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Bernard-Henri Lévy Headshot

The Tobruk Theorem

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Well, there you have it.

There is a Libyan exception.

The Islamists won in Tunisia.

In Egypt, they are sharing power with the army.

In Libya, this is not the case.

And even if, as I am writing this, we don't have the definitive figures yet, the tendency is clear : The Muslim Brotherhood has been beaten in Tripoli; in Benghazi, long considered won over to their program; beaten in Derna, that passed as a fief of jihadism. And it is the coalition led by the liberal Mahmoud Jibril that has emerged as the great winner of the first free elections organized in Libya in nearly half a century.

I could go on about the Cassandras who began by telling us the elections would not take place.

And then that they might take place, but in a climate of such violence that the results would be invalidated in advance.

Then, all right, people would vote, but that it was hard to imagine this backward people making another choice than that of obscurantism.

They knew nothing, these so-called experts.

They are the same ones that, during the war, portrayed Gaddafi as unbeatable, the war as interminable, and then, just days before victory, predicted a quagmire, a new Vietnam. And once more we have proof that these people spoke without knowing a thing, that the only thing they were certain of was their prejudice as divine right democrats who would close the gates of paradise to the rank and file of those unworthy of the call, and that, as in Bosnia and Rwanda and everywhere else, the baggage of bias that took the place of analysis led them, once again, astray.

The real question this morning is what has actually happened, and why is it in Libya that the élan that was expected to carry the Islamists has been broken?

Obviously, it has something to do with the personalities of the men involved -- beginning with that of Mahmoud Jibril, this former professor of the University of Pittsburgh who became a national hero, the man who never doubted, never gave up, and whom I had the occasion to see in action, at least three times, on the other scene where the destiny of this war played out: On March 10, 2011, face to face with a Nicolas Sarkozy he had to convince to recognize the NTC; four days later, on the 14, confronting Hillary Clinton, whom he had to move and persuade to enter, without looking back, into the coalition as well; and then later, on Aug. 12, refusing to comply with the NATO generals who demanded he put off the uprising in Tripoli. This man who made war without liking it has the stature of a Statesman, and that is what the Libyans sensed.

The very fact of the war, the fact that the people in its entirety had to take part in it, the fact that the fall of the dictator was not granted them but had to be won, and won in fierce struggle, the fact that they had to go through seven months of suffering and sacrifice, uncertain battles and hopes that were dashed only to be revived again to do so, this cavalry, this season in hell, all of it created a sort of pensive rage that, in Libya as elsewhere, is a good school for prudence and wisdom. For how, when one has paid such a heavy price for the fall of a dictatorship, can one not be haunted by what might give it the chance to rise again? Who, having staked all on crushing barbarity, would take the risk of being deprived of the fruits of victory? And must one be so totally ignorant of the humble law of resistance as to imagine the liberators of Misrata, the chebabs of Ajdabiya and Tobruk, the heroic women of Tripoli accepting anew the yoke of servility, this time voluntarily?

But there is yet another reason, perhaps the essential one, for this routing of the Islamists. One of their great arguments was, as it has been everywhere, that of a war of civilizations depicting the West as, ontologically, the enemy of the Arab world that would always take the role of the oppressor. This argument was shattered when the people of Benghazi saw French and English planes dive at the tanks stationed at the outskirts of the city, ready to rip it open. The entire ideological program of the men and women who might have been tempted by the propaganda of Islamism was suddenly upset when confronted by the image, then the idea, of these "Jews and Crusaders" coming to lend them a hand, contributing to their salvation, without asking anything in return.

This is one of the reasons that made me so ardently wish for my country to intervene in the internal affairs of a tyranny that confused the right of the people to dispose of themselves with the right of tyrants to dispose of the people.

And today, there is evident proof that this was the just calculation: just, of course, an intervention putting a stop to an inevitable massacre; just, in principle, the fall of one of the longest dictatorships of contemporary times; but just, as well, the gamble on the fraternity of arms that, far from making us who knows what idiot tools of the Islamists, snatched the best of their arguments from their hands.

A word to the so-called "friends" of the Syrian people.

A petition to the bad realpolitikers who evidently do not understand that Islamism is there, indeed, threatening, terrible, an always possible horizon on the front of revolts against Arab despots -- but that it is by offering help that we can weaken it, and by delaying to do so that we pave its way.