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When I travelled to Benghazi, Ajdabiya and Tobruk briefly this June, not one of the people I spoke to was opposed to the NATO air campaign in their country. When I asked about the opposition to it they said there had been some (a minority) who spoke out against it to begin with, but that once they saw how restrained it was (relative to both Western air campaigns generally, and to the massacre they expected at the hands of Gaddafi) they had largely fallen silent. I did see one anti-NATO banner during my time there. It was on the side of a stall selling banners and flags in Benghazi’s Freedom square. The teenager running the stall said they had sold about seven since the uprising began – a drop in the ocean of political expression that has come pouring out of the Libyan people.
Neither before or after the liberation of Tripoli and other areas that were until recently under Gaddafi’s control, have I seen credible reporting showing a substantial anti-NATO sentiment – the only place such sentiment does have ascendency, it seems, is the global left.
I am reminded of sitting in a Middle East politics tutorial in the early years of the occupation of Iraq. People were arguing that a hasty withdrawal of American and other troops would leave the country to tear itself apart in a storm of sectarian violence (which, of course, happened any how). I raised a then-recent poll, which had shown a huge majority of Iraqis thought otherwise, and wanted foreign soldiers out of their land immediately. Were the Iraqis all wrong? I asked. Why? Were people saying they were all stupid?
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