Muammar al-Gaddafi and the War in Libya: Sense and Nonsense

By: ATRI Staff; ©March 20, 2011
War is a cruel and uncertain business, often with unexpected and major consequences. It is virtually certain to be the case with the current conflict in Libya.

“This may be the fastest [that]America has ever lost a war.” – Professor Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit and author of Osama bin Laden[1]

War is a cruel and uncertain business, often with unexpected and major consequences. It is virtually certain to be the case with the current conflict in Libya. The difficulty in war is the uncertainty given the complexity of the circumstances: even the best planning goes awry and I doubt those involved have had the best planning in this particular instance. In the current war, the biggest question is this: once air supremacy is fully achieved, then what? Does Gaddafi remain alive to continue an insurgency because the UN resolution won’t permit him to be killed? Why would the US president say the mission will last “days” not weeks thereby informing Gaddafi that the US may not be serious about overthrowing him, providing encouragement for him and his men to continue fighting, if nothing else for a West Libya? Unfortunately, Gaddafi as king of Western Libya would be as bad as a bin Laden presidency of an entire nation. Virtually everyone agrees with Adm. Mullen that Gaddafi is “a very dangerous guy; he’s very unpredictable.”[2]

Further, Adm. Mullen conceded, “This is not about going after Gaddafi himself, or attacking him at this particular point in time.”[3] Sen. John Kerry declared of the mission, “It is not geared to try and get rid of Gaddafi. He has not been targeted; that’s not what’s happening here.”[4] But how does this logically fit with the President’s message that, “Gaddafi must go”? If international forces do not remove Gaddafi soon, much more damage may be done.

Gaddafi will not only fight to the death, he could greatly escalate matters. His plan is likely to prolong the war and seek to wear down a weak coalition that was split and unwilling to begin with – and such a strategy could easily succeed. Again, the only way to win the war is to remove Gaddafi and his supporters from leadership.

And what about the air war? By itself, it’s virtually useless, at least as far as winning a war. As political analyst and foreign policy expert Michael Scheuer correctly observes, “… This war is already lost for us; airpower wins you nothing at any time – and before long president Obama is going to be faced with admitting failure or putting US troops on the ground. Whatever comes about, this is a US-led, US-powered, US-enabled intervention in the Muslim world.”[5] Indeed, it is unwise to think many Muslims will interpret it any other way. Unfortunately, to truly protect civilians will likely require more than air support, but troops on the ground to control the situation at any significant level.

War can start from virtually nothing yet lead to literally global destruction. This was the case in World War I. Alternatively; war can endure seemingly forever as in the Roman-Persian series of wars that lasted some 700 years. (Some have even argued that the world’s longest war is that between Europe and the Middle East, now 2500 years old.[6]) On the other hand, in the 335 year “war” between the Netherlands and the Isles of Sicily, apparently not a single shot was fired. And indeed, the single greatest war in all of human history has yet to be fought: the battle of Armageddon described in the biblical book of Revelation. This war will make all other wars throughout human history pale by comparison; blood is predicted to flow to the height of a horse for some 200 miles (Revelation 14:20).

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked man ruling over a helpless people. (Proverbs 28:15)
When righteous people increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked person rules, everybody groans. (Proverbs 29:2)

It is difficult to argue that Muammar Gaddafi is not an evil ruler and terrorist who deserves to be removed from power. Accusations include that he has promoted terrorism in over 40 nations and supports Al Qaeda. For example, he was called the man behind the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 that killed some 250 people, mostly Americans. He was implicated in an attempt to assassinate Col. Oliver North and his family. He has fought wars against Egypt and other neighbors. He allegedly even attempted to assassinate a member of the Saudi Royal family.

The US has had brief military conflicts with Libya in 1981 (over the Gulf of Sidra), 1986, and 1989. In 2003 Gaddafi claimed he would stop building weapons of mass destruction out of fear America might attack him as it had Iraq. After 40 years in power, Gaddafi isn’t likely to give up.

Characteristically, he has called for a jihad (holy war) against “the Crusader enemy,” “the Zionists,” and “the imperialists.” He has promised retaliation and revenge upon every nation that has attacked him and also terrorist activities throughout the region of the Mediterranean, and perhaps America.

While it is critical to remove rulers from power who would attack its own nation’s innocent citizens, the West must be careful to also think through the implications of who will fill the future void of power. Assuming Gaddafi is removed from leadership, a new, likely democratically elected government will take his place. Yet those voted into these places of authority will have their own agenda, one that may also show hostility toward the neighbors who help to protect civilians in the current crisis. Only God knows the future outcome of the current situation. May we turn to Him for wisdom and help during this difficult time in our world.


  1. Fox News interview, American News Headquarters, March 20, 2011
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. David Carlin, “The World’s Longest War,” 8-14-06; History News Network;

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