On Libya: I Told You So

And the protestations of demented democratists be damned.

And even apart from all the HBD stuff, here is the most succinct summary of why democracy is never going to flourish in the Arab world for the foreseeable future.

Libya isn’t among the countries above, but it is conservative even by Arab standards. Benghazi contributed the most jihadists per capita to Iraq.

Mubarak, Gaddafi, Assad are (were) paragons of enlightenment and progress, at least to the extent their own populations allowed them to be. They kept the most regressive elements of their population in check while adequately developing the national economy and maintaining friendly relations with other countries. What more could one want?

To paraphrase a wise sentence from the Vekhi, “Thank God for the prisons and bayonets, which protect us from the people’s fury!” In other words, unapologetic reaction is the only sane political course in countries where 80% favor stoning for adultery.

But Western democratist idiots insist otherwise (yes, idiots: While imperialism by Islamist proxies is a tantalizing theory, the old adage that one should not attribute to malevolence what can just as easily be explained by stupidity comes into play). They think that the entire world conforms to their bizarre ideologies and if it doesn’t then a few bombs, grants, and copies of From Dictatorship To Democracy will patch things up.

So how’s that Arab Spring working out now, eh?

Would this outrageous breach of all diplomatic norms and ethos have occurred under Gaddafi? (no of course not…)*

RT was right. I was right. Even the NYT grudging admits it. Even Julia friggin’ Ioffe (kind of).

* Alexander Mercouris on the matter:

The US has now confirmed that it was none other than the US ambassador who was killed in Libya.

On the subject of whether this could have happened under Gaddafi, the short answer is no and we have conclusive evidence that proves this.

In February 2011 when the uprising against Gaddafi began the US and other western powers evacuated their citizens from Tripoli. There was considerable unease in western capitals that Gaddafi would try to hold on to these people as hostages. He did nothing of the sort. On the contrary he made sure that the Libyan authorities assisted with the evacuation, which could not of course have happened without their cooperation. Nor at any point during the fighting were any western journalists or diplomats who visited the part of Libya that remained under Gaddafi’s control any time threatened and harmed. I can only remember one incident when a British television returning from the rebel town of Zuwiyah after it had been recaptured by Gaddafi’s forces claimed to have been detained and beaten by Gaddafi’s security forces. For various reasons I had strong doubts at the time that this was true.

I happen to know various people who visited Libya whilst Gaddafi was in power. One was a Greek woman who bizarrely ran an estate agency there. The opinions of Gaddafi held by these people vary widely but all described a country that was very safe and very relaxed. Now that is “free” it is no longer either.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Anatoly you are yourself using too much “liberal” jargon here. There is nothing inherently “regressive” in cutting off hands or stoning adulterers – it is simply re-emerging religious tribalism – tried and tested method of societal organization and possibly the thing to come here too…
    We are justified to say that these societies are in conflict with Western countries, or that behavior is immoral according to our standard or that such values will have devastating economic effects. But “progressive” and “regressive” are not proper terms.

    • Whoa beheadings or other mutilation punishments are coming to America? I guess someone watched the Grey State trailer with the Illuminati guillotine guy at the end.

  2. unhomedestyleetbongout says

    “democracy is never going to flourish” You mean “liberal secular democracy.” In the rule by the people sense it is very possible

  3. The American embassy was stormed in 1979 so on the question could it happen under Gaddafi is the answer a resounding YES

    • Dear Charly,

      The answer is no. No US diplomatic personnel were killed, injured, detained or taken hostage in 1979. What happened on this occasion was that US diplomatic personnel were specifically targeted for murder by armed militants in two separate locations. Nothing like that happened under Gaddafi and he would never have allowed it.

      • Cause his hands were so incredible clean.

        (This should be read in the most sarcastic way possible)

        • Dear Charly,

          Your sarcasm is in this case unwarranted.

          The attack on the US embassy in Tripoli in 1979 was most definitely not Gaddafi’s work or that of his government. It arose in the aftermath of the capture of the Holy Mosque in Mecca by a group of Wahhabi extremists who had fallen out with the Saudi government. The event caused a political earthquake across the entire Muslim world. The Ayatollah Khomeini who had just come to power in Iran accused the US of being responsible. This led to a wave of anti American protests across the Muslim world. The US embassy in Islamabad in Pakistan was stormed and burnt down by a Muslim mob and a week later as protests and violence spread across the Muslim world the same thing happened to the US embassy in Tripoli in Libya. In both Pakistan and Libya the authorities were unable to protect the embassy building but were able to provide protection to the diplomatic staff who in the case of Libya were shortly after evacuated from the country after the US (which was at that time on bad terms with Gaddafi) decided to use the incident as a pretext to end diplomatic relations with Libya. As in February 2011 Gaddafi did nothing to prevent the US diplomats leaving the country and at no time did he threaten their personal safety or seek to take them hostage (as Khomeini – an Islamic radical lest we forget – was doing at this time in Iran).

          In saying all this I should make it clear that I am by no means an admirer of Gaddafi’s. On the contrary shortly after his death I wrote a piece that was quite critical of him (http://mercouris.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/the-gaddafi-regime/).

          Gaddafi could be ruthless and violent as I well remember from the early 1980s when he was providing money and weapons to the Provisional IRA who were at that time conducting a terrorist offensive in London where I live. However if you must criticise Gaddafi then do so for things he was genuinely responsible for. Murdering foreign diplomats in Libya was not one of them.

          • Jennifer Hor says

            Dear Alex,

            Yes I myself always thought Gaddafi was a monarch and Libya a kind of constitutional monarchy under him but it never occurred to me that it was an updated version of Saudi Arabia with some socialist and revolutionary ideas and notions attached. His vision of pan-Africa and the Great Man-Made River Project in the Sahara fall very much in the Gaddafi worldview that you describe on your blog.

      • Jennifer Hor says

        The US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed at the consulate in Benghazi. It’s my understanding that diplomatic staff working in consulates don’t get diplomatic immunity or the same level of diplomatic immunity that they would have at an embassy.

        During Gaddafi’s rule, Libya had two capitals, Tripoli and Benghazi. If Gaddafi had been truly autocratic, would he have allowed Benghazi to enjoy the status of a capital city, given that it had association with the old Libyan royal family and was the centre of opposition to his rule? (Stevens had identified Benghazi as a hotbed of anti-Gaddafi resistance in 2008 in a cable released by Wikileaks.) This must have been part of his strategy to balance competing interests based on clan, tribal and religious networks and rivalries and historical memory: western Libya has cultural ties to northern Algeria and eastern Libya has cultural ties to Egypt.

        Regarding the US embassy incident, all I can find online is that “a mob attacked and set fire” to the US embassy in Tripoli on 2 December 1979 and this prompted the US government to recall all embassy staff and shut down the embassy.

        • There is more desert between Tripoli and Benghazi than between Tripoli and Tunis. Same is almost true for Benghazi and Egypt.

  4. Democracy is self-defeating in the long run. Such political system will fail at end since it is totally against biological nature of evolution.

    • In the long run we are all death.

      Most systems are self-defeating in the short run because people are mortal. Democracy has the advantage that it survives mortality.

      • Yes, perfect for people with short future orientation. Ancient Greece with democracy only lasted 200 years and its offsprings were doomed for slavery next 2000 years. Poor Greece only achieve its independence at other people’s mercy (Turkey lost WW I). Looks like modern Greeks try to repeat history again.

        • Greece was independent before WWI. Ancient Greece was also never a democracy. Some of its states were (kind of)

          Also you act as if 200 years is a sign of failure. It isn’t. The only state that didn’t have a major revolution or serious attempted coup d’etat during the last 200 years is the UK and even that can be argued (Ireland in the early 20’s for one.)

          ps. I would love to hear another stable country in the last 200 years but i seriously doubt that they exist

          • Jennifer Hor says

            Japan probably had the longest period of peace and stability that any country is known to have had from 1603 to the 1850s under the Tokugawa shogunate and that was both out of luck, being an island country, and of choice: an active govt policy of isolation that allowed only limited trade between govt and outsiders and no other contact at all. Japan in effect was a police state.

            Also for a country that was called the Sick Man of Europe (never of Asia though!), Ottoman Turkey did well to be a declining state from 1566 to 1918 with inept and lazy sultans ruled by their mothers or the elite Janissary troops, a huge and corrupt bureaucracy, loss of trade (among other things, Ottoman Turkey bought textiles from India until the British shut that trade down by progressively forcing India to trade only with them, and that hurt the Ottoman economy) and losing territory to Russia. Russian conquest of the Caucasus in the 1860s generated huge migrations of refugees into Ottoman Turkish lands and put pressure on Istanbul to cope. The refugees were moved into various parts and to this day there are several million people in Israel, Jordan, Syria and Turkey who can claim Caucasian ancestry. Current Turkish PM Reyyip Erdogan claims Georgian ancestry.

            Greece declared independence from Turkey in 1830 and would have become a republic if the British and French hadn’t forced that country to accept a German prince as king. This might have been the worst thing that ever happened to modern Greece as the monarchy became a major cause of instability over the years and Greek ambitions of building a state were directed towards acquiring more territory instead of building solid political institutions that being a republic might have encouraged. (Then again, the US and Latin American republican experience during the 1800s is no great shining example to follow.)

  5. “They kept the most regressive elements of their population in check while adequately developing the national economy”

    Is that true?

    Part of the problem for Mubarak that sparked the revolution was the hike in food prices that Egypt like Mexico cease producing its own agricultural industry when it introduced free market reforms.

    Gadaffis sponsorship for every terrorist group on earth during the 80’s put the country under international sanctions with its large amount of oil wealth could have developed like Arab states.

    Assad and the problem of Syria right now in part is due to the fact that he failed to impliment long standing reforms both economic and political. Perhaps a lesson Putin and the SCO states should note.

    “and maintaining friendly relations with other countries. What more could one want?”

    Mubarak yes but certainly not Gadaffi except when he tried to be the hero of Africa after failing to be the hero of the Mid East that made him an international pariah with his sponsorship of terrorist groups and not Assad through support of Hezbollah and Hamas brings Syria in conflict with Israel and the Sunni Arab states.

    • The Arab oil states aren’t exactly developed. They are rich but that is something completely different. By being cut off from the world Libya was probably more forced to develop than the Arab states.

      • Dear John,

        Gaddafi’s regime went through three different periods. The first period lasting roughly from 1969 to 1990 could be called his revolutionary period. This was period when he sponsored terrorist movements, involved himself in various African wars (eg. in Uganda and Chad), set up his Jamahariya and bought vast amounts of weapons from the Russians. These last like the similar arms purchases the Gulf monarchies engage in should be seen for what they are – a bribe to the superpower protector. Most of the weapons went into warehouses where they left to decay.

        The second period was Gaddafi’s quiet period, which is roughly the 1990s. Though he was never entirely inactive the loss of Soviet protection and the decline in oil prices during the 1990s meant that he had to rein in his ambitions. The third period, which started from about 2000 (before the Iraq war) involved a concerted effort to patch up relations with the outside world. In 2004 diplomatic relations with the US were restored and over this period friendly relations were established with all the important western states. One cannot say that Libya was isolated during this period. It was also attracting a large amount of foreign business and investment. The presence of my acquaintance in the country with her estate agency business is a case in point.

        Economically Libya also went through three distinct periods: a first period lasting from 1969 to the mid 1980s when there was extremely fast economic growth and a transformation of the country in material terms achieved on the back of very high oil prices, a second period from about the mid 1980s to about 2000 when oil prices were low and the economy stood still and a third period of economic expansion as oil prices grew again after 2000. At the time of the uprising in February 2011 Libya had completed work on a development plan costing $200 billion that would surely have further transformed such a small country. It is always possible to argue that economically things might have been done better or differently and to make comparisons with other countries but judged by Libya’s potentials and needs Gaddafi’s rule must be judged an economic success.

        As for the other two regimes, Mubarak achieved no economic breakthrough but in my opinion he did as well as was possible given Egypt’s circumstances and situation and I have little doubt that the regime that has replaced him if it stabilises (which is doubtful) will do worse. As for Syria many people I know have visited the country on a fairly regular basis and whilst I do not know the country in detail all of them considered it to be by Arab standards prosperous and safe. They judged it to have the best medical system in the Middle East, the best cuisine outside Lebanon and it was the only country were most Muslim women did not cover their heads.

        One thing all of these regimes utterly failed to do (though this is true of all other Arab states) is introduce family planning policies. This has resulted in population explosions that have created a large pool of unemployed young men. I suspect that is the underlying cause of the trouble.

        • It is by their nature that oil states have difficulties to do it right. See the disaster Alberta’s oil is to Canada.

          State influence on family planning is very difficult. Besides all those states have entered the low birthrate phase.

  6. On the question of whether it’s possible to have a democracy in an ultra conservative Muslim society – Why not? I don’t believe the Arab people are congenitally incapable of running an effective state, much as history suggests they haven’t often had one. Democracy, of course, is not just a matter of making your mark on the ballot paper, there’s also the issue of the lack of an effective civil society. But then, if civil society means lots of “civil society” NGOs funded by the Americans, the EU and the Soros Foundation… Eastern Europe is full of those guys, and the thing that strikes you is that you’ll see conferences on Roma rights going on with very few Roma in attendance, and at the end the situation of the Roma hasn’t been much advanced, but everyone has had a pleasant lunch and got their grant application packs…

    I see no reason why you can’t have democracy in the Arab world, it’s just questionable whether, given these countries’ social mores and history, you can have a liberal democracy. The classic mistake liberals make is to confuse the democratic process with liberal outcomes. When democracy doesn’t lead to liberal outcomes, the liberals start screaming about “populism” and demanding that liberal outcomes be imposed from above. Hence the bright idea of sending Paddy Pantsdown to Afghanistan – the liberal dictatorship he ran in Bosnia would fit in well with the liberal idea of bringing progressive politics to Afghanistan.

    So, do you stand for democratic process or liberal outcomes? It’s not a problem if you’re a non-interventionist – you can just lend solidarity to the people who are fighting for values you identify with, if you can find such people. But it does pose a terrible dilemma for those who think it’s the job of imperial armies to go around setting up liberal democracies in every corner of the world. I’m looking at you, Nick Cohen.

  7. Democracy is dopey.

    As our H.L. Mencken said, an election is an auction in advance of stolen good.

    Bring back the Articles of Confederation.