By justin marozzi
One of the most haunting books to emerge from the wreckage of the Great War was Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, a scorching antidote to the idea of war as romantic pastime. With the final disintegration of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli, a dictatorship that lasted more than ten times as long as the First World War, one is tempted to hope that all will soon be quiet on the North African front.
Counterpoints Liberated Libya
Yet it would be unwise to expect an entirely smooth and peaceful transition in Libya after 42 years of this most odious of regimes. There will be bumps, if not hills and mountains, along the way. To venture a few predictions, there will be reprisals, bloodletting and assassinations. Rival tribes and politicians will jockey for power. There will be tensions between east and west, as there have been for centuries. Corruption will not disappear with the Mad Dog and his luxury-loving sons.
fter the destruction of the past six months, it will take time—Shukri Ghanem, the former oil minister, suggests 18 months—for Libya to recover its pre-war level of oil production of 1.6 million barrels a day. The challenge of restructuring a largely state-owned economy will be formidable. Expectations will be high, frequently unrealistic, and must be carefully managed through effective communications. For all the transition and stabilisation planning in the world—and much excellent work has been done in Benghazi—a period of uncertainty is inevitable. There will be times when it looks distinctly ugly. It cannot be otherwise.
Romance of war: Libyan rebels rejoice, but now the work begins one of this should surprise us, nor should it detract from Nato’s and the Libyan rebels’ extraordinary success in this campaign against Gaddafi. Detractors argued from the outset, with ever greater volume and desperation, that the Nato campaign was “running into the sand”. Lazy commentators who should have known better talked of “stalemate”. I recall one BBC producer complaining to me several months ago that Gaddafi’s unexpected resilience had spoiled the timing of one of his television programmes, as though this was a war that had to conform to media deadlines.
Most recently, the assassination of the rebels’ miliage s
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De tary leader, General Abdul Fatah Younis, was treated as though suddenly the entire campaign had been a mistake and the National Transitional Council was a useless rabble of amateurs and Islamists. Then there was the tired old bogeyman of al-Qaeda lurking in the wings. In Britain, at least, it hasn’t been difficult to detect that old malaise of willing failure from success. There will be plenty more of that in the weeks and months to come.
Here’s another prediction. Libyans will make a decent if messy fist of muddling through after Gaddafi and they will be able to manage without Western armies or peacekeepers. They will be best served by assistance from organisations like the UN and World Bank. After Gaddafi’s doling out of all those petrodollars to African leaders, the African Union is discredited. Thus amid the predictable reaction to Gaddafi’s fall, came the comment from Kenya’s assistant foreign minister Richard Onyonka that the Colonel will be remembered for the “very positive things” he achieved in office. That’s not how Libyans will remember him.
t is all very well saying that we must learn from Iraq and Afghanistan in Libya, but the real lesson from those two wars is not that there should be greater or lesser engagement with the tribes or no demobilisation of the army or a more realistic timetable for elections or a host of other items on a policymaker’s checklist. It is quite simply that the West is lousy at boots-on-theground intervention. It is far more impressive as a trading force. The return of international business will play a more significant role than any number of Western experts or foreign soldiers in rebuilding a country that has the potential to be a North African Dubai (pessimists prefer a Somalia in waiting).
t is too much to hope for, of course, but if things can’t be entirely quiet on the North African front just yet, a spot of silence from all the doomsayers and gloommongers would be extremely welcome.
By joseph loconte
The death of an international figure often invites a raft of revisionism: an effort to interpret the person’s legacy in terms that suit political or ideological prejudices. Recent commentary over the passing of an evangelical leader, the Reverend John Stott, exemplifies this vice, perhaps most grievously in an essay by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Whatever the intent, it was a “tribute” typical of those that degrade rapidly into mere propaganda.
longtime Anglican minister at All Souls, Langham Place in London’s West End, Stott was one of the world’s most influential figures in evangelical Christianity over the past half-century. He was a key framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, a touchstone document in the rise of global evangelicalism. He wrote nearly 50 books, and his preaching and teaching reached beyond England and the United States into the developing world. He died in July at the age of 90.
n his column, Kristof contrasts the ministry of Stott with the religious “blowhards” and “hypocrites” pilloried in liberal enclaves. “Mr Stott didn’t preach fire and brimstone on a Christian television network,” he writes. “He…counselled Christians to emulate the life of Jesus—especially his concern for the poor and oppressed—and confront social ills like racial oppression and environmental pollution.”
September 2011 Marlon Brando (1950). This portrait of a smouldering Marlon Brando by the photographer John Engstead was taken just before the young actor first enjoyed critical acclaim (and popular adulation) for his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in Elia Kazan’s screen adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire (writes Peter Whittle). It features in Glamour of the Gods, a small but elegant exhibition of Hollywood photography at London’s National Portrait Gallery (continuing until October 23). The photographs, which all come from the collection of the late great film historian John Kobal, range from the silent era to the end of the studio system in the early ’60s. As Norma Desmond said in Sunset Boulevard, they had faces then.