For one militia commander, a battlefield defeat was payback to the aspiring Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar. But it also illustrates in stark clarity how the Middle East’s proxy wars and ideological rivalries have spilled across borders, ensnaring both the innocent and not so innocent.
Political opportunists can thrive on the penchant of people to long for the old authoritarian system and forget its dark sides. Many Libyans increasingly look back at the stability of the Gadhafi years with some nostalgia, even if they fervently supported the 2011 revolution.
Libya now has a unified national government that resulted from a peaceful transition of power and handover by the two rival governments. Two top U.N. envoys to Libya say they could have hardly imagined this development a year ago when they were serving in the United Nations.
Abu Salim was once notorious as the prison where Gadhafi’s opponents were imprisoned, all but forgotten. But in a few short years, conflict has changed the memory of that place and the prison has become embroiled in the contested narratives of post-revolution Libya.
Amb. Chris Stevens was one of the main reasons I took a job in the State Department. In 2011, I admired his enthusiasm for engagement in Libya during the revolution. That moment of fleeting optimism felt a lifetime away as I stood in a hangar at Joint Air Base Andrews, waiting for his body to arrive.
"As Middle East adviser to President Obama, I saw first-hand why it’s much easier to get rid of a bad regime than to put a good one in place."
The first armed conflict of the Arab Spring is now a playground of intervening foreign powers out for themselves. It won’t be the last.