A Post-Qaddafi Libya

Almost two months after the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony took place and revolts began in Libya, photojournalist Tim Hetherington -best remembered for codirecting the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo”- was killed in an explosion on April 20 in the city of Misrata. Highlighting humanitarian issues in war and conflict zones, Hetherington died the way he lived and now his death adds to the 10,000 people killed since the clashes started in mid-February.

With living conditions worsening for Libyans and humanitarian workers, common sense suggests that leaving authoritarian leaders like Qaddafi in power is not only inhumane but also contrary to the democratic principles Western nations praise themselves to uphold.  Removing him from power, however, is not the same as stabilizing the country or, much less, bringing democracy. Although futurology often fails to predict the outcomes of conflict, it seems fair to ask what will happen to Libya (if) after Qaddafi leaves power.

Despite U.N. coalition forces began its campaign of air-strikes a month ago, the confrontation has not resulted in a definitive military victory for either side, but certainly in increasing casualties and monetary costs. U.S. officials said early this week that the intervention has cost the United States $608 million from March 19 to April 4. However, politicians in London, Paris and Washington are convinced that maintaining the pressure on Qaddafi’s forces will increase the possibilities of causing more high-level defections and, eventually, make the regime implode.

According to professor Rajan Menon in an April 20 article for the Tehran Times, another possible outcome is a bifurcated Libya, with a Qaddafi bastion in the west and an opposition government in the east. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria suggested that a divided Libya is not necessarily a bad one because Qaddafi would control much less of the country’s oil. However, it is hard to believe that the two new-born nations will coexist peacefully given the circumstances that led to their separation.

Despite the cost of creating a functioning post-conflict Libya grows as the clashes go on, infrastructure is destroyed and oil exports decrease, there are some factors that favor the emergence of Libya as a moderate, unitary state. To Ray Takevh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Libya today cannot be considerate as a mere collection of fractious tribes. Over the past four decades of the Qaddafi government, a sense of nationalism has evolved because the Colonel adjusted provincial boundaries to lessen the power of tribal leaders.

An additional factor is the technocrat class –most of them Western educated- that was empowered after Libya’s decision to discard its mass destruction weapons program in 2003, as a way of relieving popular demands for more accountable institutions. This, by no means, meant Libyan institutions were transparent. Corruption persisted but this time there was a small group of competent officials who pushed for a more sensible management of the country, like former head of the regime’s foreign aid organization, Ali Said al-Barghathi, now secretary of the rebels’ National Transitional Council.

Now that the Libyan government announced its willingness to hold free elections under international supervision and to discuss Qaddafi’s role in them, it looks like the conformation of a transition, coalition government is the regime’s best shot to not be completely ousted like its Egyptian and Tunisian counterparts. Opposition and U.N. coalition leaders however, have manifested that any political solution to the crisis has to be built upon a Qaddafi-free Libya.

Libya’s path to stability and, eventually, to democracy (not necessarily the kind championed by the West) is by no means an easy one. However, the absence of Qaddafi’s presence will not necessarily mean chaos. Whatever the outcome, it will very likely to include some form of regime change, continued upheaval and a coalition government that will have to struggle with the many interests that will try to be imposed once the Colonel is gone.

Almost two months after the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony took place and revolts began in Libya, photojournalist Tim Hetherington -best remembered for codirecting the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo”- was killed in an explosion on April 20 in the city of Misrata. Highlighting humanitarian issues in war and conflict zones, Hetherington died the way he lived and now his death adds to the 10,000 people killed since the clashes started in mid-February.

With living conditions worsening for Libyans and humanitarian workers, common sense suggests that leaving authoritarian leaders like Qaddafi in power is not only inhumane but also contrary to the democratic principles Western nations praise themselves to uphold.  Removing him from power, however, is not the same as stabilizing the country or, much less, bringing democracy. Although futurology often fails to predict the outcomes of conflict, it seems fair to ask what will happen to Libya (if) after Qaddafi leaves power.

Despite U.N. coalition forces began its campaign of air-strikes a month ago, the confrontation has not resulted in a definitive military victory for either side, but certainly in increasing casualties and monetary costs. U.S. officials said early this week that the intervention has cost the United States $608 million from March 19 to April 4. However, politicians in London, Paris and Washington are convinced that maintaining the pressure on Qaddafi’s forces will increase the possibilities of causing more high-level defections and, eventually, make the regime implode.

According to professor Rajan Menon in an April 20 article for the Tehran Times, another possible outcome is a bifurcated Libya, with a Qaddafi bastion in the west and an opposition government in the east. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria suggested that a divided Libya is not necessarily a bad one because Qaddafi would control much less of the country’s oil. However, it is hard to believe that the two new-born nations will coexist peacefully given the circumstances that led to their separation.

Despite the cost of creating a functioning post-conflict Libya grows as the clashes go on, infrastructure is destroyed and oil exports decrease, there are some factors that favor the emergence of Libya as a moderate, unitary state. To Ray Takevh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Libya today cannot be considerate as a mere collection of fractious tribes. Over the past four decades of the Qaddafi government, a sense of nationalism has evolved because the Colonel adjusted provincial boundaries to lessen the power of tribal leaders.

An additional factor is the technocrat class –most of them Western educated- that was empowered after Libya’s decision to discard its mass destruction weapons program in 2003, as a way of relieving popular demands for more accountable institutions. This, by no means, meant Libyan institutions were transparent. Corruption persisted but this time there was a small group of competent officials who pushed for a more sensible management of the country, like former head of the regime’s foreign aid organization, Ali Said al-Barghathi, now secretary of the rebels’ National Transitional Council.

Now that the Libyan government announced its willingness to hold free elections under international supervision and to discuss Qaddafi’s role in them, it looks like the conformation of a transition, coalition government is the regime’s best shot to not be completely ousted like its Egyptian and Tunisian counterparts. Opposition and U.N. coalition leaders however, have manifested that any political solution to the crisis has to be built upon a Qaddafi-free Libya.

Libya’s path to stability and, eventually, to democracy (not necessarily the kind championed by the West) is by no means an easy one. However, the absence of Qaddafi’s presence will not necessarily mean chaos. Whatever the outcome, it will very likely to include some form of regime change, continued upheaval and a coalition government that will have to struggle with the many interests that will try to be imposed once the Colonel is gone.

Ana Amazo

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