For the past few years, Gaddafi had been making nice with the civilized world: scrapping his WMD programs, paying compensation to the American and European victims of his earlier atrocities, and helping stem the flood of sub-Saharan African migrants across the Mediterranean into Europe. At least one Western leader expressed appreciation, as well as deep regret at NATO’s attacks on Gaddafi’s forces:
[Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi said in a speech to supporters in September that [sic] had felt “very bad” about switching sides in April and joining the NATO campaign to oust his old friend from power. He said he had even considered resigning over the issue.
Berlusconi was the only one of our leaders to show even that residual amount of honor in the matter. Just look at the revolting old harpy currently in charge of US foreign policy cackling over Gaddafi’s downfall. Lucky for him she wasn’t on the spot in Sirte on Thursday: She’d have come back with his liver and brandished it for the CBS News cameras.
So that was Gaddafi’s reward for playing nice with us this past few years—with Tony Blair, with Condoleezza Rice, with Barack Obama, with John McCain, with Gerhard Schröder, with the Windsors, with Nicolas Sarkozy, with…hey, do your own Google Images search.
Statecraft is a rough old business, but soothing the barbarians is a big part of it. A barbarian chieftain who has agreed to be soothed should be accorded some respect. If his own people turn against him, we are not obliged to help him unless his opposition is very plainly worse; but we might at least stand aside silently and let events take their course.
To openly gloat and cackle at the news of our soothed chieftain being abused at both ends, then dispatched by a ululating mob of savages, is coarse and ignoble beyond my understanding. Did John Foster Dulles dance a jig on prime-time TV when he heard the news of Stalin’s death? Of course not. People knew how to behave back then.
We treated Muammar Gaddafi shamefully—just as, come to think of it, we treated his predecessor. It’s a hazardous and unrewarding business, being a friend of the West.
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