About a year ago, when he was running for reelection, Rep. Mike Coffman visited the IJN for an interview.
As a former Marine who has served overseas, Coffman is well versed in foreign relations, particularly in the muddled Middle East, where he was deployed. In the interview, he stated that the US intervention in Libya had been a mistake.
Hang on a minute, I thought. What about the fact that dictator Moammar Qadaffi is no longer around?
Soon after this interview, I picked up the newest book from Hisham Matar, a Libyan émigré writer. Matar’s father was an anti-Qadaffi dissident who spent years and eventually died in the notorious Abu Salim prison. In The Return, Matar recounts his visit to Libya just after the fall of Qadaffi, his quest to discover his father’s fate. Aside from the powerful personal narrative, The Return depicts the brief flowering of a post-Qadaffi Libya, before it devolved into a power vacuum.
Coffman takes a realpolitik stand and, in the long run, he’s right. It was a mistake. Libya has morphed into a chaotic birthing ground for jihadists — not to mention the murder there in 2012 of a US ambassador and other embassy workers. Coffman is correct: Qadaffi was playing ball with Western powers, and thus should not have been a target. But as I read the story of Matar’s father’s brutal imprisonment, torture and eventual death, I was reminded of the human — not geopolitical — price of foreign policy.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at email@example.com
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