Jonah, from my column this weekend:
Now suddenly he’s got to go — in favor of “freedom-loving” “democrats” from Benghazi. That would be in eastern Libya — which, according to West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center, has sent per capita the highest number of foreign jihadists to Iraq. Perhaps now that so many Libyan jihadists are in Iraq, the Libyans left in Libya are all Swedes in waiting. But perhaps not. If we lack, as we do in Afghanistan, the cultural confidence to wean those we liberate from their less attractive pathologies, we might at least think twice before actively facilitating them.
I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on Libya – well, okay, I would, if I were being interviewed down the line on CNN for ten minutes – but if I had to take a wild swing:
I would say Gaddafi vs the rebels is the latest variation on the old Tripolitania vs Cyrenaica divide. They were for a while separate Italian colonies. When the British took Cyrenaica in the Second World War, they adopted Emir Idris as their guy, and eventually made the emirate the core of the new Kingdom of Libya post-1951. Benghazi and al-Bayda, both Cyrenaic cities, were royal residences and (with Tripoli) joint capitals of Libya until Gaddafi overthrew King Idris and the Senussi establishment in 1951.
A few protesters in Benghazi in recent weeks have been waving portraits of his late Majesty, but, as in so many other corners of the Muslim world, in the vacuum of secular dictatorship the resurgent, hardcore Islam has co-opted ancient tribal differences for its own purposes. But don’t worry, Benghazi’s freedom fighters sound like perfectly nice chaps:
For a month, gangs of young gunmen have roamed the city, rousting Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa from their homes and holding them for interrogation as suspected mercenaries or government spies.
Old King Idris was a more decent man than anyone likely to end up running Benghazi now. As for America’s first black president intervening to make Libya safe for anti-black racists, we really need to resurrect Evelyn Waugh to cover this thing.