Was Gaddafi ever a genuine ally of Western imperialism?

One [commonly made argument] is usually summed up colloquially as, “Gaddafi was in bed with the West” since at least 2003 when sanctions were lifted and the U.S. and Libya appeared to pursue a mutual strategy of reconciliation and normalization. That reveals a superficial understanding of the actual content of their relations, which remained tense, on the brink of breaking on numerous occasions, and fraught with mutual suspicion. Ample evidence exists of course to show increased cooperation, exchange, and even the appearance of friendship between Gaddafi and certain Western leaders, as well as his heightened desire to be admitted into the mainstream of Western capitalism. Few (if any) commentators seem prepared to consider that it was this very “friendliness” that made Gaddafi more of a liability to those states that had previously attacked and isolated Libya, previously plotted his overthrow, supported previous uprisings, and continued to be a home to several opposition groups. Gaddafi became more of a liability because Western powers had now allowed a historical enemy to buy his way into the circuits of influence. Now he appeared to be using the momentary peace to pursue new goals that were ultimately far more threatening than any supply of weapons to the IRA had been, and those goals involved a central Libyan leadership role in an integrated Africa. In addition, no sanctions, new wealth, and influential friends in the West, along with promised reforms, threatened to extend the life of the Libyan Jamahariya under Gaddafi.

–Maximilian C. Forte, Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa (2012)

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