To The Shores Of Tripoli: Remembering Libya Could those who witnessed the rise of Moammar Gadhafi have predicted the outcome of today? Former Libyan resident and author Matthew M. Aid gives his perspective on the Libyan leader's death.
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To The Shores Of Tripoli: Remembering Libya

Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Sept. 27, 1969, after the coup.

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Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Sept. 27, 1969, after the coup.

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Matthew M. Aid is a leading intelligence historian and the author of Intel Wars, about the war on terrorism. He is a former resident of Libya.

Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the dictator of Libya, is dead. So what can be said about Gadhafi that has not already been written? My family and I lived in Tripoli from 1963 to 1967 (my father was a lawyer for Mobil Oil at the time), and I remember the place fondly, even though I was just a boy at the time. Compared with the hustle and bustle of Cairo, Tripoli was a sleepy albeit picturesque metropolis.

Whatever we may think about the man, Gadhafi leaves behind a not insignificant legacy. When he took power back in 1969, Libya was a backwater of a country with no tangible presence on the world stage or influence in regional politics. The country's political and economic infrastructure was so underdeveloped that the country was run not by Libyans, but rather by foreigners, such as Egyptian teachers and doctors, Palestinian technocrats and Lebanese businessmen.

I remember that my Arabic language teacher at the American-run Oil Companies School outside Tripoli was an Egyptian who told his students that he had to be brought in from Cairo because Libyans were lazy. Not surprisingly, the average Libyan deeply resented the fact that Americans and European companies controlled their country's oil industry, and that all the important positions in the government bureaucracy were held by foreigners.

Matthew M. Aid is also the author of The Secret Sentry, a history of the National Security Agency. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Libya was ripe for revolution at the time. When the Six Day War broke on June 5, 1967, mobs of Libyan youths surged out onto the streets of Tripoli and attacked Westerners and their businesses. The State Department ordered all Americans living in Tripoli to immediately get to the U.S. Air Force base on the outskirts of the city, from where we were to be evacuated to Spain. I remember vividly as our car was stoned by mobs of angry Libyan youths as my mother drove through downtown Tripoli on the way to the base.

Two years later, in 1969, Gadhafi took over the government, riding into power on a wave of anger at foreigners and Libyan nationalism. It is ironic that Gadhafi was driven from power by the 20-something sons of those same revolutionary Libyans, sons who were angry over 42 years of corruption and repressive government.

There will be little mourning of Gadhafi's passing, which is as it should be. Even the Arab broadcast network Al-Jazeera has been running nonstop editorials jubilantly praising his demise.

The question we should now be asking ourselves is who is going to run Libya now that Gadhafi is gone? We can only hope that the next ruler of the country is better than the last. The men who now claim to rule Libya are, for the most part, former Gadhafi government officials who know little about the concerns of the teenage and 20-something rebel fighters who fought and died to drive Gadhafi from power.

My fear is that unless we are very careful, a new Gadhafi could rise from the ashes to bedevil us for years to come.