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"Libya: Sarko the Impulsive Meets Dorian Gray"

Libyan boys play next to a graffiti reading "Checkmate King of the Kings" as Moammar Gadhafi used to say, "I am the King of The Kings of Africa" in Benghazi, Libya, Oct. 23, 2011.
AP Photo

"Libya: Sarko the Impulsive Meets Dorian Gray"

Op-Ed, The Huffington Post

October 24, 2011

Author: Charles G. Cogan, Associate, International Security Program

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security

 

Make no mistake about it: the Gaddafi takedown, which ended with the holed-up dictator, à la Saddam Hussein, shot in the neck and chest, would not have been possible without the action of France's hyperactive president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

On the strength of the Libyan rebels having been endorsed to Sarkozy by France's, arguably, most controversial public intellectual, Bernard Henri-Lévy, who made a trip to Benghazi, at least part of the way by hitch-hiking, the French President, at the eleventh hour, forced through Resolution 1973 in the United Nations Security Council, along with Britain's David Cameron.

The resolution authorized a no-fly zone to protect the Libyan people from Gaddafi's forces, but no use of ground troops. Two days later, on March 19, French planes attacked and turned back Gaddafi's armor, at the edge of Benghazi. The city was saved.

Make no mistake about it: the air operation put together by "Sarko" (as is his moniker in France) and David Cameron, would not have been possible without the U.S. Though Barack Obama supported the U.N. resolution, from a position of "leading from behind," the U.S. role was crucial and indispensable: from initial Predator strikes, to reconnaissance, to air refueling, and to the NATO operational headquarters at Naples, manned largely by Americans.

Seven months later, the photos of Gaddafi's mangled face gave the proof that this bizarre and sanguinary dictator was no more. Even in life, the later pictures of Gaddafi had a Dorian Gray aspect, in contrast to earlier photos, as shown in a recent press montage, particularly at the moment of his seizure of power in 1969 — a handsome, square-jawed Arab macho man, in an army uniform. It is anyone's guess what substances caused this grotesque transformation.

If Gaddafi had been less unpredictable and less eccentric, it might have been harder to get Resolution 1973 passed without a Russian or Chinese veto. And it might not have been possible to get the support of the Arab League. Nobody liked Gaddafi. As Anwar Sadat once remarked at a meeting at Blair House, in his deep baritone, "The man is veeecious."

And what credit does Nicolas Sarkozy, or Barack Obama, for that matter, gain from the sudden and felicitous demise of Muammar Gaddafi. Very little. Both are up for reelection in 2012, and the odds are not good, both in terms of Sarkozy's perceived un-presidential and rough manners, and in terms of Obama's miseries over the economy. Sarkozy's opponent, the moon-faced François Hollande (who has done a makeover by losing weight and putting on rimless glasses) does not look very presidential either. But he is highly intelligent, a formidable debater, and not one to be underestimated. Obama will need a further dose of baraka (after Osama bin Laden and now Qadhafi) if he is to succeed in getting reelected.

 

For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

Full text of this publication is available at:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-charles-g-cogan/libya-sarko-the-impulsive_b_102
4183.html

For Academic Citation:

Cogan, Dr. Charles G. "Libya: Sarko the Impulsive Meets Dorian Gray." The Huffington Post, October 24, 2011.

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