The parallels between Libya and Iraq are not, as yet, that direct. Yet according to Robert Fisk, correspondent for The Independent, this could change rather quickly as he writes here ( History repeats itself, with mistakes of Iraq rehearsed afresh. With Gaddafi at large, a guerrilla war eroding the new powers is inevitable August 25 2011 ).
Doomed always to fight the last war, we are recommitting the same old sin in Libya.
Muammar Gaddafi vanishes after promising to fight to the death. Isn't that just what Saddam Hussein did? And of course, when Saddam disappeared and US troops suffered the very first losses from the Iraqi insurgency in 2003, we were told – by the US proconsul Paul Bremer, the generals, diplomats and the decaying television "experts" – that the gunmen of the resistance were "die-hards", "dead-enders" who didn't realise that the war was over.
The West's real fear – right now, and this could change overnight – should be the possibility that the author of the Green Book has made it safely through to his old stomping ground in Sirte, where tribal loyalty might prove stronger than fear of a Nato-backed Libyan force.
Sirte, where Gaddafi, at the very start of his dictatorship, turned the region's oil fields into the first big up-for-grabs international dividend for foreign investors after his 1969 revolution, is no Tikrit. It is the site of his first big African Union conference, scarcely 16 miles from the place of his own birth, a city and region that benefited hugely from his 41-year rule. Strabo, the Greek geographer, described how the dots of desert settlements due south of Sirte made Libya into a leopard skin. Gaddafi must have liked the metaphor. Almost 2,000 years later, Sirte was pretty much the hinge between the two Italian colonies of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.
And in Sirte the "rebels" were defeated by the "loyalists" in this year's six-month war; we shall soon, no doubt, have to swap these preposterous labels – when those who support the pro-Western Transitional National Council will have to be called loyalists, and pro-Gaddafi rebels turn into the "terrorists" who may attack our new Western-friendly Libyan administration. Either way, Sirte, whose inhabitants are now supposedly negotiating with Gaddafi's enemies, may soon be among the most interesting cities in Libya.