A country apart
How to put Libya together
“If the sun lost its gravity, its gases would explode and its unity would no longer exist. Accordingly, unity is the basis for survival. Muammar Qaddafi’s “Green Book”, his rambling political manifesto, is full of pabulum. But the former Libyan dictator was right about the importance of unity, something his country has sorely lacked since he was killed in a revolution in 2011.
Libya has been mired in conflict ever since, creating a jihadist playground and a jumping-off point for migrants desperate to reach Europe. The latest fighting pits the "government of national accord" (GNA) in Tripoli against the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), under Khalifa Haftar, which rules by fear in the east and south. The UN was trying to bring them together when he at-tacked Tripoli in April—while the secretary-general was in town.
Peace is a distant prospect. But the West has an interest and a responsibility to help repair Libya. NATO members led by Britain and France supported the revolution with air strikes—then watched as the country sank into chaos. Barack Obama says that failing to plan for the day after Qaddafi was the "biggest mistake" of his presidency. America and Europe can start to fix that omission by putting their weight behind a UN-led peace process.
Mr Haftar believes that Libya can be stabilised only by a strongman (himself, naturally). Some foreign powers seem to agree. Egypt, France, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have supported him. America has flirted with him. But their calculus is flawed. Mr Haftar needed three years just to take Benghazi, the country’s second city, which he flattened in the attempt. In April the LNA said that it would take days to capture Tripoli, but today it is still fighting—and losing ground. The militias of Misrata, who are stronger foes, lie in wait for him. Far from stabilising Libya, Mr Haftar is sowing more chaos.