Thursday, March 24, 2011
Inside free Libya
Libya, an oil-rich nation in North Africa, has been under the firm, if sometimes erratic, control of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi since he seized power in 1969. But in February 2011, the unrest sweeping through much of the Arab world erupted in several Libyan cities. Though it began with a relatively organized core of antigovernment opponents in Benghazi, its spread to the capital of Tripoli was swift and spontaneous.
Colonel Qaddafi lashed out with a level of violence unseen in either of the other uprisings, but an inchoate opposition cobbled together the semblance of a transitional government, fielded a makeshift rebel army and portrayed itself to the West and Libyans as an alternative to Colonel Qaddafi's four decades of freakish rule.
Momentum shifted quickly, however, and the rebels faced the possibilty of being outgunned and outnumbered in what increasingly looked like a mismatched civil war. As Colonel Qaddafi’s troops advanced to within 100 miles of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in the west, the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military action, a risky foreign intervention aimed at averting a bloody rout of the rebels by loyalist forces.
On March 19, American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against Colonel Qaddafi and his government, unleashing warplanes and missiles in a military intervention on a scale not seen in the Arab world since the Iraq war.