Reactions from Libya

Reactions after the fall of Tripoli

With Qaddafi’s days pretty much limited, there has been much speculation about what comes after. What will Libya look like? Obviously, there are many challenges that remain for the country. Here are some thoughts from around the web.

Issandr El Amrani believes the TNC is up to the task:

Taking early stock of the Libyan civil war of 2011 (hoping it will soon be over), the first priority is how to carry out this transition. The TNC has the advantage of having been formed over six months ago, incorporating former members of the regime and figures from across the country, and having planned for this moment for some extent. It has diplomatic recognition, and enough credibility to secure aid, cash, weapons and other help foreign partners. In the eyes of the oil companies that are likely to be key in financing Libya’s post-war reconstruction, it also has enough credibility to be seen as an entity one can do business with…

Libyans will decide the fate of their country once the dust settles. In the meantime, the wider debate about what role outsiders should have in the Libyan civil war continues. For those who opposed NATO intervention, the fall of Qadhafi can still be celebrated, and I was aghast to still see some who condemned what was happening last night, either defending Qadhafi’s record or muttering about oil interests. If the rebels had succeeded in bringing down Qadhafi without external intervention, would they still be saying the same thing? Yet, likewise, principled opposition to NATO intervention and that last night’s events might not have taken place were it not for NATO’s air cover does not mean the critics were wrong. In the last few days in particular, NATO’s actions went far beyond the remit of UNSC 1973 and were clearly in breach of international law. Whether anyone will really care about now will depend largely whether the Qadhafi regime’s claims of mass casualities yesterday (over 1300 according to Musa Ibrahim) are borne out by the independent testimony of organizations like the ICRC.

Steve Negus gives some reasons for pessimism and optimism:

One danger here is that as soon as the revolutionary euphoria wears off, inevitably people will start imagining that the remnants of the old regime have just gone underground and are plotting a comeback, cutting nefarious deals with the NTC to remain in power. One or two mysterious bombs or assassinations can easily spark a panic, and the next thing you know you’ll have katibas demanding that they retain their arms to “safeguard the revolution.” There’s no way that the NTC can stop this, but they should be careful to be as inclusive and as transparent as possible…

There seem to be few divisive differences over the identity of the country — Libya is tribally and ethnically diverse, but pretty homogenously Sunni and conservative. In order to whip up radical Islamist populism, it really helps to have some kind of Other — be they crony capitalists, nefarious secularists who want to sneakily impose atheism through supraconstitutional principles, Baathists, Shia or others who practice scandalous rituals, or other “heretics”, Tartar military dictators, etc. There aren’t any of these in Libya, yet. There also aren’t any liquor stores to smash. Maybe this will change if a militant Berber movement emerges, or if luxury hotels start going up in which an ex-NTC member has a silent partner.

Blake Hounsell argues that the future will certainly be difficult, but not as bad as the past was:

The National Transitional Council won’t have an easy time of governing, either. Not only is it not clear how much loyalty it commands among the fighters, but Libya has effectively no institutions: It was a state run for the benefit of the Qaddafi family and its shrinking circle of friends and allies. There is little history of political pluralism in Libya, and no doubt many grievances and cleavages lurk below the surface. (Reuters journalist Michael Georgy raises some important concerns to this effect here.) There will likely be intense disagreements over how to distribute Libya’s oil wealth, how to account for the last 42 years of despotic rule, how to incorporate Islam into the state, and how to disarm and integrate the disparate fighting brigades that overthrew Qaddafi. There will be a temptation to overly centralize power, fueled by oil receipts concentrated in a few hands. Hopefully, any conflicts that arise will be resolved peacefully.

But these problems seem manageable over time, and it is in any case hard to imagine any Libyan government worse than Qaddafi, whose rule was not only deeply repressive and arbitrary at home but also destabilizing abroad. I disagree strongly with those, like CFR’s Richard Haass, who would like to see some kind of foreign stabilization force — not only is it not going to happen, but it’s best if Libyans handle their own affairs as much as possible. They will make mistakes, but these will be their own mistakes. It’s now their country once again.

Jeff Weintraub notes that realism is needed, but so is celebration:

At such moments, any temptations toward euphoria have to be restrained by a recognition that future developments are unpredictable and potentially unpleasant. Overthrowing oppressive and tyrannical regimes is often hard, but successfully reconstructing the societies that they’ve damaged, distorted, and poisoned by their rule is usually even harder. Still, a certain degree of satisfaction is appropriate. We seem to be witnessing the overthrow of an especially ugly and despicable dictatorship, which over the decades piled up a lot of crimes at home and abroad, by a genuine popular uprising. That’s something to be celebrated. The hangover will come later.

Brian Whitaker thinks that the future in Libya is brighter than Iraq or Afghanistan:

The next few months in Libya are not going to be easy – only a fool would imagine that – but nor are the grimmest predictions likely to be fulfilled. Libya is unlikely to turn into another Iraq, let alone another Afghanistan.

My thoughts seem to be a mix of all of the above. Taking Tripoli is an important victory for the rebel forces and should be celebrated as a major step in the war effort. Yet, we cannot overlook either the troubles that are buried in the road ahead or the dubious legality in the international intervention effort. That is for another time. For now, the people of Libya can celebrate a great victory.

Photo from Inner Blog


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