Write it down. Write it. With ordinary ink on ordinary paper; they weren’t given food, they all died of hunger. All. How many? It’s a large meadow. How much grass per head?
Many Libyans I’ve met in the past few months have told me that before their revolution, they felt no pride in telling outsiders where they came from. They understood that the rest of the world knew only one thing about their country—that it was ruled, depending one’s perspective, by a madman, a monster, or a clown. The foreign media were fascinated by Qaddafi’s image—his clothes, his female bodyguards, his tirades before the U.N.
In the wake of Qaddafi’s overthrow, two major questions now present themselves: What are the odds that the NTC leaders will actually succeed at what they appear to be attempting—a revolution of restraint and moderation? And what, if any, broader lessons about foreign policy can we draw from the Libyan revolution? To date, the National Transitional Council in Libya has defied conventional expectations about how a rebel movement should behave.
The border crossing from Egypt into rebel-controlled eastern Libya offers few clues that the country is at war. The Libyan immigration officers wear ragged uniforms and carry on the routine of stamping passports, though with a friendliness and ease that is undoubtedly new. The eight-hour drive to the rebels’ de facto capital of Benghazi is dramatic only for its scenery—a rugged coastline with wide open beaches, then, surprisingly, green hills, crossed by deep gorges and adorned with beautifully preserved Greek ruins, visited by no one.
Here is one lesson we can draw from the mostly negative media commentary about the Obama administration’s actions in Libya: Presidents get more credit for stopping atrocities after they begin than for preventing them before they get out of hand. The U.S.-led NATO intervention that stopped mass killing in Bosnia in 1995, for example, came only after 200,000 people had already been killed.