So they got him, finally. Much has been said about how he was found - living in a million dollar mansion in Pakistan. I fail to understand why this surprises people though. What did you expect? That he would live in a cave in a mountain when he has such powerful friends who can provide him with a luxurious pad in a place nobody would think of looking? If I were him, I'd have chosen the mansion any day - for the running hot water if nothing else. My few years spent in the North of this country taught me that. Nothing beats running hot water in winter. Not even Predator drones.
The surprise of how surprised people were about bin Laden's lair is not the only thing that has surprised me though. I find it surprising how people have little ability to see history repeating itself as these events unfold.
What am I trying to get at? UNSC Resolution 1973 actually. Libya. But before that a quick reminder of past events…
I sincerely hope anyone reading this is also aware of who bin Laden was. Enemy No. 1 was once upon a time a swell fellow according to the US - kind of like a bearded Rambo, armed by the CIA (directly or indirectly) to fight the "Evil Empire". Though he wasn't part of the Afghan Mujahideen - a bunch of rebels fighting to overthrow the Soviet backed government of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, he was there fighting a common enemy. It is inconceivable to think the CIA didn't help him out to this end - just like it is inconceivable that the Pakistan Army and ISI didn't know the same fellow was living under their noses for anywhere between 5 to 7.5 years.
Ultimately, these Mujahideen managed to bleed the Red Army to the point that they had to pull out. The immense cost of the war in Afghanistan is also credited as one of the reason for the economic collapse in the Soviet Union that led to its breakup a few years later.
One superpower out of the way, the other decided its job was done, and left Afghanistan to be taken over by the people they armed. Why? Regime change. The Afghan government the Soviets abandoned was pro-Communist after all, and who wants Commies in power? Never mind who the rebels were… or what their plans were. They were made to look like heroic freedom fighters fighting against an oppressive regime.
The rebels won, and then wondered what to do, now that they were in control of a destroyed country, had a lot of weapons lying around, and not much permitted for entertainment. So they turned on each other, and then the rest of the world. Soon 9/11 happened.
Back to today, and Libya, an Anti-West dictator, and oil. The recent Jasmine Revolution that spread through the Middle East has been met by severe crackdown by all the affected governments. But for some reason Libya was special. Probably the oil, or was it Gaddafi's elite all-woman security team? Anyway.
UNSC Resolution 1973 was passed, allowing for setting up a no-fly zone over Libya - to prevent Gaddafi from using his air force against his own "civilians". Never mind if they happen to be in control of quite a lot of firepower themselves - including their own Air Force. Also note that the only permanent members of the UNSC that voted for Resolution 1973 were the US and its trusted sidekicks. Surprisingly the French seemed most keen on getting some Libyan action - perhaps they felt bad about missing out in Iraq and didn't want to compete against "Freedom Fries" again.
So to enforce their UN mandated no-fly zone, NATO goes ahead and bombs Gaddafi's tanks, and conducts missile strikes against his residences. They also feel they must arm the rebels to help them in their fight to overthrow Gaddafi. Later they also decide to send in officers to help guide and train the rebels in their fight.
Strange. I thought enforcing a no-fly zone involves shooting down planes that dare take off, and destroying anti-aircraft radar and missile sites so that the enforcer's planes don't get hit while doing their noble duty.
The rebels in Libya have the support of the West, are heavily armed, have no recognizable or universally accepted leaders, or clear plans for what to do once they manage to have their way. Sounds familiar?
The last time we had this same combination in Afghanistan, it led to disaster. One difference optimists would see in this case is that the Libyans are a lot better off, better informed and educated than the Afghans were, and so may not descend into a similar level of anarchy. But I think being a much more developed country only means there is a lot more to fight over, and lose. The strategic port cities and oil-rich areas of Libya will obviously be far more bitterly contested than any patch of the barren Afghan mountains.
The US policy of direct intervention has killed Osama, but their same policy could already be sowing the seeds to create just the same set of circumstances that spawned him and many others, all over again in Libya. He may not be around anymore, but by a strange twist of fate, his boys may well be fighting on the same side as the US once again - just like they did three decades ago.
That's right - the rebels are also backed by Al-Qaeda, and NATO does not completely deny that they may be responsible for spreading at least some of the trouble in Libya.
Perhaps it's because they have the support of (the rest of) the West, (and at the risk of making a monumental understatement) are heavily armed. They do have recognizable leaders, but one sometimes wonders if they actually have plans for what to do once they manage to have their way…