October 10th, 2013



Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan was snatched by gunmen before dawn Thursday from a Tripoli hotel where he resides, the government said. The abduction appeared to be in retaliation for the U.S. special forces raid over the weekend that seized a Libyan al-Qaida suspect from the streets of the capital.

Zidan’s abduction reflected the weakness of Libya’s government, which is virtually held hostage by powerful militias, many of which are made up of Islamic militants. Militants were angered by the U.S. capture of the suspected militant, known as Abu Anas al-Libi, and accused the government of colluding in or allowing the raid.

In a sign of Libya’s chaos, Zidan’s seizure was depicted by various sources as either an “arrest” or an abduction.

That is because the militias are interwoven in Libya’s fragmented power structure. With the police and army in disarray, many are enlisted to serve in state security agencies, though their loyalty is more to their own commanders than to government officials and they have often intimidated or threatened officials. The militias are rooted in the brigades that fought in the uprising that toppled autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, and are often referred to as “revolutionaries.”

It doesn’t seem coincidental to me that the kidnapping came not long after the New York Times helpfully reported that the two recent US operations against terrorists were accomplished with the cooperation of the Libyan government. Nice going, NY Times, and whoever in the Obama administration leaked the information to you.

Not that it matters all that much, I suppose, given what the government of Libya is like these days (or any other days). That reminds me of the question I kept asking towards the beginning of the Libyan conflict in early 2011:

Does anyone knows what’s really going on with Libya?…

Although we keep hearing about the Libyan rebels, I have yet to see a good description of who they are and what they are striving for, except the elimination of the current regime. I assume they’re better than Qaddafi (which would not too difficult), but such assumptions can be dangerous. I sincerely hope the State Department has more information on that than I do, but sometimes I wonder.

I would say it’s been clear for quite some time that they’re no better than Qaddafi. Perhaps worse.

The story reminds me that it’s been a little over a year since the Benghazi attack that killed Ambassador Stevens. As far as the press and much of the public goes, it’s almost as though it never happened.

I have another question: will Zidan’s kidnappers offer him in exchange for the captured terrorist al-Libi?

And an observation: if I were a conspiracy theorist sort, I’d say this kidnapping appears to have been pulled off rather easily. For example, the bodyguards were just beaten up and not killed. So, was this a staged kidnapping, accomplished with Zidan’s cooperation? Almost nothing would surprise me at this point, although I can’t quite figure out what Zidan would gain by allowing himself to be the victim of a fake kidnapping.

21 Responses to “Libyan…”

  1. Matt_SE Says:

    Yet another bad consequence of Obama’s intervention. Unrest or insurgency is understandable, but this is pure anarchy. Say what you want about Bush, but there was still a nation-state of Iraq after the invasion was over.
    Does anyone know what’s going on in the Middle East these days? DOES ANYONE IN THIS ADMINISTRATION HAVE A FREAKIN’ CLUE?

  2. Matt_SE Says:

    I keep thinking back to the 50′s and 60′s, when the CIA toppled rulers and set up puppets in the Middle East in the name of the US’ interests and “stability.”
    Good times…good times.

  3. Matt_SE Says:

    On the one hand, it’s unreasonable to assume the US can control most consequences after toppling a dictator. But I’m not sure this administration tried at all.
    Anyone remember the Powell Doctrine (You break it, you own it)?
    Did Obama try to organize the Lybian central government? Did we give them aid? Advice? Did we assist them in counter-insurgency (if “insurgency” is even the right word)?
    What efforts did we make? The administration (under Hillary’s sterling leadership) tried to establish a consulate in Benghazi…we all know how that turned out.
    But other than that one incompetent episode, what else did we do to ensure that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen? Anything?
    Or were we too busy using Lybia as our own personal arms depot no notice?

  4. Surellin Says:

    What do these militias want? Any place in which tribes are significant political entities is FUBAR, and I would expect that these militias are tribal groups striving to get a share of power. With some al-Qaeda types thrown in for good measure.

  5. Eric Says:

    Matt_SE: “Say what you want about Bush”

    What I say about Bush is he got it right on Iraq.

    Not just the final-chance compliance test and consequential credible-threat punitive invasion that was 11+ years in the making and mostly crafted under Clinton. That part was completed relatively quickly in 2002-2003. More importantly, Bush was right to commit to the post-war peace-building operation in Iraq.

    A basic misconception promoted by Democrats conflates the war stage (ie, invasion) with the controlled transition post-war stage in Iraq. If the Democrats’ misconception was true, then we were at war in Germany, Japan, and Korea long after 1945 and 1953 – ie, we’re *still* at war in those nations.

    It just happens that the post-war in Iraq – fully certified by the UN, like the on-going US-led UN mission in Korea – was bloodier and more difficult than the war due to the nature of the particular enemies that attacked it. But conceptually, the post-war in Iraq was the same as the previous prolonged post-wars by which the US constructed the peace in our role as leader of the free world in the 20th century.

    Eventually and not too late, we figured it out – solved the puzzle – in Iraq, as we have solved difficult challenges in America’s past military conflicts. (If we could figure out how to beat a living legend like Robert E Lee on his native soil, we could solve al Qaeda in Iraq. And we did.) We won in Iraq – not just the war, but more importantly and consequentially, we won the peace in Iraq with the COIN “surge”.

    The COIN “surge” in Iraq embodied everything the Army was incapable of doing according to the execrable Powell Doctrine, which codified our Vietnam-induced phobias. Iraq exorcised those phobias. Winning the war was expected. I still marvel at what our soldiers achieved in the post-war.

    Bush gave Obama a winning hand with Iraq that should have grown into an effective regional strategic partnership on par with Germany and Japan. Iraq should have been the cornerstone of our long-term victory in the War on Terror. Our military mission in Iraq had stabilized and our relationship with Iraq was firmly on that path. But Obama and Biden bungled it away with a breathtakingly, perhaps passive-aggressively, incompetent handling of the SOFA negotiation. And now, the terrorists have resurged in the chaotic spaces left by American retreat, the Russian sphere is expanding, and terrorist bombs are tearing at Iraq and mass-murdering Iraqis again.

    Bush understood that winning the post-war is essential in order to constructing the long-term peace. Obama’s post-war Libya strategy – or non-strategy – was explicitly stated as a deliberate contrast to Bush’s post-war Iraq strategy.

    The consequence was predictable and predicted. Obama has failed wherever he has deviated from Bush. But for Obama and his loyal followers, The Narrative is more important than the truth.

  6. Eric Says:

    * essential in order to construct the long-term peace.

  7. Eric Says:

    Add: Obama’s non or perhaps anti-strategy on post-war Libya brings to mind Neo’s post about Obama’s position on the Saddam problem as an Illinois State Senator.

    Obama’s position boiled down to this: Saddam is indeed a problem, but the problem will go away – “fade away” – painlessly on its own if we just ignore it and leave it alone.

    Now into the 5th year of his presidency, how many of Obama’s domestic and international actions reflect this approach of willful disregard?

    In Libya, certainly. The scary thing is how many people share Obama’s extraordinary tunnel vision that ‘solves’ a problem either by saying it’s solved or cease its existence by ignoring it. Reality dominated by The Narrative, except it’s a fraud and the cost will be paid.

  8. Matt_SE Says:

    I’m still very ambivalent about Iraq. I agree with much of what you said, especially the analysis of how things played out.
    I’m still a bit skeptical of what could be accomplished, even with competent leadership.
    Fortunately, we don’t need to have that debate since we definitely don’t have competent leadership now.

  9. Ymarsakar Says:

    Rumsfeld interview said he and Colin powell had no direct say in White House decisions, but that it was the President, Bush, his advisor Rice, and an inner group of trusted aides that were hashing out the decisions which he would then be informed of.

    This also explains why so many of Bush’s departments were working against each other and not coordinated. Certainly not as coordinated as Obama + IRS.

    Given the kind of “aides” I see in DC, like McCain anti Palin aides, I don’t think these people had any idea what was really going on, at the meta level with Iraq or Democrats in the US.

    Bush would often say and do the right thing, then he’d backtrack like someone gave him advice he didn’t want to hear but he agreed to abide by it.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    For examples, I’m not referring directly to Bush’s Iraq decisions. I’m talking more about the unionization of the TSA, the creation of Homeland Security, and Bush’s words to the terrorists “bring it on” when people asked him what he would do about future attacks on America due to X.

    Bush’s knee gut instinct reactions were almost always correct. And his retractions afterwards, almost always wrong and harmful.

  11. Eric Says:


    Yeah. What greater progress we could have accomplished with Iraq as the foundational piece is all just frustrating what-if now.

    I’ll just point out that the late 1940s and 1950s was a highly skeptical period for the US in the WW2 post-war. We could at least point to compatible social-political traditions in Western Europe as a reason to hold the faith and stay the course. We didn’t even have that much in Asia. Ike could have changed course from FDR/Truman with a great deal of domestic support. But he stayed the course he inherited until we found our footing.

    Bush was FDR/Truman. But Obama is no Eisenhower.

    Based just on our modern precedents of war, post-war, and peace-building as leader of the free world, we were only briefly in Iraq and left prematurely. Given our revolutionary accomplishments in Iraq during that brief stay, I can only imagine what greater we would have accomplished had we committed as much time there as leader of the free world as we gave to Europe and Asia.

  12. Mark in Portland Says:

    This is one, THE one, action where I do support Obama. Qaddafi needed to be overthrown since the Lockerbie incident. That needed to be done regardless of outcome.

    Obama and his admiinstration are totally at fault for not understanding what overthrowing him would mean and preparing accordingly for it, but Qaddafi deserved death for Lockerbie and the Berlin bombing.

  13. OlderandWheezier Says:

    Excellent posts, Eric.

  14. Matt_SE Says:

    @Mark in Portland

    I’d love for there to be justice in the world, too. But reality often doesn’t give you easy choices.
    Qaddafi was responsible for Lockerbie, that’s a fact. But after the Iraq invasion (coincidental timing, no?), he gave up his chemical weapons and looked to be cooling his trouble-making. He was keeping a lid on the jihadis…he said that right before we deposed him, but nobody was listening.
    Almost the same arguments could be made regarding Mubarak. We know how that turned out.

    In both situations, it seems as if the only thing keeping down ruthless killers were other (slightly less?) ruthless killers. Unless the US were willing to use the same tactics, how could we “prepare accordingly for it?”
    I’m skeptical of our ability to shape events in the Middle East while still retaining the moral high ground.

  15. Mark in Portland Says:


    Mubarak didn’t have American blood on his hands (neither does Assad, explicitly anyway, for that matter).

    “prepare accordingly for it” means assume that Libya will descend into chaos and brace for it rather than assume a magical transformation into a peaceful democracy. Qaddafi killed hundreds of Americans. He deserved the death penalty. He got it. Libya suffers the consequences. So be it.

  16. OlderandWheezier Says:

    Then who is responsible for the deaths of four Americans who most likely would not have been killed a year ago, had Qaddafi remained in power?

    We can debate about direct or indirect responsibility, but Qadaffi’s removal from power clearly made Americans less safe in Libya, and may well be making them less safe throughout the world – including in our own country.

    Will Hillary pull out the same old “what difference at this point does it make?” meme if American lives are lost down the road as a result of terrorist activities by AQ or other groups that are now gaining a foothold in Libya? She certainly didn’t waste the opportunity to brag about Qadaffi’s death.

  17. Matt_SE Says:

    @Mark in Portland

    I guess our difference is in political philosophy.
    I’m 90% Realpolitik/10% idealism. That means I’m willing to do something to “make a statement” once in a while, but generally I support actions that advance the American agenda…even if that means supporting a dictator to keep the jihadis at bay.
    It also means conveniently “forgetting” about previous transgressions sometimes. This part is absolutely necessary when dealing with regions that have a long history of violence. Without that ability there would never be any movement in the Palestinian question, and the IRA thing would never have been resolved.
    So yeah, that would be letting Quadaffi get away with murder.
    I can live with that.

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    That needed to be done regardless of outcome

    The outcome is that the people responsible for Lockerbie Were Put In Power.

    Do you see the irony or do you not care?

  19. Richard Aubrey Says:

    The dems understand that losing the postwar phase is vital to losing the war.

  20. Matt_SE Says:

    @Richard Aubrey
    The dems understand that losing the postwar phase is vital to losing the war.
    Though there are some ultra-hardcore lefties that want this, I think there are vastly more “normal” (ha) lefties that are victims of magical thinking.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    It doesn’t really matter. Whether you accidentally nuke a village or do it on purpose, the sin and blood doesn’t go away. They may wish for it to go away, but it doesn’t.

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