Although it’s unpopular to say so at present, it is possible that Western politicians will agree in a few months that Gaddafi’s victory over the ‘democratic’ rebels will have been better for the country. Of course, we don’t know that he will, in fact, win. But it’s looking increasingly likely that NATO air-strikes are not enough and that the disorganized rebels have little chance over the next few weeks against Gaddafi’s more disciplined troops.
My guess is that, although all sorts of surreptitious things are probably already going on to assist the East Libyan rebels, American or NATO ground troops will not be involved for fear of creating yet another Afghani- or Iraqi-type mess. Nor could the allied countries, all in severe debt already, afford to send in a sufficiently large army to actually proceed westwards and occupy the Tripoli heartland. Thus, the chances are that Gaddafi will reunite the country or that Libya will be split into two countries, at least for some years ahead.
Then, as always, the Western nations will talk of applying trade sanctions. But will they have the nerve to apply them? The price of oil has already gone up to $123 today, which is punishing enough for the West. Anything higher than, say $140, will almost certainly drive America and Western Europe into instant economic depression. Just as likely, as with attempts to apply sanctions against Iraq when Saddam Hussein was alive and at least 1,200 breaches occurred, sanctions against Libya would be evaded anyway.
Unfortunately in the world of Middle East Islam, might is right. This is so whether applied by Shia or Sunni dictators and ayatollahs or mullahs against their own people who want to Westernize or whether by secular dictators who are brutal to Muslim fundamentalists—which same dictators were also endeavouring to encourage secular education in their schools and universities.
Now, with Saddam Hussein, Ben Ali and Mubarak gone, Gaddafi is the only dictator left. If he wins in the next few days or weeks and Libyan oil starts flowing again (either legally or through illegal colanders) then politicians in the West might well start saying to themselves (privately, mind you), “What a relief!”.