The Corner

Death of a Dictator

Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and author of books including The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement, took some questions from me this afternoon on the death of Muammar Qaddafi.

LOPEZ: What is Muammar Qaddafi’s legacy?

RUBIN: A horrible dictator who combined repression at home with terrorist sponsorship and subversion abroad. Qaddafi’s weakness was that he never had a secure superpower patron, which, combined with Libya’s small size, made him the most vulnerable Middle East dictator. Nevertheless, the West almost always let him get away with his aggressive behavior against it. Even the Lockerbie story, which began with a “tough” demand to turn over those responsible, ended with the scapegoat intelligence official (so Qaddafi could pretend it was a rogue operation) released by the British (with American approval) in exchange for oil agreements. Message: The  West is weak, stupid, and corrupt. 

LOPEZ: Is this a huge victory for the Obama administration? Who deserves credit, assuming this is a good thing?

RUBIN: Obviously the NATO forces — Europe, and especially Italy — pushed for this and the Obama administration enthusiastically went along, bypassing Congress and the War Powers Act. Since Qaddafi was unpopular, of course, the administration got away with ignoring U.S. law and procedures. But credit will depend on what comes next. 

LOPEZ: Is it a good thing?

RUBIN: Well, it is good to see a ferocious and murderous dictator overthrown, but what comes next? I see a bunch of politicians in nice suits who know how to talk to the West and win its support and a bunch of guys with guns who don’t care what the West thinks, have no gratitude for the NATO help, and a lot of whom are Islamists or aspiring future dictators. Moreover, the energy wealth of Libya makes it a tempting target for political looting, and whoever has it doesn’t have to worry about what the West thinks. Not to mention the real problems of regionalism, hatred of black Africans, and potential Arab-Berber conflict.

LOPEZ: Is this a warning to Assad?

RUBIN: Yeah, a warning that he better be willing to kill people without end or face the end for himself.

LOPEZ: Is this important for the myth or reality of an “Arab Spring?”

RUBIN: Simple answer: governments only get overthrown by Western intervention (Iraq, Libya) or their own armed forces (Egypt, Tunisia). Everything else is mythology or failed revolts put down with bloodshed.

Most Popular

The League of Morons

Let’s look back at the two and a half years when the greatest country on earth went crazy. What was that all about? How did it happen? How could so much have happened based on so little? Did we learn anything? It’ll take a keenly observant artist to put it all in perspective. Fortunately two artists have ... Read More

The League of Morons

Let’s look back at the two and a half years when the greatest country on earth went crazy. What was that all about? How did it happen? How could so much have happened based on so little? Did we learn anything? It’ll take a keenly observant artist to put it all in perspective. Fortunately two artists have ... Read More
Elections

Biden’s Middle-Class Tax Pledge

Biden is pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. As I note in my Bloomberg Opinion column, Democratic proposals to increase income taxes keep getting narrower in scope. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress raised income taxes on households making more than ... Read More
Elections

Biden’s Middle-Class Tax Pledge

Biden is pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. As I note in my Bloomberg Opinion column, Democratic proposals to increase income taxes keep getting narrower in scope. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress raised income taxes on households making more than ... Read More
Education

Science, Coronavirus, and Notre Dame

A few weeks back, the University of Notre Dame outlined its plan for reopening campus in the fall, detailing the way in which the administration hopes to bring students back to South Bend to resume in-person classes. Like the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities in the U.S., Notre Dame shifted all ... Read More
Education

Science, Coronavirus, and Notre Dame

A few weeks back, the University of Notre Dame outlined its plan for reopening campus in the fall, detailing the way in which the administration hopes to bring students back to South Bend to resume in-person classes. Like the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities in the U.S., Notre Dame shifted all ... Read More

How to Avoid a China-Led World Order

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, it has opened our eyes to China’s rapidly expanding role in the international order and global economy. Beijing’s outsize role in the World Health Organization has come under attack, as has the muscular diplomacy used by China’s foreign ministry in responding to ... Read More

How to Avoid a China-Led World Order

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, it has opened our eyes to China’s rapidly expanding role in the international order and global economy. Beijing’s outsize role in the World Health Organization has come under attack, as has the muscular diplomacy used by China’s foreign ministry in responding to ... Read More
Economy & Business

Is Biden Lying about Taxes?

A number of commenters to this post raise the possibility that Biden is lying when he says he won't raise taxes on households making less than $400,000. He might be. Maybe as president he would propose a tax increase on people making more than that, watch congressional Democrats lower the threshold, and then say ... Read More
Economy & Business

Is Biden Lying about Taxes?

A number of commenters to this post raise the possibility that Biden is lying when he says he won't raise taxes on households making less than $400,000. He might be. Maybe as president he would propose a tax increase on people making more than that, watch congressional Democrats lower the threshold, and then say ... Read More