Even so, there is a good chance that the new regime will be a repressive and Islamist one. What are the odds that messed-up Libya can escape such a fate, and institute a government that favors liberty?

[ADDENDUM: This sounds inauspicious:

Even more so than in Egypt, Islamists are a powerful undercurrent in Libyan society and despite the apparent success of the partnership thus far between Libya’s Transitional National Council and Western allies, these Islamists — who were jailed, tortured and sometimes killed by Qaddafi — will have a claim on power and are suspicious and opposed to a strong Western stake-hold inside Libya.

From the start of the Egyptian overthrow of Mubarak and the Libyan rebel uprising, that has been my concern. The example of Iran is always before us, and an Islamist government is the most likely (although not the inevitable) outcome.]

17 Responses to “Will liberty come to the shores of Tripoli?”

  1. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Said it before:
    If an Arab/Muslim nation takes the chance to be free, and votes itself, or finds itself unable to avoid becoming, a repressive theocracy, the liberals have a problem.
    It’s a liberal problem anyway. They insist that everybody wants to be free, but that not all societies are going to want democracy. They do that on alternate days, of course.
    If the Arab/Muslim nation turns sour, we will have to agree that Arab/Muslim societies really like them some repression, oppression of women, lousy economic conditions, corruption, and continued violence. To have said so in advance would have been racist.
    Conservatives really believe people will choose freedom when they have the choice.
    Liberals will have to agree–in order to thwart American actions–that Arab/Muslim societies are going to take the freedom we help them win and flush it down the toilet. IOW, be racist.
    Tough choice.

  2. Scott Says:

    The main reason why I don’t hold out hope for the Arab Spring revolutions is that, from what I can tell, they don’t seem to be inspired by an ideological embrace of liberty.

    The American revolution was deeply ideological. The concept of liberty was being widely debated and feverishly embraced by intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic. Jefferson, Madison, Monroe (among others) in America and people like John Locke, David Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, etc. in Europe.

    We ultimately rejected liberty in America. We decided we wanted a vast, expansive welfare state with immense concentrated power in a non-elected federal bureaucracy. We’ve chosen what Newt Gingrich calls “bureaucratic socialism”. We want experts to control nearly all aspects of our lives in the name of “security” because we don’t like liberty. We expect government workers to grope us before we get on planes. We let them tell us what kind of light bulbs we can buy and use. We want them to shut down lemonade stands for not having a state/municipal issued license. We want them to tell us how much gas mileage our cars must get. We want them to tell us what kind of health insurance we MUST buy. We want them to imprison people who ingest substances the government has decided we should not ingest.

    As Milton Friedman once said, historically, the natural state of man is to live a life of oppression — usually in abject poverty. Freedom has only really been tried in 5th century Greece, briefly in Rome a couple thousand years ago, and for about 150 years in America from the late 18th century through the early part of the 20th century.

    If we’ve rejected liberty, after creating institutions for the purpose of preserving liberty, such as a written Constitution that is designed to expressly limit the growth and power of the federal government; a political system with numerous checks and balances on state power; an impartial judicial system; a free press; voting rights, etc., then why do we think a country like Libya that has few if any of those institutions will embrace liberty?

  3. Scott Says:

    oops. should be: 5th century B.C. Greece

  4. Mike Walsh Says:

    “Conservatives really believe people will choose freedom when they have the choice.” Not this conservative. That notion is solipsism, a progressivist malady. Everybody is not just like us. People used to being treated like cattle will behave like cattle, even when the opportunity presents itself for them to behave like men.

  5. Richard Saunders Says:

    Call the realtors on the Cote d’Azur — another member of the Dictators’ Widows Club is on the way!

  6. Don Says:

    The American revolution was deeply ideological. The concept of liberty was being widely debated and feverishly embraced by intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic. Jefferson, Madison, Monroe (among others) in America and people like John Locke, David Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, etc. in Europe.

    Also, by the time of our revolution (rebellion actually), we had a well developed understanding of liberty and democracy. England first moved towards limited government in the 1200s with the Magna Carta, and developed democracy over time. By the 1770s it was well developed in England, and in America the colonies had a long history of local democaracy and civic involvement. The English and Scottish Enlightenment thinkers had a concrete footing in reality.

  7. Don Says:

    “Conservatives really believe people will choose freedom when they have the choice.” Not this conservative. That notion is solipsism, a progressivist malady. Everybody is not just like us. People used to being treated like cattle will behave like cattle, even when the opportunity presents itself for them to behave like men.

    I think most conservatives believe that a cultural foundation is necessary for freedom. There are some libertarians who seem to think that everyone can and will make freedom work if given the chance. I’m more towards the libertarian view of things generally, but on this point I remain more conservative. Culture is key.

  8. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Culture is key but since, to libs, all cultures are perfectly wonderful except ours which is perfectly vile, all cultures lean toward freedom. To say otherwise would be racist.
    I generalize in pursuit of making the point that liberals have a very tough time with this issue.
    They have to say one thing one time–not all people want democracy [the only way to be free] when it’s useful to thwart, say US actions in Iraq. Or, if the US is not pushing democracy someplace, everybody wants to be free and have elections and all that stuff.
    Cultures make the result possible or impossible, but you can’t, as a liberal, say that, either. It would be racist.

  9. Peter Says:

    We will know in a matter of a few months. I lean towards the idea that Libya will be a dictatorship, simply because there has never been a free society Arab nation before, the closest has been Iraq and there is simply no nation willing to invest her sons and daughters, as well as billions of dollars the way America and her pitifully few allies have done.

    As to the American Revolution, please do not forget the theological underpinnings of that revolt, it was not simply ideological. The founders were deeply religious, with very few exceptions. They fought for the rights “endowed by our creator.” Islam has no such belief.

  10. Artfldgr Says:

    Liberty under Sharia?

    Libyan Draft Constitution: Sharia is ‘Principal Source of Legislation’

  11. Richard Aubrey Says:

    See also the piquant statistical explanations of Griffedelion on the “smart middle” or other issues.

  12. Richard Aubrey Says:

    A thousand apologies.
    La griffe du lion.

  13. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    There are many factions in Libya. Most of them are well armed now. Unlike Egypt where only the army, which preserved order after Mubarack’s departure, has any weapons worth mentioning. John Bolton and some other ME experts fear that Libya could become a failed state much like Somalia – except with oil income that could fuel much mischief. No one knows, of course, but the odds are that Libya will be a thorn in Europe’s and our sides for some time.

  14. Parker Says:

    “Liberty under Sharia?”

    That is the question and the answer is no. Everything else is wishful thinking as credible as faith in the tooth fairy.

  15. JTW Says:

    The only thing that will come to north Africa (and eventually all of Africa and the middle east) is tyranny, theocracy, and a single large Taliban like state along the lines of Iran or Afghanistan.

    This of course will be a major problem for what remains of the nominally free world, as it will be a 2 billion people training school for terrorists and jihadis, the like the world has never seen.

  16. Beverly Says:

    John Bachelor, of the AM 770 station (same as Limbaugh), says that Libya’s rebels are led, mostly, by al Qaida-connected radical moslems, and he expects the successor regime to be even worse than Gaddafi’s. And what are we (the Administration and STate Dept.) doing to prevent that?

    Nothing. So says John Bachelor, anyway, and he claims to have been following the Libyan situation for some time.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he were right.

    I just went to a memorial service for a gay friend. His gay friends, both quite wealthy (one famous) who hosted the event have a sign over their fireplace, “Muslims Are Welcome Here.” Of course, if they ever had any real muslims in their swanky Greenwich Village apartment, they’d be stoned to death. Such is the logic of the liberal mind.

  17. SteveH Says:

    I have little doubt Obama wants the middle east more radical to better poke their finger in the eye of America and the west. One of these days we’ll be puzzled why so many couldn’t see the obviousness of Obama’s agenda.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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