What was NATO's stated problem with the late Muammar Gaddafi's leadership as the leader of Libya? What possibly would have led NATO signatories to be all over his rule and yet the citizens were happy (most of them); like everything was okay as far as the living standards of the people, the free education, and the rich oil resource. Wasn't he a benevolent dictator if dictatorship was anything to go by?
There were no real problems with Gaddafi. It was just a declared US policy change to stop supporting dictators like him.
Secretary Condoleezza Rice Cairo, Egypt June 20, 2005
For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.
Your question starts from a couple of false assumptions.
With big oil revenues and a small population Libyans could have been richer than the Norwegians, but that never happened. Furthermore the Western nations to oust Gaddafi exploited the internal dissent. This means that a lot of people were not happy with his regime, therefore calling him a benevolent dictator is a strong assertion.
Another incorrect assertion is calling it a NATO intervention. It was a military intervention led by UK, France and the USA, plus the Gulf states that provided weapons and support for the militias. Most of the NATO countries did not participate.
As for the stated goals, at the time there were mixed declarations and goals. The British media recalled many times the stories of the Lockerbie bombing and the shooting at the Libyan embassy in London. BTW I cannot find any reference on the internet now, but I well remember that soon after Gaddafi's death James Cameron was interviewed by the BBC and he declared "Finally Libya has been democratised".
The Americans feigned little interest and made the usual claims about democracy, but on the other hand they sheltered General Haftar for a long time and sent him back to Libya as soon as Gaddafi was ousted. This shows that they always kept an eye on Libya and kept themselves always ready to intervene.
The same question can be asked about what was wrong with Mubarak. Definitely Mubarak conducted pro-Western policy not only in the latest years.
Currently the West supports radical islamists in the Arab world, such as Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra front in Syria and Muslim Brotherhood. People like Gaddaffi, Mubarak, Assad are the obstacles for the islamists so the West wants them to be desposed.
With Gaddaffi additional issues were his image (the clothing, the gold-knitted uniform etc which supports the image of a "mad" dictator) and his (alleged) past deeds.
A Gaddaffi's mistake was that he thought that he could win Western favor by his loyal policy. Particularly, in the later years
His regime conducted torture and imprisonment on various terrorists handled to him by the West. The West used him to do things which were illegal in western countries.
He financially supported the pro-Western "orange revolution" in Ukraine (2004).
He financially supported some right-wing western politicians, like Sarkozy in France in hope they would become more friendly to him.
He tried to improve relations with Israel (with no success).
His son and likely successor Seif(executed recently by the new regime) had even more pro-Western attitude.
You are asking the incorrect question.
NATO's objective is not to bring about justice in every corner of the world. NATO is a US-led coalition whose objective is to safeguard Western (i.e., US & its allies) interests.
Gaddafi was removed mainly because he had an anti-USA stance. He was a nuisance for the USA.
Among other things -
- the USA/UK accused him of the Lockerbie bombing
- he proposed the ditch of USD in favor of a pan-African currency (probably, Gold-backed)
- He had a nuclear program (which he ditched and that was the point of start of his demise)
- France wanted full control over Libyan oil fields (which they couldn't because of Turkish intervention later on)