Libya Is the New Syria: How ISIL Exploited the Post-Gaddafi Vacuum

02/16/2015 11:33 pm ET | Updated Apr 19, 2015

The Obama administration, and its French and British lackeys, heralded the toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 as a humanitarian triumph. However, predictably, the decapitation of the Libyan state directly enabled the rise of bloodthirsty radical groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which appears bent on incorporating North Africa into its transnational Caliphate.

Hours after members of ISIL's Libyan branch beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians on Monday, I posed to renowned Syrian expert, Professor Joshua Landis, a fundamental two-part question: Could Libya become a new Syria and, if so, did the ouster of Gaddafi help cause this transformation?

"Yes and yes," Landis responded. "With the destruction of the central state in Libya the door was opened to radical groups. Liberals turned out to be too weak to carry out the revolution and unite the county behind themselves."

ISIL is now filling ungovernable gaps left in the wake of Gaddafi's fall, according to geopolitical analyst, Dr. Theodore Karasik, who says the Islamist group is opening a second front in Libya and "seeks to engulf all of northern Africa."

After the Mad Dog of the Middle East was no longer around to maintain stability, however brutal his tactics were, the country slid into civil war and interim authorities failed to deal with disparate powerful militia groups. Ultimately, the failure of the reconciliation process resulted in a political vacuum, according to Cambridge University Libyan historian, Professor Jason Pack, who said there was no ISIL in Libya until this process imploded.

Kalam, a Tripoli-based think tank, credited Gaddafi's ouster with the "continued political and military chaos," which has provided an ideal situation for extremist organizations such as ISIL to expand throughout Libya.

Kalam also indicated that the ISIL threat has been obvious since last July, evidenced by a catalogue of incidents including beheadings, hostage-taking and "processions of militants driving through towns flying the black flag that is now synonymous with ISIS."

Many onlookers at the time of the 2011 Western intervention had warned, including in these very pages, that support for the anti-Gaddafi resistance movement could pave the way for "an Al Qaeda-led Islamic caliphate."

Even more amazing is the fact that the United States was well aware that the Libyan "freedom fighters" were being led by members of Al Qaeda. By March 2011, the CIA was reportedly already providing anti-regime forces with "advisory services." Former Al Qaeda commander and Guantanamo detainee, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, was helping to lead those forces, who admitted his troops had fought against the US in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Not to mention media reports that al-Hasidi had already established an "Islamic emirate" in eastern Libya.

How does one account for this short-sightedness? At the time there was a consensus call to arms by hawks in the Senate, like John McCain, and so-called liberal humanitarian interventionists, who wanted to prevent Gaddafi from supposedly slaughtering thousands and committing atrocious human rights violations. It was popular and politically expedient to remove the Libyan tyrant, as his massacres were broadcast across cable networks around the world.

Obama was also pressured by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who claimed the US was facing another Rwanda, a genocide the Clinton administration had turned its back on. Obama dare not look weak and allow this bloodshed to continue.

Of course there were other less altruistic reasons. Many scoffed at the notion that the West intervened to secure Libya's energy resources given that its output accounted for only 2 percent of worldwide consumption. However, a few key NATO members relied on Libya for petro at levels not easily replaced on short notice, such as France, which at the time imported 15 percent of its oil needs from the North African country. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, if Libya's chief export were asparagus, the West would have been much less interested in its affairs.

But it was the hubris of the liberal advocates that was hardest to stomach, who proudly pranced around and mocked opponents of the Libyan intervention, as Glenn Greenwald points out, many of whom opposed the Iraq invasion.

"Democrats (with validity) love to demand that Iraq War advocates acknowledge their errors and be discredited for their position," Greenwald writes. "We are rapidly approaching the point, if we are not there already, where advocates of 'intervention' in Libya should do the same."

The White House, Congressional hawks and self-described humanitarians apparently suffered from a case of collective amnesia when they launched their Libyan adventure, not learning a single lesson from Iraq. While glorifying in what they proclaimed was a new "model for Western intervention," Obama and his accomplices were completely oblivious to what they had sown, which Libya is reaping today.