A nation of less than seven million people cobbled together from the colonial conquest of a couple of city-states. Descendants of many different tribes. No real history as a nation-state until the modern era. Qaddafi did not survive merely through brutal oppression, purges, and oil exports. Nor even by promoting the Libyan nation through defiance of the West--a defiance that vanished in practice, if not in theory, by the early 2000's.
A dinosaur-era relic that far predated Al-Qaeda, Qaddafi survived because he, like his other Arab nationalist socialist friends(Saddam, Bashar, and so forth), had something more sinister to offer his constituents than failed economic policies and international isolation. There were people in his country that were enormously invested--emotionally, tribally, and ethnically--in his rule. Much like Alawites in Syria and Sunni Arab minorities in Iraq, Qaddafi's supporters needed and continue to need him after his fall. They will not go gently into that good night. It's not so different from Baathists in Iraq.
After months of hearing that Libya would be a NATO success story, which would show all those nasty unilateralists how a more enlightened approach would have succeeded in Iraq, we are finally hearing what we've sort of known all along: Libya shows signs of turning into Iraq.
What are NATO and the West doing in Libya? Is it really any different from what happened in Iraq? NATO warplanes vs. U.S. and British fighter jets doesn't seem a meaningful enough contrast.