I have taken a lot of heat for my support of the revolution and of the United Nations-authorized intervention by the Arab League and NATO that kept it from being crushed. I haven’t taken nearly as much heat as the youth of Misrata who fought off Gadhafi’s tank barrages, though, so it is OK.I hate war, having actually lived through one in Lebanon, and I hate the idea of people being killed. My critics who imagined me thrilling at NATO bombing raids were just being cruel. But here I agree with President Obama and his citation of Reinhold Niebuhr. You can’t protect all victims of mass murder everywhere all the time. But where you can do some good, you should do it, even if you cannot do all good. I mourn the deaths of all the people who died in this revolution, especially since many of the Gadhafi brigades were clearly coerced (they deserted in large numbers as soon as they felt it safe). But it was clear to me that Gadhafi was not a man to compromise, and that his military machine would mow down the revolutionaries if it were allowed to.
Moreover, those who question whether there were U.S. interests in Libya seem to me a little blind. The U.S. has an interest in there not being massacres of people for merely exercising their right to free assembly. The U.S. has an interest in a lawful world order, and therefore in the United Nations Security Council resolution demanding that Libyans be protected from their murderous government. The U.S. has an interest in its NATO alliance, and NATO allies France and Britain felt strongly about this intervention. The U.S. has a deep interest in the fate of Egypt, and what happened in Libya would have affected Egypt (Gadhafi allegedly had high Egyptian officials on his payroll).
Given the controversies about the revolution, it is worthwhile reviewing the myths about the Libyan Revolution that led so many observers to make so many fantastic or just mistaken assertions about it.Myth #1. Gadhafi was a progressive in his domestic policies.While back in the 1970s, Gadhafi was probably more generous in sharing around the oil wealth with the population, buying tractors for farmers, etc., in the past couple of decades that policy changed. He became vindictive against tribes in the east and in the southwest that had crossed him politically, depriving them of their fair share in the country’s resources. And in the past decade and a half, extreme corruption and the rise of post-Soviet-style oligarchs, including Gadhafi and his sons, have discouraged investment and blighted the economy. Workers were strictly controlled and unable to collectively bargain for improvements in their conditions. There was much more poverty and poor infrastructure in Libya than there should have been in an oil state.