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From Baghdad to Tripoli, by Fouad Ajami

From Baghdad to Tripoli, by Fouad Ajami

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Published by Hoover Institution
Appeared in the Wall Street Journal August 31, 2011
Appeared in the Wall Street Journal August 31, 2011

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Published by: Hoover Institution on Sep 06, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/06/2014

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   w   a    l    l   s   t   r   e   e   t    j   o   u   r   n   a    l   o   p    i   n    i   o   n
Fouad Ajami 
 
 
From Baghdad to Tripoli 
by Fouad AjamiAugust 31, 2011On the ace o it, the similarities o the undoing o the terrible regimes o SaddamHussein and Moammar Gadha are striking. The spectacles o joy in Tripoli today recallthe delirious scenes in Baghdad’s Firdos Square in 2003—the statues pulled down, thepalaces o aux grandeur and kitsch ransacked by people awakening to their own sense o violation and power, the man at the helm who had been ull o might and bravado makinga run or it, exposed as a paranoid and pretender, living in ear o his day o reckoning.In neither case had the people o these two tormented societies secured their libertyon their own. In Baghdad, the Baathist reign o terror would have lasted indenitelyhad George W. Bush not pushed it into its grave. There had been no sign o organizedresistance in that terried land, not since the end o the 1991 Gul War and the slaughterthat quelled the Shiite uprising.Libya oered its own mix o native resistance and oreign help. A people who had been inthe grip o a long nightmare saw the Arab Spring blossom around them. On their westernborder, the Tunisian kleptocracy had allen and the rapacious ruler and his children andinlaws had scurried out o the country. Ruler and ruled in Libya saw themselves in the Tunisian struggle, or Gadha had been an ally o the Tunisian strongman.But it was Egypt, the big country on Libya’s eastern rontier, that shook the Libyan tyranny.In February, ater a popular insurrection that held the Arab world enthralled, HosniMubarak bent to his people’s will and relinquished power. Six days later a spark caught rein Benghazi, Libya’s secondlargest city. A reluctant American president was pulled intothe ght. Gadha’s ate was sealed—NATO would unction as the air orce o the rebellion.Fast orward to last week. No sooner had the notorious Gadha compound o Bab alAziziyah allen than the Obama administration claimed that its policy o “leading rombehind” and its “multilateralism” had proven more eective than George W. Bush’scampaign in Iraq. This was to be expected, and in the nature o political things.But Libya is not the historical knot that Iraq was, and or all the surace similarities, Gadhawas never the menace that Saddam had been. In stark contrast to the challenges aced byIraq, air winds attend this Libyan venture.Begin with Libya’s “easy” borders and immediate neighborhood. Algeria excepted, thecountries contiguous with Libya are at peace with the victory o the rebellion. Indeed,Libya’s two most important neighbors—Tunisia and Egypt—rightly see the new orderA WALL STREET JOURNAL OP-ED
From Baghdad to Tripoli
 
Fouad Ajami 
 
 
From Baghdad to Tripoli 
2 Hoover Institution
Stanord University
there as an extension o their own rebellions. Realism prevails in both Tunis andCairo; Libya is seen as vital to their own economic prospects, a magnet or theirsurplus labor. To Libya’s south, Niger and Chad—places where Gadha had bought loyalty with hisabundant treasure—have signaled their acceptance o the new order, as has Sudanto the east. The Algerian opposition to Libya’s rebellion is o little consequence. The military regime there is beret o any meaningul legitimacy and is seen as justanother despotism whose leaders sullied the honor o their country by their dealingswith Gadha. The welcome mat rolled out in Algiers or Gadha’s wie, vengeuldaughter, and two o his sons is urther proo o this. The Iraqis should be envious. Their new order, midwied by the Americans, had beendelivered into a hostile environment. The neighborhood was treacherous. To the eastbulked Iran, presumably a Shiite sister republic o the new Iraq but in truth a spoilerdetermined to thwart the American project there. Those in the know understood thatthe Shiite aith could never bridge the ArabPersian divide, and that Iran would be aburden on postSaddam Iraq and its leaders. To the West, there was the Syrian regime. There but or the grace o God go we, theSyrian rulers thought. Syria presented an exquisite illustration o political cynicism—an Alawite tyranny providing a conduit into Iraq or Sunni jihadists rom all Arablands drawn by the thrill o battling and killing American soldiers and Iraqi Shiites. Todivert attention rom itsel at a time o its own panic and vulnerability, Syrias regimedid all it could to set Iraq ablaze.Everywhere Iraqis looked there was trouble. The Turks had schemes o their own andproxies in Iraq (the Turkomen community), and they were keen to monitor and limitthe aspirations o the Kurds. Jordan was hostile. Saddam had long been a hero in thatcountry, and the Sunni panArab doctrines had long held sway among Jordaniansand Palestinians alike in that binational state.Nor were the two most infuential Arab states, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, avorablydisposed toward the new Iraq. To the rulers in Cairo and Riyadh, the jumbled mixo reedom and tumult, and the deeat o the Iraqi Sunnis, were heralds o trouble.Iran was pushing ever deeper into Arab aairs, the balance o power in the regionwas being altered. There had been uncontested Sunni primacy in Arab lands, butBaghdad—a city o great meaning and consequence in ArabIslamic history—hadallen to the Shiite stepchildren, and the Americans had brought it all about.Libya is blissully ree o the poison o that primitive SunniShiite schism. Thederanged ruler who had tormented the Libyans had shown Islam no regard—he wasthoroughly irreligious. He ought the religious class and oended the aithul in every

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