Libya is free from Kadafi, so what’s Next? Peace? Or more Blood?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 27th, 2011

Living in Peace is one Advantage of an Oppressive Dictatorship 

Tripoli has fallen.  Kadafi‘s days are numbered.  Now it’s time for a glorious rebirth.  And peace.  If they can make peace.  And keep it (see Some fear post-revolution Libya may look like Iraq by Borzou Daragahi posted 8/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Although young men protect their own neighborhoods, major institutions such as banks, ministries and historic sites remain relatively unprotected. A number of banks and commercial towers have been thoroughly looted. Law enforcement is left in the hands of rebel fighters, some of whom had never been to their country’s capital.

Young men continue to pillage military sites abandoned by Kadafi’s men, carting away huge stores of weapons, just as Iraqis hauled off guns and explosives later used to make car bombs and launch attacks on Iraqi and U.S.-led forces.

Stores of weapons in the hands of angry young men?  Rarely does that end well.  And rarely does lawlessness just spontaneously turn into lawfulness.  Put the two together (angry young men with weapons and lawlessness) and what do you get?  Woe to anyone that is identified as a loyalist.

Reports also have begun to surface of reprisal killings of suspected loyalists, although few accounts could be fully verified given the chaos and lack of communications in Tripoli…

More obvious right now is the visceral violence of rebel forces hammering away at residential neighborhoods known to be strongholds of Kadafi supporters.

Rebel fighters use artillery and antiaircraft guns in such districts, which include Abu Salim, Hadba and Salahadin. At one point this week, rebels were firing assault rifles into residential apartment blocks in Abu Salim, where they suspected a sniper was holed up.

Civil wars tend to be the cruelest of wars.  And the bloodiest.  They split up neighborhoods.  And families.  With vengeance often being the battle cry.  For these aren’t soldiers on a distant battlefield who don’t know each other.  This is far more personal.  It’s typically someone you know killing someone you know.  And what makes it especially cruel is that before the war these were people you called friends.  Or family.  This kind of killing unleashes an indescribable hatred.  And searing anger.  Hence the vengeance.

Members of the district council insisted that the men had taken up arms against the revolution and were being held pending trial. But they also said some of those arrested included people pulled out of their cars at checkpoints because they looked “suspicious,” often code for dark-skinned Libyans and others of sub-Saharan African descent…

Said one Tripoli taxi driver, “I have a fear that one day we’ll be like Iraqis, wishing for the days of Moammar Kadafi.”

As bad as Saddam Hussein was, at least he kept the peace.  That’s the advantage of an oppressive dictatorship.  People live in fear of the state.  Not each other.  And if you behave properly, the state might just leave you alone.  As long as you’re not an intellectual.  Can read.  Or wear glasses.  If you’re not a threat to state power, or a perceived threat, life can be good.  All you have to do is to say nothing.  Avoid eye contact.  And never, ever complain.  For if you thought things were bad, just wait until after you complain.

Typically in Civil Wars, the Winning Side often Unleashed a Bloody Purge on the Losing Side 

Many people may not know this but the American Revolutionary War was part civil war.  Those loyal to the Crown fought for the Crown.  Against the Patriots.  And the bloodiest fighting during the Revolution was between Loyalist and Patriot.  Especially in the South.  Where some unspeakable horrors took place.

Now typically in civil wars, the winning side often unleashed a bloody purge on the losing side.  But not in America.  At the end of the war there were no reprisals.  No hangings.  No persecutions.  At least, not by those in power.  Most of the Loyalists just left.  They went to Canada.  Or back to the UK.  General Washington resigned from the army.  And the elected civilian authority made the peace.  Quite shocking.  For few generals ever voluntarily give up near absolute power.  And returned to their farm.  He was the American Cincinnatus

About a decade later, the French Revolution erupted.  A more classical civil war.  Far more bloody.  With plenty of reprisals.  And guillotining.  The streets of Paris ran with blood.  The Reign of Terror purged political enemies.  Than the people who unleashed the Terror fell victims to it themselves.  The fighting unleashed Napoleon Bonaparte onto Europe.  And the Middle East.  Made him a great general.  Even impressed a composer by the name of Ludwig van Beethoven.  A fan of republican government.  Even dedicated his Third Symphony to him.  And then Bonaparte made himself emperor.  So the revolution to overthrow a king ultimately ended up with an emperor.  Infuriating Beethoven so that he slashed the dedication page from his symphony.

Two revolutions that were part civil war.  One atypical.  The American.  And one more typical.  The French.

Winning the War was one Thing.  Winning the Peace was Another. 

At the time these were some pretty nasty wars.  But they pale when compared to the American Civil War.  Some 620,000 died.  That’s a huge number.  About 2% of the population then.  To get an idea about how devastating 2% of the population is consider this.  With today’s population that would equal some 6 million dead.

Winning the war was one thing.  Winning the peace was another.  The war was horrific.  And a lot of Northerners wanted a hard peace.  To make the South pay.  But Abraham Lincoln wanted an easy peace.  Near the end, shortly before Robert E. Lee’s surrender, Lincoln met with General Ulysses S. Grant, General William Tecumseh Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter.  He discussed the easy peace he wanted.  He said he did not want any retribution.  Any trials.  Any hangings.  If the defeated Confederates would sign paroles promising to never pick up arms again against the United States, they could simply go home.  He wanted to bring the South back into the Union.  As quickly and as painlessly as possible.  Forgive and forget.  Echoing his sentiments in his second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all

The South was beaten.  Lee was surrounded.  The question was what would Lee do?  Surrender?  Or disband and head into the hills.  Carry out guerilla war?  This was weighing on everyone’s mind.  It terrified Lincoln.  Grant and Sherman feared it, too.  Even Lee.  When Grant met Lee at Appomattox to discuss surrender, Grant offered very generous terms.  In keeping with Lincoln’s wish for an easy peace.  It had a very favorable affect on Lee.  And his men.  Lee surrendered.  And once his war was over he dedicated his postwar life to making peace.

A similar surrender was negotiated between Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston.  Despite the assassination of Lincoln.  Which happened after Lee’s surrender.  Sherman waged hard war throughout the South.  But he did not hate the South.  War was war.  And once the war was over, he followed Lincoln’s directive for an easy peace without hesitation.  Eager to ‘let the South up easy’.  And bring them back into the Union.

Lincoln’s assassination infuriated the North.  They wanted vengeance.  They wanted retribution.  And they wanted to hang Lee.  But Grant stepped in.  Said he made the deal with Lee.  And the deal would be honored.  Or he’d resign.  President Andrew Johnson relented.  And Grant wrote Lee to assure him there would be no trial.  His terms would be honored.  And Lee reciprocated by dedicating his remaining life doing what he could to bring the South peacefully back into the Union.

Let us Judge not, that we be not Judged

The Civil War ended in 1865.  It easily could have gone on.  But thanks to Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee and Johnston, the war ended.  And the peace began.  The Southern people looked to Lee even in defeat.  For he was like George Washington to them.  Loved.  And respected.  Washington’s and Lee’s words and deeds carried great weight in their postwar years.  And made peace possible.

But Lee surrendered to Lincoln as much as he did to Grant.  And it was Lincoln that made the difference in this civil war.  Made it different from other civil wars.  For he could see beyond the conflict.  To a higher plane.  As he said in his second inaugural address.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

This is what you need for reconciliation.  Do they have that in Libya?  Let’s hope so.  But history has shown this to rarely be the case.  You need great people.  A Washington.  A Lincoln.  A Grant.  A Sherman.  A Lee.  A Johnston.  Is this person in Libya?  Or is Libya to descend into terror?  Time will tell.

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