Who’s Purging Whom?

As I’ve written previously here, I’m not particularly convinced that a large-scale slaughter was on the horizon in Libya, or Benghazi particularly, as have suggested numerous others, including President Obama.  Qaddafi is fighting a war against rebels whom he views as traitors and has certainly used some pointed language, but that doesn’t seem to demonstrate a mass-killing of the likes of Rwanda is to come.

This morning, however, the Financial Times published an article which caused me to ponder an interesting question: what if the opposition is as ruthless in its response to Qaddafi loyalists as we expected Qaddafi to be toward the rebels?

The FT points to the increase in violence against Qaddafi loyalists, or even those merely suspected of as much, in areas now controlled by the rebels. While there’s no indication that opposition leadership is committing any sort of human rights atrocities on a systematic basis, spontaneous roadside executions and bands of youths roaming the streets on “rat hunts” are troubling indeed.

There’s been plenty of discussion on the lack of the opposition’s democratic credentials, but little has been said on this topic.  Hopefully this will never become a major concern, but it does raise more questions as to both the wisdom and the efficacy of the Libyan campaign.  Without ground troops in place, how can we expect Libyan law and order to be upheld in a time of war when there is no central authority over much of the country, considering Benghazi’s new chief of police himself admitted that some retaliatory bloodletting is inevitable and saying “we cannot stop it completely”.

If a purge of Qaddafi loyalists continues, it will certainly raise a number of uncomfortable problems for NATO allies and the Transitional National Council.  Let us hope for everyone’s sake that the seemingly unstoppable retaliation is limited to the already widespread petty crimes of of obscene graffiti and vandalism.

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