Victor Davis Hanson: Libya without Gaddafi





[Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.]

One of the most surreal experiences of my life — even apart from having a ruptured appendix and emergency surgery in a Gaddafi-government clinic — was a spring assignment in Libya to lecture on the Roman ruins there (which are quite impressive, since the neglect and ensuing 40 years of sand have, in counterintuitive fashion, been a protective cocoon from Gaddafi’s far greater ravages).

It was like no other country I have ever visited: wet garbage and sewage in the streets; an oil-exporter with massive pot-holes and no asphalt to fix them; almost every room, office, or hallway in Tripoli with peeling paint, exposed wiring, and something broken; the airport a disaster; almost every human action a possible violation of some government statute.

And, of course, Gaddafi’s picture was everywhere — sometimes as the protector of Islam, sometimes a sort of new-age Stalin, sometimes as the spiritual leader of black Africa, always presented with a nauseating green backdrop. In fact, books, shirts, even simple packaging was green. Citizens were terrified and talked in whispers, often relating some of the strangest rumors imaginable: past calls to burn all violins, past calls for every citizen to raise chickens, past calls for bonuses for marrying black African nationals. I arrived the day Lionel Ritchie was playing a 20th-anniversary anti-American concert commemorating Gaddafi’s heroic resistance to the Reagan bombing.

In sum, Gaddafi seems to have managed to destroy almost everything he touched: infrastructure, normal human interaction, the energy industry, the media — every aspect of life bore his destructive handprint....



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