|Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, seen by many as a relic of the past, is a symbol of what no longer works in Libya, says author [REUTERS]|
First accounts are almost never correct, but if the circumstances of Libyan Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi's death prove to be as reported, they will provide yet another, final irony in a life replete with them. The man whose success relied upon a combination of great-power manipulation and the ability to sustain the fantasy that he embodied the aspirations of his people succumbed in the end to a combination of great-power military intervention and the genuine aspiration of his people for a future free of his vicious domination.
Gaddafi's passing brings with it a welter of thoughts and observations. The world of 1969, when he first came to power, was very different from the world in which he died. It was a far simpler world, in which it was still possible for a handful of officers, led by one Captain Gaddafi, embedded in a puny, 6,000-man army, to overthrow a supposedly entrenched regime in a matter of two hours. The regime of King Idris was swept aside in part due to its irrelevance in an age of Pan-Arab nationalist revolution. Now, in our own time, the death of Gaddafi provides an exclamation point to the end of the succeeding era of supposed revolutionary renewal, the last vestiges of which are succumbing to the rising floodwaters of the Arab Spring.
In the valley of the blind, it is said, the one-eyed man is king. Gaddafi may have had an imperfect grasp, at best, of the revolutionary doctrines he espoused, but he reflected for a small, impoverished and isolated people the zeitgeist of 1960s and ‘70s leftist revolution and romantic pan-Arab socialism of his time. Like all such "revolutionaries", Gaddafi's avowed populism and devotion to equality were a sham. Instead, he and his Revolutionary Command Council would act as the "vehicle of national expression", in order to "raise the political consciousness of Libyans". He would embody the will of the Libyan people only after their will had been sufficiently instructed by their "Brother Leader".
One might have said of Gaddafi, in paraphrase, what Henry Kissinger once said of Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus: He was too great a man for such a small nation. Apparently much of the same opionion, Gaddafi quickly set about using Libya as a secure and easily-dominated platform from which to pursue far greater ambitions abroad. He shortly began to bestow the benefit of his world revolutionary leadership - and, more pointedly, his considerable petrodollar income - upon a smorgasbord of radical leftist, terrorist and separatist groups around the globe: From the IRA in Ireland, to the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, to the FARC in Colombia, to the Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines.
Curiously for one so rhetorically devoted to the cause of Palestinians, Gaddafi's relations with Palestinians themselves were generally wary and marginal. It cannot have been an accident that his most sustained relationship with a Palestinian group was with one almost unimaginably dysfunctional, internally murderous and sociopathic: The Abu Nidal Group.
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