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(McCann, Pierre)
(McCann, Pierre)

Lysiane Gagnon

Libya's Islamist stripes are no surprise Add to ...

As shop owners like to say, if you break it, you own it – or, rather, you’re stuck with it. So it is with Libya.

For at least six months, the country was bombed on a near-daily basis after the Western powers, under the impetuous guidance of France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, decided to side with a group of rebels from Benghazi who wanted to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi’s regime but couldn’t manage to do it themselves.

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What began under a United Nations Security Council mandate as a series of air strikes exclusively aimed at protecting the rebels from Col. Gadhafi’s wrath soon evolved into a full-fledged regime-change operation marked by blatant attempts to assassinate the Gadhafi family. The Western coalition, including Canada, foolishly intervened in a civil war pitting the eastern part of the country against other regions without even considering, given Libya’s tribal and fractious nature, whether the majority wanted to be ruled by the Benghazi rebels.

So now Libya is broken. The Security Council voted last week to end its authorization on Monday of the foreign military intervention, although the transitional Libyan government is pleading for NATO to extend its operations through at least the end of the year, to stop the return of Gadhafi loyalists and prevent the country from descending into a spiral of tribal infighting. In Canada, there are already calls for the government to get involved in Libya’s reconstruction. Obviously, this can’t be done from the air and would usually require “boots on the ground” – huge contingents of armed peacekeepers.

The Harper government has already pledged $10-million to help Libya collect and secure the arms that have been wildly dispersed throughout the country after Col. Gadhafi’s military reserves were plundered. Another difficult task will be to disarm the bands of young, undisciplined rebels who learned to play war last spring and now cherish their lethal toys.

Agence France-Presse says tonnes of munitions, including surface-to-air missiles, have been left unguarded in Libya’s devastated towns and in the desert, some of which have already ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda, which has a base in the Sahel region.

The Western “liberators” of Libya have other reasons to worry. In his first major speech as head of the interim government, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who heads the National Transitional Council, declared that any law that doesn’t respect sharia will be deemed illegal, starting with marriage and divorce. His first move will be to strike down the Gadhafi law prohibiting polygamy. In another disturbing decision, the council appointed a former jihadist, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, as military governor of Tripoli.

The Islamization of Libya, a relatively secular country under Col. Gadhafi, should have been expected. It was known that Benghazi, where the rebellion originated, was a bastion of religious fundamentalism, and that there were al-Qaeda sympathizers among the rebels NATO supported with its air strikes.

Canada, along with other countries, was instrumental in handing Libya, its vulnerable population and its vast resources to a group of people who didn’t offer the slightest guarantee that they would turn the country into something vaguely resembling a democracy. In the process, Libyan women are being thrown under the bus. They will lose some of the rights they had under the previous regime.

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