There is no overstating the chaos of post-Qaddafi Libya. Two competing governments claim legitimacy. Armed militias roam the streets. The electricity is frequently out of service, and most business is at a standstill; revenues from oil, the country's greatest asset, have dwindled by more than ninety per cent. Some three thousand people have been killed by fighting in the past year, and nearly a third of the country's population has fled across the border to Tunisia. What has followed the downfall of a tyrant-a downfall encouraged by NATO air strikes-is the tyranny of a dangerous and pervasive instability.And that was written before the local Islamic State branch started beheading Coptic Christians.
I opposed the US and European air offensive that toppled Qaddafi, because I thought it would lead to a dragging civil war like the one in Syria, and I thought a quick massacre by Qaddafi's forces was less awful than that. But then when the dictator was driven from power so quickly, I thought maybe I had been wrong. But now it seems that Libya is having its lengthy civil war, just without Qaddafi to lead one of the factions, and my thoughts have circled back to something I said in March, 2011:
I still don't see how this can have a decent outcome.