NATO's Libya mission ends. Was it a success?
It's too soon to tell what kind of new Libya will emerge in the wake of NATO's Libya mission. But Qaddafi's controversial death should not be taken as a sign that NATO's efforts were for naught.
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Others were deeply disturbed by how Qaddafi met his end. After his convoy was hit by NATO fire as he tried to flee his hometown of Sirte, a battered Qaddafi was seized by rebels. He was clearly murdered by revolutionary militiamen, probably from Misurata, a city he indiscriminately pounded with artillery for months at the beginning of the conflict. Seamus Milne, an editor at the Guardian, says the way Qaddafi died and atrocities carried out by rebels in Sirte is evidence the whole venture was a waste of time.Skip to next paragraph
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"All the while, Nato leaders and cheerleading media have turned a blind eye to such horrors as they boast of a triumph of freedom and murmur about the need for restraint. But it is now absolutely clear that, if the purpose of western intervention in Libya's civil war was to "protect civilians" and save lives, it has been a catastrophic failure. David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy won the authorisation to use "all necessary means" from the UN security council in March on the basis that Gaddafi's forces were about to commit a Srebrenica-style massacre in Benghazi. Naturally we can never know what would have happened without Nato's intervention. But there is in fact no evidence – including from other rebel-held towns Gaddafi re-captured – to suggest he had either the capability or even the intention to carry out such an atrocity against an armed city of 700,000."
What would have happened in Benghazi if NATO hadn't intervened is unknowable – that is undoubtedly true. But Mr. Milne shouldn't doubt that Qaddafi had the capacity to sack the town. I was in Benghazi on the morning NATO took decisive action. His tanks and trained infantry were moving into the city, the lightly armed rebel defenders were in a panic, and the civilian population was fleeing to the west. I'm firmly convinced that Benghazi, where the revolution began, would have fallen if French jets hadn't torn apart Qaddafi's armor advancing on town.
Would there have been a massacre? Murdering his enemies and spreading terror among fence-sitters were standard tactics for Qaddafi, and he'd promised to hunt the rebels – a rabble of drug-addled rats and cockroaches, in his words – house to house, and have them all put to death. Milne appears to be in the camp that the murder of Qaddafi is evidence that Libya will now go off the rails. I just don't see it. Yes, he was killed by furious and undisciplined militiamen. That they would do so was highly predictable. A good start? No. But evidence that the future is one of chaos and further violence? No. It could go that way but now Libya – without an occupying army – will have to find a way to make itself a better place.