Libya: a preview of post-war Syria

We don't need to guess what will happen after the Syrian Revolution, we can just watch what is happening in Libya. Photo: Ali Zidan/ AP

WASHINGTON, October 23, 2013 Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped last week from the upscale hotel where he lived by militia members. They freed him a few hours later.

On Sunday, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan made a statement concerning his recent kidnapping. Zeidan called for calm in his country and vowed that there would be stability.


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The Libyan leader has come under fire for his call for Western powers to intercede within the country to help bring stability to a region greatly shaken by civil war.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a group called the Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room, a group “loosely affiliated” with Libyan government entities, was responsible for his abduction. As it was reported on October 10, Zeidan was taken from his hotel room and interrogated for some time before he was released.

In his statement, Zeidan revealed that highly placed Libyan law makers and government officials were involved in his abduction. If it was not enough that the Libyan head of state was abducted, an article published by United Press International reports that those responsible for his kidnapping include members of the Counter Crime Agency as well as members of the General National Congress.   

Libya has been in a constant state of war since February 2011 when the effort to oust President Muammar Gadaffi began. Despite the fact that the official end of the conflict, which claimed the life of the embattled dictator, was in October of 2011, fighting continues unabated. The country is increasingly unstable in the wake of a conflict among regional militias, tribes, ethnic groups, government supporters, and Gadaffi supporters.


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Zeidan is a proponent of inviting Western nations into Libya to help quell the violence in the region. The United States recently withdrew its last overt vestige of support when a Special Forces training team had their gear stolen from them in a raid last month. After that it was decided that instead of allowing more American gear to all into the hands of Gaddafi supporters they should just remove themselves from the equation.

But PM Ziedan could draw NATO and UN forces back into Libya if his prayers are answered. Western forces would once again be deployed to a nation which they themselves helped turn into a destabilized, war-torn mess.

The nations surrounding Libya have been the scenes of deadly insurgency actions for the last decade. Radical Islamist groups have made inroads into Niger, Algeria, Mali, the Sudan, and now Egypt, making the entire region highly susceptible to Islamic insurgencies. Light weapons are in abundance in Africa, an estimated 500 million are in circulation, added to the influx of money from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and fighters from Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations Libya is just another victim in a long line of radical Islamic destabilization efforts.

But why does any of this matter?


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Syria. Syria is why this all matters. At least in Libya the radical Islamists had the decency to wait until NATO and the allies were gone before they made their move.

In Syria, the radical Islamists did not even have the courtesy to wait until President Assad of Syria was toppled before they made their grab for power. Libya pre-civil war had no real allies to speak of, Gadaffi was responsible for promoting state terrorism against the West, so he got bombed, and he stopped. Now Libya is in danger of becoming an Islamist state, just as Syria is.

Syria has two major allies, Russia and Iran. They do not want to see Syria fall so they will do their best to intervene in manner which does not cause major international incidents.

However, on the other side the Opposition forces are supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States, who is now once again conveniently responsible for arming radical Islamist terrorists.

The situation in Syria is so backwards that the United States finds itself on the same side as those who paid for terrorists to fly planes into targets on US soil. Now that President Assad is being hamstrung by international press and attention, radical Islamist groups see their advantage and are positioning themselves to completely take over the Opposition forces, and run the negotiations when it comes time to talk. Syria will become a radical Muslim state, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

If we continue involvement in Syria, we will go down the same road that we have gone down in Libya. We have withdrawn our forces and advisers from that country, yet we are still operating there. Earlier this month U.S. special operators snagged a high value al-Qaeda target from Libya who was responsible for the 1998 African embassy bombings.

Libya has become so lawless, and so unstable that al-Qaeda is capable of moving their Africa headquarters there to set up shop. So where do you think we will be two years from now in Syria? Pulling nighttime raids to hit al-Qaeda leaders in Syria, still hitting targets in places we were supposedly withdrawn from? That is one of the sad and cyclical things about these situations. The United States needs to combat terrorism, they need to show radical Islamists that they have to sleep with one finger on the trigger and one eye open, but creating situations such as Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria where terrorist organizations can not only exist but thrive is counterproductive in the extreme.

Aside from national bodies, AKA nations such as Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, the organizations with the money, infrastructure, and manpower most capable of filling to power vacuums left behind when nations are compromised or changed are radical Islamist groups. We open the door, and they slide right in.

It is more understandable this generation of politicians and leaders refuses to learn from the lessons of Vietnam or any of the Southeast Asian conflicts, or they refuse to remember it was the U.S. who sponsored the Mujahedeen against the Soviets giving rise to al-Qaeda, than it is for them not to draw on current events. Libya is what Syria will be if the West does not wise up and halt support of radical opposition forces, and begin weeding out those groups that would turn Syria into an Islamist state.

Kidnapped politicians, stolen military equipment, government corruption on a humongous scale, widespread infighting and destabilization. These are not things that one needs to watch the History Channel to learn about in order to draw from. You just need to watch the news.  


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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