The Obama administration’s envoy to the UN in New York, Susan Rice, described Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi as “delusional.”
David Pryce-Jones — author of The Closed Circle, which I recommended in my last column as required reading in lifting the veil covering the Arab world — responded by asking if ambassador Rice has any understanding of Gadhafi, Libyans and the political culture in the area.
Dismissing Gadhafi as mad is also ironically delusional. He is instead evil, as were Hitler and Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein, to name a few. What these so-called “delusional” men had in common was the total lack of compunction in making war upon their own people.
Gadhafi has already shown he will not hesitate, unlike the recently toppled dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, to unleash violence against his opposition. He sees public opinion in the West is divided, and the current rank of western leaders is hesitant on how to confront a crisis of immensely complicated nature breaking out in North Africa and the Middle East.
It means Gadhafi has estimated he can outlast the opposition, break the will of Libyans in rebellion against his authority through bribes, threats and calculated use of force. If these measures fail, Gadhafi will not hesitate to unleash the full force of weaponry at his command against Libyans wanting him out.
We cannot know how any people with sufficient patience to build a decent society for themselves will emerge from the wreckage wrought by evil men and the totalitarian ideology lurking in their shadows — such as the Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But we do know how these evil men corrupt others. Since the 1970s, oil-rich states such as Gadhafi’s Libya have seduced European powers, corrupted their institutions of governance and learning, and made them complicit in the sordid politics of Arab despots.
We now hear that Gadhafi personally ordered the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am jet that killed 270 passengers near Lockerbie, Scotland. This allegation comes from Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, Gadhafi’s justice minister, who resigned over the use of force against anti-government protesters.
Yet Gadhafi was regularly courted by European leaders, as well as Canada’s former prime minister Paul Martin, for lucrative contracts and supplied with modern weaponry.
The popular uprising has momentarily ruptured Gadhafi’s relations with European leaders as it has with his once erstwhile allies among the Muslim Brotherhood.
The grand old man of the Brotherhood, Egypt’s Sheikh al-Qaradawi, now based in Qatar, has called for Gadhafi’s murder.
But Gadhafi also financed his own circle of Islamists under the banner of the World Islamic Call Society with branches in Europe and North America. His activists have worked in partnership with Brotherhood-affiliated organizations by creating interlocking institutions, such as the Muslim Association of Canada.
If Gadhafi prevails over his opposition and survives, as Saddam Hussein did after the 1991 war over Kuwait, he will then expect ruptures with his one-time allies will get repaired.
In the closed circle of Arab politics, Gadhafi can expect customary rehabilitation. And the pragmatists in Europe, it can be relied upon, will not be left behind in repairing relations with Libya’s “delusional” strongman.