Why should anyone in Europe or America care about what happens in Libya? Well, the country has the longest shores in the Mediterranean. As a failed state it could become a haunt for terrorists and pirates, a larger Somalia facing Europe. Remember that the notorious medieval pirate Kheireddin Barbarossa operated from what is now Libya. ~Amir Taheri

When I read that last line, I was puzzled. First of all, people who flourished in the sixteenth century aren’t usually called “medieval,” and to the best of my knowledge the bulk of his career was split between launching attacks from Algiers and serving as an admiral in the Ottoman navy. Besides, why fall back on this example? If Americans know anything about Mediterranean piracy, they know about the pirates that sparked the Tripolitanian War, and obviously Tripoli was a center of piracy in the past. Of course, that was a war fought to end attacks on American ships rather than an unprovoked war that seems almost designed to create conditions in which future piracy can flourish.

It might be worth pointing out that the thing that has driven Libya to the point where it is in danger of becoming a failed state is the military intervention that did just enough to fracture the country into two parts. Where was all this concern about the Somalification of Libya a month ago when people were calling for turning it into another Somalia by attacking Libya? Escalating the Libyan war and toppling Gaddafi isn’t going to make the Somalification of Libya less likely, but will in all likelihood guarantee the disintegration of whatever political order remains. The U.S. and NATO are in their current predicament because too few people in charge of making decisions paid attention to unintended consequences and worst-case scenarios. Now would be a good time to fix that bad habit.

Taheri continues:

Islamist terrorists from al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the al-Shabaab insurgency in Somalia have already started arriving in the country. According to my sources, they have set up shop in a number of places, including Yafran, Nawfaliyah and Sabha.

In other words, the security vacuum that the U.S. and our allies have created is being filled by the very sort of people the U.S. has actively tried to keep at bay for years, and in a matter of weeks the security cooperation of years is being undone because of a total failure to think through the consequences of attacking Libya. Having attacked a government that was opposed to terrorist groups that the U.S. considers security threats, we are now faced with the problem that this has made it easier for those groups to operate, we are directing our efforts at weakening the government’s hold on Libya (which these groups are only too happy to see), and we are possibly given them some fresh recruiting material to boot. If the U.S. and our allies escalated the war and actively pursued the overthrow of Gaddafi, does anyone think that this will make Libya a less attractive battleground for al-Shabaab and AQIM? Of course not. It will simply make Libya that much more of an inviting target and space in which to operate.