Down in the basement, I still have a copy of Moammar Gaddafi’s bizarre political manifesto, “The Green Book,” which I picked up during a trip to Libya in the early 1980s. It’s a reminder of what an oddball dictator Gaddafi was — and of how he nevertheless managed to defy and bedevil the Arabs and the West until the hour of his death Thursday.
With Gaddafi’s demise, it’s a good time to assess the United States’ larger Libyan policy. A White House team has been studying since March what to do “the day after” the leader was gone, and happily, most of the potential disasters they worried about haven’t happened. “A lot of the things we were planning for — massive insecurity, Baghdad 2003 — we haven’t had to deal with,” says a White House official involved in the effort.
Without Gaddafi’s galvanizing presence, the role of sect and tribe may yet increase in Libya, just as happened in Iraq after the secular state structure there was decapitated. But today, NATO’s war in Libya looks like a success — and for some interesting, contrarian reasons.