Our Libyan Adventure
Qaddafi’s dictatorship was preferable to an Islamist Libya.


Andrew C. McCarthy


‘Are you suggesting that we would be better off with the Qaddafi dictatorship still in effect?” asked Chris Wallace, browbeating presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

And why shouldn’t he? After all, the Fox News anchor had just gotten Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Lindsey Graham to perform the requisite “Arab Spring” cartwheels over the demise of Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi. Apparently, when leading from behind ends up leading to a vicious murder at the hands of a wild-eyed mob, even folks who once got the sniffles over fastidiously non-lethal waterboarding can feel good about pulling out their party hats.

Imagine, then, the gall of Bachmann. The Minnesota Republican persisted in finding the cankers on the Arab Spring smiley face.

The most obviously ugly of these is that a throng of seething Islamists stripped, beat, paraded, and finally shot Qaddafi execution-style, all the while screaming the signature “Allahu Akbar!” battle cry with a fervor that would have made Mohamed Atta blush. They then shoved the despot’s corpse into a refrigerator — to maintain it for further triumphant display before thousands of gawking spectators. Too bad there was no official from the Obama administration’s Islamic Thought Police on hand to remind the mob of the Koran’s oft-quoted (but oftener ignored) teaching that to slay a single person is to slay all of mankind.

The murder was facilitated by NATO forces operating under false pretenses: Claiming they were merely protecting civilians, they set about hunting down Qaddafi, only to help usher in a new era of Islamist governance. The bill for NATO’s services was willfully footed by the Obama administration — which had previously funded the Libyan regime on the oft-repeated grounds that Qaddafi was a valuable counterterrorism ally, but which then initiated a war against Qaddafi in the absence of any provocation or American national-security interests. NATO’s war of aggression is already inuring to the benefit of America’s Islamist enemies. What’s not to celebrate?

Though Representative Bachmann made the case gamely, she eventually withered. Mr. Wallace has previously intimated that she is a “flake” (Wallace’s word), too often out of step with Beltway wisdom. And who wouldn’t want to be in step with Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, and Barack Obama? Washington wisdom is fickle — one day you’re a Qaddafi booster, the next day you’re switching your bets to the Muslim Brotherhood. But no one wants to be a flake. So Bachmann finally got with the program and admitted, “The world certainly is better off without Qaddafi. I agree with Lindsey Graham.”

I don’t. Yes, Qaddafi was a creep. If we lived in a static, zero-sum world where the killing of a single creep equaled a net decrease in global creepiness, that might be cause for cartwheels. But the world is dynamic. When one leader is ousted, another takes his place. Even if the leader happened to be a tyrant with a yellowing résumé of anti-American terrorism, it matters what his status is when the Arab Spring comes a-callin’. It matters who replaces him and how that transition comes to pass. The changing threat environment matters. The example we set, what it tells others about our principles, matters.

To borrow Mr. Wallace’s phrase, I am not “suggesting that we would be better off with the Qaddafi dictatorship still in effect.” I am saying it outright. If the choice is between an emerging Islamist regime and a Qaddafi dictatorship that cooperates with the United States against Islamists, then I’ll take Qaddafi. If the choice is between tolerating the Qaddafi dictatorship and disgracing ourselves by lying about the reason for initiating a war and by turning a blind eye to the atrocities of our new Islamist friends — even as we pontificate about the responsibility to protect civilians — then give me the Qaddafi dictatorship every time.