Tripoli under siege.

It is starting to look as if Libya’s civil war may soon be at an end. Reports from the capital suggest that it is under siege.

Gaddafi was by any definition a very bad man. He was a ruthless dictator who plundered his country to enrich himself and his family. He attacked neighboring countries in wars to stroke his ego. He supplied money and weapons to a long list of European terrorist organizations: RAF (Baader-Meinhof), Action Direct, IRA, PIRA and when the terrorists did not perform enough murders for his taste he ordered the bombing of two civilian jets. He also ordered the London Embassy to shoot at unarmed protestors leading to the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher.

In short, Gaddafi was everything that Bush accused Saddam of being and so of course Bush decided to let bygones be bygones and agree to drop sanctions against Libya and Gadaffi in return for Libyan support for Bush’s insane war against Saddam and Iraq.

Is it any wonder that nobody in the Arab world believed Bush when he claimed to be spreading democracy?

While reports that Gaddafi is planning to leave the country are almost certainly black propaganda, it seems more likely than not that the dictator will be dead within a month and good riddance. IF the US is going to be a hegemonist then it should at least be a smart one and act against the worst of the worst when they are weak (e.g. the Libyan campaign) and not ‘slam some country up against the wall every so often just to show that we can’ according to the Bush doctrine.

But far better for the US to give up the idea of being a hegemonic actor at all. That role was not good for Britain at the height of its empire and has certainly not served the US well. Rudyard Kippling the poet of empire predicted as much, when he wrote the phrase ‘the white man’s burden’ he was making a scathing reference to the US invasion of the Phillipeans.

If anyone really wants to know why the US has a massive deficit, just look at the military budget (and it is militarism, not defense you are paying for). The US spends half of all global spending on militarism. US allies spend half of the remainder. Which means that the US plus its allies spend three quarters of global spending on ‘defense’. Under Bush spending on militarism increased 75%, from $400 billion to $700 billion in 2010 dollars.

When Bush took office he took command of the greatest military power the world has ever seen. And the nincompoop just could not resist the urge to use it. And when the first war against the enemy who actually attacked us proved to be insufficiently exciting he went and started a second one just because he could.

In the case of Gaddafi, I do have a personal grudge, he provided the explosives used in an attempt on the life of a family member. The British establishment has a long memory and it does make sense for the UK and France to act against a neighbor that has committed repeated acts of unprovoked terrorism against them. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Helping the Free Libya forces displace the dictator by placing a heavy thumb on the scales by means of air strikes makes perfect sense. But why does the US have to join in? Isn’t two active wars enough? Ah but what if the Europeans managed to displace Gaddafi without ‘the essential actor’, perhaps then the US could decide to spend a little less on being a hegemon and let other countries take up some of the burden.

Of course Gaddafi could not be trusted to keep his word, of course Gaddafi will go back to terrorism given the chance. But those are reasons why the US should not have agreed not to attack Libya in return for Gaddafi’s promise not to acquire nuclear weapons. Bush was foolish to have made the deal, but once it was struck the US should have kept its part so that the next dictator we need to strike a deal with might trust it.

Perhaps we could have a rule that the US President can launch whatever air strikes he chooses, but the ordinance will not be replaced during their term and the next President can only replace half of what is used.

[Update: Juan Cole writes that the uprising in the capital is being organized by Gaddafi opponents based within the capital as a planned move acting on the news of the fall of neighboring Zawiya and Zlitan.]

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