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Reader riposte: Qadhafi's demise

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COMMENTS

21 October 2011 11:40

Jerry Nockles, a visiting scholar at the Australian National University, writes:

The sketchy details and potential brutal summary execution of Qadhafi does not bode well for the observance of the rule of law in Libya. Thinking of Colin Powell's crystal vase analogy — if you break it, you own it. Who is responsible for law and order in Libya at this time?

Here Colin Powell answers David Samuels' questions:

Samuels: You were famously quoted as saying “if you break it, you own it” about the consequences of an American invasion of Iraq. So do we own it? And, as a practical matter, is it possible for the United States to declare at this late date that we don’t take part in other people’s Civil Wars, and to withdraw our troops?

Powell: The famous expression, if you break it you own it—which is not a Pottery Barn expression, by the way—was a simple statement of the fact that when you take out a regime and you bring down a government, you become the government. On the day that the statue came down and Saddam Hussein’s regime ended, the United States was the occupying power. We might also have been the liberating power, and we were initially seen as liberators. But we were essentially the new government until a government could be put in place. And in the second phase of this conflict, which was beginning after the statue fell, we made serious mistakes in not acting like a government. One, maintaining order. Two, keeping people from destroying their own property. Three, not having in place security forces—either ours or theirs or a combination of the two to keep order. And in the absence of order, chaos ensues.